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ART. II. THE MANAGEMENT OF THE INDIANS.
PERHAPS at no time in the history of the United States has the Indian Question demanded a more careful consideration than at present. The outbreak of the Utes, resulting in the murder of Agent Meeker, the death of Major Thornburg and the threatened outbreak of an Indian war; the hegira of the Poncas from the Indian Territory, that they might save the small remnant of their tribe still surviving the unhealthy climate; the decision of the United States Courts, that Indians have the same legal rights as white men; the general interest in these unfortunate people which has been awakened in all parts of the country; the massacre of the Cheyennes, who, driven to desperation by unjust imprisonment and broken promises, attempted to overpower the guards and secure for themselves the freedom which no people prize more highly than they these events, fresh in the memory of all and emphasized by agitation set on foot by certain well-known philanthropists, and the avowed intention on the part of the Government to make some change in the management of Indian Affairs, render a discussion of the Indian question very opportune.
We had hoped to see the subject discussed by the Executive in his late Message to Congress in a manner befitting its importance. In this hope, however, we were disappointed, as must also have been every Christian whose fortunes are cast with those on the frontier. He indulges in hopes and fears; expresses sympathy for the wronged and suffering tribes; and promises to do all in his power to prevent outrages and to preserve the peace on the reservations-like the good Christian, but poor philosopher, that he is. "It is expected," he writes, "that the settlement of this difficulty [the late trouble between the
Utes and Agent Meeker] will lead to such arrangements as will prevent further hostile contact between the Indians and the border settlement in western Colorado." For our part, we cannot understand why the president should indulge such rosy-hued expectations. The causes and conditions under which the late disturbances were fomented still exist; and, until they are changed for the better, it is idle to expect any favorable change in the relations of the two races.
The occasion demands the institution of measures whereby impartial justice may be administered between these two irreconcilable races. No one doubts the humanity of the president nor the kindly intent of the chief of the Department of the Interior. But the best approved sentiments on the part of rulers count for nothing unless supported by means and agencies to give them effect. On these points the president is as silent as a school-boy with his first lesson. He brings forward no policy; he makes no suggestions looking to a change in the status quo of Indian affairs. It is true, he looks forward with apprehension to the increase of the number of white settlers on the fertile plains of the Indian Territory. The vastness of the wealth, stored in mines and soil, awaiting the shovel of the miner and the plow of the husbandman, cannot fail, thinks he, to attract the cupidity of the white man, and tempt him to assume an attitude of aggression. "Under such circumstances," writes the president, "the difficulty of maintaining the Indian Territory in its present state will greatly increase; and the Indian tribes inhabiting it would do well to prepare for such a contingency." To this end he advises the purchase in fee simple, by the resident Indians, of such lands as they may be able to settle upon and cultivate, in accordance with the advice given to them by the Secretary of the Interior, in his late Report to Congress; adding, that it is his purpose "to protect the rights of the Indian inhabitants of that Territory to the full extent of the Executive power." In the absence of any change of policy, or method in carrying out that purpose, which is in no wise different from that announced again and again by the Chief Executive of the nation, we do not see that the suffering inhabitants on the frontier and
reservations, white and red, will be able to extract much substantial comfort from it, or to feel any greater degree of security in their rights of person or property, because of its an
In the management of Indian affairs, two policies have long contended for supremacy, viz.: the present policy of an Indian Bureau, conducted by civilians, and the policy, which constantly gains adherents, of placing the Indians under the charge of the War Department. Long years of failure have convinced most men who are not immediately interested in the Indian Ring-one of the most powerful of the rings which have nearly changed our Government from a democracy to a "ringocracy," that the control of the Indians should pass from the hands of those who have so conspicuously abused their trust.
The people of the east are interested in this question on general principles. The present mismanagement is a blot on our Government. Humanity is outraged by the wrongs which it permits to be perpetrated on the Indians; and all who would make of our Government what its admirers claim for it, namely, the best government on the earth, desire to change the present sad condition both of the Indians and the white people living near them. But to the people of the west, and especially to those living on the frontier, as does the writer, the management of the Indians is a subject of the most vital importance. Success in farming, stock raising and mining—in short, in all the pursuits of civilized life, depends on the successful management of Indian affairs. Every year our western papers have teemed with reports of ranches destroyed, horses and cattle stolen, and settlers, trappers and miners killed by the Indians. No one on the frontier is safe; and it affords. slight satisfaction to those whose property has been taken, whose families, perhaps, massacred, for the military to begin an Indian war, and finally to succeed after an enormous expenditure of treasure, and the sacrifice of life, in subduing the red What those who live near the Indian reservations, in actual contact with the Indians, demand is security of life and property, and the liberty peaceably to pursue their customary
All can see that under the present management this is impossible. Treaties made with all possible solemnity are broken, in almost every case, not by the Indians, but by corrupt agents of the Government; clothing and rations fall short when most needed; reckless white men steal from the Indians and squat on their reservations; and when the Indians, outraged in this wanton manner beyond endurance, break out into open hostilities, the military is called upon to conquer a peace. A trifle has created the disturbance, which soon grows to the magnitude of an Indian war. Indian agents, traders and contractors are changed from time to time, and yet the evil does not abate. What is the reason of it? We answer:
Partly, because the appointees gain these positions as a reward for political services, often of the basest kind, rendered to the party in power; a position of trust is degraded to one of profit; while sufficient care is not exercised in choosing honest and capable men to fill these important positions: and partly, because it is a long way to Washington, and the Indian Bureau is much like Dickens' circumlocution office. There is an immense amount of red tape to be unwound; and before the tedious task is ended, the Indians have entered on the war path, intent on avenging their own wrongs; the military have taken the case in hand; and in the horrors of an Indian war the original cause of complaint is lost sight of. Perhaps an Indian Commission, composed of men who have never lived on the frontier and possess no knowledge of frontier life, is sent from Washington to investigate the matter. Before the Commission starts, the agents know of its coming, and everything is put in order, like a college or an asylum examination, so that the Commissioners, completely misled as to the cause of the trouble, have nothing to report but Indian outrages! It is thus apparent that the headquarters are too far away. With the best intentions, therefore, the Indian Bureau could not administer justice in these broils between Indians and white men.
Moreover, the Indians are of different tribes, having different social and religious customs. Some belong to the mountains; some to the plains; some in the north and some in the south. Some tribes are semi-civilized; others altogether wild.
To the Department at Washington, as to the most of the citizens of the United States, Indians are Indians, who are all to be managed in the same way. Hence arise numerous blunders and mistakes which promote serious disturbances. Nor can it be otherwise, from the nature of the case, so long as a single department attempts the management of affairs so complex and difficult as those of the Indian Bureau. Heads of departments are but men, with the faults and fallacies common to men; and with so many tribes, scattered over so wide an expanse of territory, to provide for and govern, it is impossible to give to each case the attention necessary to a perfect or an approximately proper management. Nor is there the requisite time. Since so many cases demand immediate decision, each one of which should be as carefully studied as any difference between our Government and a foreign power, it is important that a wise and just decision may be given on the spot, to the end that the perils and sacrifices of an Indian war may be averted.
Were the control of Indian affairs transferred to the War Department, many of these difficulties would be obviated. It would doubtless secure greater efficiency and honesty in the management. Department generals would control the Indians in their several departments, and less time would be consumed in arriving at a decision. Related tribes, accustomed to a common climate and with similar social and religious customs, could then be placed under the same general supervision. While this plan is evidently superior to the present one, there would still be too little discrimination in treating special cases; for many tribes would be in the same department and red tape would still interfere with a rapid settlement of serious difficulties. Nor would political influence at Washington, which is so baleful in its effect upon the honest and efficient administration of any department of government, be altogether annulled.
The principal objection to this, as well as to the present system, and which is fatal to both, remains to be mentioned,an objection which has hitherto received but little consideration in the discussion of the Indian question, but which the recent decision of Judge Dundy, of Nebraska, in the case of the Ponca Indians, brings prominently into view. According