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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 VII. — Assumption of the Right of Sovereignty by the Creeks, in Opposition to Georgia.

THE Creek question attained its highest point of interest about this time. Public opinion was much divided; some siding with the Indians in their assertion of the right of sovereignty within the territorial area of Georgia, and others as decidedly opposing it, as a new and inadmissible claim. Mr. Adams, who succeeded to the Presidency, directed the attention of the War Department to the subject, and authorized Mr. Barbour, the Secretary of War, to confer with the Creek chiefs. By the treaty concluded at Hopewell, in 1785, the United States had undertaken to extinguish and transfer the Creek title to the State of Georgia, at the earliest practicable moment. But the lapse of time only made the Indians cling more closely to the land. The period for the chase had passed away, and the plow began to be appreciated. The experience of forty years had so operated as to give them a more definite and just idea of its value, and they now undertook to ignore the laws of Georgia, and to dispute her sovereignty over the country. The political aspects of the controversy had been communicated to Congress, during the last few months of Mr. Monroe's second term. He had bestowed enlarged thought on the subject, and recommended the only plan which appeared adequate, at once to meet the question of the certain decadence and extinction of the tribes in the States, and to provide for their ultimate welfare and prosperity. Such was the origin of the Creek controversy.

Mr. Adams exerted himself to bring this vexed question to an equitable close; the Creek nation, and the people of the Union being much agitated by its discussion, and the friends of the Indians apprehensive that some great injustice was about to be done them. Georgia having demanded their expulsion, the Creeks appealed to the Government, and, early in the year 1826, sent a large and respectable delegation to Washington, to represent their cause. Negotiations were renewed, and resulted in the formation of the important treaty, signed January 24, 1826, 570 the first article of which abrogates the prior treaty of February 12, 1825, and declares every clause thereof "null and void,

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to every intent and purpose whatsoever." 571 By this treaty the Creeks ceded large tracts of their lands in Georgia, and agreed to remove to the West. The M'Intosh party, and all who signed the objectionable treaty, were reinstated in their just rights, and permitted to send a delegation to locate lands for their party in the West. A perpetual additional annuity of $20,000 was granted, and the Creeks agreed to remove within one year. Other stipulations were included in the treaty, which was in the highest degree liberal. The removal policy was thus sustained.

Under the authority of the treaty-making power, the President continued to receive such cessions of the exhausted and surplus tracts of all the tribes, situated east of the Mississippi, as they felt inclined to make, in view of the final relinquishment of their possessions and transfer to the West.

The treaty of January 24, 1826, 572 was the first effective step taken towards the transference of the Indian tribes to the West. This treaty, negotiated by Mr. Barbour, Secretary of War, made very extensive cessions of territory, retaining, however, important reserves for the Indians, who were confined to their particular localities. The followers of General M'Intosh, who had fallen in the contest about the land, were indemnified for the damages sustained by them, and a deputation of that part of the nation agreed to visit and examine the country, west of the Mississippi, designed for their residence. This treaty, which secured important advantages to the Eastern Creeks, was the initial movement toward a compromise.

It is impossible to conceive, unless by a perusal of the numerous public documents printed at that period, how numerous and complicated were the difficulties surrounding this subject. 573 Some of the tribes, more advanced in civilization than the rest, regarded it as an endeavor to drive them back into barbarism, and the moral tone of the community also sympathized with this view. The diurnal press, as well as the critical reviews, asserted that the Indian question had reached a point where it became necessary to pause, and ponder on the duties which the nation owed to the tribes, who, though at that time acting under delusive impulses, should be regarded with deeper sympathy, not only as our predecessors in the country, but also as individuals in whom Christianity felt a deep interest. It was then, as it still is, an unsettled question, whether these wandering, forsaken, and benighted sons of the forest, were not the probable descendants of the Abramic stock, whose history is inseparably connected with the destinies of the human race.

At this time, it appeared that nothing but the removal of the tribes from the jurisdictions of the several States to a separate territory, where they would be free from molestation, could avert their entire annihilation at no very distant period. Portions of the Cherokees seem to have realized their true condition as early as the year 1809,

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when they obtained Mr. Jefferson's sanction to their proposal, which was subsequently embodied in the treaty negotiated in 1816. From a clause of the treaty with the Shawnees, negotiated by General Clark in 1825, we learn that a small fragment of that tribe had crossed the Mississippi into upper Louisiana, and there located themselves on a tract of land twenty-five miles square, granted to them by Governor Carondolet, as early as 1795. This movement which was at first merely precautionary, and intended to furnish an outlet for their restless population west of the Mississippi, was followed by several other tribes at a later date, and at various epochs it became a portion of the tribal policy of the Choctaws, the Chickasaws, the majority of the Cherokees, and finally, of the Creeks. Yet the dispersed hunter tribes, living on large reservations in the western and northern States, east of the Mississippi, regarded the measure with total aversion. They clung with tenacity to the land of their forefathers, in those latitudes, where the varying climate, and the happy alternation of spring, summer, autumn, and winter, gave a piquancy to the enjoyment of life. The chase was the poetry of their existence, war the true path to honor, and the traditions and reminiscences of their forefathers the proper intellectual food of the Indian mind. Books were for scholars, and labor for slaves. This was Indian philosophy.

But, while the Indian indulged in his day-dreams, the race which labored at the plow, the anvil, and the loom, and chained the rippling and murmuring streamlet to the revolving wheel of the saw and grist mill, were rapidly encompassing him with the bonds of civilized life. There were then no railroads, but the steady and rapid advance of civilization foreshadowed their approach. The plan of removing and concentrating the Indian population was no sooner announced, than it was warmly advocated as the proper mode of arresting their decline and averting their final extinction. The result of careful scrutiny into their condition and future prospects by the President, whom they regarded as their great political father, was a provision, while yet the means were at hand, for their future prosperity and permanent welfare. As such, the plan was detailed to the tribes by the officers charged with the care of Indian affairs; not, however, with a view of forcing it upon them, but of submitting it to their calm consideration and decision.

The Indian, ignorant alike of history and of the progress of society, required time to consider any new propositions advanced, and to realize his own true position. All the northern tribes expressed fears as to the healthfulness of the southern latitudes, being accustomed only to the bracing northern seasons, and to the customs and arts of northern hunters. Their very mythology, singular as it may seem, warned them of the seductive manners and habits of the South. 574 It was a difficult matter for them to exchange their established customs for others entirely at variance with them.

The intestine wars and feuds of the Indians had been one of the principal causes of

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their decline, and, in some cases, of their utter destruction. These wars, which had no limits to their fury, and were waged without any ostensible object, began before America was discovered, and continued, at fitful intervals, throughout every period of aboriginal history. They have, in fact, exercised a more baneful influence on the prosperity of the Indian race, than any or all other causes combined, with the single exception of their passionate craving for ardent spirits. Efforts were frequently made to put a stop to these intestine wars, and as frequently defeated; but after the close of the war of 1812 they were again vigorously resumed. Mr. Monroe made strenuous efforts to enforce this policy throughout the entire eight years of his administration. The several expeditions of Long, Cass, and Schoolcraft, to the
sources of the Mississippi, to the mouth of the Yellow Stone, to the sources of the Arkansas and Red rivers, to those of other principal streams, and to the central portions of the Mississippi valley, in 1820, '21, and '22, had promoted this purpose, by accumulating accurate geographical statistics of the Indian territory, its inhabitants, and its resources. The visit of the venerable Dr. Jedediah Morse to the lake tribes, in 1820, to learn their dispositions, feelings, and social and moral condition, had the same tendency. 575 This period witnessed a practical renewal of the explorations originated by Mr. Jefferson in 1804. A more intimate acquaintance with the Indians afforded that knowledge of their peculiar habits which was necessary to their proper management, and to induce them to abandon their hunter mode of life, and adopt the more elevating pursuits of civilization.

As internal tribal wars were continually distracting the Indians, one tribe trespassing on the lands of another, and as the civilized population was, at the same time, pressing into the ceded districts, it was thought by the Government that one of the most practical methods of allaying their territorial disputes would be to establish definite boundary-lines between their possessions; a method of settling their difficulties which had never occurred to the Indians.

A series of conventions held with the Indian chiefs of the western and north-western tribes, marked the early part of Mr. Adams' administration; the first, and most important of which assembled at Prairie du Chien, on the Upper Mississippi, during the summer of 1825, under the auspices of General William Clark, the general superintendent at St. Louis, and of Governor Lewis Cass, of Michigan, ex officio superintendent of the northern Department. This convention was attended by the Mendawacanton and Yanton Dakotahs, or Sioux, of the St. Peter's and the Plains, the Chippewas and Pillagers, of the sources of the Mississippi, and the Sacs, Poxes, Iowas, Winnebagoes, Menomonees, Chippewas, Ottowas, and Pottawattamies, of the Lakes and the Illinois river. Maps, drawn on birch bark, giving the outlines of their hunting-grounds, were exhibited by the several tribes, and, after a full discussion with each of their respective agents, a treaty of peace and limitation was signed by them, August

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29, 1825. 576 The principles here annunciated were carried out by a similar convention of chiefs, which assembled at Fond du Lac, at the head of Lake Superior, in 1826, and was attended by the chiefs of that region.

A treaty was signed by these representatives of the northern tribes, which established peaceful relations among the Indians, and definitely settled the boundary lines of their territories up to the forty-ninth parallel of north latitude. 577 Under a treaty of a similar character, a convention was held at Butte des Morts, on Fox river, for the purpose of settling the north-eastern boundary between the Menomonees and Chippewas, and certain bands of the Oneidas and Stockbridges, better known by the designation of New York Indians, which resulted in the signing of a treaty at this place, August 11th, 1827. 578

These treaties with the hunter tribes of the North secured for them accurate boundaries, and the acknowledgment by the United States, as well as by the other tribes, of their claims to the territory. They were likewise of the greatest advantage to them in their subsequent history, and served to teach them the benefits of system, when they began to exchange their surplus lands for annuities in goods and coin.

While the treaty of Butte des Morts was under consideration, the Winnebagoes committed some hostile acts at Prairie du Chien, on the Mississippi. They there fired into a boat, plundered several individuals, and endeavored practically to enforce an obsolete idea, that they had a right to interdict merchandise from passing the portage of the Wisconsin, without receiving some acknowledgment therefor, in the nature of toll. General Cass, who, as one of the Commissioners, was then in the vicinity, immediately embarked in his light canoe, manned by skilful Canadians, crossed the portage, and, entering the Mississippi river, journeyed night and day until he reached St. Louis, whence he returned with a body of troops, whose sudden appearance prevented any further trouble from this source.

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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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