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1854 Influx of White Settlers into Kansas

 Native American Nations | A Century of Dishonor                   

 

In 1854 the influx of white settlers into Kansas was so great, it became evident that the Indian reservations there could not be kept intact; and the Delaware made a large cession of their lands back to the United States, to be restored to the public domain. For this they were to receive ten thousand dollars. The sixth Article of this treaty provided for the giving of annuities to their chiefs. "The Delaware feel now, as heretofore, grateful to their old chiefs for their long and faithful services. In former treaties, when their means were scanty, they provided by small life annuities for the wants of the chiefs, some of whom are now receiving them. These chiefs are poor, and the Delaware believe it their duty to keep them from want in their old age." The sum of ten thousand dollars, therefore, was to be paid to their five chiefs-two hundred and fifty dollars a year each.

Article second provided that the President should cause the land now reserved for their permanent home to be surveyed at any time when they desired it, in the same manner as the ceded country was being surveyed for the white settlers.

In the following year their agent writes thus of the results, which have followed the opening of this large tract to white settlers: "The Indians have experienced enough to shake their confidence in the laws which govern the white race. The irruptions of intruders on their trust lands, their bloody dissensions among themselves, outbreaks of party, etc., must necessarily, to these unsophisticated people, have presented our system of government in an unfavorable light.

"Numerous wrongs have been perpetrated on many parts of reserve; the white men have wasted their most valuable timber with an unsparing hand; the trust lands have been greatly injured in consequence of the settlements made there on. The Indians have complained, but to no purpose. I have found it useless to threaten legal proceedings. The Government is bound in good faith to protect this people. The agricultural portion of this tribe have done well this season; abundant crops of corn promise them a supply of food for the ensuing year."

The simple-minded trustingness of these people is astonishing. Even now they assent to an Article in this treaty which says that, as the means arising from the sale of all this land they had given up would be more than they could use, the remainder should be "from time to time invested by the President of the United States in safe and profitable stocks; the principal to remain unimpaired, and the interest to be applied annually for the civilization, education, and religious culture of the Delaware people, and such other objects of a beneficial character as in his judgment are proper and necessary." Another Article stipulates that, if any of the Delaware are worthless or idle, the President can withhold their share of the moneys.

Article fifteenth says, gravely, "The primary object of this instrument being to advance the interests and welfare of the Delaware people, it is agreed that, if it prove insufficient to effect these ends from causes which cannot now be foreseen, Congress may hereafter make such farther provision, by law not inconsistent herewith, as experience may prove to be necessary to promote the interests, peace, and happiness of the Delaware people."

In 1860 the United States made its next treaty with the Delaware, in which they consented to give the Leavenworth, Pawnee, and Western Railroad Company right of way and certain lands in their reserve. In 1861 another treaty, in which, as the railway company had not paid, and was not able to pay, the $286,742 which it had promised to pay the Delaware, the President authorized the Commissioners of Indian Affairs to take the bonds of said railroad for that amount, and a mortgage on one hundred thousand acres of the land which the Indians had sold to the railway company.

There was another very curious bit of legislation in regard to the Delaware this year, viz., an Act of Congress authorizing the Secretary of the Treasury to enter on his books $423,990 26 to the credit of the Delaware; being the amount of bonds which the United States had invested for the Delaware in State bonds of Missouri, Tennessee, and North Carolina, and which had been stolen while in the custody of Jacob Thompson, late 'Secretary of the Interior, in whose department they had been deposited for safe-keeping. (At the same time there were stolen $66,735 belonging to the Iowas, and $169,686 75 belonging to the confederated bands of Kaskaskia, Peoria, Piankeshaw, and Keas.)

In this year the Commissioner of Indian Affairs visited the Delaware; and reported them well advanced in civilization, in possession of comfortable dwellings and farms, with personal property averaging one thousand dollars to an individual. Many of them were traders, and travelled even to the boundaries of California.

In 1862 two regiments of Delaware and Osages enlisted as soldiers in an expedition to the Indian Territory, under Colonel Weer, who says of them: "The Indian soldiers have far exceeded the most sanguine expectations. They bore the brunt of the fighting done by the expedition, and, had they been properly sustained, would have effectually ended the sway of the rebels, in the Indian Territory."

There was during this year a terrible condition of affairs in Kansas and the Indian Territory. The Indians were largely on the side of the rebels; yet, as the Indian Commissioner said in his report for this year-a paragraph which is certainly a species of Irish bull-"While the rebelling of a large portion of most of the tribes abrogates treaty obligations, and places them at our mercy, the very important fact should not be forgotten that the Government first wholly failed to keep its treaty stipulations with them in protecting them." "By withdrawing all the troops from the forts in the Indian Territory," it left them "at the mercy of the rebels." That is, we first broke the treaty; and then their subsequent failure to observe it "placed them at our mercy!"

"It is," he says, "a well-known fact that in many instances self-preservation compelled them to make the best terms they could with the rebels; and that this is the case has been proved by a large number of them joining our army as soon as a sufficient force had penetrated their country to make it safe for them to do so."

The Delaware enlisted, in 1862, one hundred and seventy men in the Union army, and this out of a population of only two hundred males between the ages of eighteen and forty-five. There was probably no instance in the whol3 country of such a ratio of volunteers as this. They were reported as being in the army "tractable, sober, watchful, and obedient to the commands of their superiors." They officered their own companies, and the use of spirituous liquors was strictly prohibited among them-a fact the more remarkable, as drunkenness was one of their chief vices at home.

Already, however, the "interests" of the white settlers in Kansas were beginning to be clearly in opposition to the interests of the Indians. "Circumscribed as they are, and closely surrounded by white settlements, I can see nothing in the future for them but destruction," says the commissioner. "I think it is for the interest of the Indians that they be removed to some other locality as soon as possible."

"Several of them have from fifty to one hundred acres of land in cultivation, with comfortable dwellings, barns, and outhouses. * * * All the families are domiciled in houses. * * * Their crops of corn will yield largely. Nearly every family will have a sufficiency for their own consumption, and many of the larger farmers a surplus. * * * There are but few Delaware children of the age of twelve or fourteen that cannot read."

Here is a community of a thousand people, larger than many of the farming villages in New England, for instance, "the average of personal property amounting to one thousand dollars;" all living in their own houses, cultivating from fifty to one hundred acres of land, nearly all the children in schools, and vet it is for their "interest to be moved!" The last sentence of the following paragraph tells the story:

"When peace is restored to our country, a removal of all the Indians in Kansas will certainly be advantageous to them as well as to the State."

In 1863 their agent writes, "Since the question of the removal of the Indians from Kansas has been agitated, improvements have been much retarded among the Delaware and other Indians in Kansas.

"I think they are sufficiently prepared to make new treaties with the Government, * * * having in view settlement in the Southern country of those who elect to emigrate, compensation for the homes they relinquish, and a permission to remain in their present homes for all who are opposed to leaving Kansas."

At this time, "one-half the adult population are in the volunteer service of the United States. They make the best of soldiers, and are highly valued by their officers. * * * No State in the Union has furnished so many men for our 'armies, from the same ratio of population, as has the Delaware tribe. * * * The tribe has 3900 acres of land under cultivation, in corn, wheat, oats, and potatoes." (And yet one-half the adult men are away!)

In this year the Delaware, being "sufficiently prepared" to make new treaties looking to their removal out of the way of the white settlers in Kansas, petitioned the United States Government to permit them to take eight hundred dollars of their annuity funds to pay the expense of sending a delegation of their chiefs to the Rocky Mountains, to see if they could find there a country which would answer for their new home. The commissioner advises that they should not be allowed to go there, but to the Indian Territory, of which he says, "The geographical situation is such that its occupation by lawless whites can be more easily prevented than any other portion of the country." "By common consent, this appears to be recognized as the Indian country, and I have strong hopes that it will eventually prove for them a prosperous and happy home."

In 1864 their agent writes that the greater part of the personal property owned by the Delaware is in stock, "which is constantly being preyed upon by the whites, until it has become so reduced that it is difficult to obtain a good animal in the nation." He says he is unable, for the want of proper information, to determine what amount they had at the beginning of the year, but believes, from observation, "that it has undergone a depletion to the extent of twenty thousand dollars in the past year."

What a picture of a distressed community! The men away at war, old men, women, and children working the farms, and twenty thousand dollars of stock stolen from them in one year!

In 1865 a large proportion of those who had enlisted in the United States Army were mustered out, and returned home. The agent says: "It affords me great pleasure to chronicle the continued loyalty of this tribe during the past four years; and, as events tend westward, they evince every disposition to aid the Government by contributing their knowledge of the country to the officers of the army, and rendering such services thereto as they are qualified to perform."

They "have distinguished themselves in many instances in the conflicts on the borders;" nevertheless, in this same year, these discharged soldiers were prohibited by the Government from carrying revolvers. When the commissioner instructed the agent to disarm them, the agent very properly replied, stating the difficulties in the case: "Firstly, what disposition is to be made of weapons taken forcibly from these Indians? Secondly, many of these Indians are intelligent, only using weapons when any well-disposed white person would have done so; and if one class is disarmed, all must be;" on which the commissioner so modified his order as to say that "peaceably disposed Indians" might keep the usual weapons used by them in hunting; but whenever they visited agencies or towns they must deliver up all weapons to the agent, who would receipt for them, and return them "at proper times." This order is to be enforced, if possible, by an "appeal to their better judgment."

There are no records of the practical working of this order. Very possibly it fell at once, by its own weight, into the already large category of dead-letter laws in regard to Indians. It is impossible to imagine an Indian who had served four years as an officer in-the army (for the Delaware officered their own companies) submitting to be disarmed by an agent on any day when he might need to go to Atchison on business. Probably even that "appeal to his better judgment" which the commissioner recommends, would only draw from him a very forcible statement to the effect that any man who went about in Kansas at that time unarmed was a fool.

In 1866 the Indian Commissioner reports "the State of Kansas is fast being filled by an energetic population who appreciate good land; and as the Indian reservations were selected as being the best in the State, but one result can be expected to follow.

"Most of the Indians are anxious to move to the Indian country south of Kansas, where white settlers cannot interfere with them.

"Intermingled as the Kansas reservations are with the public lands, and surrounded in most cases by white settlers who too often act on the principle that an Indian has no rights that a white man is bound to respect, they are injured and annoyed in many way. Their stock arc stolen, their fences broken down, their timber destroyed, their young men plied with whiskey, their women debauched; so that, while the uncivilized are kept in a worse than savage state, having the crimes of civilization forced upon them, those farther advanced, and disposed to honest industry, are discouraged beyond endurance."

In spite of all this the Delaware raised, in 1866, 72,000 bushels of grain, 13,000 bushels of potatoes, and owned 5000 head of cattle.

. In July of this year a treaty was made with them, providing for the removal to the Indian Territory of all who should not decide to become citizens of Kansas, and the sale of their lands. The superintendent of the Fort Leavenworth Agency writes at this time: "The running of the Union Pacific Railroad through the Delaware' diminished reserve has been a source of grievous annoyance and damage to the Delaware, as has also an organization styled the Delaware Lumber Company. Out of these two companies grew much complaint and investigation, resulting in the appointment of a special agent to sell to the railroad the timber required for the construction of the road, and no more. The Delaware Lumber Company being thus restricted" (i. e., being prevented from helping themselves to the Indians' timber), immediately "gave up their business, and stopped their mills," but not before they had damaged the Indians' property to the amount of twenty-eight thousand dollars.

Twenty thousand dollars' worth of stock and twenty-eight thousand dollars' worth of timber having been stolen in two years from this little village of farmers, no wonder they are "sufficiently prepared to move." Other causes have conspired also to render them in haste to be gone. The perpetual expectation of being obliged to remove had unsettled the whole community, and made them indifferent to effort and improvement. The return of their young men from the war had also had a demoralizing effect. Drunken frays were not uncommon, in which deadly weapons were used, spite of the Department's regulations for disarming all Indians.

In July of this year the Delaware chiefs, distressed by this state of affairs, drew up for their nation a code of laws which compare favorably with the laws of so called civilized States.

In 1867 the Delaware are said to be "very impatient to be gone from their reserve, in order to build houses this autumn for winter use, and to be fencing fields for the ensuing year at their new reserve." The annuities due them in April of this year have not been paid till autumn, and this has delayed their movements. Many of the young men are still away, acting as scouts and guides in the army. In the course of this year and the next the whole tribe moved by detachments to their new home. "Those who removed during the winter went to work in a laudable manner, and made their improvements-many building comfortable houses and raising respectable crops" the first season. They are said to be now in a fair way to be better off than ever before. They have "given up their tribal organization and become Cherokee citizens. They report that they are well pleased with their new homes; and, being separated from the many temptations by which they were surrounded in their old reservation, are learning to- appreciate the many benefits to be derived from leading a temperate, industrious, and consequently a prosperous and happy life."

In 1869 it is said that, "as soon as the final arrangement relative to their funds is perfected, they will lose their nationality and become identified with the Cherokees."

In 1870 we find nearly all the Delaware in Indian Territory; but it seems that, owing to a carelessly surveyed boundary, some three hundred of them had settled down on lands, which were outside the Cherokee Reservation, and had been assigned by the Government to the Osages. This unfortunate three hundred, therefore, are removed again; this time to the lands of the Peoria, where they ask permission to establish themselves. But in the mean time, as they had made previous arrangements with the Cherokees, and all their funds had been transferred to the Cherokee Nation, it is thought to be "very unfortunate that they should be thus obliged to seek a new home;" and it is said to be "quite desirable that the parties in interest should reconcile their unsettled affairs to mutual advantage."

We are too much inclined to 'read these records carelessly, without trying to picture to ourselves the condition of affairs which they represent. It has come to be such an accepted thing in the history and fate of the Indian that he is to be always pushed on, always in advance of what is called the march of civilization, that to the average mind statements of these repeated removals come with no startling force, and suggest no vivid picture of details, only a sort of reassertion of an abstract general principle. But pausing to consider for a moment what such statements actually mean and involve; imagining such processes applied to some particular town or village that we happen to be intimately acquainted with, we can soon come to a new realization of the full bearing and import of them; such uprooting, such perplexity, such loss, such confusion and uncertainty, inflicted once on any community of white people anywhere in our land, would be considered quite enough to destroy its energies and blight its prospects for years. It may very well be questioned whether any of our small communities would have recovered from such successive shocks, changes, and forced migrations, as soon and as well as have many of these Indian tribes. It is very certain that they would not have submitted to them as patiently.

After this we find in the Official Reports no distinctive mention of the Delaware by name, except of a few who had been for some time living in the Indian Territory, and were not included in the treaty provisions at the time of the removal from Kansas. This little handful eighty-one in number is all that now remain to bear the name of that strong and friendly people to whom, a little more than one hundred years ago, we promised that they should be our brothers forever, and be entitled to a representation in our Congress.

This band of Delaware is associated with six other dwindled remnants of tribes-the Caddo, Ionie, Wichita, Towaconie, Wacoe, Keechie, and Comanche on the Wichita Agency, in Indian Territory.

They are all reported as being "peaceable, well disposed," and "actively engaged in agricultural pursuits."

Of the Delaware it is said, in 1878, that they were not able to cultivate so much land as they had intended to during that year, "on account of loss of stock by horse-thieves." Even here, it seems, in that "Indian country south of Kansas, where "(as they were told) "white settlers could not interfere with them," enemies lie in wait for them, as of old, to rob and destroy; even here the Government is, as before, unable to protect them; and in all probability, the tragedies of 1866 and 1867 will before long be re-enacted with still sadder results.


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A Century of Dishonor, By Helen Hunt Jackson, New York, Harper & Brothers, Franklin Square, 1885

A Century of Dishonor

 

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