1858 Reports of the Commissioner Affairs and Indian Agent
"Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs," pp. 353-669. In U.S. Senate. 35th Congress, 2d Session. Annual Message of the President and Report of the Secretary of the Interior, 1858 (S.Ex.Doc.1, Pt. 1). Washington: Government Printing Office, 1859. (Serial Set 974).
. . . In the year 1855, treaties were also entered into by the superintendent of Indian affairs for Oregon, and by Governor Stevens, ex officio superintendent for Washington Territory, with various other tribes and bands, for the purpose of extinguishing their title to large tracts of country, which were needed for the extension of our settlements, and to provide homes for the Indians in other and more suitable locations, where they could be controlled and domesticated. These treaties not having been ratified, the Indians were sorely disappointed in consequence of the expectations they were led to entertain of benefits and advantages to be derived from them not being realized. Moreover, the whites have gone on to occupy their country without regard to their rights, which has led the Indians to believe that they were to be dispossessed of it without compensation or any provision being made for them. This state of things has naturally had a tendency to exasperate them; and, in the opinion of well informed persons, has been the cause of their recent acts of hostility. The belief is confidently entertained, that, had the treaties referred to been ratified and put in course of execution, the difficulties that have occurred would not have taken place; and there can be but little if any doubt, that the cost of the military operations to subdue the Indians, and the losses sustained by our citizens from their depredations and hostilities, will amount to a far greater sum than would have been required to extinguish their title and establish and maintain them, for the necessary period, on properly selected reservations, had that policy in respect to them been sanctioned and timely measures taken to carry it out.
It cannot be expected that Indians situated like those in Oregon and Washington, occupying extensive sections of country, where, from the game and otherwise, they derive a comfortable support, will quietly and peaceably submit, without any equivalent, to be deprived of their homes and possessions, and to be driven off to some other locality where they cannot find their usual means of subsistence. Such a proceeding is not only contrary to our policy hitherto, but is repugnant alike to the dictates of humanity and the principles of natural justice. In all cases where the necessities of our rapidly increasing population have compelled us to displace the Indian, we have ever regarded it as a sacred and binding obligation to provide him with a home elsewhere, and to contribute liberally to his support until he could re-establish and maintain himself in his new place of residence. The policy, it is true, has been a costly one, but we have been amply repaid its expense by the revenue obtained from the sale of the lands acquired from the Indians, and by the rapid extension of our settlements and the corresponding increase in the resources and prosperity of our country. . . . (pp. 355-356)
No. 100, Letter of the Hon. Isaac I. Stevens To Commissioner of Indian Affairs, pp. 629.
WASHINGTON CITY, November 30, 1858.
SIR: I have just received a letter from my old friend "Lawyer," head chief of the Nez PercÚs, from which I make the following extract:
"At this place about three years since we had our talk, and since that time I have been waiting to hear from our big father. We are very poor. It is other people's badness. It is not our fault, and I would like to hear what he has to say. If he thinks our agreement good our hearts will be thankful.
"Colonel Wright has been over after the bad people, and has killed some of the bad people and hung sixteen; and now I am in hopes we will have peace."
The Lawyer's opinions are entitled to more weight than those of any other Indian in the Territory. His people want their treaty confirmed, and are rejoiced that Indian murderers and marauders have been brought to justice.
The letter was written from the near vicinity of the Walla Walla treaty ground.
I am, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
ISAAC [I.] STEVENS.
HON. J. W. DENVER,
Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Washington City.
From: No. 101, Communication From Lieutenant John Mullan, Respecting Indian Hostilities, pp. 629-635.
. . . But allow me my dear sir, while this general war is going on, to point you to at least a few green spots where the ravages of war do not as yet extend, and which thus far are untainted and unaffected, with a view of so retaining them that we may hereafter point to them as oases in this desert of war. These green spots are the Nez PercÚs, the Flatheads, and Pend dOriells; and in this connexion I refer, with grateful pride, to an act of Colonel Wright which embodies views and motives which, endorsed and carried out by the government, must redound to his credit and praise and be the means of building up, at no distant day, a bold, brave, warlike, and numerous people. It is this: Before leaving Fort Walla-Walla, with a view of retaining the friendship of a powerful tribe and preventing a general coalition and combination of tribes, and a fire in our rear which if once commenced must end in our total destruction, Colonel Wright assembled the Nez PercÚs people, told them his object was to war with and punish our enemies, but as this great people were and ever had been our friends that he wanted their friendship to be as enduring as the mountains around which they lived, and in order that no difference of views or difficulty might arise that their mutual promises should be recorded, and with this view he made a treaty of friendship alone, and thirty bold warriors marshalling themselves under brave war chiefs were placed at his disposal to assist him in finding and fighting his enemy. This is the same people who, meeting the flying columns of Colonel Steptoe in hot night retreat, having abandoned animals, provision, and guns, behind them, received him with open arms, succored his wounded men, and crossed in safety his whole command over the difficult and dangerous south fork of the Columbia, at a time when no other means whatever, to out reach a foe, who already triumphant with success had determined his complete destruction. Here then is an instance in Indian history that must and will long stand on record, not to be forgotten. Colonel Wright, on entering their country, was not unmindful of this noble act, when we might, aye, justly too, have anticipated a lurking foe in that same tribe, and he took such measures as to keep their friendship. It is now for you to say whether this shall be inviolable.
They have no agent who lives among them. They are far advanced already in civilizationmuch further than any tribe west of the Rocky mountains, except the Flatheads. They are inclined to agriculture; already raise wheat, corn, and vegetables, with the rudest of means. When asked by Colonel Wright what they wanted, their reply was well worthy of a noble race: "Peace, ploughs, and schools." And will you, can you longer refuse them these? I ask therefore to commend these noble people. Colonel Wright has given me the command of this band of warriors while in the field, and hence I am in a position to know and study them. I ask that a special appropriation be made to give these people schools, farms, and seeds; that means be taken to so build them up in their mountain homes that we may be enabled to point with joyous pride to a first few tutored savages reclaimed from their wild, nomadic habits. . . . I point you, commencing with Lewis and Clarke in 1804 to the present day, to the accounts of all travellers across the continent; and with one accord they point to the Nez PercÚs and Flatheads as two bright, shining points in a long and weary pilgrimage across a prairie desert and rugged mountain barrier, alive with savage hordes of Indians, where they have been relieved and aided when most in need; and instances sufficiently numerous to swell a volume exist, that render it needless for me here to refer to them. But I make one more appeal in behalf of these people. My duties and labors have brought me often and long in contact with them, and I instance now not views of judgments, but facts that should speak sufficiently loud to reach the ears of our government at Washington in thundering tones and arouse them to a course of bold, energetic, praiseworthy action that will speedily and radically remedy a disease that is fast devouring a people once numerous on our western slopes.