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Wavering and Undefined Policy

 Native American Nations | Indian Land Cessions in the United States                    

It was not surprising that the condition complained of should have resulted from a wavering and undefined policy and double-headed system.. First, a total ignoring of the Indians' rights, turning over the problem to the colonies; then appointing an agent of Indian affairs on behalf of the government, yet subject in most respects to the control of the colonial governors, who might, and did in more than one case, grant away tracts of the very lands reserved by this agent to the natives. Such a system, or rather lack of system. was likely to result in confusion and trouble.

Two agents were appointed, one for the northern district that is to say, for certain of the northern colonies and the territory not embraced in the colonial limits and another for the southern district.

Lord Egremont, writing on May 5, 1763, to the Lords of Trade in regard to questions relating to North America, remarks, among other things, as follows:

The second question which relates to the security f North America, seems to include two objects to be provided for; The first is the security of the whole against any European Pour; The next is the preservation of the internal peace & tranquility of the Country against any Indian disturbances. Of these two objects the latter appears to call more immediately for such Regulations and Precautions as your Lordships shall think proper to suggest &ca.

Tho in order to succeed effectually in this point it may become necessary to erect some Forts in the Indian Country with their consent, yet his Majesty's Justice and Moderation inclines him to adopt the more eligible Method of conciliating the minds of the Indians by the mildness of His Government, by protecting their persons and property, & securing to them all the possessions rights and Privileges they have hitherto enjoyed & are entitled to most cautiously guarded against any Invasion or Occupation of their hunting Lands, the possession of which is to be acquired by fair purchase only, and it has been thought so highly expedient to give the earliest and most convincing proofs of his Majesty's gracious and friendly Intentions on this head, that I have already received and transmitted the King's commands to this purpose to the Governors of Virginia, the two Carolinas & Georgia,, & to the Agent for Indian Affairs in the Southern Department, as your Lordships will see fully in the enclosed copy of my circular letter to them on this subject.1

In August of the same year the Lords of Trade informed Sir William Johnson that they had "proposed to His Majesty that a proclamation should be issued declaratory of His Majesty's final determination to permit no grants of lands nor any settlement to be made within certain fixed bounds under pretence of purchase, or any pretext whatever, leaving all the territory within these bounds free for the hunting grounds of the Indian Nations, and for the free trade of all his subjects."

That the management of Indian affairs was at last taken out of the hands of at least the governor of New York appears from a letter of Lieutenant-Governor Colden to the Earl of Halifax, December S; 1763.

As the territories of Quebec, East Florida, and West Florida had, by virtue of the treaty with France, February 10, 1763, come under the control of Great Britain, a proclamation for their government was issued October 7, 1763. The following clauses relating to the policy to be pursued with the Indians in these colonies, and some other sections mentioned, are inserted here:2

And whereas, it is just and reasonable, and essential to our interest and the security of our colonies, that the several nations or tribes of Indians with whom we are connected, and who live under our protection, should not be molested or disturbed in the possession of such parts of our dominions and territories as, not having been ceded to, or purchased by us, are reserved to them, or any of them, as their hunting grounds; we do, therefore, with the advice of our privy council, declare it to be our royal will and pleasure, that no Governor or commander in chief, in any of our colonies of Quebec, East Florida, or West Florida, do presume, upon any pretence whatever, to grant warrants of survey, or pass any patents for lands beyond the bounds of their respective governments, as described in their commissions; as, also, that no Governor or commander in chief of our other colonies or plantations in America, do presume for the present, and until our further pleasure be known, to giant warrants of survey, or pass patents for any lands beyond the heads or sources of any of the rivers which fall into the Atlantic ocean from the West or Northwest; or upon any lands whatever, which, not having been ceded to, or purchased by, us, as aforesaid, are reserved to the said Indians or any of them.

And we do further declare it to be our royal will and pleasure, for the present, as aforesaid, to reserve under our sovereignty, protection, and dominion, for the use of the said Indians, all the land and territories not included within the limits of our said three new Governments, or within the limits of the territory granted to the Hudson's Bay Company; as also all the lands and territories lying to the Westward of the sources of the rivers which fall into the sea from the West and Northwest as aforesaid; and we do hereby strictly forbid, on pain of our displeasure, all our loving subjects from making any purchases or settlements whatever, or taking possession of any of the lands above reserved, without our special leave and license for that purpose first obtained.

And we do further strictly enjoin and require all persons whatever, who have either willfully or inadvertently seated themselves upon any lands within the countries above described, or upon any other lands, which, not having been ceded to, or purchased by, us, are still reserved to the said Indians as aforesaid, forthwith to remove themselves from such settlements.

And whereas great frauds and abuses have been committed in the purchasing lands of the Indians, to the great prejudice of our interests, and to the great dissatisfaction of the said Indians; in order, therefore, to prevent such irregularities for the future, and to the end that the Indians may be convinced of our justice and determined resolution to remove all reasonable cause of discontent, we do, with the advice of our privy council, strictly enjoin and require that no private person do presume to make any purchase from. the said Indians, of any lands reserved to the said Indians, within those parts of our colonies where we have thought proper to allow settlement; but that, if, at any time, any of the said Indians should be inclined to dispose of the said lands, the same shall be purchased only for us, in our name, at some public meeting or assembly of the said Indians, to be held for that purpose; y the Governor or, commander-in-chief of our colony, respectively, within which they shall lie: and in case they shall lie within the limits of any proprietaries, conformable to such directions and instructions as we or they shall think proper to give for that purpose.

Although primarily relating to the colonies of Quebec, East Florida, and West Florida, it is evident from the distinct statements therein that it was intended, as regards the points referred to in the quotation, to be of general application. The policy set forth in this proclamation is just and honorable, and appears to have been followed, as a general rule, by Great Britain in its subsequent dealings with the Indians, which, after 1776, were limited to its northern possessions.

In April, 1764, Sir William Johnson, as "Sole agent and superintendent of Indian affairs for the Northern parts of North America," concluded articles of peace with the Seneca Indians in which they ceded to the King the following lands:

From the Fort of Niagara, extending easterly along Lake Ontario, about four miles, comprehending the Petit Marais, or landing place, and running from thence southerly, about fourteen miles to the Creek above the Fort Schlosser or Little Niagara, and down the same to the River, or Strait and across the same, at the great Cataract; thence Northerly to the Banks of Lake Ontario, at a Creek or small Lake about two miles west of the Fort, thence easterly along the Banks of the Lake Ontario, and across the River or Strait to Niagara, comprehending the whole carrying place, with the Lands on both sides the Strait, and containing a Tract of about fourteen miles in length and four in breadth.3

As the articles make no mention of payment it is presumed the grant was made by the Seneca to purchase peace with the English.

Most of the foregoing facts relate, it is true, to the lands and Indians of New York, and might very properly be considered in referring to the policy of that colony; however, as they give some insight into the English policy in the latter days of British rule over the colonies, they are presented here. It must be admitted, however,, as before stated, that they indicate an ill-defined system resulting apparently from a neglect to take the subject into consideration at the outset. Had some provision for the proper treatment of the Indians in regard to their possessory rights been made in the original charters, and the lords proprietary and governors of the colonies been required to observe these provisions, much of the trouble with the natives experienced by the government and the colonies would, in all probability, have been avoided.

It is unnecessary to allude to the transactions of the English authorities in the southern colonies, as these, so far as they relate to purchases and grants of lands by the Indians, will be referred to under the respective colonies. However, there are two or three treaties in regard to lands in the south, outside of the colonies, which should be mentioned, as the boundaries fixed therein are referred to in one or two of the treaties in the accompanying schedule.

The first of these is "a treaty between Great Britain and the Chickasaw and Choctaw Indians," made at Mobile, March 26, 1765. Article 5 is as follows:

And to prevent all disputes on account of encroachments, or supposed encroachments, committed by the English inhabitants of this or any other of His' Majesty's Provinces, on the lands or hunting grounds reserved and claimed y the Chickasaw and Choctaw Indians, and that no mistakes, doubts, or disputes, may, for the future, arise thereupon, in consideration of the great marks of friendship, benevolence, and clemency, extended to us, the said Chickasaw and Choctaw Indians, y His Majesty King George the Third, we, the chiefs and head warriors, distinguished y great and small medals, and gorgets, and bearing His Majesty's commissions as Chiefs and leaders of our respective nations, by virtue and in pursuance of the full right and power which we now have and are possessed of, have agreed, and we do hereby agree, that, for the future, the boundary be settled y a line extended from Gross Point, in the island of Mount Louis, by the course of the western coast of Mobile Bay, to the mouth of the Eastern branch of Tombecbee river, and north y the course of the said river, to the confluence of Alebamont and Tombecbee rivers, and afterwards along the western bank of Alebamont river to the mouth of Chickasaw river, and from the confluence of Chickasaw and Alebamont rivers, a straight line to the confluence of Bance and Tombecbee rivers; from thence, y a line along the western bank of Bance river, till its confluence with the Tallotkpe river; from thence, y a straight line, to Tombecbee river, opposite to Alchalickpe; and from Alchalickpe, by a straight line, to the most northerly part of Buckataune river, and down the course of Buckatanne river to its confluence to the river Pascagoula, and down y the course of the river Pascagoula, within twelve leagues of the sea coast; and thence, by a due west line, as far as the Choctaw nation have a right to grant.

And the said chiefs, for themselves and their nations, give and confirm the property of all the lands contained between the above described lines and the sea to His Majesty the King of Great Britain, and his successors, reserving to themselves full right and property in all the lands to the northward of said lines now possessed by them,; and none of His Majesty's white subjects shall be permitted to settle on Tombechee river to the northward of the rivulet called Centebonck.4

The second is "a treaty between Great Britain and the Upper and Lower Creek Indians," signed at Pensacola, Florida, May 28, 1765. Article 5 is as follows:

And to prevent all disputes on account of encroachments, or supposed encroachments, committed y the English inhabitants of this or any other of his Majesty's provinces, on the lands or hunting grounds reserved and claimed y the Upper and Lower Creek nations of Indians, and that no mistakes, doubts, or disputes, may, for the future, arise thereupon, in consideration of the great marks of friendship, benevolence, and clemency, extended to us, the said Indians of the Upper and Lower Creek nations, y His Majesty King George the Third, we, the said chiefs and head warriors, leaders of our respective nations, y virtue and in pursuance of the full rights and power we have and are possessed of, have agreed, and we do hereby agree, that, for the future, the boundary be at the dividing paths going to the nation and Mobile, where is a creek; that it shall run along the side of that creek until its confluence with the river which falls into the bay; then to run around the bay and take in all the plantations which formerly belonged to the Yanmasee Indians; that no notice is to be taken of such cattle or horses' as shall pass the line; that, from the said dividing paths towards the west, the boundary is to run along the path leading to Mobile, to the creek, called Cassaba; and from thence, still in a straight line, to another creek or great branch, within forty miles of the ferry, and so to go up to the head of that creek; and from thence turn round towards the river so as to include all the old French settlements at Tassa; the eastern line to be determined by the flowing of the sea in the bays, as was settled at Augusta. And we do hereby grant and confirm unto His Majesty, his heirs, and successors, all the lands contained between the said lines and the sea coast.5

The third is a treaty between the same parties as the last, made at Picolata, Florida, November 18, 1765. The fifth article is as follows:

To prevent all disputes on account of encroachments, or supposed encroachments, made y the English inhabitants of his Majesty's said province, on the lands or hunting grounds reserved and claimed by the Zipper and Lower nations of Creek Indians, and that no doubts, mistakes, or disputes, may, for the future, arise; in consideration of the great marks of friendship, benevolence, and clemency, generosity, and protection, extended to us, the said Indians of the Upper and Lower Creek nations, by His Majesty King George the Third, we, the chiefs, head warriors, and leaders, of our respective nations, y virtue and in pursuance of the full rights and power which we now have, and are possessed of, have agreed, and we do hereby agree, that, for the future, the boundary line of His Majesty's said province of East Florida shall be, all the sea coast as far as the tide flows, in the manner settled with the English by the Great Tomachiches, with all the country to the eastward of St. John's river, forming nearly an island from its source to its entrance into the sea, and to the westward of St. John's river by a line drawn from the entrance of the creek Ocklawagh into said river above the great lake, and near to Spalding's upper trading storehouse, to the forks of Black creek at Colville's plantation; and from thence to that part of St. Mary's river which shall be intersected by the continuation of the line to the entrance of Turkey creek into the river Altamaha. That no notice is to be taken of such horses or cattle as shall pass the line. And we do hereby accordingly grant and confirm unto His Majesty, his heirs and successors, all the said lands within the said lines.6

But little need be said in regard to the English policy in the Canadian provinces from their acquisition in 1762. The system outlined in the proclamation of October 7, 1763, appears to have been followed from that time up to the present day, and it may truly be said that, as a general rule, it has been one of justice and humanity creditable to the Canadian authorities. Mr Joseph Howe, in retiring from his position as superintendent of Indian affairs in 1872, makes the following statement: "Up to the present time the results are encouraging, and although I regret that the state of my health will soon compel me to relinquish the oversight of the work, I trust it will not be neglected by those who may come after me, and who ought never to forget that the crowning glory of Canadian policy in all times past, and under all administrations, has been the treatment of the Indians." Though this statement is perhaps too broad, yet the course pursued under English control, with some exceptions relative to the seaboard provinces, has been an honorable one.

One precaution which the commissioners adopted and have generally followed was to require the assembled Indians to name the chiefs, or persons of their tribes, who were authorized by them to make the treaty and sign. the grant. This fact and the names of the persons so selected were inserted in the deed or grant.


1 Ibid., pp. 520-521.
2 Laws, etc, relating to Public Lands (1828), pp. 86-88.
3 New York Colonial Documents, vol. vu, p. 621.
4 Laws, U. s., etc, respecting Public Lands, vol. II, 1836, app., p. 275.*
5 Ibid., p. 276.*
6 Laws, U. S., etc, respecting Public Lands, vol. II, 1836, app., p. 276*.


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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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