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The New Nation
Government Policy Toward Native Americans
A Report on Indian Affairs, October 15, 1783

Following the signing of the Treaty of Paris and the end of the Revolutionary War, the Confederation Congress turned its attention to the Northwest Territory, located between the boundaries of the thirteen states of the Confederation and the Mississippi River. Much of the discussion focused on relations with Native American peoples living in the region and future settlement. The following excerpt is from a report delivered to the Congress by a committee charged with suggesting policy on Native American affairs in the northern section of the Northwest Territory. How would you describe the general tone of the report? Why was the Northwest Territory deemed important to the Congress? Under the plan outlined in the report, what would the Native Americans receive for relinquishing their lands? Do you think the committee was trying to be fair?

View the entire document from which this excerpt came, from Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention, 1774-1789. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.

... this report will be confined to Indian affairs in the northern and middle departments as they are defined by the act of Congress of the 12th day of July, 1775, and to the settlement of the western country; these subjects, in the opinion of your committee, being inseperably connected: and your committee not being possessed of materials which enable them to extend their views to the southern district. That it is represented, and your committee believe with truth, that although the hostile tribes of Indians in the northern and western departments are seriously disposed to a pacification; yet they are not in a temper to relinquish their territorial claims without further struggles. . . .

That although motives of policy, as well as clemency, ought to incline Congress to listen to the prayers of the hostile Indians for peace, yet in the opinion of your committee it is just and necessary that lines of property should be ascertained and established between the United States and them, which will be convenient to the respective tribes, and commensurate to the public wants: because the faith of the United States stands pledged to grant portions of the waste and uncultivated lands as a bounty to their army, and in reward of their courage and fidelity: and the public finances do not admit of any considerable expenditure to extinguish the Indian claims upon such lands: because it is become necessary, by the encrease of domestic population, and emigrations from abroad, to make speedy provision for extending the settlement of the territories of the United States; and because the public creditors have been led to believe, and have a right to expect, that those territories will be speedily improved into a fund towards the security and payment of the national debt. . . .

Your committee from these considerations propose that a convention shall be held with the Indians residing in the northern district and the western district who have taken up arms against the United States, for the purposes of receiving them into the favour and protection of the United States, and of establishing boundary lines of property for seperating and dividing the settlements of the citizens from the Indian villages and hunting grounds; and thereby extinguishing as far as possible, all occasion for future animosities, disquiet and contention; and that,

First, And as a preliminary, it shall be required that all prisoners of whatever age or sex among these Indians shall be delivered up.

Secondly, That the Indians be informed, that after a contest of eight years for the sovereignty of this country, Great Britain has ceded all the lands to the United States within the limits described by the .......... article of the provisional treaty, to wit.

Thirdly, That as the Indians, notwithstanding a solemn treaty of neutrality with Congress, at the commencement of the war.---Notwithstanding all the advice and admonition which could be given them during its prosecution, could not be restrained from acts of hostility and wanton devastation, but were determined to join their arms to those of Great-Britain and to share their fortunes, so consequently, with a less generous people than Americans, they would be made to share the same fate and be compelled to retire with them beyond the Lakes. But as we prefer clemency to rigor, as we persuade ourselves that their eyes are open to their error, and that they have found by fatal experience, that their true interest and safety must depend upon our friendship, as the country is large enough to contain and support us all, and as we are disposed to be kind to them, to supply their wants, and to partake of their trade; we from these considerations, and from motives of compassion, draw a veil over what is passed; and will establish a boundary line between them and us, beyond which we will endeavour to restrain our citizens from hunting and settling; and within which they shall not come but for the purposes of trading, treating or other business equally unexceptionable.

Fourthly, That the following line or lines shall be mutually agreed upon and established between the United States and the several tribes of Indians who shall be affected thereby, or lines as nearly correspondent thereto as the Indians can be prevailed upon to adopt and approve of, that is to say.

Fifthly, That the commissioners for the northern and western districts shall be instructed to unite together in holding one convention with the Indians inhabiting the districts aforesaid, and their allies and dependents for the purposes aforesaid: and only to yield to seperate conventions in case of inevitable necessity.

Sixthly, And whereas the Oneida and Tuscarora tribes have adhered to the cause of America, and joiner her arms in the course of the late war; and Congress have frequently assured them of peculiar marks of favour and friendship; the said commissioners are therefore instructed to take particular care to distinguish the lands claimed as the inheritance of those tribes, to have them ascertained, and enter into stipulations, that they shall be reserved for the sole use and benefit of those tribes until they shall think it for their own advantage to dispose of the same: Provided, that if those tribes shall voluntarily agree to exchange their present claims for a district more remote from the settlements of our citizens, and such exchange shall not be deemed disadvantageous by the state claiming the jurisdiction, it shall be lawful for the commissioners to ratify such exchange for the better security of the said Indians:

Seventhly, And whereas the legislature of the state of New-York have granted lands at Onondaga and Cayuga to certain officers and privates in the service of the United States, not only as bounties for recruiting and inlisting: but to appease the discontents which prevailed for want of their pay, and as a reward for their meritorious services: the said commissioners are therefore further instructed to take care as far as will be consistent with the public peace, that in the establishment of the proposed lines the said military grants be not prejudiced or impeached: but if it shall appear that the persisting in such grants and appropriations may so far irritate the Indians as to expose these United States to the dangers and calamities of an Indian war: that then it will be proper for the commissioners to report the difficulties which shall so occur in their negociation to the legislature of the state of New-York; and in such case it is earnestly recommended to the legislature of the state of New-York to revise the laws by which such appropriations have been made, so as to prevent the calamities of a new rupture with the Indians.

Eighthly, That the superintendant of finance be directed to furnish such quantity of coarse goods, part of those belonging to the United States, as shall be necessary as presents to the Indians at the proposed negociation: and that the commissioners lay before Congress estimates of the quantities of cloathing and other articles which will be requisite for the purposes aforesaid, to the end, that Congress may give the necessary orders for the delivery of such articles as are on hand, and for providing such as may not be in the public magazines.
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View the entire document from which this excerpt came, from Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention, 1774-1789. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.