New Directions in Government Policy
Digital History ID 711
The Indian Peace Commission
To combat the white-Indian warfare on the Plains, Congress created a special peace commission. The commission deplored public ignorance and apathy toward the Indian problem and denounced settlers and railroad companies for failing to recognize the Indians' humanity.
...Nobody pays any attention to Indian matters. This is a deplorable fact. Members of Congress understand the Negro question, and talk learnedly of finance, and other problems of political economy, but when the progress of settlement reaches the Indian's home, the only question is, “how best to get his lands.” When they are obtained the Indian is lost sight of. While our missionary societies and benevolent associations have annually collected thousands of dollars from the charitable, to be sent to Asia and Africa for purposes of civilization, scarcely a dollar is expended or a thought bestowed on the civilization of Indians at our very doors. Is it because the Indians are not worth the effort at civilization? Or is it because our people, who have grown rich in the occupation of their former lands--too often taken by force or procured by fraud--will not contribute?...
The white and Indian must mingle together and jointly occupy the country, or one of them must abandon it. If they could have lived together, the Indian by this contact would soon have become civilized and war would have been impossible....What prevented their living together? First. The antipathy of race. Second. The difference of customs and manners arising from their tribal or clannish organization. Third. The difference in language, which, in a great measure, barred intercourse and a proper understanding each of the other's motives and intentions.
Now by educating the children of these tribes in the English language these differences would have disappeared, and civilization would have followed at once. Nothing then would have been left but the antipathy or race, and that too is always softened in the beams of a higher civilization....
To maintain peace with the Indian, let the frontier settler treat him with humanity, and railroad directors see to it that he is not shot down by employees in wanton cruelty. In short, if settlers and railroad men will treat Indians as they would treat white men under similar circumstances, we apprehend but little trouble will exist.
Source: House Executive Document, No. 97, 49th Cong., 2d sess, serial 1337, 15-17.
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