restricted access 88. General Sherman on Transfer of the Indian Bureau, January 19, 1876
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145 to hold steadily to well-defined and carefully prepared methods of treatment, every year will witness a steady decrease of barbarism and its consequent danger and annoyance , and a constant accession to the number of peaceful and intelligent Indians who shall take their place and part as subjects of the United States. Surely this cannot be too much to ask and expect of the people of the great republic. The record of the past cannot be rewritten, and it is not pleasant to recall. Much of administrative mistake, neglect, and injustice is beyond repair. But for Indians now living much of protection and elevation and salvation is still not only possible, but feasible and highly promising; and well will it be if we are wise enough to make the most of the opportunity left to deal justly and humanely with these remnants of the first American people. [House Executive Document no. 1, 43d Cong., 2d sess., serial 1639, pp. 324–27.] 88. General Sherman on Transfer of the Indian Bureau January 19, 1876 General William T. Sherman, in a letter to W. A. J. Sparks, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Indian Affairs, spoke in favor of transferring the Bureau of Indian Affairs to the War Department and of substituting military personnel for the civilian agents and superintendents. . . . . The great mass of the Indians of our country are now located on reservations, and are entitled to receive annuities, goods, and food, according to treaties made long ago, and for the faithful execution of which treaties the faith of the Government is pledged. These Indians vary widely in their habits, and should be dealt with accordingly. The present Army is now stationed in small detachments at military posts, chiefly at or near these reservations, to keep the peace between these Indians and their white neighbors, between whom there has always existed a con- flict of interest and natural hostility. Now, as the military authorities are already charged with the duty of keeping the peace, I am sure they will be the better able to accomplish this end if intrusted with the issue of the annuities, whether of money, food, or clothing . Each military post has its quartermaster and commissary, who can, without additional cost, make the issues directly to the Indians, and account for them; and the commanding officer can exercise all the supervision now required of the civil agent, in a better manner, because he has soldiers to support his authority, and can easily anticipate and prevent the minor causes which have so often resulted in Indian wars. In like manner, our country is divided into military departments and divisions, commanded by experienced general officers named by the President, who can fulfill all the functions now committed to Indian superintendents; and these, too, have near them inspectors who can promptly investigate and prevent the incipient steps that are so apt to result in conflict and war. Therefore, I firmly believe that the Army now occupies the positions and relations to the great mass of the Indian tribes that will better enable the Government to execute any line of policy it may deem wise and proper, than by any possible system that can be devised with civil agents. The Indians, more especially those who occupy the vast region west of the Mississippi, from the Rio Grande to the British line, are natural warriors, and have always looked to the military rather than to the civil agents of Government for protection or punishment; and, were the troops to be withdrawn, instant war would result. If it be the policy of the Government, as I believe it is, to save the remnant of these tribes, it can only be accomplished by and through military authority. These will obey orders, and enforce any line of policy that may be prescribed for them by law or regulation . Sooner or later these Indians, say the Sioux, Cheyennes, Arapahoes, Kioways, and Comanches, must be made self-supporting. Farming and the mechanic arts are so obnoxious to their nature and traditions, that any hope of their becoming an agricultural people can hardly be expected in our day, though there are many individual exceptions; but the Indians themselves see that the buffalo, elk, 146 antelope, deer, and large game are rapidly disappearing, and that they must raise cattle and sheep, or starve. This, in my judgment, is the proper direction in which to turn their attention , and an excellent beginning has been...


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