87. Indian Commissioner Smith on Indian Citizenship. November 1, 1874
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143 87. Indian Commissioner Smith on Indian Citizenship Extract from the Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs November 1, 1874 Changing relationships between the Indians and the United States called for new legislation. One detailed proposal, which showed the direction taken by official thinking in the Indian Office, was that of Commissioner Edward P. Smith in his annual report of 1874. legislation for indians on a new basis Frequent mention has been made in this report of the necessity for additional legislation on behalf of the Indians. This necessity is apparent from the fact that the only statutes under which Indians are managed and controlled are substantially those enacted in 1834, known as the trade and intercourse laws, whose main purpose was to regulate traffic in furs, and prevent sale of ammunition and intoxicating drinks, and intrusion upon an Indian reservation. This meager legislation was in accord with the theory then prevailing, that the Indian tribes were related to the American Government only as sovereignties who naturally would provide their own laws; and that the red men, being a people essentially wild and untamable , needed only to be kept as remotely as possible from all settlements, to be assisted as hunters, to be forcibly 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 distribution 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 fundamental 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 territorial or Federal officer, in a case where 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 degree 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 suitable 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 officer of the Government has authority by law for punishing an Indian for crime, or restraining him in any degree; that the only means of enforcing law and order among the tribes is found in the use of the bayonet 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. Neither 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 sovereignty, which has come into our Indian relations, citizens of a “domestic 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 Flandreaus, a 144 small band of Sioux in Dakota, hereafter detailed, who availed themselves of a special provision to this effect in their treaty, is interesting as illustrating the advantage of a privilege which should be provided for all Indians. Neither is there any provision...