Removal & Return

18 Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs (1833)

From Annual report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, for the years 1826-1839

This report from the Commissioner of Indian Affairs & the next one from the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs help situate the treaty in the larger context of Native American Indian removal by the federal government.

Department of War
Office Indian Affairs, November 28, 1833.

SIR: Your order of the 30th of August last called on me to furnish an estimate of the current expenses for the Indian Department for the ensuing year, which I had the honor, shortly afterwards, of submitting, and of which the paper marked A, herewith transmitted, is duplicate. The amount of these expenses, as will be seen on reference, is therein stated at one hundred and fifty-one thousand eight hundred dollars, ($151,800.)

In pursuance of the tenor of that order, further statements in detail of the various and important concerns of the Indian Department, under the superintendence of this office, are now submitted, in which I have endeavored to incorporate every necessary explanation for their clear understanding. The amount drawn from the Treasury, and remitted for disbursement under the several heads of appropriation in the Indian Department, is succinctly stated in the paper marked B, so far as relates to the three first quarters of the year 1833; as is also the amount for which accounts have been rendered for the same period, under each head respectively; and the several balances that are still to be accounted for according to the books of this office. The aggregate of remittances for disbursement is therein shown to be $1,765,671 99. of which sum accounts have been rendered, as will be seen, for $81,241,710 OS, leaving to be accounted for the amount of $523,961 91. This balance is in the hands of distant agents entrusted with the payment of Indian annuities and specified objects of a miscellaneous character. It is fairly presumable, that the non-reception of their accounts, in season to be embodied in this report, may be attributed to the incompleteness of their disburements, and their very remote points of residence causes sufficient to occasion delay without obnoxiousness to censure.

Paper C imparts the information required by the order of the department, touching the schools established in the Indian country, deriving aid from the annual appropriation of ten thousand dollars, ($10,000,) for the civilization of the Indians. To this is appended the substance of the latest reports received at this office from the different societies and institutions; as also a statement of the measures contemplated in the future management of the above fund, and an account of the disposition which has been made of the education funds provided for in treaties with several of the tribes. The number of Indian children taught at the schools embraced in this report, is eighteen hundred and thirty-five. This is exclusive of one hundred and thirteen (113) Indian scholars at the Choctaw Academy in Kentucky, the expense of whose education is derived from funds set apart by the Indians themselves under treaty stipulations for this specific object. Highly creditable mention, at different times, has hitherto been made of this institution, which, in continuing its usefulness, maintains the reputation it had acquired, and warrants the belief that the provision for its support could not have been more advantageously appropriated.

In a communication from one of the Indian pupils at that academy, it was noted that some of the lads possessed a mechanical turn; and the suggestion was made, that, in addition to the usual branches taught at the school, instruction should be given, such as desired it, in those handicrafts most required among the Indian tribes. The very respectable superintendent of the academy strongly recommended the measure, and the department, coinciding in the view of benefit derivable therefrom, appropriated five hundred dollars ($500) for the erection of suitable buildings, and the procurement of necessary tools. This is perhaps the best step that could be taken to dispel the common prejudice of Indians against education, the process of which, being intellectual, is rot within the purview of their benighted minds. But when boys, thus instructed, return to their respective homes, their being serviceable will not only give them consideration, but the tuition under which they were enabled to become so will probably come in for its due share of homage and regard. If it were possible to ground the Indians well in the mechanical arts, an immediate and radical change would be made in the habits and character of the race, and civilization would achieve a victory as signal and complete as philanthropy could rejoice at or desire. An extract from the quarterly report of the inspectors of the academy is herewith communicated.

Meantime, improvement, to be effectual, must be gradual. The liberality of the Government in establishing and maintaining Indian schools is productive of much good. Many benevolent societies have also poured in their contributions to open wider the doors of knowledge, and promote the cultivation of mind. There is, in consequence, a perceivable excitement towards learning among the young, that has not hitherto manifested itself, and which may be the harbinger of a brighter intellectual day–the precursor of transformation from the savage to the social state. And when the generous policy of the Government, now in the course of operation, shall have effected the concentration of all the Indian tribes west of the Mississippi, the contemplated establishment of district schools in their own country will bring home to their doors the advantages of tuition, and, by diffusing the benefits of education, will be an assured mean of accelerating their progress in the attainment of the blessings of civilized life.

In accordance with the policy of the Government above adverted to, measures have been taken for the due execution of the treaties concluded with the Shawnees and Delawares late of Cape Girardeau, with the Kaskaskias and Peorias, the Kickapoos, the Piankeshaws and Weas, and with the Winnebagoes; all of which were ratified at the last session of Congress; and those tribes, excepting a portion of the Winnebagoes, are now located on the lands set apart for their permanent residence.

The treaty concluded with the Chickasaw nation, also ratified at the last session of Congress, has been put in the course of execution, and an exploring party, conducted by their agent, Colonel Reynolds, has gone to the west for the purpose of procuring land for the future accommodation of their tribe.

Measures have also been set on foot for the execution of the several treaties made with the Pottawatamies, with the Ottawas of the Maumee, with the confederated tribes of the Sac and Fox Indians, and with the united nation of the Senecas and Shawnees Indians, which were ratified at the last session of Congress.

Suitable steps have likewise been taken to carry into effect the treaty concluded with the Menomonees, to which the New York Indians were also parties, and ratified at the last session of Congress. A delegation has been despatched to examine the country designated for the residence of the latter, and on their report a final decision be expected, to remove either to Green bay, or west of the Mississippi. Their emigration to the west may possibly be induced by the cordial invitation of those of their nation already settled in that region, to join them, and by their favorable representation of the fertility of the soil, and delightfulness of the climate.

The Cherokees continue, in the midst of increasing embarrassments, to evince the same pertinaciousness on the subject of removal that has hitherto marked their counsels, and warred with their best interests. An unfavorable influence on this question is exercised by some of the chiefs, with no very laudable motives, maintained by the rigorous discipline which their despotic structure of internal government authorizes. Notwithstanding this, it is understood that the spirit of emigration is active among the great body of the nation under the proffers made to them for exchange of residence; and the belief is entertained that at least fifteen hundred will emigrate in the ensuing spring to seek better fortunes in more fertile domains, and under auspices favorable to their prosperity and increase.

Recent communications from the agent of the remaining band of Wyandots in Ohio, furnish good reason to conclude that their emigration will soon take place. They have lately been invited, in most cordial terms, by their brothers in the west, to join them, with such a description of the climate and country as to have produced a great change of sentiment, and a strong inclination to be re-united to their tribe.

Colonel James Gadsden has succeeded in making treaties with the two remaining bands of the Appalachicola Indians, and, upon their removal, Florida will cease to possess an Indian population. The treaties are herewith submitted.

The provisional treaty communicated to the Senate at its last session, concluded by Col. Gadsden with the Seminole Indians, will be obligatory on its ratification by that body. The deputation of their chiefs, which went to Arkansas to examine their destined country, has returned, and reported favorably upon it for their future residence. The want of an appropriation to defray the expense, prevented the removal of most, if not all of them, during the present season. The treaty made by commissioners on the part of the United States, with the delegation on behalf of the Seminole nation, and designating the land intended for their occupancy, is herewith communicated.

In the progressive execution of the late Creek treaty, an unfortunate circumstance took place, which has occasioned considerable excitement in the State of Alabama. By a provision of that treaty, all intruders were to be removed from the ceded land until the country was surveyed, and the stipulated selections were made. This has not yet been done, and, in the interim, repeated complaints of gross injustice, and cruel treatment towards the Creeks, were received by the department. It was represented that, in many instances, they were driven from the lands they had cultivated; that they were unmercifully beaten; that their dwellings were burnt, and that they were compelled to flee to the woods for safety. Under these circumstances of provocation and outrage, the persecuted Indians applied to the Government for that protection guaranteed to them by the treaty. Instructions were accordingly issued to the marshal of the southern district of Alabama, couched in conciliating language, to expel the intruders, after giving them reasonable notice to leave the ceded land: and so to execute the order as to occasion them the least possible loss and inconvenience. They had put themselves in the wrong, and it devolved upon the Government to right the injured party. In the discharge of that duty by the marshal, an intruder, named Owen, lost his life by resisting the law of the land. It has been officially represented to the department that, previously to the catastrophe, on his evincing a determination not to yield to authority, he had been expostulated with, and cautioned to forbear resistance: also, that he was armed, and, while in the act of firing at one of the men on duty, was shot in that hostile position. The occurrence, however much to be deplored, seems, from the above representation, to have been avoidable only at the extreme peril of life; and that to the reckless rashness of the individual can alone be imputed the unhappy result of his original trespass.

Under an act of the last session of Congress, to enable the President to extinguish the Indian title to land within the States of Indiana and Illinois, and the Territory of Michigan, commissioners were appointed, and a treaty has been concluded with the united nation of Chippewa, Ottaway and Pottawatamie Indians, by which they have relinquished to the United States all their land within the said States, and all that was held or claimed by them jointly in the said Territory. The treaty comes particularly commended in the fact of total cession without any reservation, thereby insuring the prompt emigration of the Indians, and serving as a prevention of unjust speculation in their lands.

The commissioners appointed by the act of July 14, 1832, to adjust difficulties in the location of the land of the emigrating Indians, and for other purposes, have happily succeeded in concluding a treaty with the Creeks and Cherokees, whereby the boundaries of the lands of the two nations have been definitively and permanently established, and a long existing controversy has been terminated to their mutual satisfaction. The treaty is herewith communicated.

They have also concluded a treaty with the Quapaws, and assigned them land west of the Mississippi, to induce their removal from the Territory of Arkansas. The treaty has not yet been received at the department.

The commissioners represent the Indians west of the Mississippi to be advantageously situated, and progressing towards civilization with a steady pace. It is grateful to notice, that their condition is ameliorated under the policy of removal, and that brighter prospects are opening to the remnants of nations that once spread over the face of this vast continent. It is communicated, from the same authentic source, that, 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, they turn their attention to the cultivation of the earth, and abandon the chase for the surer supply of domestic animals. The transition from a savage to a civilized condition cannot be expected to be instantaneous, and we therefore hail with satisfaction the first indications that denote a willingness to throw off habits peculiar to the forest, and betake to the kindlier occupations of civilized life.

The proneness of the Indian to the excessive use of ardent spirits, with the too great facility of indulging that fatal propensity through the cupidity of our own citizens, not only impedes the progress of civilization, but tends inevitably to the degradation, misery, and extinction of the aboriginal race. Indeed the substantial benefits of our policy towards the Indian tribes so essentially depend upon the entire exclusion of the means of intemperance from their country, as to warrant the belief that Congress will bestow upon the subject all the interest which its importance is calculated to create. Under that persuasion, a circular was addressed in May last to the superintendents and agents of Government, to obtain and transmit to the department all the information requisite for the amendment of the law, to prevent the introduction of ardent spirits into the Indian country, and for the adoption of means best calculated to insure its enforcement. The substance of the information thus acquired, is embodied in the paper marked D, and may tend to throw light upon the path of legislation, and lead to the enactment of a law that will meet the exigencies of the case, and check an evil of fearful magnitude to the welfare of the Indians, both in a moral and physical view.

The regulations of internal government among the Indian tribes continue nearly the same as they prevailed before the European discovery and settlement of this country. This primitive sway, having reference to a state of society and an order of things wholly different from what is contemplated and advocated by our policy, might undergo modifications material to its success, and greatly to their advantage. But especially does it appear desirable that something, however simple, in the shape of a code of laws, suited to their wants, and adapted to the first dawnings of the social compact amongst them, should be devised and submitted for their adoption, to obviate the inconveniences, and secure the benefits incident thereto, in the relations that are springing up under the fostering care of the Government. Such a cement is required for the cohesion of parts that possess no very strong internal principles of amalgamation; and, without it, the frame of society has alwaye been found to be unstable, and void of that intelligence under which its capacities are brought into beneficial action, and made subservient to individual and general welfare.

Few hostilities have been committed during the past year among the Indian tribes. Tendency to civilization. and the presence of a military force among them, have, in a great degree, repressed their spirit for violence and rapine. A confident hope may be indulged in the propitious issue of the policy instituted by Government for their protection and preservation, and philanthropy may yet exult in the attainment of its noble aim, the enjoyment of the blessings, and the practice of the virtues of civilized life, by the congregated Indians of Arkansas.

All which is respectfully submitted.


To his Excellency Lewis Cass,
Secretary of War.

Elbert Herring. “Report on Indian Affairs 1833.” Annual report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, for the years 1826-1839, section 9, 1833, pp. 182-187 (UW–Digitized Collections):