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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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Chapter II. — Condition of the Tribes at the Conclusion of the War.

THE ninth article of the treaty of Ghent, signed December 24, 1814, left the Indian tribes to make their own terms with the United States. They had fought in vain, and received so little consideration from their late ally at the close of the contest, that they were not even accorded a national position in the treaty of peace concluded between the belligerent powers; consequently, the year 1815 was to them the commencement of a period in their history, of very self-reliant interest. Misled by the false theories of their prophets, and defeated in numerous battles, they had yet believed that they were fighting to preserve intact their ancient territorial limits. They had lost great numbers of their warriors in battle; the Creeks alone, in the contests at Talladega, Tullushatches, Hillabee, Attasee, and Emucfau, or the Horse-Shoe, had suffered to the extent of not less than 1000 men. The losses experienced in battle by all the tribes, constituted, however, but a fraction of what they suffered from diseases engendered in camps, superinduced by unsuitable, bad, or scanty supplies of food, as well as by the toils and accidents incident to forced marches. Fevers, colds, and consumptions, to which they are liable, had been fearfully prevalent; chicken-pox and the varioloid had nearly decimated them. 530 In addition to this, their families had been left in an unprovided and starving condition at home. In 1812, the numbers summoned by the voice of the Shawnee prophet to the banks of the Wabash were immense. They abandoned everything else for the purpose of participating in this new revolution, and many who left their western and northern homes, on this errand, never returned. The writer has walked over the sites of entire villages thus desolated, which had been in a few years covered by weeds, and a young forest growth.

This was not, however, the worst of their misfortunes. Their hunting-grounds had been rendered valueless by the operations of the contending armies. The deer, elk, and bear always precede the Indians to more dense forests; the cunning beaver immediately abandons a stream into which he cannot, by gnawing, make the trees fall,

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on the bark of which he subsists; the otter, which lives on fish, remains for a longer period. But the entire species of furred animals, whose skins form the staple of the Indian trade, were greatly diminished, and the vast region of country extending from 38° to 44° north, between the Ohio and the Mississippi rivers, had been rendered useless as a hunting-ground. Another result of the passage of troops through remote parts of the Indian country, was the discovery of tracts of arable land, of great value to the agriculturist; of water-powers, mines, and resources, offering tempting inducements to the mill-wright, manufacturer, and miner. Coal, iron, and lead, were found in abundance, and, subsequently, copper and gold. War, bad seasons, and the depreciation of a very extended and inflated paper currency, with a resulting decline in the prices of all merchantable articles, had alarmed thousands of persons in the Atlantic States, who sought to repair their fortunes, or find a field for the exercise of their ingenuity and talents, by emigrating to the West; so that, by a singular coincidence, when the Indians began to part freely with their exhausted hunting-grounds, by sales to the Government, the emigrant masses clamored for new and ample farms on these ceded tracts, where both they and their children might lay the foundations of happy homes. This was the germ of new States.

We have placed the commencement of this era in the year 1816; which was as early, indeed, as the full cessation of Indian hostilities rendered it safe for the emigrant to enter remote districts. The Creeks had signed the treaty of Fort Jackson as early as August 9, 1814; and they were followed by other tribes, both in the North and South. On the 8th of September, 1815, an important treaty was concluded with the Wyandots, Senecas, Shawnees, Miamies, Chippewas, Ottawas, and Pottawattamies, by which these tribes were restored to all the immunities accorded them by the treaty entered into at Greenville in 1795; and the three latter tribes reinvested with all the territorial rights which they possessed at the outbreak of Tecumseh's war, in 1811. 531 Treaties were also concluded during this year with the Kickapoos, Weas, Winnebagoes, Sacs and Foxes, Sioux, Osages, Chickasaws, Choctaws, and other tribes. These treaties were negotiated by commissioners appointed by the United States, who were well acquainted with the territories, character, resources, local history, and feelings of the tribes. Some of these commissioners had been military commanders, or had occupied high civil stations on the frontiers. No one of them was so celebrated for his knowledge, experience, and standing, as General William Clark, of St. Louis, the companion of the intrepid Lewis in his adventurous journeys to the mouth of the river Columbia, in 1804, and in 1805 and '6. He had succeeded Lewis as governor of the Missouri Territory, in 1806, and had acquired the respect and confidence of the southwestern and western tribes, who were located on the banks of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. He was a man possessed of great sagacity, amenity of manners, and a

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comprehensive knowledge of the geography of the country. In many respects, he was comparable to Sir William Johnson, who so long exercised a similar power in the North. Indian disputes were frequently referred to him for settlement by the tribes themselves; and the number of Indian treaties he negotiated in the course of his long administration of Indian affairs on the frontiers, is a proof of his abilities in this department.

Reference is particularly made to the era commencing with 1816, when an extensive system of changes and movements, the long smouldering effects of the by-gone wars, difficulties, and mutations of past years, began to develop itself prominently in the West. The war of 1812, on the north-western frontiers, had brought into notice another man, who was destined to exercise, for many years, an important influence on our Indian relations. Lewis Cass was a brigadier-general in the United States army, and had served in the war of 1812 with great credit to himself. A lawyer by profession, marshal of the State of Ohio at the commencement of the war, he united civil with military talent, and, on the conclusion of peace, held the commission of commandant of Detroit. Succeeding to the executive chair of Michigan, after the disastrous rule of Governor William Hull, and the subsequent interregnum, great energy was required to revive and reinstate, on their former basis, its civil and social institutions. Six years of wild wars and turmoils had left the territory without either civil or military organization. It might have been justly compared to a region submerged by a sudden deluge in the geological systems, in which the evidences of its former condition were to be sought in boulders, drifts, and heaps of ruins. Society was literally down-trodden.

Michigan had been, more or less, occupied by the French from the days of La Salle. A fort was first erected at Detroit in 1701; in 1760 it was surrendered to the British; and did not come into the possession of the United States until 1796. Hull surrendered it in 1812. A fierce and sanguinary war, beginning at that time, had so desolated the territory, that to resuscitate its energies was no ordinary task, which any person of less strength of character and foresight than the newly-appointed executive, would probably have failed to accomplish. It was a work of time to restore the Indian relations to a permanent footing; to induce the inhabitants to return to their old locations; to apply the civil code to an almost anarchical condition of society; and, above all, to ascertain and develop the true resources of the territory.

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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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