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Letter from Department of War, October 11, 1833
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DEPARTMENT OF WAR, October 11, 1833.
SIR: I have received your letter of the 15th and 22d ultimo, together with a printed notice enclosed in the former.
I perceive the embarrassments under which you labor, and am satisfied you will proceed in the execution of your duty in the best manner the means of information in your power will permit. You doubtless, ere this, have received a copy of the register prepared by Major Armstrong. This will furnish you with an authentic list of all the claims to which any of the Choctaws are entitled, and you will be guided by it and by the treaty in making the locations. I perceive you have selected certain persons to aid you in the receipt of applications. The full effect you mean to give to these applications, I do not understand. I presume, however, it is merely to guide you in reserving from sale the proper tracts. You will, under no circumstances, allow a reservation to a person whose right is not recognized in the register of claims prepared by Major Armstrong, or by name in the treaty. If, however, you should find that this mode of receiving claims would aid you in the execution, you are at liberty to pursue it, taking care that a very small compensation is promised to the persons employed, as their labor must be comparatively trifling.
There are three modes of location pointed out by the treaty: one is specific, depending on the situation of the improvement annexed to it, and will require no direction in fixing it. Another is at the option of the reservee and here of course you must be guided by his own choice. And a third is general, and confided entirely to you.
With respect to the latter, you will observe that the President desires to fulfill the stipulations of the treaty in a spirit of justice and good faith to the Indians. He neither wishes all the valuable tracts to be selected for the Indians which give value to the country, nor such ones assigned to them as are; unfit for cultivation. Wherever you have a discretion in the location, let the tracts selected be of the average quality of the country, and such as are fit for all farming purposes, and upon which the Indians can obtain a proper support. Let no white man interfere with you in these locations. Receive no representations from any one. Any conveyances made by the Indians are wholly wholly void, and the President does not recognize the right of a single person claiming lands in the Choctaw country under a deed or conveyance from any Indian.
The representation of the Indians themselves, you are at liberty to receive, and it is proper they should be received; but act for yourself, after you have procured all necessary information.
You will consider that clause in your instructions of the 26th of June, which requires you to establish permanent marks upon each reservation, as applicable only to the plans of surveys, and not to the tracts of land themselves.
By entering the name of each reservee upon his location, the object of that provision will be attained.
It is important that the Indian reservations should be brought as much together as possible, and you will not lose sight of this object. If too much scattered, the Indians will be exposed to great inconveniences. Whereas, by living in the same neighborhoods, they can be better protected in their rights and secured from injuries. Let, therefore, no individual reservations, in the locations of which you can exercise a discretion, be made apart from others.
By the treaty, persons entitled to reservations in consequence of improvements are to locate them upon the legal subdivisions which contain their dwelling-houses. If two or more persons occupy dwelling-houses upon the same tract, let them make an amicable arrangement for preference, if they are willing to do so. If this cannot be done, let the tract be assigned to the oldest settler, where the fact can be determined. Where it cannot, you must draw lots for choice.
I have read your printed notice, and do not see any thing objectionable in the course you have marked out. Your views will of course be limited by these instructions.
On inquiry, I find you had been advised by a letter of July 1, 1833, that it was not in the power of the General Land Office to furnish you with plats in time for the locations, and that you had been referred to the surveyor general to procure them. I trust that you have been supplied ere this with all the requisite site information on the subject.
I am, &c., LEWIS CASS.
To Col. GEORGE W. MARTIN, Chocchuma, Mississippi.
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