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The English Policy

 Native American Nations | Indian Land Cessions in the United States                   

In attempting to determine from history and the records the British policy in dealing with the Indians in regard to their possessory rights, the investigator is somewhat surprised to find (except so far as they relate to the Dominion of Canada and .near the close of the government rule over the colonies) the data are not only meager but mostly of a negative character. It must be understood, however, that this statement refers to the policy of the English government as distinct from the methods and policy of the different colonies, which will later be noticed.

The result of this investigation, so far as it relates to the possessions formerly held by Great Britain within the present limits of the United States, would seem to justify Parkman's statement that "English civilization scorned and neglected the Indian," at least so far as it relates to his possessory right. It is a significant fact that the Indian was entirely overlooked and ignored in most, if not all, of the original grants of territory to companies and colonists. Most of these grants and charters are as completely void of allusion to the native population as though the grantors believed the lands to be absolutely waste and uninhabited.

For example, the letters patent of James I to Sir Thomas Gage and others for "two several colonies," dated April 10, 1606, although granting away two vast areas of territory greater than England, inhabited by thousands of Indians, a fact of which the, King had knowledge both officially and unofficially, do not contain therein the slightest allusion to them.

Was this a mere oversight? More than a hundred years had elapsed since the Cabots had visited the coast; Raleigh's attempted colonization twenty years before was well known, and the history of the discovery and conquest of Mexico had been proclaimed to all the civilized world. Still the omission might be considered a mere oversight but for the fact that his second charter (May 23, 1609), to "The Treasurer and Company of Adventurers and Planters of the City of London for the Colony of Virginia," and that of March 12, 1611-12, are equally silent on this important subject. It may be said, and no doubt truly, that the Crown merely granted away its title in the lands, its public domain, leaving the grantees to deal with the inhabitants as they might find most, advantageous. Nevertheless this view will not afford an adequate excuse for the total disregard of the native occupants. The grants were to subjects, and the rights of sovereignty were retained.

The so called "Great Patent of New England," granted "absolutely" to the "said council called the council established at Plymouth, etc.," the "aforesaid part of America, lying and being in breadth from forty degrees of northerly latitude from the equinoctial line, to forty-eight degrees of said northerly latitude inclusively, and in length of and within all the breadth aforesaid throughout the main land from sea to sea, together also with all the firm land, soils, grounds, havens, ports, rivers, waters, fishings, mines, and minerals," yet there is not the slightest intimation that any portion of this territory was occupied by natives. There is, however, a proviso that the grant is not to include any lands "actually possessed or inhabited by any other Christian prince or state," but the Indians are wholly ignored.

That the Indians were not wholly forgotten when the charter of Charles I, granting Maryland to Lord Baltimore, was penned, is evident from some two or three statements therein. But none of these, nor anything contained in the charter, has any reference to the rights of these natives, or show any solicitude for their welfare or proper treatment. The first of these is a mere recognition of the fact that the territory is partly occupied by them: "A certain region, hereinafter described, in a country hitherto uncultivated, in the parts of America, and partly occupied by savages having no knowledge of the Divine Being? The next is that mentioning as the payment required "two Indian arrows of those parts to be delivered at the said castle of Windsor, every year on Tuesday in Faster week."  The third is a mere mention of "savages" as among the enemies the colonists may have to encounter. The fourth and last allusion to the natives is in the twelfth section, which authorizes Lord Baltimore to collect troops and wage war on the "barbarians" and other enemies who may make incursion into the settlements, and "to pursue them even beyond the limits of their province," and "if God shall grant it, to vanquish and captivate them; and the captives to put to death, or according to their discretion, to save." The only allusion to the natives in William Penn's charter is the same as the latter in substance and almost the same in words.

Other charters might be cited to the same effect, but those mentioned will. suffice to show that as a rule the English sovereigns wholly ignored the Indians' rights in granting charters for lands in North America; that they gave no expression therein of a solicitude for the civilization or welfare of the natives. Although the problem of dealing with these native occupants was thus shifted on the grantees and colonists, yet there were occasions where the government was forced to meet the question and take some action. Actual contact with the difficulty, of course, made it necessary to develop some policy or adopt some rule of action. This led to the recognition of the Indians' right of occupancy and the obligation on the government to extinguish this right by purchase or other proper means consistent with national honor.

Soon after Charles II ascended the throne he sent (1664) commissioners to America to examine into the condition of the colonies and to determine all complaints and appeals which might be brought before them. Their purpose was thwarted largely by the opposition of Massachusetts, and, although deciding on some claims based on purchases from Indians, no policy in this respect was developed.

As treaties, etc, concerning lands, which may be considered as made directly with the English government and not with the colonies, the following may be mentioned as the most important.

A "Deed from the Five Nations to the King, of their Beaver Hunting Ground," made at Albany, New York: July 19, 1701. This, which is somewhat peculiar, is as follows:1

To all Christian & Indian people in this parts of the world and in Europe over the great salt waters, to whom the presents shall come Wee the Sachims Chief men, Captains and representatives of the Five nations or Cantons of Indians called the Maquase Onoydes Onnandages and Sinnekes living in the Government of New York in America, to the north west of Albany on this side the Lake Cadarachquli sendeth greeting, Bee it known unto you that our ancestors to our certain knowledge have had, time out of mind a fierce and bloody warr with leaven nations of Indians called the Aragaritkas2 whose Chief command was called successively Chobahise. The land is scituate lyeing and being northwest and y west from Albany beginning on the south west3 side of Cadarachqui lake and includes all that waste Tract of Land lyeing between the great lake off Ottowawa4 and the lake called y the natives Sahiquage and by the Christians the lake of Swegej5 and runns till it butts upon the Twicbtwichs and is bounded on the right hand by a place called Quadoges6 conteigning in length about eight hundred miles and in bredth four hundred miles including the country where the bevers the deer, Elk and such beasts keep and the place called Tieugsachrondio, alias Fort de Tret or Wawyachtenok and so runs round the lake of Swege till you come to place called Oniadarondaquat which is about twenty miles from the Sinnekes Castles which said seaven nations our predecessors did four score years ague totally conquer and subdue and drove them out of that country and had peaceable and quiet possession of the same to hunt beavers (which was the motive caused us to war for the same) for three score years it being the only chief place for hunting in this parte of the world that ever wee heard of and after that wee had been sixty years sole masters and owners of the said land enjoying 'peaceable hunting without any internegation, a remnant of one of the leaven nations called Tionondade whom wee had expelled and drove away came and settled there twenty years agoe disturbed our beaver hunting against which nation wee have warred ever since and would have subdued them long ere now had not they been assisted and scoured by the French of Canada, and whereas the Governour of Canada aforesaid hath lately sent a considerable force to a place called Tjeugbsaghronde the principall passť that commands said land to build a Forte there without our leave and consent, by which means they will possess themselves of that excellent country where there is not only a very good soile but great plenty of all manor of wild beasts in such quantities that there is no manor of trouble in killing of them and also will be sole masters of the Boar7 hunting whereby wee shall be deprived of our livelyhood and subsistance and brought to perpetual bondage and slavery, and wee having subjected ourselves and lands on this side of Cadarachqui lake wholy to the Crown of England wee the said Sachims chief men Captains and representatives of the Five nations after mature deliberation out of a deep sense of the many Royall favors extended to us y the present great Monarch of England King William the third, and in consideration also that wee have lived peaceably and quietly with the people of Albany our fellow subjects above eighty years when wee first made a firm league and covenant chain with these Christians that first came to settle Albany on this river which covenant chain hath been yearly renewed and kept bright and clear by all the Governours successively and many neighboring Governments, of English and nations of Indians have since upon their request been admitted into the same. Wee say upon these and many other good motives us hereunto moveing have freely and voluntary surrendered delivered up and for ever quit claimed, and by these presents doe for us our heires and successors absolutely surrender, deliver up and for ever quit claime unto our great Lord and Master the King of England called y us Corachkoo and by the Christians William the third and to his heires and successors Kings and Queens of England for ever all the right title and interest and all the claime and demand whatsoever which wee the said five nations of Indians called the Maquase, Oneydes, Onnondages, Cayouges and Sinnekes now have or which wee ever had or that our heirs or successors at any time hereafter may or ought to have of, in or to all that vast Tract of land or Colony called Canagariarchio beginning on the northwest side of Cadarachqui lake and includes all that vast tract of land lyeing between the great lake of Ottawawa and the lake called by the natives Caniqnage and by the Christians the lake of Swege and runes till it butts upon the Twichtwichs and is bounded on the westward by the Twichtwichs by a place called Quadoge containing in length about eight hundred miles and in breath four hundred miles including the Country where Beavers and all sorts of wild game keeps and the place called Tjeughsaghrondie alias Fort de tret or Wawyachtenock and so runns round the lake of Swege till you come to a place called Oniadarundaquat which is about twenty miles from the Sinnekes castles including likewise the great falls Oakinagaro, all which [was] formerly posest by seaven nations of Indians called the Aragaritka whom y a fair warr wee subdued and drove from thence four score years ague bringing many of them captives to our country and soe became to be the true owners of the same y conquest which said land is Scituate lyeing and being as is above expressed with the whole Boyle the lakes the rivers and all things pertaining to the said tract of land or colony with power to erect Forts and castles there, soe that wee the said Five nations nor our heires nor any other person or persons for its by any ways or meanes hereafter have claime challenge and demand of in or to the premises or any parte thereof alwayes provided and it is hereby expected that wee are to have free bunting for us and the heires and descendants from us the Five nations for ever and that free of all disturbances expecting to be protected therein by the Crown of England but from all the action right title interest and demand of in or to the premises or every of them shall and will be uterly excluded and debarred for ever by these presents and use the said Sachims of the Five Nations of Indians called the Maquase, Oneydes, Onnandages, Cayouges and Sinnekes and our heires the said tract of laud or Colony, lakes and rivers and premises and every part and parcel] thereof with their and every of their appurtenances unto our souveraigne Lord the King William the third & his heires and successors Dings of England to his and their proper use and uses against us our heires and all and every other person lawfully claming by from or under its the said Five nations shall and will warrant and forever defend by these presents. In Witness whereof wee the Sachims of the Five nations above mentioned in behalf of ourselves and the Five nations have signed and sealed, this present Instrument and delivered the same as an Act and deed to the Honorable John Naufan Esquire Lieutenant Governor to our Great King in this province whom wee call Corlaer in the presence of all the Magistrates officers and other inhabitants of Albany praying our Brother Corlaer to send it over to Carachkon our dread souveraigne Lord and that he would be graciously pleased to accept of thy, same Actual in Albany in the middle of the high street this nineteenth day of July in the thirteenth year of His Majty" reign Annoque Domini 1701.

This was confirmed twenty-five years later by a substantial renewal of the deed, but limited in extent and made in the form of a trust, the granting clause being as follows:8

We Do hereby Ratify Confirm Submit and Grant and by these Presents do {for our Selves our heirs and Successors and in behalf of the whole nations of Sinnekes Cayouges & Onnondages) Ratify Confirme Submit and Grant unto Our Most Sovereign Lord George y the grace of God King of Great Brittain France and Ireland Defender of the Faith & his heirs and Successors for Ever. all the Said Land and Beaver hunting to be Protected & Defended by his Said Majesty his heirs & Successors to and for the use of us our heirs & Successors and the said Three nations. And we Do all so of our own Accord free and Voluntary will Give Render Submit and Grant and by these presents do for our Selves our heirs & Successors Give Render Submit and Grant unto Our Said Sovereign Lord King George his heirs and Successors for Ever all that Land Lying and being Sixty miles distance taken Directly from the water into the Country Beginning from a Creek called Canahogue on the Lake Osweego, all along the said lake and all along the narrow passage from the said Lake to the Falls of Oniagara Called Cahaquaraghe and all along the River of Oniagara and all along the Lake Cadarackquis to the Creek Called Sodoms belonging to the Senekes and from Sodoms to the hill Called Tegerhunkserode Belonging to the Cayouges, and from Tegerhunckseroda to the Creek Called Cayhunghage Belonging to the Onnondages all the Said Land being of the Breadth of Sixty English miles as aforesaid all the way from the aforesaid Lakes or Rivers Directly into the Country and thereby Including all the Castles of the aforesaid Three nations with all the Rivers Creeks and Lakes within the Said Limits to be protected & defended by his said Majesty his heirs and Successors for Ever To and for Our use our heirs & Sucessors and the Said Three Nations In Testimony whereof We have hereunto sett our Marks and Affixed our Seales in the city of Albany this fourteenth Day of September in The thirteenth year of his Majestys Reign Annoq" Domini 1726.

Although these concessions were made by the Indians solely for the purpose of placing themselves under the sovereignty and protection of the English government, attempts were afterward made to construe them as an absolute transfer of the Indian title, and grants were made by the authorities for tracts in said territory. This claim, however, was abandoned, although it does not appear that the individual grants were surrendered, notwithstanding this course was urged by Sir William Johnson. This, as might have been foreseen, resulted in serious trouble.

It appears by a report of the Lords of Trade, read before the Couno cil at the Court of Saint James, November 23, 1761, and approved, the King being present, that the government had at last been aroused to the necessity of paying regard to the Indians' rights, as shown by the following quotation there from.9

That it is as unnecessary as it would be tedious to enter into a Detail of all the Causes of Complaint which, our Indian Allies had against us at the commencement of the troubles in America, and which not only induced them tho reluctantly to take up the Hatchet against us and desolate the Settlement on the Frontiers but encouraged our enemies to pursue those Measures which have involved us in a dangerous and critical war, it will be sufficient for the present purpose to observe that the primary cause of that discontent which produced these fatal Effects was the Cruelty and Injustice with which they had been treated with respect to their hunting grounds, in open violation of those solemn compacts y which they had yielded to us the Dominion, but not the property of those Lands. It was happy for us that we were early awakened to a proper sense of the Injustice and bad Policy of such a Conduct towards the Indians, and no sooner were those measures pursued which indicated a Disposition to do them all possible justice upon this head of Complaint than those hostilities which had produced such horrid scenes of devastation ceased, and the Six Nations and their Dependents became at once from the most inveterate Enemies our fast and faithfull Friends.

That their steady and intrepid Conduct upon the Expedition under General Amherst for the Reduction of Canada is a striking example of this truth, and they now, trusting to our good Faith, impatiently wait for that event which by putting an End to the War shall not only ascertain the British Empire in America but enable Your Majesty to renew those Compacts by which their property in their Lands shall be ascertained and such a system of Reformation introduced with respect to our Interests and Commerce with them as shall at the same time that it redresses their Complaints and establishes their Rights give equal Security and Stability to the rights and Interests of all Your Majesty's American Subjects.

That under these Circumstances and in this scituation the granting Lands hitherto unsettled and establishing Colonies upon the Frontiers before the claims of the Indians are ascertained appears to be a measure of the most dangerous tendency, and is more particularly so in the present case, as these settlements now proposed to be made, especially those upon the Mohawk River are in that part of the Country of the Possession of which the Indians are the most jealous having at different times expressed in the strongest terms their Resolution to oppose all settlements thereon as a manifest violation of their Rights.

This condition of affairs was no doubt due largely to the lack of any settled and well defined policy on the part of the government in its dealings with the Indians in regard to their lands. This subject, as hitherto stated, seems to have been relegated, at least to a large extent, to the colonists or grantees of the royal charters; and although complaints from the Indians, or from others in their behalf, were frequently made directly to governmental authorities, it does not appear that the latter were aroused thereby to the necessity of adopting some policy on this subject. It was not until the war with France and the expedition against Canada that the government felt compelled to deal directly with this subject.

We find the Lords of Trade, in 1756, inquiring through Mr Pownalls of Governor Hardy what should be the proper and general system for the management of Indian affairs.

The reply of this official was to the effect that, with respect to the Six Nations, the governor of the province should have the chief direction of their affairs and that no steps should be taken with them without consulting him, as he had always directed the transactions with them; but he suggested that "some proper person under this direction should have the management and conduct of Indian affairs." He recommended for this purpose Sir William Johnson, who had previously been commissioned for the same purpose by General Braddock.

This suggestion was adopted, though Sir William Johnson refused to accept a new commission, preferring to act under that received from General Braddock, which was broader in its scope, and referred to tribes other than the Six Nations. This was permitted.

On December 2, 17617 the Lords of Trade submitted to the King a draft of instructions to the governors of the colonies, which were approved by him. As these indicate a reform in the system which had prevailed, they are given here:

Draft of an Instruction for the Governors of Nova Scotia, New Hampshire, New York, Virginia, North Carolina., South Carolina, and Georgia forbidding them to Grant Lands or make Settlements which may interfere with the Indians bordering on those Colonies.

Whereas the peace and security of Our Colonies and Plantations upon the Continent of North America does greatly depend upon the Amity and Alliance of the several Nations or Tribes of Indiana bordering upon the said Colonies and upon a just and faithfull Observance of those Treaties and Compacts which have been heretofore solemnly entered into with the said Indians y Our Royall Predecessors Dings & Queens of this Realm. And whereas notwithstanding the repeated Instructions which have been from time to time given by Our Royal Grandfather to the Governors of Our several Colonies upon this bead the said Indians have made and do still continue to make great complaints that Settlements have been made and possession taken of Lands, the property of which they have by Treaties reserved to themselves y persons claiming the said lands under pretence of deeds of Sale and Conveyance illegally fraudulently and surreptitiously obtained of the said Indians; And Whereas it has likewise been represented unto Us that dome of Our Governors or other Chief Officers of Our said Colonies regardless of the Duty they owe to Us and of the Welfare and Security of our Colonies have countenanced such unjust claims and pretensions y passing Grants of the Lands so pretended to have been purchased of the Indians We there for taking this matter into Our Royal Consideration, as also the fatal Effects which would attend a discontent amongst the Indians in the present situation of affairs, and being determined upon all occasions to support and protect the said Indians in their just Rights and Possessions and to keep inviolable the Treaties and Compacts which have been entered into with them, Do hereby strictly enjoyn & command that neither yourself nor any Lieutenant Governor, President of the Council or Commander in Chief of Our said Colony of do province upon any pretence whatever upon pain of Our highest Displeasure and of being forthwith removed from your or his office, pass any Grant or Grants to any persons whatever of any lands within or adjacent to the Territories possessed or occupied by the said Indians or the Property Possession of which has, at any time been reserved to or claimed y them. And it is Our further Will and Pleasure that you do publish a proclamation in Our Name strictly enjoining and requiring all persons whatever who may either willfully or inadvertently have seated themselves on any Lands so reserved to or claimed y the said Indians without any lawfull Authority for so doing forthwith to remove there from and in case you shall find upon strict enquiry to be made for that purpose that any person or persons do claim to hold or possess any lands within Our said Province "upon pretence of purchases made of the said Indians without a proper license first had and obtained either from Us or any of Our Royal Predecessors or any person acting under Our or their Authority you are forthwith to cause a prosecution to be carried on against such person or persons who shall have made such fraudulent purchases to the end that the land may be recovered y due Course of Law And whereas the wholsome Laws that have at different times been passed in several of Our said Colonies and the instructions which have been given y Our Royal Predecessors for restraining persons from purchasing lands of the Indians without a License for that purpose and for regulating the proceedings upon such purchases have not been duly observed, It is therefore Our express Will and Pleasure that when any application shall be made to you for license to purchase lands of the Indians you do forbear to grant such license untill you shall have first transmitted to Us y Our Commissioners for Trade and Plantations the particulars of such applications as well as in respect to the situation as the extent of the lands so proposed to be purchased and shall have received Our further directions therein; And it is Our further Will and Pleasure that you do forthwith cause this Our Instruction to you to be made Public not only within all parts of your said inhabited by Our Subjects, but also amongst the several Tribes of Indians living within the same to the end that Our Royal Will and Pleasure in the Premises may be known and that the Indians may be apprized of Our determined Resolution to support them in their just Rights, and inviolably to observe Our Engagements with them.10

1 New York Colonial Documents, vol. IV, p. 909
2 Huron.
3 Northwest. See next page, line 12.
4 Lake Huron.
5 Lake Erie.
6 At the head of Lake Michigan. Mitchell's Map of North America, 1755. Now, Chicago, according to Map of the British Dominions in North America, 1763, prefixed to Charlevoix's Voyages, 80, Dublin, 1766.
7 Sic. Query-Bearer
8 New York Colonial Documents, vol. v, p 800
9 Colonial documents, number five, vol. vu, p. 473.
10 New York Colonial Documents, vol. VIII, pp478-479

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First annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology, 1879-80

Indian Land Cessions in the United States


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