Removal & Return

19 Report from the Committee on Indian Affairs (1836)

S. Doc. 24-348 - In Senate of the United States. May 4, 1836.

This report from the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs provides insight into relations between the Potawatomi & the federal government in the aftermath of the treaty. It includes letters signed by the Potawatomi leader Shab-eh-nay & agent Billy Caldwell or Swa-ka-nosh, who we encountered in parts one (“Letter”) & two (“Sketch”) of this digital reader.


May 4, 1836.
Read, and ordered to be printed.

Mr. White made the following


From the Committee on Indian Affairs, on the resolution relative to exchanging lands with the Pottawatamie Indians, &c.:

The Committee on Indian Affairs, to whom was referred a resolution of the Senate of the 20th of April last, instructing them “to inquire into the expediency of authorizing the President of the United States to exchange lands southwest of the Missouri river, with the Potawattamie Indians, for lands given to them by the treaty of Chicago, of 1833, lying north of the Missouri river, should the Indians desire to make such exchange,” have had the same under consideration, and find that these Indians are not satisfied with the lands which they procured by the Chicago treaty, and are unwilling to settle upon them.

The committee believe the interest both of the whites and of the Indians will be promoted by an exchange of lands southwest of the river Missouri for those now owned by them, if they should be found willing to make such exchange. The committee are of opinion their sentiments can be easily ascertained, and the exchange effected, if at all, through the regular Indian agent, without the expense attending the appointment of commissioners; and they therefore recommend to the Senate a resolution for adoption.

In support of the conclusion to which the committee have come, they beg leave to attach to this report, letters numbered from one to six inclusive, and that they be considered a part thereof.

Resolved, That it be respectfully recommended to the President of the United States, through the instrumentality of the Indian agent, or sub-agent, to negotiate with the Pottawatamie Indians an exchange of lands southwest of the river Missouri, for those now owned by them north of said river, should said Indians be found willing to make such exchange.

No. 1.

War Department,
May 2, 1836.

Sir: I have received your letter of the 27th ultimo.

In the absence of the Secretary of War, I beg leave to refer you to his letter to the chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs of the 28th ultimo, for answers to your inquiries respecting lands for the Pottawatamies who shall emigrate west of the State of Missouri.

I also enclose copies of such letters as have been received here, expressing the wish of these Indians to obtain other lands than those assigned to them in the treaty of Chicago.

Very respectfully,
Your most obedient servant,

C. A. Harris
Acting Secretary of War.

Hon. John Tipton,
Committee on Indian Affairs, Senate.

No. 2.

Kickapoo Village, near Fort Leavenworth,

Western Territory, November 20, 1835.

My Father: I want to speak to you, and hope you will listen to me. When we came to this country we expected to live on the land on the Little Platte river, opposite to the Kickapoos. We did begin to settle on it, but the agent told us that arrangements had been made to give our tribe an equal quantity of land higher up the Missouri river, and that we could not be allowed to remain where we were settling; so we returned to the country of the Kickapoos. We do not like the country high up the Missouri river; wood is very scarce. We should be too near the Naudowises, Sioux, Pawnees, and other Indians, who we fear would be unfriendly and troublesome. The country is nearer to these tribes, and farther from the white settlements than we expected. We should be far removed from the Ottawas, who are our relatives, and from all the other tribes near whom we formerly lived.

My Father: we wish you to tell us plainly whether we can get the land on the Platte, or not. If we cannot, then we hope you will pity us, and not compel us to live in the country high up the Missouri. Some of us and some of the Kickapoos, pray to the great Spirit. We were glad when we hoped to live on the Platte, because we would be all near to each other, and could all meet together every Sunday. Now I am sorry that we have to be separated.

My Father: there is a good country on the Osage river, adjoining our kindred the Ottawas, and our old friends the Miamies and Shawanees, and not far from the Delawares and Kickapoos. I have seen it, and if we cannot get the land on the Platte, we wish you would give us land on the Osage river, in exchange for ours high up the Missouri. There are four hundred and fifty-four of us Pottawatamies here, on the land of the Kickapoos; some of us have been here three years, and some of us not so long. If you will allow us to settle on the Osage river, instead of the land high up the Missouri, we should be glad to hear you say so soon, for we are very anxious to get on to our own land. We have been told that the white people want the land on the Platte. If we were to settle on the Missouri above them, perhaps they would wish to extend their settlements there also. We understand that all the Indians towards the setting sun, from the State of Missouri, will be secured in their possessions by your strong arm, that you will put around them. This will be like a strong fence. My Father: we desire to be enclosed within the strong fence, and not left on the outside.

I have told these things to our agent, so that he might tell them to you, and acquaint you with our wishes by sending you this paper.

My Father: I should be very glad to be allowed to go and see you in your own house. I have many things to say to you, which I should like to tell you with my own mouth, that I might with my own ears hear your words.

QUISH-QUEH-LAH, his + mark,
Pottawatamie Chief.

To the President of the United States.

No. 3.

Fort Leavenworth,
December, 1835.

To his Excellency Andrew Jackson, President of the United States:

Great Father: The men appointed to explore the country selected for the new home of the united nations of the Pottawatamie, Chippewa, and Ottawa Indians, have returned. We have talked with them, and send you the substance of their report.

Father: Your agents told us at the treaty made at Chicago, in 1833, that the country assigned to us west of the Mississippi was equally as good as the lands in Illinois, which we then occupied, and as well adapted to our situation. Trusting to their representations, we ceded our lands, and hard as it was, were preparing to leave our old hunting grounds, and the graves of our fathers for our new homes.

Father: We have been deceived, and feel disappointed and dissatisfied. We are told that our new country is mostly prairie, that there is scarce timber enough to build our wigwams, and that some of the land is too poor for snakes to live upon. Our men are not accustomed to the prairie: they have always lived in the woods.

Father: We are told, too, that there are no sugar-trees in our new country. In the country which we ceded to the United States there is an abundance of them. We understood that you wished us to become cultivators of the soil: some of our men desire to do so; but there is but little encouragement for them to become farmers in a country where there is so little timber and so much poor prairie.

Father: Do not think we wish to violate our treaty because we send you this letter. It is not so. We are not opposed to moving beyond the Mississippi. We are willing to go, and should now be ready to smoke our last pipe upon the site of our old wigwams, if our new country had been what it was represented to be, but we have been deceived in it.

Father: In order to satisfy our men and make them more contented, we ask to be allowed the exclusive possession, for the term of twenty years, of the north half of the strip of land surrendered by us to the United States, since the treaty of Chicago, for the benefit of Missouri. This would make our men more contented, We have said twenty years, because we hope in that time to become accustomed to the prairies, and able to relinquish it without inconvenience. We would also say that, in this country there are sugar-trees, but none in the country selected for us. This country, too, is better adapted to agricultural purposes than our own.

Father: We are told that game is now abundant in our new country; but as the game is mostly confined to the timber, we fear that in a few years, when it has been hunted, that it will be scarce, and we should be forced to rely upon agriculture for our support. This strip of land lies on the south part of our new country. Our neighbors on the north are numerous and powerful, and we know not what feelings they may entertain toward us; but we hope, before the twenty years are elapsed, to cultivate their friendly acquaintance. On account of the scarcity of provisions on the Missouri, the agent in charge of our removal has located us on the public land, reserved for Indians, east of Fort Leavenworth; here we expect to remain until joined by our people.

Father: We know that you feel friendly towards us, and wish to consult our best interests: we thank you for it, and we hope that you will now lay our case before the councils of your great nation, and use your influence to procure this small boon. And may the Great Spirit bless you for it.

WAB-SAI, his × mark.
MIX-E-MAU, his x mark.
SHE-MA-GAU, his x mark.
WASH-ES-KUCK, his X mark.
NE-COND-KE-SICK, his × mark.
MO-SWA-NA-WHA, his x mark.
SAW-KO-NASH, his x mark.

In presence of-

H. DODGE, Colonel of U. S. Dragoons,
witness to the signature of the first seven chiefs.

D. Hunter,
Captain Drog,
Thomas Swords, Lieutenant of Dragoons.
Anthony L. Davis, Assistant Agent to Pottawatamies.

No. 4.

To his Excellency Andrew Jackson, President of the United States:

Great Father: The undersigned, chiefs and head men of the united nation of Chippewa, Ottawa, and Pottawatamie tribes of Indians, have visited you at your great council fire, as a deputation from their brethren.

They bear to you a paper signed by those chiefs who have left their old hunting grounds for their new homes beyond the great river. This paper prays of you permission to occupy, for twenty years, the north half of the country ceded for the benefit of the State of Missouri.

Father: When you sent your commissioners, some two or three years ago, to make a treaty with us, we were glad to see them. We are always glad to see the officers of our great father. But when they proposed to give us lands beyond the great river, we told them that we were strangers to that country, and that we must send a deputation to see that land before we could treat with them. They answered us and said that we must make a treaty, that the land was good, was better than our old hunting grounds, and that we might send a deputation after the treaty, and if we did not obtain good lands, that our great father would do us justice hereafter.

Father: Before that deputation went out, trusting to your representatives, we consented to exchange a part of our new country. That deputation has, however, visited the country; they have returned, and the petition we bring contains their report.

Father: You know that your red children are unlettered and ignorant men; that they cannot tell their wants as well as the educated white man. We understood your commissioners at Chicago to tell us that our new country was bounded on the south by a line due east from the mouth of Little Platte river.

Your agents, too, who conducted our exploring party beyond the great river, gave us the same information, and when our emigrant party lighted their fires near Fort Leavenworth, they also were told they were on that tract of country which, by the supplemental treaty, they had exchanged, and under that belief, they asked of you permission to occupy the north half of the country so exchanged.

Father: Our chiefs desired and intended to ask of you permission to occupy the north half of the country included between the Missouri river and Missouri State line, and lines due east from the mouths of the Nodaway and Little Platte rivers. This is the country on which we so much desire to rest for a few years, and as a consequence, we desire to occupy the country north of it, which we now understand, for the first time, that we did exchange.

Father: We beg to make this explanation that you may fully understand our object, and the nature of our visit. We are ignorant of maps, charts, and letters, and could not learn our location like the white man.

Father: We place our case before you; we are your children; we are accustomed to look to you for support and protection; let us remind you that we have always been obedient children; that ever since the fall of our great leader, at the Thames, we have been the fast friends of you and your people; we have not made you trouble; we have not waged war on you; rather we have taken up our arms, and fought for you against the Sacs; we have made treaty after treaty with you, and at last all our lands are yours, and we are at this moment permitting your white people to occupy our lands north of the Illinois State line, to our great inconvenience and annoyance, without a murmur.

Father: We appeal to your justice, to your mercy, to your magnanimity, to grant us the small boon we ask; we know that you are the ruler of a great and a generous nation, and that we can appeal to you with confidence.

Father: Some one of our chiefs went to your great council-fire the other day. He asked his interpreter what your wise man was speaking. He told him that your wise man was charging a nation across the water with violating a treaty made with our great father. His heart swelled with pride at the word, and he said, our great father will now fulfill the promise he made to do us justice at the treaty of Chicago.

Father: Let not our appeal be in vain; let us not return to our people with shame on our faces, and may the great Spirit bless you.

CHE-CHE-BE-QUAY, his + mark, [L. S.]
JOSEPH, his x mark, [L. S.]
TO-PEN-I-BE, his x mark, [L. S.]
POT-E-GO-STUCK, his x mark, [L. S.]
SHA-BE-NAY, his X mark, [L. S.]
ME-TAI-WAH, his × mark, [L. S.]

James Grant,
Luther Rice,
Wm. Holiday.

No. 5.

Washington, D. C., April 23, 1836.

Sir: I have the honor of acknowledging the receipt of yours of the 22d inst., asking such information as I possess, relative to the wishes of the Pottawatamie Indians, who have removed, or who contemplate removing from the States of Indiana and Illinois, to the west side of the Mississippi, &c., to which I respectfully answer.

In the fall of 1835, I accompanied, in the capacity of interpreter, in the employ of Government, an emigrating party of Pottawatamies, from within the Chicago agency to the vicinity of Fort Leavensworth, on Missouri river. I believe there were eight or nine hundred started with us from Chicago, and out of that number, only three hundred reached the place of destination, who stopt within six miles of Fort Leavenworth, in Little Platte country. The balance of the number separated from us after a few days’ journey, preferring to go on their own way, that they might hunt as they went. They crossed the Mississippi river in the vicinity of Rock island, and they were to winter two or three days journey from Mississippi river, and after making sugar this spring, they were to go on to Platte country, and join that party who stopt there last fall.

In the spring of 1835, an exploring party was sent out under the care of Captain Gordon, to examine the country given them by the treaty of Chicago, in 1833; they returned a few days before the emigrating party started from Chicago, and reported that the country was not suitable for them on account of the timber being so scarce, and that the country was more remote than they expected. For the two above reasons, there was a great deal of unwillingness manifested and expressed both by those who have emigrated, and those who contemplate removing hereafter, to go on that country which they obtained by the treaty of Chicago. Therefore, in a council held on the Mississippi river, (on our way,) it was there agreed to send a delegation to Washington the past winter, for the purpose of obtaining a permission from the General Government to settle on the Little Platte country, for the term of twenty years, till they could make an arrangement or find a country suitable for them.

In compliance with the decision of that council, the delegation (for whom I came as interpreter) came here the last winter, but failed in their object. The delegation left this city (I being detained by sickness) with no further encouragement than that they might remain in their present encampments for a while. I am safe, sir, in saying, that a general and a decided unwillingness prevails amongst them to locating on the lands assigned them by the treaty of Chicago in 1833; and their wish is now to find a country suitable for them.

Respectfully, your most obedient servant,

L. Rice.

Hon. John Tipton,
United States Senator.

No. 6.

War Department, April 28, 1836.

Sir: I have had the honor to receive your letter of the 26th instant, enclosing a resolution of the Senate of the 20th, on the subject of an exchange of lands for the Pottawatamie Indians, parties to the treaty of Chicago, and for the Indians living in the State of Indiana.

With respect to the former, I beg leave to observe that the treaty of Chicago assigned to those Indians a tract of country for their residence north of the Missouri river, which has been accepted by them. They are desirous, I believe, of exchanging this tract for one south of the Missouri river. I am under the impression that there is sufficient land south of that river at the disposal of the Government for the occupation of these Indians, and for all the others east of the Mississippi who are yet to emigrate. But I cannot speak with certainty on this subject, because all the necessary facts are not before me. Should it, however, be as I anticipate, I should then see no objection to gratify the Indians, if they desire it, by exchanging with them lands south of the Missouri for lands north of that river.

With respect to the second resolution, touching an exchange of lands with the Miami and other Indians in the State of Indiana, I would remark that there can be no doubt of the expediency of the measure. It is only carrying out the general principles with respect to the removal of the Indians which have already been adopted, and partly in force. The Government has been endeavoring, for some time, to prevail upon the Miami and other Indians in Indiana to consent to such an exchange, and remove west; but, as yet, the attempt has been unsuccessful.

The resolutions are returned.

Very respectfully,
Your most obedient servant,

Hon. H. L. WHITE,
Chairman Com. on Indian Affairs, Senate.

“S. Doc. 24-348 – In Senate of the United States. May 4, 1836. Read, and ordered to be printed. Mr. White made the following report, from the Committee on Indian Affairs, on the resolution relative to exchanging lands with the Pottawatomie Indians, &c..” Congressional Committee Materials, Congressional Serial Set 283. Senate Document, S. Doc. 24-348, May 4, 1836, 24th Congress, 1st Session.