New Directions in Government Policy
Digital History ID 710
The Doolittle Committee
A joint congressional committee assesses the causes of the many outbreaks of violence between whites and Indian on the Great Plains.
The committee have arrived at the following conclusions:
First. The Indians everywhere, with the exception of the tribes within the Indian Territory, are rapidly decreasing in numbers from various causes: By disease; by intemperance; by wars, among themselves and with whites; by the steady and relentless emigration of white men into the territories of the west, which, confining Indians to still narrower limits, destroys that game which, in their normal state, constitutes their principal means of subsistence; and by the irrepressible conflict between a superior and an inferior race when brought in presence of each other....
Second. The committee are of opinion that in a large majority of cases Indian wars are to be traced to the aggression of lawless white men, always to be found upon the frontier, or boundary line between savage and civilized life....
From whatever cause wars may be brought on, either between different Indian tribes or between the Indians and the whites, they are very destructive, not only of the lives of the warriors engaged in it, but of the women and children also, often becoming a war of extermination....
Third. Another potent cause of their decay is to be found in the loss of their hunting grounds and in the destruction of that game upon which the Indian subsists. This cause, always powerful, has of late increased....The discovery of gold and silver in California, and in all the mountain territories, poured a flood of hardy and adventurous miners across those planes....
Two lines of railroads are rapidly crossing the plains.... They will soon reach the Rocky Mountains, crossing the center of the great buffalo range in two lines from east to west. It is to be doubted if the buffalo in his migrations will many times cross a railroad where trains are passing and repassing, and with the disappearance of the buffalo from this immense region, all the powerful tribes of the plains will inevitably disappear....
Source: Senate Report, No. 156, 39th Cong. 2d sess, serial 1279, 3-10.
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