restricted access 97. Courts of Indian Offenses: Extract from the Annual Report of the Secretary of the Interior, November 1, 1883
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158 peaceful conduct under all their wrongs entitles them. . . . [House Executive Document no. 1, 48th Cong., 1st sess., serial 2191, pp. 36–37.] 96. General Sherman on the End of the Indian Problem October 27, 1883 In his final report as General of the Army, William T. Sherman noted the end of the Indian wars and the settlement of the Indian question. . . . . I now regard the Indians as substantially eliminated from the problem of the Army. There may be spasmodic and temporary alarms, but such Indian wars as have hitherto disturbed the public peace and tranquillity are not probable. The Army has been a large factor in producing this result, but it is not the only one. Immigration and the occupation by industrious farmers and miners of land vacated by the aborigines have been largely instrumental to that end, but the railroad which used to follow in the rear now goes forward with the picket-line in the great battle of civilization with barbarism, and has become the greater cause. I have in former reports , for the past fifteen years, treated of this matter, and now, on the eve of withdrawing from active participation in public affairs, I beg to emphasize much which I have spoken and written heretofore. The recent completion of the last of the four great transcontinental lines of railway has settled forever the Indian question, the Army question, and many others which have hitherto troubled the country. . . . [House Executive Document no. 1, 48th Cong., 1st sess., serial 2182, pp. 45–46.] 97. Courts of Indian Offenses Extract from the Annual Report of the Secretary of the Interior November 1, 1883 Secretary of the Interior Henry M. Teller instigated the establishment on Indian reservations of so-called courts of Indian offenses. His goal was to eliminate “heathenish practices” among the Indians, but the courts came to be general tribunals for handling minor offenses on the reservations. His directions to the commissioner of Indian affairs in regard to the courts were given in his annual report of 1883. . . . . Many of the agencies are without law of any kind, and the necessity for some rule of government on the reservations grows more and more apparent each day. If it is the purpose of the Government to civilize the Indians, they must be compelled to desist from the savage and barbarous practices that are calculated to continue them in savagery , no matter what exterior influences are brought to bear on them. Very many of the progressive Indians have become fully alive to the pernicious influences of these heathenish practices indulged in by their people, and have sought to abolish them; in such efforts they have been aided by their missionaries, teachers, and agents, but this has been found impossible even with the aid thus given. The Government furnishes the teachers, and the charitable people contribute to the support of missionaries, and much time, labor, and money is yearly expended for their elevation, and yet a few non-progressive, degraded Indians are allowed to exhibit before the young and susceptible children all the debauchery, diabolism, and savagery of the worst state of the Indian race. Every man familiar with Indian life will bear witness to the pernicious influence of these savage rites and heathenish customs. On the 2d of December last, with the view of as soon as possible putting an end to these heathenish practices, I addressed a letter to 159 the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, which I here quote as expressive of my ideas on this subject: I desire to call your attention to what I regard as a great hindrance to the civilization of the Indians, viz, the continuance of the old heathenish dances, such as the sun-dance, scalpdance , &c. These dances, or feasts, as they are sometimes called, ought, in my judgment, to be discontinued, and if the Indians now supported by the Government are not willing to discontinue them, the agents should be instructed to compel such discontinuance. These feasts or dances are not social gatherings for the amusement of these people, but, on the contrary, are intended and calculated to stimulate the warlike passions of the young warriors of the tribe. At such feasts the warrior recounts his deeds of daring, boasts of his inhumanity in the destruction of his enemies, and his treatment of the female captives, in language that ought to shock even a savage ear. The audience assents approvingly to his boasts of falsehood, deceit, theft, murder, and rape...