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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=schoolcraft6.html


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Report.

TO THE COMMISSIONER OF INDIAN AFFAIRS, INTERIOR DEPARTMENT.

WASHINGTON, October 30th, 1857.

SIR:
Conformably to a provision contained in the act of March 3d, 1855, I now report to you that the generalizations required by that act have, so far as time permitted, been completed. Owing to inherent difficulties the statistical inquiry has, from its inception, been one of ora et labora. Both the Indian and the local officials have been either adverse to the object, imprecise in their statements, or generally indifferent to the investigation, but yet, notwithstanding every discouragement, the tables now submitted, which are the result of elaborate researches, are believed to be more accurate and comprehensive than any previously obtained. They are entirely freed from those duplications of synonyms, and exaggerations of estimates, which have been inseparably connected with the topic during the lapse of two centuries. By my letter of the 10th of February last, the office was apprized of the impossibility of compressing all the necessary condensations and synoptical papers within the present limits; nor has it been practicable, notwithstanding the elisions, abridgements, and segregations made, to present more than a sketch of their ethnography.

It was essential that a summary narrative of the modern history of the tribes should be submitted, which carries this subject down from the earliest times to the period of the annexation of Texas, when a more completely nomadic and predatory class of tribes were brought into intercourse with the government. The admission of Texas was but the prelude to the subsequent acquisition of New Mexico, California, and the Pacific coasts, to the Straits of Fuca; thus extending the national jurisdiction over the wide area of the Indian territory, from Oregon east to the Missouri river. Most of these tribes furnish but trifling information that could be embraced under the head of statistics. Roaming over vast areas, cultivating little, and often failing by their exertions to secure the scant means of subsistence, their very existence as tribal communities presents a problem which is somewhat difficult of solution. White men, who possessed industry, care, and foresight in such a limited degree, would certainly perish. Destitute of arts or agriculture, possessing no domestic animals, and nothing at all that deserves the name of a government, it should excite no surprise that public sympathy is frequently appealed to on their behalf, to avert from them the impending horrors of pestilence or starvation. Nearly all the tribes who shelter themselves in

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the gorges, or wander over the summits of the Rocky Mountain chain, are, to a greater or less extent, robbers, thieves, and bandits.

With this class of tribes our intercourse has ever been imperfect and tardy; and we are mainly indebted to the potency of the military arm, for the power to resist their fierce inroads, and keep them in actual check. The difficulties of a system of management, so perplexing at all times, is increased at such remote points, on a continually progressive frontier, by the fluctuations incident to the organization of the department, and the changes in its subordinate officials. Much of the country is a terra incognita, and some of the agents located at remote points have not been in a position to report at all. Most of the tribes, conscious of having but little to exhibit, have been unwilling to report their condition.

If but scanty information regarding their resources and means has been obtained from the nomades of the prairies and mountains, it may tend to relieve the disappointment, to say, that but little was expected from these predatory and furtive tribes. From the other class, comprising the older tribes of the Union, whose appellatives have been the familiar by-words in our frontier history during two centuries, and who have fled from the Atlantic to the Alleghanies, and thence to the Mississippi, as civilization pressed on in their rear, very different details have been gleaned. Participating in the benefits derivable from attention to labor and the arts, from equal laws and general instruction, they have, as the enlarging circle of civilization advanced, embarked in agricultural life with more or less avidity and success, adopted pastoral habits, and accepted education, as well as the principles of social life. They now prominently stand forth as a body of firm and sober-minded men, ready to move forward in the path of progress, and to enter on the noble career of civil and social life. Such are the Choctaws and Chickasaws, the Creeks and Cherokees.

Reference to details will denote the distinguishing classes of the aboriginal tribes. All the most advanced tribes have passed through the trying ordeal of our colonial history, subject to the triple discouragements of indulgence, and the cupidity and contempt of European races. Foremost in the band of reclaimed aborigines stands the Appalachian group above named; and there is no just reason to conclude that the Shawnees, Delawares, Wyandots, and other advanced members of the three great ethnologic groups, may not attain equal prominence in morals and industry.

It is desirable that the hiatus in the history, from 1841 to the present time, should be supplied. It would also tend to fulfil a high object, interesting alike to America and Europe, if curt vocabularies and grammars of the several languages were prepared, by means of which their ancient history, and former connection with other races of the globe, might be investigated.

Very respectfully, sir,
Your obedient servant,

HENRY R. SCHOOLCRAFT.

To J. W. DENVER, ESQ.

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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=schoolcraft6.html
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