« PreviousContinue »
DACOTAH, or more correctly Dahkotah, is the true name of the Sioux nation of Indians, and “signifies allied or joined together in friendly compact." The territory so named comprises the western part of the original Territory of Minnesota, and was excluded from its limits when, in 1858, Minnesota was erected into a state. It was organized into a territory in February, 1861. It extends, in extreme limits, N. and S. 450 miles, and E. and W. 200: N. latitude, 42° 30' to 49°; longitude, W. from Greenwich, 94o to 104°. It is bounded on the N. by the British Possessions, E. by Minnesota and a small part of Iowa, on the S. by Iowa, and also S. and partly on the W. by the Missouri River, separating it from the Territory of Nebraska.
The eastern part is, like Minnesota, covered with multitudes of small lakes and ponds. The largest of these are Red Lake, about 40 miles long and 20 broad, and Mini-wakan, or Devil's Lake, about 50 miles long by 10 broad. Lake Itasca, the source of the Mississippi, is on its eastern boundary. The Minnesota, emptying into the Mississippi, the Big Sioux and Jacques, affluents of the Missouri, and the Great Red River of the North, all take their rise in the high table lands of the interior.
The territory contains numerous salt lakes, and coal has been found. Capt. Jno. Pope, of the U. S. corps of topographical engineers, states that " Dacotah presents features differing but little from the region of prairie and table land west of the frontiers of Missouri and Arkansas, which is mainly devoid of timber. From this is to be excepted the western half of the val. ley of Red River and the valleys of the Big Sioux and the Rio Jacques, which are productive, and with the region inclosed contain arable and well timbered land sufficient for a small state.” These valleys are productive in wheat of the best qualities. Population, in 1860, 4,839.
Pembina, the principal town of the territory, is some 360 miles, in an air line, N.W. of St. Paul, on the Red River of the North, just below the British line. It was settled, in 1812, by Scottish emigrants under Lord Selkirk, who obtained an extensive grant of land from the Hudson Bay Company. On the running of the boundary line, subsequently, Pembina, the southernmost point of the colony, was found to be just within the limits of the United States.
“The settlement—which contains about seven thousand inhabitants—is flourishing, and agriculture is prosecuted by the hardy settlers there with considerable success. The greater part of the inhabitants are half natives and descendants of fur-traders and their servants, by native women. Formerly every summer, with a team of carts drawn by oxen, and loaded with pemmican, furs, etc., they came down to St. Pauls on a trading excursion, employing about six weeks in making the journey. Their singularly constructed carts, composed entirely of wood, without any tire, their peculiar dress, manners and complexion, render them an object of curiosity to those unfamiliar with the various shades of society intermediate between the savage and civilized.”
THE INDIAN TERRITORY:
THE INDIAN TERRITORY is an extensive country lying west of Arkansas and north of Texas, and extending far into the western wilderness; and containing about 71,000 square miles. It has been allotted by the general government as the permanent residence of those Indian tribes who emigrate from the states east of the Mississippi. “It is about 450 miles long east and west, and from 35 to 240 miles in width north and south, Kansas lies on the north of this tract, Arkansas on the east, Texas on the south, and New Mexico and Texas on the west. In the north-western portion of the Indian Territory are the vast sandy, barren lands, known as the Great American Desert. Excepting this desolate region, the country is occupied by undulating plains and prairies, broken on the east by the mountain ridges, called the Ozark or Wasõita, which come in from Arkansas. Coal of an excellent quality abounds in the eastern part. The great southern overland mail route to California passes through it.
The Choctaws, the Chickasaws, the Cherokees, the Creeks, the Senecas, the Seminoles, and the Shawnees dwell in the east; while the central and western districts are occupied by the Camanches, the Osages, the Pawnees, the Kioways, the Arrapa hoes, and other tribes. The country is, besides, thickly inhabited by buffaloes, wild horses, antelopes, deer, prairie-dogs, and wild animals and wild birds of many names. Kansas and Nebraska were included in the Indian Territory until 1854.”
The Indians within and near the borders of the territory, including the uncivilized tribes, it is supposed, number about 90,000. The civilized tribes are the Cherokees and Choctaws, each numbering 19,000; the Creeks numbering 25,000, and the Chickasaws, 16,000, all of whom emigrated from the cotton states east of the Mississippi. These four tribes have adopted republican forms of government, modeled after those of our states, with executive, legislative and judicial departments.* Slavery exists in a mild form, and
** These four Indian states," says the New Orleans Picayune," are a strange anomaly. They are not a part of the Union, nor are they known in law to exist. The white man can not pass through their territory without a permit, nor can be take with him, when he is allowed to enter the Indian domain, certain articles of merchandise, even though the packages are unbroken and are simply designed for the New Mexican market. This singular state of things can not exist for many years, without forcing itself upon the attention of Congress. The tide of population is steadily rolling west. In less than ten years it will beat against
tne slaves amount in the aggregate to several thousand. Polygamy prevails to some little extent. These tribes have made no inconsiderable advance in the arts of civilization; beside living under written law, they have schools in which English is taught, and churches, the work of missionaries: they have attained a knowledge of agriculture, and of many useful manufactures, and of late years have exported cotton, peltries, and other staples.
The Cherokees are regarded as the most civilized of these tribes, and it is said that many of its principal men would grace the refined society of any nation. Among them and the Choctaws there is so much white blood mingled that many of the younger members, especially, would not be suspected of Indian origin. None of these people injure themselves by hard work, but they are “wonderfully industrious for Indians.”
“Their principal wealth is vested in stock. Any amount of fine grazing land is lying idle, and the climate is so mild that stock (except milch cows and working cattle) requires no feeding in winter. In the spring the farmer brands his calves and colts, and turns them out upon the prairie, and there his care for them ends. All the brands are officially recorded, and 'mistakes' in regard to them seldom occur, as they have an ugly way of punishing horse and cattle stealing by death! A year or two after, when the owner is in want of beef, ponies, or oxen for farm labor, he sends out his negroes to drive in the desired animals. He would certainly be unreasonable to complain of the expense of raising them.” These people seem, as a class, “well to do” in the world. Their houses are ordinarily of logs, but spacious and comfortable, and will compare favorably with those of south-western Missouri and Arkansas. Some of them are handsome frame buildings.
When the temperance reformation overspread the land some years since, these emigrant tribes adopted measures for the prohibition of intemperance, with various degrees of success. “Among the Choctaws a law was passed upon this subject, which was measurably successful; and the spirit which effected its passage was worthy of the most exalted state of civilization. It seems that the tribe had generally become sensible of the pernicious influences of strong drink upon their prosperity, and had, in vain, attempted various plans for its suppression. At last, a council of the head men of the nation was convened, and they passed a law by acclamation, that each and any individual who should, henceforth, introduce ardent spirits into the nation, should be punished with a hundred lashes on his bare back. The council adjourned, but the members soon began to canvass among themselves the pernicious consequences which might result from the protracted use of whisky already in the shops, and, therefore, concluded the quicker it was drank up, the more promptly the evil would be over, so falling to, in less than two hours Bacchus never mustered a drunker troop than were these same tem
ing importance to them.”
Life and property are as safe among these Indians as in the adjoining states. A late missionary among the Choctaws states: “The laws are executed with a good degree of promptness. The punishments consist of fines, whipping, and death; and, as there are no prisons in which to confine culprits, it is a matter of honor with accused persons to appear in court and answer to charges. If a man is charged with a crime, and fails to come to court, he is stigmatized as a coward. To the high-minded Indian cowardice is worse than death. It is affirmed that a full-blooded Choctaw was never known to abscond or secrete himself to evade the sentence of the law. Even when the sentence is death he will not flee, but will stand forth and present his breast to receive the fatal ball from the rifle of the executioner, shooting being the mode of capital punishment.
the barriers now thrown up against its invasion of the retreat of those civilized aborigines. Even now the emigration must cross these territories. These Indian states can not exist when the Caucassian race presses upon them as independent governments. The people, civilized and attached to the soil they have improved, can not be removed to remoter wilds, nor, without serious discontents, is it likely the United States can subject them to the condition of other territorial organizations, by an abrogation of the constitutions they have established for themselves. What, then, is to be done with these Indian states? It can
adopted the social institutions of the south."
A circumstance was related to us which will serve to illustrate this trait of character. Two brothers were living together, one of whom had been charged with crime, convicted, and sentenced to be executed. When the morning came on which the sentence should be carried into effect, the condemned man manifested some reluctance in meeting the executioner. The brother was both surprised and indignant. “My brother,' said he, 'you 'fraid to die; you no good Indian; you coward; you no plenty much brave. You live, take care my woman and child; I die; I no 'fraid die ; much brave!” The exchange was accordingly made; the innocent brother died while the guilty was permitted to live. This was said to have occurred before they emigrated west. In an earlier period of their history substitutes were frequently accepted, and when the guilty was not found any member of his
have been inflicted upon the criminal. The law required 'an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,' blood for blood; but they would not execute two men for the murder of one. Two or more might be implicated, yet the death of one malefactor satisfied the demands of justice. Before the adoption of their present coustitution, the injured or aggrieved party was permitted to take the case into his own hands, and to administer justice in the most summary manner; but since the organization of the new government every charge must take the form of a regular indictment, be carefully investigated, and decided in legal form."