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United States. Office of Indian Affairs / Annual report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, for the year 1856

[Northern superintendency],   pp. 34-65 PDF (12.8 MB)

Page 36

so. imperfect and imperfectly understood, have been but small, as 
might be expected; and the absence of more proper laws has been, I 
presume, generally felt by the officers of the Indian department. It 
may have been truly said, there is nothing in the whole compass of 
our laws so anomalous, so hard to bring within any precise definition, 
or any logical or scientific arrangement of principles, as the relation 
in which the Indians stand towards this government, and those of the 
States; but from what I have seen, I have come to the conclusion 
that it is not the fear to violate any rights of the States which has pre-
vented proper action o n the part of Congress, nor apprehension of any 
clashing of the federal and State authorities, which has prevented 
the legislatures of the States and Territories from enacting proper laws
for the protection of the rights and interests of the Indians within 
their respective limits, but it is indifference to their interests and the
prejudice above alluded to, which prevails among public men as much 
as among the public generally. Indians have generally no votes to 
give at our elections, and the agitation of questions concerning a race 
of a darker hue has been more effectually used to obtain the votes of 
the electors, so that the interests of the poor Indian have been left 
without suffiicient friends in the legislative halls. 
I took occasion, at the beginning of the last annual session of the 
legislature of the State of Wisconsin, to call their attention to the 
affairs of the different Indian tribes within the State. I gave them a 
full history of the different measures, heretofore and now, being taken 
for their benefit; a description of the different reservations, and stated
the necessity of proper legislative action. At the request of the com- 
mittee to whom my memorial was referred, I prepared, among other 
documents, three bills: one to amend the statute in relation to the 
sale of intoxicating liquors to the Indians, so as to make it more 
stringent, and to enable officers to prosecute under it With efficiency ;
another, "in relation to trespasses on Indian lands within this State;"
and a third one, "to restrain Indians from roving about through the
State of Wisconsin." If the first two had been passed without mate-
rial amendment, to some extent the power would have been supplied 
of which we are deprived by the intercourse act not being considered 
in force within the State; and the third one might have furnished 
protection to the permanently settled Indians, as well as to the white 
citizen, against the roving bands, for whom the government has pro- 
vided homes in Kansas and Minnesota, but who, so far, could not be 
restrained there. These bills were reported by the committee, but I 
believe only the first became a law, and that after having been so 
amended that it will not materially hurt the interests of the whiskey 
sellers, nor benefit the poor Indians. 
The more civilized Indians have, generally, in cases of crime com- 
mitted by any of their tribe, shown a willingness and a desire that the 
courts should take jurisdiction and punish the offenders. But when- 
ever murder has been committed by Indians on their own race, the 
offenders have been permitted to go at large without being punished, 
for want of prosecution. The counties organized in the neighborhood 
of Indian reservations are generally yet sparsely settled, and not very 
able to bear the expense of such trials, and their grand juries not in- 

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