In 1854, when Nebraska was admitted into the Union, there were, as nearly as can be estimated, 10,000 Indians on reservation & in the Territory, the greater portion of them living in the eastern part, in permanent villages, along the Missouri and Platte Rivers, and their tributaries, while in the northwestern part there were several roving bands of the great Sioux nation, of whom those in the eastern part stood in mortal fear.
In 1853 the government of the United States, which has ever acted paternally toward the Indians, treating with them. Great Britain did the same with the East Indians as though they were a civilized people, availed itself of the savages desire to sell lands encroached upon by the whites and set apart, for a general reservation, 181,171 square miles. Here in the Far West were collected into what was then believed to be a permanent habitation the indigenes of the land and the various bands once lying east of the Mississippi. This Indian's home was bounded in 1853 on the north by the Northwestern Territory and Minnesota, on the south by Texas and New Mexico, to the east lay Iowa, Missouri, and Arkansas, and to the west Oregon, Utah, and New Mexico.
The savages reservation was then thus distributed. The eastern portion, nearest the river, was stocked with tribes removed to it from the Eastern States, namely the Iowas, Sacs and Foxes, Kickapoos, Delawares, Potawotomies, Wyandottes, Quapaws, Senecas, Cherokees, Seminoles, Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, Miamis, and Ottawas. The west and part of the northeast, poor and barren lands, were retained by the aboriginal tribes Ponkahs, Omahas or Mahas, Pawnees, Ottoes, Kansas or Konzas, and Osages. The central and the remainder of the western portion, wild countries abounding in buffalo, were granted to the Western Pawnees, the Arickarees, Arapahoes, Cheyennes, Kiowas, Comanches, Utahs, Grosventres, and other nomads.
It was somewhat a confusion of races. For instance, the Pawnees form an independent family to which some authors join the Arickaree, the Sacs (Sauk), and Foxes, Winnebagoes, Ottoes, Kaws, Omahas, Cheyennes, Mississippi, Dakotahs, and Missouri. Dakotahs belong to the Dakotan family, the Choctaws, Creeks, and Seminoles are Appalachians, the Wyandottes, like the Iroquois, are Hodesaunians, and the Ottawas, Delawares, Shawnees, Potawotomies, Peorians, Mohekuneuks, Kaskaskias, Piankeshaws, Weaws, Miamis, Kickapoos, and the Menomenes are like the Ojibwas Algonquins.
The total number of Indians on the prairies and the Rocky Mountains was estimated roughly at 63,000.
Still the resistless tide of emigration swept westward, the federal government was as powerless to stem it, as was General Fitzroy of New South Wales to prevent in 1852 his subjects flocking to the gold diggings. Despite all orders, reckless whites would squat upon, and thoughtless reds bribed by whisky, tobacco, and gunpowder, would sell off the lands. On the 20th of May 1854 was passed the celebrated Kansas Nebraska Bill, an act converting the greater portion of the Indian Territory and all the Northwestern Territory into two new territories, Kansas, north of the 37th parallel, and Nebraska, north of the 40th, In the passage of this bill, the celebrated Missouri Compromise of 1828, prohibiting negro slavery north of 36.30, was repealed under the presidency of General Pierce. It provided that the rights and properties of the Indians, within their shrunken possessions, should be respected. By degrees the Indians sold their lands for whisky as of old and retired to smaller reservations. Of course they suffered in the bargain, the savage ever parts with his birthright for the well known mess of pottage. The Osages, for instance, canceled $4000 claimed by unscrupulous traders by a cession of two million acres of arable land. The Potawotomies fared even worse under the influence of liquor, [if AtyoiKTi], their chiefs sold 100,000 acres of the best soil on the banks of the Missouri for a mere song. The tribe was removed to a bald smooth prairie, sans timber, and consequently sans game, many fled to the extreme wilds and the others like the Acadians of yore were marched about till they found homes, many of them six feet by two in Fever Patch on the Kaw or Kansas River. Others were more fortunate. The Ottoes, Omahas, and Kansas had permanent villages near the Missouri and its two tributaries, the Platte and the Kansas. The Osages, formerly a large nation in Arkansas, after ceding 10,000,000 of acres, for a stipend of $52,000 for thirty years, were settled in a district on the west bank of the Neosho or Whitewater, the Grand River. They are described as the finest and largest men of the semi nomad races, with well formed heads and symmetrical figures, brave warlike and well disposed to the whites. Early in June, after planting their maize, they move in mounted bands to the prairies, feast upon the buffalo for months, and bring home stores of smoked and jerked meat. When the corn is in milk they husk and sundry it; it is then boiled and is said to be better flavored and more nutritious than the East Indian butah, or the American hominy. After the harvest in October, they return to the game country and then pass the winter under huts or skin lodges. Their chief scourge is small pox, apparently all the tribes carry some cross. Of the settled races. the best types are the Choctaws and the Cherokees, the latter have shown a degree of improvability which may still preserve them from destruction, they have a form of government, churches, theatres, and schools, they read and write English, and George Guess, a well known chief, like the negro inventor of the Vai syllabarium in West Africa, produced an alphabet of sixty eight characters which, improved and simplified by the missionaries, is found useful in teaching the vernacular.
Schemes of Assimilation:
Upon the whole, however, the philanthropic schemes of the government have not met with brilliant success. The chiefs are still bribed and the people cheated by white traders and poverty disease and debauchery rapidly thin the tribesmen. Sensible heads have proposed many schemes for preserving the race. Apparently the best of these projects is to introduce the Moravian discipline. Of all missionary systems I may observe none have hitherto been crowned with important results despite the blood and gold so profusely expended upon them except two, those of the Jesuits and the United Brethren. The fraternity of Jesus spread the Gospel by assimilating themselves to the heathen; the Unitas Fratrum, by assimilating the heathen to themselves. The day of Jesuitism, like that of protection is going by. The advance of Moravianism it may safely be prophesied is to come. These civilization societies have as yet been little appreciated because they will not minister to that ignorant enthusiasm which extracts money from the pockets of the many. Their necessarily slow progress is irksome to ardent propagandists. We naturally wish to reap as well as to sow and man rarely invests capital in schemes of which only his grandson will see the results.
The American philanthropist proposes to wean the Indian savage from his nomad life by turning his lodge into a log tent and by providing him with cattle instead of buffalo and the domestic fowl instead of grasshoppers. The hunter become a herdsman would thus be strengthened for another step, the agricultural life, which necessarily follows the pastoral. Factors would be appointed instead of vicious traders, "coureurs des bois" as the Canadians call them, titles to land would be granted in fee simple practically teaching the value of property in severalty, alienation into white hands would be forbidden and if possible a cordon militaire would be stretched between the races. The agricultural would lead to the mechanical stage of society. Agents and assistant craftsmen would teach the tribes to raise mills and smithies; at present there are mills without millers, stock without breeders, and similar attempts to make civilization run before she can walk, and a growing appreciation for the peace, the comfort, and the luxuries of settled life, would lay the nomad instinct forever.
The project labors only under one difficulty, the one common to philanthropic schemes. In many details, it is somewhat visionary-- Utopian. It is like peace on earth, a dream of the wise. Under the present system of Indian agencies, as will in a future page appear, it is simply impossible. It has terrible obstacles in the westward gravitation of the white race, which after sweeping away the aborigines, as the gray rat in Europe expelled the black rat-- from the east of the Mississippi in two centuries and a half threatens, before a quarter of that time shall have elapsed, to drive in its advance toward the Pacific the few survivors of now populous tribes either into the inhospitable regions north of the 49th parallel or into the anarchical countries south of the 32d. And where I may ask in the history of the world do we read of a people learning civilization from strangers instead of working it out for themselves through its several degrees of barbarism, feudalism, monarchy, republicanism, despotism. Still, it is a noble project, mankind would not willingly see it die willingly.