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Report of the Commission, Sitting Bull in Canada

 Native American Nations | A Century of Dishonor                     

 

The commission consisted of Brigadier-general Terry, Hon. A. G. Lawrence, and Colonel Corbin, secretary. After one month's journey, via Omaha, Nebraska, Helena, Montana, and Fort Benton, these gentlemen were met on the Canadian boundary by a Canadian officer with a mounted escort, who conducted them to Fort Walsh, when they were met by Sitting Bull and the other chiefs.

General Terry recapitulated to them the advantages of being at peace with the United States, the kindly treatment that all surrendered prisoners had received, and said: " The President invites you to come to the boundary of his and your country, and there give up your arms and ammunition, and thence to go to the agencies to which he will assign you, and there give up your horses, excepting those which are required for peace purposes. Your arms and horses will then be sold, and with all the money obtained for them cows will be bought and sent to you."

It is mortifying to think that representatives of the United States should have been compelled gravely to submit in a formal council proposals so ludicrous as these. The Indians must have been totally without sense of humor if they could have listened to them without laughter. Sitting Bull's reply is worthy of being put on record among the notable protests of Indian chiefs against the oppressions of their race.

He said: "For sixty-four years you have kept me and my people, and treated us bad. What have we done that you should want us to stop? We have done nothing. It is all the people on your side that have started us to do all these depredations. We could not go anywhere else, and so we took refuge in this country. I would like to know why you came here. In the first place I did not give you the country; but you followed me from one place to another, so 1 had to leave and come over to this country. You have got ears, and you have got eyes to see with them, and you see how I live with these people. You see me. Here I am. If you think I am a fool, you are a bigger fool than I am. This house is a medicine house. You come here to tell us lies, but we don't want to hear them. I don't wish any such language used to me-that is, to tell me lies in my Great Mother's house. This country is mine, and I intend to stay here and to raise this country full of grown people. See these people here. We were raised with them" (again shaking hands with the British officers). "That is enough, so no more. The part of the country you gave me you ran me out of. I wish you to go back, and to take it easy going back."

The-one-that-runs-the-Ree, a Santee chief, said: "You did not treat us well, and I don't like you at all. I will be at peace with these people as long as I live. This country is ours. We did not give it to you. You stole it away from us. You have come over here to tell us lies, and I don't propose to talk much, and that is all I have to say. I want you to take it easy going home. Don't go in a rush."

Nine, a Yankton, said: "Sixty-four years ago you got our country, and you promised to take good care of us and keep us. You ran from one place to another killing us and fighting us. You did not treat us right over there, so we came back over here. I come in to these people here, and they give me permission to trade with the traders. That is the way I make my living. Everything I get I buy from the traders. I don't steal anything. I am going to live with these people here."

So profound contempt did the Indians feel for this commission that they allowed a squaw to address it.

A squaw, named The-one-that-speaks-once, wife of The-man-that-scatters-the-bear, said: "I was over at your country. I wanted to raise my children there, but you did not give me any time. I came over to this country to raise my children, and have a little peace" (shaking hands with the British officers); "that is all I have to say to you. I want you to go back where you came from. These are the people that I am going to stay with and raise my children with."

The Indians having risen, being apparently about to leave the room, the interpreter was directed to ask the following questions: "Shall I say to the President that you refuse the offers that he has made to you? Are we to understand that you refuse those offers? "Sitting Bull answered: "I could tell you more, but that is all I have to tell. If we told you more, you would not pay any attention to it. This part of the country does not belong to your people. You belong on the other side, this side belongs to us."

The Crow, shaking hands, and embracing Colonel McLeod, and shaking hands with the other British officers, said: "This is the way I will live in this part of the country. These people that don't hide anything, they are all the people I like. Sixty-four years ago I shook hands with the soldiers, and ever since that I have had hardships. 1 made peace with them; and ever since then I have been running from one place to another to keep out of their way. Go to where you were born, and stay there. I came over to this country, and my Great Mother knows all about it. She knows I came over here, and she don't wish anything of me. We think, and all the women in the camp think, we are going to have the country full of people. I have come back in this part of the country again to have plenty more people, to live in peace, and raise children."

The Indians then inquired whether the commission had anything more to say, and the commission answered that they had nothing more to say, and the conference closed.

The commission, with a naive lack of comprehension of the true situation of the case, go on to say that " they are convinced that Sitting Bull and the bands under him will not seek to return to this country at present. It is believed that they are restrained from returning," partly by their recollection of the severe handling they had by the military forces of the United States in the last winter and spring, and partly "by their belief that, for some reason which they cannot fathom, the Government of the United States earnestly desires that they shall return. In their intense hostility to our Government, they are determined to contravene its wishes to the best of their ability." It would seem so even to the extent of foregoing all the privileges offered them on their return-the giving up of all weapons-the exchanging of their horses for cows-and the priceless privilege of being shut up on reservations, off which they could not go without being pursued, arrested, and brought back by troops. What a depth of malignity must be in the breasts of these Indians, that to gratify it they will voluntarily relinquish all these benefits, and continue to remain in a country where they must continue to hunt, and make their own living on the unjust plan of free trade in open markets.


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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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