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United States. Office of Indian Affairs / Annual report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, for the year 1874
([1874])

Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs,   pp. [3]-17 PDF (6.6 MB)


Page 15

REPORT OF. THE COMMISSIONER OF INDIAN AFFA1RS.       15 
precluded from an undue supply of gunpowder and rum, and to be made 
as peaceable. as possible by the presence of an agent and the distribu- 
tion of a few annuities in cash and blankets. 
In my judgment, whatever of failure has attended the management 
of Indian affairs in the past has been largely attributable to this funda-
mental failure to recognize and treat the Indian as a man capable of 
civilization, and, therefore, a proper subject of the Government and 
amenable to its laws. A judge in Idaho, who is also a United States 
commissioner, has decided that he had no jurisdiction, either as a ter- 
ritorial or Federal officer, in a casewhere one Indian had killed another,
.though the murder was committed in his own county and outside of any 
reserve. Thus it has come to -pass that we have within our borders at 
the present time 75,000 wild Indians who need legislation appropriate to
a people passing rapidly out from a savage tribal government into a 
Iegree of control by the United States Government; and 200,000 other 
Indians who might be readily brought within the protection and restraint
of ordinary law, and yet are practically without the benefit of any suit-
able government, a majority of them being property-holders, living upon 
their farms, having their schools and churches, and scarcely differing in
their mode of life from the pioneer settlers of the country. 
The damage which is inevitable to the Indians from this anomalous 
state of things, will be more apparent if we keep in mind that no offi- 
cer of the Government has authority by law for punishing an Indian 
for crime, or restraining him in any degree; that the only means of en- 
forcing law and order among the tribes is found in the use of the bayo- 
net by the military, or such arbitrary force as the agent may have at 
command. Among the Indians themselves, all tribal government has 
been virtually broken down by their contact with the Government. The 
chiefs hold a nominal headship, depending for its continuance on the 
consent of the most turbulent and factious portion of the tribe. If a 
white man commits depredations upon the Indians in their own country 
no penalty is provided beyond that of putting him out of the country, 
a penalty which he readily takes upon himself when escaping with his 
booty. 
INeither is there any provision of law by which an Indian can begin 
to live for himself as an American citizen. Being by the fiction of sov-
ereignty, which has come into our Indian relations, citizens of a "1do-
mestic dependent nation," contrary to the American doctrine upon this
subject he is not allowed to change his nationality at will, but required
first to obtain consent of both parties to his tribal treaty. As a result
of this restriction, many Indians are kept with the mass of their tribe 
who otherwise would strike out for themselves. The case of the Flan- 
dreaus, a small band of Sioux in Dakota, hereafter detailed, who availed
themselves of a special provision to this effect in their treaty, is inter-
esting as illustrating the advantage of a privilege which should be 
provided for all Indians. 
Neither is there any provision under existing law by which an Indian 
desiring to continue his relations with his tribe is allowed to receive an
allotment of his portion of the laud owned in common; thus individual 
enterprise and self-support are materially repressed. 
Many of the appropriations, in accordance with treaty stipulations, 
provide that annuities should be paid cash in hand, or in goods dis- 
tributed per capita, to be accounted for to the Government on the re- 
ceipts of the chief. All bounty of the Government bestowed in this 
form is worse than wasted, tending to perpetual poverty by providing 
for idleness and unthrift. 


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