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History of the Campaigns

 Native American Nations | A Century of Dishonor                   


The history of the campaigns that followed is to be found in many volumes treating of the pioneer life of Ohio and other North-western States. One letter of General Wayne's to the Secretary of War, in August 1794, contains a paragraph which is interesting, as showing the habits and method of life of the people whom we at this time, by force of arms, drove out from their homes -homes which we bad only a few years before solemnly guaranteed to them, even giving them permission to punish any white intruders there as they saw fit. By a feint of approaching Grand Glaize through the Miami villages, General Wayne surprised the settlement, and the Indians, being warned by a deserter, had barely time to flee for their lives. What General 'Wayne had intended to do may be inferred from this sentence in his letter: "I have good grounds to conclude that the defection of this villain prevented the enemy from receiving a fatal blow at this place when least expected."

However, he consoles himself by the fact that he has "gained possession of the grand emporium of the hostile Indians of the West without loss of blood. The very extensive and highly cultivated fields and gardens show the work of many hands. The margins of those beautiful rivers-the Miami, of the Lake, and Au Glaize -appear like one continued village for a number of miles, both above and below this place; nor have I ever before beheld such immense fields of corn in any part of America, from Canada to Florida."

All these villages were burnt, and all these cornfields destroyed; the Indians were followed up and defeated in a sharp fight. The British agents did their best to keep them hostile, and no inconsiderable aid was furnished to them from Canada. But after a winter of suffering and hunger, and great vacillations of purpose, they finally decided to yield to the inevitable and in the summer of 1795 they are to be found once more assembled in council, for the purpose of making a treaty; once more to be told by the representatives of the United States Government that "the heart of General Washington, the Great Chief of America, wishes for nothing so much as peace and brotherly love;" that "such is the justice and liberality of the United States," that they will now a third time pay for lands; and that they are "acting the part of a tender father to them and their children in thus providing for them not only at present, but forever."

Eleven hundred and thirty Indians (eleven tribes, besides the Delaware, being represented) were parties to this treaty. By this treaty nearly two-thirds of the present State of Ohio were ceded to the United States; and, in consideration of these "cessions and relinquishments, and to manifest the liberality of the United States as the great means of rendering this peace strong and perpetual," the United States relinquished all claims "to all other Indian lands northward of the River Ohio, eastward of the, Mississippi, and westward and southward of the Great Lakes and the waters uniting them, according to the boundary line agreed upon by the United States and the King of Great Britain, in the treaty of peace made between them in the year 1783," with the exception of four tracts of land. But it was stated to the Indians that these reservations were not made "to annoy or impose the smallest degree of restraint on them in the quiet enjoyment and full possession of their lands," but simply to "connect the settlements of the people of the United States," and "to prove convenient and advantageous to the different tribes of Indians residing and hunting in their vicinity."

The fifth Article of the treaty is: "To prevent any misunderstanding about the Indian lands now relinquished by the United States, it is explicitly declared that the meaning of that relinquishment is this: that the Indian tribes who have a right to those lands are quietly to enjoy them-hunting, planting, and dwelling thereon so long as they please without any molestation from the United States; but when those tribes, or any of them, shall be disposed to sell their lands, or any part of them, they are to be sold only to the United States; and until such sale the United States will protect all the said Indian tribes in the quiet enjoyment of their lands against all citizens of the United States, and against all other white persons who intrude on the same.'

The sixth Article reiterates the old pledge, proved by the last three years to be so worthless-that, "If any citizen of the United States, or any other white person or persons, shall presume to settle upon the lands now relinquished by the United States, such citizen or other person shall be out of the protection of the United States; and the Indian tribe on whose land the settlement may be made may drive off the settler, or punish him in such manner as they shall think fit."

The seventh Article gives the Indians the liberty "to hunt within the territory and lands which they have now ceded to the United States, without hindrance or molestation, so long as they demean themselves peaceably."

The United States agreed to pay to the Indians twenty thousand dollars' worth of goods at once; and "henceforward, every year, forever, useful goods to the value of nine thousand five hundred dollars."Peace was declared to be "established" and "perpetual."

General Wayne told the Indians that they might believe him, for he had never, "in .a public capacity, told a lie;" and one of the Indians said, with much more dignity, "The Great Spirit above hears us, and I trust we shall not endeavor to deceive each other."

In 1813, by a treaty at Vincennes, the bounds of the reservation of the Post of St. Vincennes were defined, and the Indians, "as a mark of their regard and attachment to the United States, relinquished to the United States the great salt spring on the Saline Creek."

In less than a year we made still another treaty with them for the extinguishment of their title to a tract of land between the Ohio and the Wabash Rivers (which they sold to us for a ten years' annuity of three hundred dollars, which was to be "exclusively appropriated to ameliorating their condition and promoting their civilization"); and in one year more still another treaty, in which a still further cession of land was made for a permanent annuity of one thousand dollars.

In August of this year General Harrison writes to the Secretary of War that there are great dissensions between the Delaware and Miami in regard to some of the ceded lands, the Miami claiming that they had never consented to give them up. General Harrison observes the most exact neutrality in this matter, but says, "A knowledge of the value of land is fast gaining ground among the Indians," and negotiations are becoming in consequence much more difficult. In the course of this controversy, "one of the chiefs has said that he knew a great part of the land was worth six dollars an acre."

It is only ten years since one of the chiefs of these same tribes had said, "Money is to us of no value." However, they must be yet very far from having reached any true estimate of real values, as General Harrison adds: "From the best calculation I have been able to make, the tract now ceded contains at least two millions of acres, and embraces some of the finest lands in the Western country."

Cheap at one thousand dollars a year! even with the negro man thrown in, which General Harrison tells the Secretary he has ordered Captain Wells to purchase, and present to the chief, The Turtle, and to draw on the United States Treasury for the amount paid for him.

Four years later (1809) General Harrison is instructed by the President "to take advantage of the most favorable moment for extinguishing the Indian title to the lands lying east of the Wabash, and adjoining south;" and the title was extinguished by the treaty of Fort Wayne-a little more money paid, and a great deal of land given up.

In 1814 we made a treaty, simply of peace and friendship, with the Delaware and several other tribes: they agreeing to fight faithfully on oar side against the English, and we agreeing to "confirm and establish all the boundaries" as they had existed before the war.

In 1817 it was deemed advisable to make an effort to "extinguish the Indian title to all the lands claimed by them within the limits of the State of Ohio. Two commissioners were appointed, with great discretionary powers; and a treaty was concluded early in the autumn, by which there was ceded to the United States nearly all the land to which the Indians had claim in Ohio, a part of Indiana, and a part of Michigan. This treaty was said by the Secretary of War to be "the most important of any hitherto made with the Indians." "The extent of the cession far exceeded" his most sanguine expectations, and he had the honesty to admit that "there can be no real or well-founded objection to the amount of the compensation given for it, except that it is not an adequate one."

The commissioners who negotiated the treaty were apprehensive that they would be accused of having made too liberal terms with the Indians, and in their report to the department they enumerate apologetically the reasons, which made it impossible for them to get the land cheaper. Mr. Cass says of the terms: "Under any circumstances, they will fall infinitely short of the pecuniary, and political value of the country obtained."

The Indians, parties to this treaty, surrendered by it almost the last of their hunting grounds, and would soon be driven to depending wholly upon the cultivation of the soil.

In 1818 the Delaware again ceded land to the United States-ceded all to which they laid claim in the State of Indiana-and the United States promised to provide for them "a country to reside in on the west side of the Mississippi," and "to guarantee to them the peaceable possession" of the same. They were to have four thousand dollars a year in addition to all the sums promised by previous treaties, and they were to be allowed to remain three years longer by sufferance in their present homes. The Government also agreed to pay them for their improvements on their lands, to give them a hundred and twenty horses, and a "sufficient number of pirogues to aid in transporting them to the west side of the Mississippi;" also provisions for the journey.

In 1829 a supplementary Article was added to this treaty. The United States Government began to show traces of compunction and pity. The Article says, "Whereas the Delaware Nation are now willing to remove," it is agreed upon that the country in the fork of the Kansas and Missouri rivers, selected for their home, "shall be conveyed and forever secured by the United States to the said Delaware Nation, as their permanent residence; and the United States hereby pledges the faith of the Government to guarantee to the said Delaware Nation, forever, the quiet and peaceable and undisturbed enjoyment of the same against the claims and assaults of all and every other people whatever."

An additional permanent annuity of one thousand dollars is promised; forty horses, "and the use of six wagons and ox-teams to assist in removing heavy articles," provisions for the journey, and one year's subsistence after they reach their new home; also the erection of a grist and saw mill within two years.

In 1833 the Secretary of War congratulated the country on the fact that "the country north of the Ohio, east of the Mississippi, including the States of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and the Territory of Michigan as far as the Fox and Wisconsin rivers," has been practically "cleared of the embarrassments of Indian relations," as there are not more than five thousand Indians, all told, left in this whole region.

The Commissioner of Indian Affairs in the same year says that it is "grateful to notice" how much the Indians' condition is "ameliorated under the policy of removal." He says that they, "protected by the strong arm of the Government, and dwelling on lands distinctly and permanently established as their own, enjoying a delightful climate and a fertile soil, turn their attention to the cultivation of the earth, and abandon the chase for the surer supply of domestic animals."

This commissioner apparently does not remember, perhaps never read, the records of the great fields of corn which the Delaware had on the Miami River in 1795, and how they returned twice that summer and replanted them, after General Wayne had cut down and burnt the young crops. They had "turned their attention to the cultivation of the soil" forty years ago, and that was what came of it. We shall see how much better worth while it may be for them to plant corn in their new "permanent home," than it was in their last one.

The printed records of Indian Affairs for the first forty years of this century are meager and unsatisfactory. Had the practice prevailed then, as at the present time, of printing full annual reports for the different tribes, it would be possible to know much, which is now forever locked up in the traditions and the memories of the Indians themselves. For ten years after the making of this last quoted treaty, there is little official mention of the Delaware by name, beyond the mention in the fiscal reports of the sums paid to them as annuities and for education. In 1833 the commissioner says, "The agent for the Delaware and Shawnees states that he was shown cloth that was spun and wove, and shirts and other clothing made by the Indian girls."

In 1838 the Delaware are reported as cultivating one thousand five hundred acres of land in grain and vegetables, and raising a great many hogs, cattle, and horses. "They are a brave, enterprising people," and "at peace with all neighboring Indians."

Parties of them frequently make excursions into the Rocky Mountains after beaver, and return with a rich reward, sometimes as much as one thousand dollars to an individual; but their money is soon spent, chiefly for ardent spirits. The agent says: "The only hindrance now in the way of the Delaware, Shawnees, and Kickapoo is ardent spirits.* * *

These whiskey traffickers, who seem void of all conscience, rob and murder many of these Indians; I say rob-they will get them drunk, and then take their horses, guns, or blankets off their backs, regardless of how quick they may freeze to death; I say they murder-if not directly, indirectly, they furnish the weapon-they make them drunk, and, when drunk, they kill their fellow-beings. Some freeze to death when drunk; several drunken Indians have been drowned in the Missouri River this season, aiming to cross when drunk."

In 1844 the chiefs of the Delaware met together, and prepared a remarkable document, which was forwarded to the Secretary of War. In this paper they requested that all the School funds to which they were entitled by treaty provisions might be paid to the Indian Manual Labor School near the Fort Leavenworth Agency; might be pledged to that school for ten years to come, and that they might there for be guaranteed the education and subsistence of Delaware children, not exceeding fifty at any one time. It came out, in course of this negotiation, that two thousand dollars were due them on arrearages of their school fund.

The Secretary acceded to this request, but imposed five conditions upon it, of which the fourth seems worth chronicling, as an indication of the helplessness of the Delaware in the matter of the disposition of their own money: "The interest to be paid annually when it may suit the Treasury; and this ratification to be subject to withdrawal, and the agreement itself to rescission, and to be annulled at the pleasure of the Department."

In 1845 the Delaware "raise a sufficiency to subsist on. The women do a large portion of the work on the farms. In many families, however, the women do not work on the farm. They raise corn, pumpkins, beans, peas, cabbages, potatoes, and many kinds of garden vegetables. Some few raise wheat and oats. They have lately had built, out of their own means; a good saw and grist mill, with two run of stones, one for corn and the other for wheat. There is a constant stream, called the Stranger, in their country that affords excellent water privileges. On this stream their mills are built."

At this time they are waiting with much anxiety to see if their "Great Father" will punish the Sioux, who have at two different times attacked them, and murdered in all some thirty men. "They say they do not wish to offend and disobey their Great Father, and before they attempt to revenge themselves they will wait and see if their Great Father will compel the Sioux to make reparation."

In 1848 "almost every family is well supplied with farming-stock; and they have raised abundance of corn, some wheat, potatoes, oats, and garden vegetables; have made butter and cheese; and raised fruit, etc., etc. They dwell in good log cabins, and some have extremely neat houses, well furnished. They have their outhouses, stables, well-fenced lots, and some have good barns." There are seventy scholars in one school alone that are taught by the Friends; and the teacher reports: "It is truly astonishing to see the rapidity with which they acquire knowledge. The boys work on the farm part of the time, and soon learn how to do what they are set at. The girls spend a part of their time in doing housework, sewing, etc. Many of them do the sewing of their own, and some of the clothes of the other children."

In 1853 the Delaware are recorded as being "among the most remarkable of our colonized tribes. By their intrepidity and varied enterprise they are distinguished in a high degree. Besides being industrious farmers and herdsmen, they hunt and trade all over the interior of the continent, carrying their traffic beyond the Great Salt Lake, and exposing themselves to a thousand perils."

Their agent gives, in his report for this year, a graphic account of an incident such as has only too often occurred on our frontier. "A small party of Delaware, consisting of a man, his squaw, and a lad about eighteen years of age, recently returning from the mountains, with the avails and profits of a successful hunt and traffic, after they had commenced their journey homeward the second day the man sickened and died. Before he died he directed his squaw and the young man to hasten home with their horses and mules-thirteen in number their money (four hundred and forty-five dollars), besides many other articles of value. After a few days' travel, near some of the forts on the Arkansas, they were overtaken by four white men, deserters from the United States Army-three on foot, and one riding a mule. The squaw and young man loaned each of the men on foot a horse or mule to ride, and furnished them with provisions. They all travelled on friendly together for some six or seven days, till they arrived at Cottonwood Creek, thirty-five or forty miles west of Council Grove. One evening, while resting, the young man was killed by these men; and the squaw was also supposed by these wretches to be dead, having had her throat cut badly and her head fractured. The two were then dragged off in the grass, supposed to be dead. The men gathered the mules, horses, money, guns, blankets-all that they supposed of value-and made for Jackson County, Missouri, where they disposed of the stock as best they could, and three of them took steamer for St. Louis. The squaw, on the day after, resuscitated; and soon discovering that her companion had been killed, and everything they possessed had disappeared, she, in her feeble and dangerous condition, took the road to Council Grove. The fifth day, she says, she was overtaken by a Kaw Indian, and brought into Council Grove, where the traders had every attention paid her, and sent a runner to the Delaware traders and myself, and we soon succeeded in capturing one of the men in Liberty, Clay County, Missouri, where he confessed the whole tragedy-the murder, robbing, etc. The three others had left for St. Louis. A telegraphic dispatch to St. Louis, however, had the desired effect, and the three men were taken and brought back to Liberty, where, on trial before two justices of the peace, they were committed for trial in the District Court of the United States for the State of Missouri. As feeble as the squaw was, I was under the necessity of having her taken to Liberty as a witness. She readily recognized and pointed out in a large crowd of persons three of the prisoners. I have caused four of the recovered mules and horses to be turned over to the unfortunate squaw. I expect to recover tow or three more; the balance, I am of opinion, will never be obtained.

In the report of the Indian Commissioner for this year there is also a paragraph which should not be omitted from this sketch: "The present seems to be an appropriate occasion for calling the attention of Congress to certain treaty stipulations with various Indian tribes which the Government, for a number of years, has failed to execute. In consideration of the cession of their lands to the United States"-by some nine tribes of the Mississippi and Missouri regions, among whom were the Delaware-"it was stipulated on the part of the Government that certain sums should be paid to said tribes, amounting in the aggregate to $2,396,000, and that the same should be invested in safe and profitable stocks, yielding an interest of not less than five per cent per annum.

"Owing, however, to the embarrassed condition of the Treasury, it was deemed advisable by Congress, in lieu of making the investments, to appropriate from year to year a sum equal to the annual interest at five per cent on the several amounts required to be invested. On this amount the Government has already paid from its treasury $1,742,240 a sum which is now equal to two-thirds of the principal, and will in a few years be equal to the whole, if the practice of appropriating the interest be continued. As there is no limitation to the period of these payments, such a policy indefinitely continued would prove a most costly one to the Government. At the end of every twenty years it will have paid from the public treasury by way of interest the full amount of the stipulated investments. * * The public finances are in a prosperous condition. Instead of fiscal embarrassment, there is now a redundancy of money, and one of the vexed questions of the day is, "What shall be done with the surplus in the Treasury?" Considering the premises, it seems to be quite clear that so much thereof as may be necessary for the purpose should be promptly applied to the fulfillment of our treaty obligations."

This site includes some historical materials that may imply negative stereotypes reflecting the culture or language of a particular period or place. These items are presented as part of the historical record and should not be interpreted to mean that the WebMasters in any way endorse the stereotypes implied.

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

A Century of Dishonor


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