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1822 Congressional Report on Indian Affairs

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1824 Map by Jebediah Morse
1824 Map by Jebediah Morse

Congressional Report on Indian Affairs: Jedediah Morse’s 1822 report of his travels through Indian Territory on behalf of the office of Secretary of War.

In the last and preceding winters, I had the honor of presenting to the President of the United States, through your hands, a Report, in part, of the results of my several visits among the Indian Tribes of our country, and of my inquiries concerning their past history and present actual state. This Report, in compliance with a Resolution of Congress, has been submitted to that honorable body, and, at my request, returned for the purpose of completing, and publishing it, under my own inspection. After some unexpected, but unavoidable delays, I now, with much diffidence, and under a deep sense of responsibility, present it to the public, as complete in matter and form, as my means, my time, and my health, and the nature of the work itself will admit. If it shall, in any measure, meet the feelings and expectations of those who are interested and engaged in promoting the welfare of Indians, prove instrumental in awakening the attention of other to the state of this neglected and oppressed people, and of laying foundations for their future civil, social, and religious improvement and happiness, I shall not regret my arduous and long continued labors, nor the considerable sacrifices, I have made at my advanced age, of time, of property, and of domestic comforts, in obtaining and preparing for use, the facts and information comprised in this Report. These facts, with the remarks, and plans of improvement, which, on much reflection, they have suggested to my own mind, I now respectfully submit to the candor and consideration of the President and Congress ; to the various benevolent Institutions, engaged in imparting the blessings of civilization and Christianity, to these untutored heathen tribes, and to the people generally, in this favored country.

With high consideration and respect,
I am, sir, your obedient servant,
JEDIDIAH MORSE.
Hon. John C. Calhoun, Secretary of War.

Jedidiah Morse’s 1822 Congressional Report on Indian Affairs

On the difficulties peculiar to this subject, of which the reader of this report should be apprized in the outset. Accuracy in regard to the names, numbers, and situations of the numerous Indian Tribes, which are spread over our widely extended territory; and in the spelling of their names, seeing that these tribes, in not a single instance, have a written language, is not pretended, nor must absolute correctness be expected.

The nature of these subjects precludes accuracy. No individual can visit the whole territory inhabited by the Indians and personally make the necessary inquiries. Even this, could it be done, would not prevent mistakes. Information is derived from many sources, on which different degrees of reliance are to be placed. No standard of spelling and pronouncing Indian names, has yet been agreed on, though we have several learned and able dissertations on this subject.[1] The same tribes are called by different names, by the French, English, and Spaniards, and even by the Indians themselves. The Winebago Tribe, for example, is called by the French, Puant; by the Sioux, Ho-tonka—among themselves their name is O-shun-gu-lap. The Fox Tribe is called by the Chippawas, Ot-tah-gah-mie; by the Sauks, or Sacs, Mus- quah-kie; by the Sioux, Mich-en-dick-er; by the Winebagoes, 0-sher-a-ca; and by the French, Renard: and so of others. Our acquaintance with many tribes is but commencing, and with many more, contained in our Table, we have only the uncertain information of travelers, who have barely passed through, or only near, their villages. I can only say, I have been fully aware of these difficulties, and have met them with diligence and fidelity, and have employed my best and most assiduous endeavors to lay before the Government, as full and correct a view of the numbers and actual situation of the whole Indian population within their jurisdiction, as my information and materials would admit. It is a subject, indeed, in which accuracy is not now required. Enough is given for present use;—enough to show us our object with sufficient distinctness, and to commence our operations for the attainment of it. Our advances in knowledge of the names, numbers and situation of the western tribes, will keep pace with the advance of our operations. We shall always know enough on this subject, to enable us to do present duty.

My second remark relates to the nature of the composition of this report. The body of it is not intended to be original, but to consist of existing facts and materials, now scattered in many books and manuscripts, which it is important should be collected and arranged, for convenient use, under proper heads. To accomplish this, so far as it has been accomplished in this volume, has cost no small labor.

The length of the report will excite no surprise in the mind of any one, who will reflect a moment on the extent of my commissions, the magnitude of the subject, the number and variety of facts and materials relating to it, and the deep interest happily excited concerning it, both in the civil and religious community.

Names, Numbers and places of Residence, of Indian Tribes in the United States

The following article in my instructions, is the first in order:  ” You will particularly ascertain, as far as practicable, the number of the Various tribes which you may visit, and those adjacent.”

I. have taken the liberty to give a liberal construction to this article; and as the object of the government is to attempt the civilization of the Indians generally, I have prepared, with no small labor, from the most authentic materials which I could command, a Statistical Table, embracing the names and numbers of all the tribes within the jurisdiction of the United States, and have accompanied this Table with a map, showing, as far as is known, where each tribe resides.

II. After the foregoing general tabular and map views, of a preliminary nature, I proceed to give, in order, such particular accounts of the several tribes enumerated in the table, as shall exhibit, what my commission requires, ” the actual condition” of the Indian Tribes—particularly ” the extent of their respective territories, with the nature of their soil and climate, their modes of life, customs, laws and political institutions,—the character and dispositions of their principal and most influential men; the number of schools, their position, the number of teachers—of scholars of each sex, the plan of education, with the degree of success which appears to attend the respective schools, and the disposition, which appears to exist in the tribes, and with their chief men, to promote among them civilization.”

The body of the information collected in compliance with the part of my commission above recited, I have, for obvious reasons, thrown into an Appendix, to which reference may be had for facts and information in detail, to establish and illustrate the different branches of this Report.

Footnotes

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  1. By P. S. Duponceau, Esq. Rev. John Heckewelder, Hon. John Pickering, Esq. Rev. Dr. Jarvis, and others.

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