New Directions in Government Policy
Digital History ID 703
Ely S. Parker
Ely S. Parker, the first Indian to serve as United States Commissioner of Indian Affairs, was a member of the Seneca. He served as General Ulysses S. Grant's secretary during the Civil War and as a brigadier general after the war. Grant named him Indian Commissioner in 1869. In this report, Parker calls for an end to treaty-making with Indian tribes because the two parties are unequal in power. Two years later, Congress ceased making treaties with Indian tribes.
...It has become a matter of serious import whether the treaty system in use ought longer to be continued. In my judgment it should not. A treaty involves the idea of a compact between two or more sovereign powers, each possessing sufficient authority and force to compel a compliance with the obligations incurred. The Indian tribes of the United States are not sovereign nations, capable of making treaties.... They are held to be wards of the government, and the only title the law concedes to them to the lands they occupy or claim is a mere possessory one. But because treaties have been made with them...they have become falsely impressed with the notion of national independence. It is time that this idea should be dispelled, and the government cease the cruel farce of thus dealing with its helpless and ignorant wards.
Source: House Executive Document No. 1, 41st Cong., 2d sess., serial 1414, 448.
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