The condition of affairs
in Indian Territory and California.
Philadelphia, Indian Rights Association, 1888.
OKLAHOMA. Owing to the impassable condition of the streams, my plan for visiting the Sac and Fox people, and the Shawnees and Pottawatomies, had to be abandoned. From Pawnee I went down through the Oklahoma country to Oklahoma station, (on the A. T. and Sante Fe Branch Road, which now connects through to Galveston, Texas) where stages connect for Darlington and Ft. Reno. This gave opportunity to see the character of this famous, much-coveted country. It is better timbered and watered than any other portion of the Indian Territory I have seen, and grass is abundant; but I do not believe the soil is so good as either east or west of it. It would not better the Wichitas, and the other Indians whom it is proposed to remove into it, so far as the quality of the land is concerned. It is not, as many seem suppose, the original site of the Garden of Eden, but is far too good a country to be suffered to lie unused when so many of our citizens are seeking homes.
I was asked, both by the President and Mr. Lamar, to give an opinion as to the advisability of removing the Indians west of Oklahoma into this district, so that the reservations now occupied by them might be opened to settlement. After an extended tour and inspection of their reservations, and inquiries into their condition and prospects, I reported that in my estimation it would be unjust, cruel and disastrous to do so.
The theory on which this is proposed is that no treaty stands in the way of their removal, or of the opening of their reservations, since they are on executive order reservations, while there are treaty and other difficulties in the way of throwing open Oklahoma to white settlement.
These reasons are valid in appearance only, but not in reality, while there are very real and urgent reasons why it should not be done. A treaty was made with the Cheyennes and Arapahoes, for instance, giving them a reservation north of the one now occupied, but we had no right to give them this land, it being in part embraced in the Cherokee outlet, and the Indians did not understand that it was the land for which they were treating, but supposed they were getting the land which is now occupied by them. They refused to move upon it, and we had no right to remove them to it. After correspondence, the President set apart, by "Executive order," their present reservation, in lieu of that given them by the treaty. Of course he had no power to annul, by Executive order, their treaty rights, among which was the right of any individual Indian, head of a family, to have allotted to him 320 acres of land to be secured by a patent. If the President could rightfully give them this land in lieu of the other, their possession of it carried with it all the rights they had on the other tract.
The Wichitas are said to be on a reservation by unratified treaty, and since the treaty has never been ratified by the Senate there could be no legal obstacle to their being removed. The fact is, these Indians claim always to have been the owners of this land, not only of what they occupy, but of a large body occupied in part by the Kiowas and Comanches, Delawares and Caddoes, and also that which was procured from the Quapaws for the Chickasaws, we treating with those Kansas Indians for land owned by them. Their title to it has never been extinguished. So there are virtual legal and treaty obligations in the way of this removal, fully as sacred as those which prevent us from opening Oklahoma, and certainly the moral obligations are even greater. These people, especially the Wichitas, have taken deep root in these lands, have built them homes, and opened up farms. This is being done with most encouraging rapidity by the Cheyennes, Arapahoes and Comanches. It would be a cruel outrage to force them to remove; it would be a disastrous step backward to induce them to go. The lands to which they would remove are not so good as those now occupied; they are bitterly opposed to the plan and it ought not to be attempted. Oklahoma ought to be opened up. It is not needed by the Indians, it cannot be kept empty and ought not to be so kept; but if treaty and moral obligations must be violated, it is better to do so with reference to vacant lands than with reference to established homes. Steps ought to be taken at once to gain the consent of the Seminoles and Creeks to throw this land open to settlement, and it could doubtless be done if a fair price above the thirty cents per acre which we paid for it, for the settlement of Indians upon it, was offered for it.