REPORT OF THE COMMISSION APPOINTED TO TREAT WITH THE SIOUX INDIANS FOR THE RELINQUISHMENT OF THE BLACK HILLS
W. B. ALLISON, Chairman.
ALFRED H. TERRY.
SAMUEL D. HINMAN.
G. P. BEAUVAIS.
A. G. LAWRENCE,
WM. H. ASHBY.
J. S. COLLINS, Secretary
Washington, D. C.
To the honorable the Secretary of the Interior :
The undersigned commissioners, appointed by your predecessor, under direction of the President, to negotiate with the Sioux Nation with reference to the Black Hills, submit the
following report :
On the 18th day of June, 1875, the commission was appointed by the Secretary of the Interior, under the direction of the President, to proceed to the Indian country occupied by the Sioux Nation to hold with said nation a "grand council," with a view to secure to the citizens of the United States the right to mine in the country known as the "Black Hills," and such other rights as could be secured and as might be thought desirable for the Government, having in view the rights of the Indians and the obligations of the United States under existing treaty stipu'ations. * * *
PROPOSITIONS AGREED UPON.
Before the day appointed for the opening of the council, the commission held frequent meetings for conference as to the character of the proposition to be made to the Indians. A majority decided that the instructions contemplated chiefly, if not wholly, the acquisition only of the mining rights and such other rights as are incidental and necessary thereto, and that it would be better for the Government, and surely so for the Indians, to make an agreement upon this basis, especially so as it seemed clear to the majority that the Indians would not make absolute sale upon any terms that would be acceptable to the commission, and that it would be inconvenient to secure the signatures of three-fourths of the adult male Indians to an agreement of sale; that being necessary under the twelfth article of the treaty of 1868.
A minority, however, entertained opinions decidedly adverse to these views, and maintained that the absolute title could be secured as easily and cheaply as the mining right and that in the end it would become necessary to divest the Indians of all title to the hills, but yielded, so far as to allow the proposition to be presented in the first instance in the form proposed by the majority ; and, accordingly, the chairman was instructed to place the question before the Indians in that form.
OPENING OF THE GRAND COUNCIL.
The grand council opened on September 20, at the place designated.
The following members of the commission were present: W. B. Allison, chairman; A. H. Terry, A. Comingo, S. D. Hinman, G. P. Beauvais, W. H. Ashby, and A. G. Lawrence. Of the Sioux Nation, representative men were present from the following tribes : Bruits, Ogalallas, Minueconjous, Uncpapas,
Blackfeet, Two-Kettle band, Sans Arcs, Lower Brules, Yanktons, Santees and Northern Cheyeunes, and Arapahoes.
The chairman, by order of the commission, opened the council with a brief statement of the objects and wishes of the Government, as follows :
REMARKS OF THE CHAIRMAN.
" We have now to ask you if you are willing to give our people the right to mine in the Black Hills, as long as gold or other valuable metals are found, for a fair and just sum. If you are so willing, we will make a bargain with you for this right. 'When the gold or other valuable minerals are taken away, the country will again be yours to dispose of in any manner you may wish . . . The great object we have in making this agreement is to secure a lasting peace with you. It will be hard for our Government to keep the whites out of the Hills. To try to do so will give you and our Government great trouble, because the whites that may wish to go there are very numerous. If you give us the rights we ask we will give you in return a fair equivalent, and in such a way as to do you good and improve your condition. We do not wish to take from you any right or property you have without making a fair return for it. We are asked by our Great Father, and it is our own wish, to consider the interests of both parties as far as we can. We know that you are in need of aid from us. You have received liberal sums from us in the last few years, and we fear they have not been of as much service to you as they should have been. Whatever we agree to give you now we will try and so arrange that it will all be expended in such manner as to put you in the way of helping yourselves, rather than that you should rely upon others, and place you in a condition by which you may in the future live, or try to live, as the white men . . . We want you to consider this well, also. First consider whether you wish to part with it, and if you do, what you want us to pay for it, and let us know, and then if we can agree as to price we will buy of you." * * *
DIFFICULTIES AT THE OUTSET.
After this statement the Indians asked time to consult. It became apparent to the commission at an early period of the negotiations that the Indians would demand an exorbitant sum for the Hills. Nearly all having intercourse with them or influence over them made exaggerated statements to them of the value of the Hills, and it was a source of regret that the Indian agent at Spotted Tail and Dr. Daniels and other officers and employés of the Government, who had frequent communication and considerable influence over many of the Indians, felt it to be their duty to express opinions that the Hills were of great value for mining and agricultural purposes, and that the Government ought to pay from thirty to fifty millions of dollars for them. These opinions thus expressed, and differing so widely from the views if the commission, had the effect to excite hopes in the Indian mind which made it exceedingly doubtful in the beginning whether any agreement could be reached. * * *
THE DEMANDS OF THE INDIANS.
On the 27th, 28th, and 29th, the commission listened to propositions from the leading chiefs of the various tribes, which were a mixture of complaints and demands, the latter of so extraordinary a character as to make it manifest that it was useless to continue the negotiations. We quote from most of these speeches to show the character and extent of their requirements.
RED DOG. We want to be taken care of for seven generations ahead. * * *
LITTLE BEAR. If a man owns anything, of course he wants to make something out of it to get rich on. You gentlemen were sent from our Great Father's house you are looking for something good, of course, and we are the same, and we are glad to speak to you . . . There will be persons like myself, Indians, on the earth as long as they live. I want you to feed them, and give them rations every year, and annuities. We want to be helped and to be helped right and taken care of . . . Tell this to the Great Father. When you help me to all that I will think over what you ask me.
SPOTTED TAIL. As long as we live on this earth we will expect pay. We want to leave the amount with the President at interest forever. By doing that I think it will be so that I can live. I want to live on the interest of my money. The amount must be so large that the interest will support us . . . We want some clothes as long as any Indians live ; if even only two remain, as long as they live they will want to be fed, just as they are now ; as long as they live they want tobacco and knives. Until the land falls to pieces we want these things * * *
SPOTTED BEAR. Our Great Father has a big safe, and so have we. This hill is our safe. That is the reason we can't come to a conclusion very quick. Before our Great Father does anything for us, these
people go and steal from us, and I want that made good. As long as we live I want our Great Father to furnish us with blankets and things that we live upon. We want seventy millions of dollars for the Black Hills. Put the money away some place at interest so we can buy live stock. That is the way the white people do.
RED CLOUD. My Great Father has told me that there have been six generations back of Indian tribes, and I am the seventh. These hills out here to the northwest we look upon as the head chief of the land. My intention was that my children should depend on these hills for the future. I hoped that we should live that way always hereafter . . . Maybe you white people think that I ask too much from the Government, but I think those hills extend clear to me sky maybe they go above the sky, and that is the reason I ask for so much. I think the Black Hills are worth more than all the wild beasts and all the tame beasts in the possession of the white people. I know it well, and you can see it plain enough that God Almighty placed those hills there for my wealth, but now you want to take them from me and make me poor, so I ask so much so that I won't be poor. * * *
DEAD EYES. You have put all our heads together and covered them with a blanket. That hill there is our wealth, but you have been asking it from us. It is not a very small thing, you must remember ; therefore, at our Great Father's house, we asked for a great deal, but it is not very much when we will ask equal shares. You white people, you have all come in our reservation and helped yourselves to our property, and you are not satisfied ; you want beyond to take the whole of our safe. These tribes here all spoke with one word in saying that they look after their children for seven generations to come, and I think it is light. * * *
THE CONFERENCE ENDED.
The conference ended on the 29th September without any result being reached. On the evening of that day the commission was waited upon by Spotted Tail and other leading chiefs, who requested that the President should call to Washington two or three prominent chiefs from each band for purposes of further negotiation, and the commission assured them that they would make known their wish to the President by calling attention to the fact in any report they would make. The commission, however, desires to state that, in its judgment, no good would result from such a conference. The Indians, in their present temper, would not agree to any terms that ought to be proposed by the Government, and if they did, any such agreement would not receive the sanction of three-fourths of the tribe. Either the treaty of 1868 must be disregarded, or any agreement looking to the purchase of the Hills must receive the assent of three-fourths of all the male members of the Sioux Nation * * *
THE PROBLEM CONSIDERED.
We do not believe their temper or spirit can or will be changed until they are made to feel the power as well as the magnanimity of the Government ; and inasmuch as Congress is required by existing law to approve of any agreement made before it is binding on either party, the commission are unanimously of the opinion that Congress should take the initiative and by law settle for itself what shall be done upon the whole subject, and then notify the Sioux Nation of its conclusion. If they assent to the terms proposed, let them be carried out by the Government ; if they do not consent, the Government should withhold all sup
plies not required by the treaty of 1868. It the Government will interpose its power and authority, they are not in condition to resist. This authority should be exercised mildly but firmly, and should be directed mainly to provisions looking to the ultimate civilization of the Indians. They never can be civilized except by the mild exercise, at least, of force in the beginning. This generation of them will not voluntarily sustain themselves, and the Government has only before it the alternative of perpetually supporting them as idlers and vagabonds, or using such power as may be necessary to enforce education in English, in manual labor, and other industrial pursuits upon the youths of the tribes, male and female, thus preparing the coming generation to support itself and finally to become citizens of the United States. Also, such power and authority as will compel the existing generation to make an effort to become self-supporting by agricultural or other labor. * * *
SOURCE: WASHINGTON: GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE. 1875.