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The Claims of the Indians on the Government and People of the United States

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In the existing state of the Indians, and of our connections with them, what do we owe them? What are the duties, in reference to them, of the civil, and of the religious community ? The duties of each are different, but connected. Neither, alone, can do all that seems necessary to be done. There is enough for both to do; and a necessity that there should be mutual cooperation.

The Government, according to the law of nations, having jurisdiction over the Indian Territory, and the exclusive right to dispose of its soil, the whole Indian population is reduced, of necessary consequence, to a dependent situation. They are without the privileges of self government, except in a limited degree; and without any transferable property. They are ignorant of nearly all the useful branches of human knowledge, of the Bible, and of the only Savior of men, therein revealed. They are weak, and ready to perish; we are strong, and with the help of God, able to

support, to comfort and to save them. In these circumstances, the Indians have claims on us of high importance to them, and to our own character and reputation, as an enlightened, just and Christian nation. In return for what they virtually yield, they are undoubtedly entitled to expect from our honor and justice, protection in all the rights which they are permitted to retain. They are entitled, as “children” of the* government, for so we call them, peculiarly related to it, to kind, paternal treatment, to justice in all our dealings with them, to education in the useful arts and sciences, and in the principles and duties of our religion. In a word, they have a right to expect and to receive from our civil and religious communities combined, that sort of education, in all its branches, which we are accustomed to give to the minority of our own population, and thus to be raised gradually and ultimately, to the rank, and to the enjoyment of all the rights and privileges of freemen, and citizens of the United States. This I conceive to be the precise object of the Government. If we fulfill not these duties, which grow naturally out of our relation to Indians, we cannot avoid the imputation of injustice, unkindness, and unfaithfulness to them- our national character must suffer in the estimation of all good men. If we refuse to do the things we have mentioned for the Indians, let us be consistent, and cease to call them “children” – and let them cease to address our President, as their “great Father.” Let us leave to them the unmolested enjoyment of the territories they now possess, and give back to them those which we have taken away from them.

But the Government, and it is honorable to their character, have not forgotten their obligations. In fulfillment of them, in part, the Congress of the United States have placed at the disposal of their President, the annual sum of ten thousand dollars, which will doubtless be increased, as the plans of the government shall be extended, and require it, to be expended by him in ways which he may judge the most suitable, for the civilization and happiness of the Indians. The regulations adopted to guide in the expenditure of this fund, and the account rendered by the Secretary of War, of the manner in which it has been expended, will exhibit this paternal and benevolent effort of the Government, both in principle and operation.1

Footnotes

  1. See App. L. 


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