79. Report of the Board of Indian Commissioners, November 23, 1869
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130 also, that their efforts cannot fail to stimulate the public conscience, and to give greater unity and vigor to the voluntary efforts made throughout the country in the cause of Indian civilization—a result desirable in itself, and certain to make easier and more satisfactory the duties of the officers of the bureau. . . . [House Executive Document no. 1, 41st Cong., 2d sess., serial 1414, pp. vii–xi.] 79. Report of the Board of Indian Commissioners November 23, 1869 The first report of the Board of Indian Commissioners shows how seriously they took their responsibilities. They presented a startling indictment of past dealings with the Indians and then offered recommendations for changes in Indian policy which foreshadowed most of the reforms proposed through the rest of the century. Sir: The commission of citizens appointed by the President under the act of Congress of April 10, 1869, to co-operate with the administration in the management of Indian affairs, respectfully report:. . . . It is not proposed to make this report either final or in any degree exhaustive. In its moral and political, as well as economic aspects, the Indian question is one of the gravest importance. The difficulties which surround it are of a practical nature, as are also the duties of the commission with reference to them. We cannot offer recommendations as the result of theorizing, but must reach our conclusions through personal observation and knowledge, as well as testimony . The comparatively short period of the existence of the commission, and the preventing causes already mentioned, compel the board to pass over, for the present, some of the important points which have occupied their attention. Should the commission be continued, it is hoped that visits of inspection to the reservations will, in each case, be productive of benefits, and the aggregate of the information acquired will enable the board to make important suggestions, for which it is not now prepared. Should the commission be discontinued, it is hoped some other permanent supervisory body will be created, which, in its material, office, and powers, shall be as far as possible beyond suspicion of selfish motives or personal profits in connection with its duties. While it cannot be denied that the government of the United States, in the general terms and temper of its legislation, has evinced a desire to deal generously with the Indians, it must be admitted that the actual treatment they have received has been unjust and iniquitous beyond the power of words to express. Taught by the government that they had rights entitled to respect; when those rights have been assailed by the rapacity of the white man, the arm which should have been raised to protect them has been ever ready to sustain the aggressor. The history of the government connections with the Indians is a shameful record of broken treaties and unfulfilled promises. The history of the border white man’s connection with the Indians is a sickening record of murder, outrage, robbery, and wrongs committed by the former as the rule, and occasional savage outbreaks and unspeakably barbarous deeds of retaliation by the latter as the exception. The class of hardy men on the frontier who represent the highest type of the energy and enterprise of the American people, and are just and honorable in their sense of moral obligation and their appreciations of the rights of others, have been powerless to prevent these wrongs, and have been too often the innocent sufferers from the Indians ’ revenge. That there are many good men on the border is a subject of congratulation, and the files of the Indian Bureau attest that among them are found some of the most earnest remonstrants against the evils we are compelled so strongly to condemn. The testimony of some of the highest military officers of the United States is on record to the effect that, in our Indian wars, almost without exception, the first aggressions have been made by the white man, and the assertion is supported by every civilian of reputa- 131 tion who has studied the subject. In addition to the class of robbers and outlaws who find impunity in their nefarious pursuits upon the frontiers, there is a large class of professedly reputable men who use every means in their power to bring on Indian wars, for the sake of the profit to be realized from the presence of troops and the expenditure of government funds in their midst...