Today in History:

139 Series I Volume XLI-I Serial 83 - Price's Missouri Expedition Part I


Indians and not molest them in any way. The military authorities undertake to enforce good conduct on both sides, and will have the power, of not interfered with, to do so thoroughly. As such a peace involves neither annuities nor presents, and holds out no prospect in violating it, except hostilities, it will probably be lasting. Hitherto it has been the practice to accompany every treaty of peace made by Indian agents with expensive presents of goods and supplies of various kinds, and the Indians naturally understand that these are given them as bribes to keep the peace and because the whites are afraid of them; and, of course, the observe such treaties only as long as they find it convenient, or until they need a further supply of presents (ammunition, goods, &c.). In fact, it has been for years a saying with the Sioux along the great mail route to California, that whenever they became poor and needed blankets and powder and lead, they had only to go down to this great mail and emigrant route, and kill a few white people and there would be another treaty of peace, which would supply all their wants.

It is beyond question that such a system of treaty-making is, of all others, the most impolitic, whether negotiated with savage or civilized people, and leads in either case to constant and increasing hostilities. I intend, in settling a peace with Indians in this department, to do away entirely with this system, which, aside from its effect in stimulating and encouraging breaches of treaties of peace, is always attended with fraud upon the Government and upon the Indians.

I shall send up in the spring some companies of cavalry to make a cantonment for the summer at some point on the lake, and to remain there until the last possible moment in the autumn, with the view of drawing the various tribes of Indians to that point, and furnishing them with facilities of trade during the summer and autumn. Such a cantonment kept up for two or these season will have a most beneficial effect upon the Indians, as all whites, except authorized traders acting under the supervision of the military authorities, will be prohibited from going into that region. It is proper to remark that extensive strata of excellent coal have been found at Fort Rice, one vein six feet thick. This coal field extends toward the southwest, and it is supposed outcrops on the slopes of the Black Hills. How far north it extends is not yet known. The existence of this great coal field, halfway between the Great Lakes and the Rocky Mountains, is a fact, the fuel for the navigation of the upper Missouri River, it is a controlling element in the location of a railroad across the great plains to the Pacific. Its extent and character will soon be developed by the troops from Fort Rice and other points on the Missouri River.

I may state finally that the Government may safely dismiss all apprehensions of Indian wars in the Northwest. Small Indian raids there doubtless will be, as there always have been, for stealing horses, but no hostilities on any considerable scale are likely again to occur. A small force, such as is designated in this report, will be quite sufficient to protect the frontier and the emigration. I only ask now that the military authorities be left tho themselves to deal with these Indians, and to regulate the trading with the Indian tribes without the interposition of Indian agents, and I will cheerfully guarantee peace with the Indian tribes in this department. The department has been administered, so far as its relations with the State and other civil authorities are concerned, in accordance with the views and principles laid down in the accompanying letter from me to Governor Salomon, of Wisconsin. I am gratified to say that there have been entire harmony and success.