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The Reservation Policy
Digital History ID 694

Author:   Luke Lea
Date:1850

Annotation: In 1850, Indian Commissioner Luke Lea recommended that the government concentrate the Plains Indians on specific reservations. By reducing the amount of land available for hunting, he hoped to force these people to adopt a farming economy.


Document: Experience...has conclusively shown that there is but one course of policy by which the great work of regenerating the Indian race may be effected.... It is indispensably necessary that they be placed in positions where they can be controlled, and finally compelled by stern necessity to resort to agricultural labor or starve. Considering, as the untutored Indian does, that labor is a degradation, and there is nothing worthy of his ambition but prowess in war, success in the chase, and eloquence in council, it is only under such circumstances that his haughty pride can be subdued, and his wild energies trained to the more ennobling pursuits of civilized life. There should be assigned to each tribe, for a permanent home, a country adapted to agriculture, of limited extent and well-defined boundaries; within which all, with occasional exceptions, should be compelled constantly to remain until such time as their general improvement and good conduct may supersede the necessity of such restrictions. In the meantime the government should cause them to be supplied with stock, agricultural implements, and useful materials for clothing; encourage and assist them in the erection of comfortable dwellings, and secure to them the means and facilities of education, intellectual, moral, and religious. The application of their own funds to such purposes would be far better for them than the present system of paying their annuities in money, which does substantial good to but few, while to the great majority it only furnishes the means and incentive to vicious and depraving indulgence, terminating in destitution and misery, and too frequently in premature death.

Source: Senate Executive document, no. 1, 31st Cong., 2d sess, serial 587, 35-37.

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