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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 IV. — Organization of an Indian Bureau.

THE increase in the number of treaties, and of the Indian business generally, began to press so heavily on the Secretary of War, that he resolved to place this department under the charge of a person competent to manage its details, referring to him such topics as required his decision. Mr. Calhoun conferred this appointment on Thomas L. M'Kenney, Esq., as chief of the clerical staff, an office for the establishment of which Congress subsequently passed an act. Mr. M'Kenney was characterized by great amenity of manners, as well as ready business tact, and was influenced by a benevolent feeling for the Indians, whose advancement in the scale of civilization he sought to promote by every means at his command. A regular system of accountability was established in all departments of the Bureau, from the lowest to the highest officer.

From early times, a close connection had existed between the civil and military departments of Indian Affairs; and, while the tribes stood in their normal hunter state, it was difficult to manage the one, without reference to the other. Sir William Johnson, as early as 1757, only two years subsequent to his appointment as General Superintendent, had endeavored to relieve himself from the onerous duties of his office by the employment of a secretary, a man of talents and learning, who was in the habit of preparing the generic reports transmitted to the Lords of Plantations. During the war of the Revolution, and subsequent thereto, Congress managed the government of Indian affairs by entrusting it to commissioners for the North and South, who were always men of sound practical experience and judgment. The Executive documents abound in details of their acts. On the organization of the present government, in 1789, General Knox negotiated one or more treaties himself, and continued the office of commissioners. The same system prevailed from Washington's administration, through those of Adams, the elder, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe; and when the Bureau was organized by Congress, it was continued under the administrations of Adams, the younger, Jackson, Van Buren, Harrison, and Polk, at the close of whose administration, by an act of Congress, the duty was transferred from the War Department to that of the Interior.

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Among the men who have rendered long and valuable services in this department, General Harrison and General William Clark deserve especial mention. As ex-officio Superintendents of Indian Affairs, while performing the duties appertaining to the office of Governor of the Indian Territories, they negotiated a very large proportion of the treaties made, between the years 1804 and 1812, with the tribes residing east and west of the Mississippi. After the close of the war, in 1815, their tact and talent in this department appear to have been inherited by, or fallen to the lot of, General Lewis Cass.

These men took the most prominent part in the negotiations with the Indians, and to them we are indebted for the permanency of our Indian relations, and for making the aborigines acquainted with the peculiar features, practices, and institutions of our government. From the time of the return of General Clark from the exploration of the Columbia river, in 1806, to the day of his death, in 1838, he was the Maecenas of the tribes west of the Mississippi. The Indians located on the Missouri, Platte, Kansas, Osage, and Arkansas rivers, as well as those residing among the distant peaks of the Rocky mountains, were frequent and welcome visitors at the Government Council-House in St. Louis. The official records of his proceedings with the Indians have been carefully examined, 566 and are found to contain a mass of speeches and traditions, constituting a valuable collection, whence the historian may derive much information regarding the sons of the forest.

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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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