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INDIAN FIGHTERS AND INDIAN REFORMERS: GRANTS INDIAN PEACE POLICYAND THE CONSERVATIVE CONSENSUS Richard R . Levine When Ulysses Grant took his first oath ofoffice in 1869, the one subject upon which he came close to committing himself was Indian affairs. He said: "The proper treatment ofthe original occupants ofthis land—the Indians —is one deserving of careful study. I will favor any course towards them which tends to their civilization and ultimate citizenship."1 But this peace policy appears to be riddled with internal contradictions. The eight years of Grant's administration saw over two hundred military engagements with the Indians and may have seen the most intense fighting with Indians in the nation's history. Grant replaced politically appointed Indian agents with Quakers, but his friend Phil Sheridan attacked Indian camps at dawn. A Seneca was named commissioner ofIndian affairs, while Major Eugene Baker massacred 173 Piegans. A permanent board ofphilanthropists oversaw Indian policy for the same administration that sent General Custer, accompanied by Grant's son, on a provocative military exploration ofthe treaty-reserved Black Hills. Some writers have tried to reconcile these contradictions by saying that the Grant policy made war on Indians who were hostile and attempted to deal fairly with Indians who were willing to be friendly, but the contradictions persist. After entrusting some Indian agencies to Quakers, Grant tried to turn the rest over to military officers. The Seneca bureau chiefwas driven from office by Grants board ofphilanthropists. And these reformers devoted an enormous share of their energy to persuading the tribes to give up their lands, precisely the goal ofthe avaricious westerners whom the board was supposed to curb. Clearly the various components of this policy require close scrutiny to detect a common thread. Without some cohering theme, the Grant Peace Policy appears to be a mere hodgepodge . 1 Davis Newton Lott, ed., The Inaugural Addresses of the American Presidents: From Washington to Kennedy (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1961), 131. Civil War History, Vol. XXXI, No. 4, ©1985 by The Kent State University Press 330CIVIL WAR HISTORY That a change in the government's Indian policy was necessary is undeniable . For decades, the United States had operated on the assumption that all Indians could be pushed into the arid Great Plains. The discovery of mineral wealth in the Rockies, the demand for safe and reliable transportation across the plains, and the realization that stock raising and even agriculture was possible in the Great American Desert doomed this approach. Neither the Indians of the plains nor the eastern Indians who had been previously driven there could be allowed to stand in the way of progress.2 The Grant administration had to deal with these changed circumstances . Secretary ofthe Interior Columbus Delano summarized the peace policy as having five points: (1) To isolate the Indians from settlements and teach them agriculture and kindness; (2) To punish outrages by Indians severely; (3) To provide the Indians with high-quality goods at a reasonable expense to the government; (4) To procure moral and religious men as agents to the Indians; (5) To provide schools and churches to transform the Indians into Christians and citizens.3 Naturally "isolation" meant confining the Indians to certain areas and restricting their previously far-ranging travel. Agriculture became a necessity because buffalo hunters could not survive without freedom to follow the herds; government provisions would keep the Indians within their appointed reserves until they could feed themselves by farming. Under this new policy, Indian efforts to escape the reservations were "outrages" by definition. A variety of authors have studied Grant's Indian Peace Policy, sometimes focusing on different aspects, generally reaching opposing conclusions . None of these writers has suggested a single ideological framework within which to fit all the disparate elements of the Grant Indian policy.4 It is the aim ofthis paper to provide such a synthesis. The members of the Board of Indian Commissioners, the army officers on the frontier, and the commissioners of Indian affairs had many differences, but they shared in a post-Civil War conservatism, which was rooted in the war experience , as well as the remnants of Federalism. Further, although they were often at odds...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 329-352
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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