Senate Doc. 118, 43rd Congress, 1st. Session Senate Bill No. 680
LETTER FROM THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR TO THE
CHAIRMAN OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON INDIAN AFFAIRS RELATIVE TO
Senate Bill No. 680, for the relief of certain persons of
resident in the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations.
June 2, l874. -- Ordered to be printed.
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,
Washington, D. C., May 2, 1874.
I have examined Senate bill No. 680, for the relief of
certain persons of African descent resident in the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations on the 28th day of April, 1866,
which you have been pleased to forward to me, with a remonstrance of the Choctaw
delegates against the passage of said bill.
The present condition of the persons of African descent resident among the
Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations on the 10th of September, 1865, should be
thoroughly understood in order to judge of the propriety of passing the bill,
and in order to appreciate the force of the objections made against its passage
by the remonstrance.
I proceed to state the condition of these people at the date aforesaid. By the
treaty of April 28, 1866, between the United States and the Choctaw and
Chickasaw Indians, it was provided that slavery should cease in said nations,
and that said Indians should cede to the United States certain territory west of
the 98th degree west longitude, known as the leased district, and in
consideration thereof the United States should pay the sum of $300,000, to be
invested in United States 5 percent bonds until the legislatures of the Choctaw
and Chickasaw Nations should make such laws, rules and regulations as might be
necessary to give all persons of African descent resident therein on the 10th of
September, 1865, and their descendants, theretofore held in slavery, all the
rights, privileges, and immunities, including the right of suffrage, of the
citizens of said nations, except in the money annuities and in the public domain
belonging to said nations. Said nations were also to give each of said persons
of African descent and their descendants forty acres of land on the same terms
as the citizen Choctaws and Chickasaws held the same. It was further provided
that said persons of African descent who, within ninety days after the passage
of such laws, rules, and regulations, should elect to remove from said nations,
should have $100 each out of the $300,000 before mentioned, and that the balance
should be paid to the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations in the proportions mentioned
in the treaty. It was further provided that if such laws and regulations should
not be enacted by the legislatures of said nations, respectively, within two
years from the ratification of the treaty aforesaid, then the said sum of
$300,000 should cease to be held in trust for the said Choctaw and Chickasaw
Nations, and should thereafter be held in trust for the use and benefit of said
persons of African descent, the United States agreeing within ninety days from
the expiration of said two years to remove said persons of African descent from
said Nations as far as they were willing to be removed.
Now for the facts. Neither the Choctaw nor the Chickasaw Nation has secured to
said persons of African descent the rights, privileges, and immunities,
including the right of suffrage, provided for in the treaty. The United States
has not removed any of the said persons of African descent, because such persons
are so identified by marriage and custom with said nations as to be unwilling to
break up their homes and go elsewhere.
The $300,000 has not been invested nor paid to the Choctaw and Chickasaw
Nations; and the said persons of African descent, who are the most industrious
and useful portion of the population of each nation, are without the rights,
privileges, and immunities of citizens, without the right of suffrage, without
land, and without money, and with a disinclination, under all these painful
embarrassments, to leave their homes, friends, and relatives, and go elsewhere,
for the pitiful sum of $100 per capita.They are as meritorious, to say the
least, as the average Choctaw and Chickasaw population. They have probably done
as much toward securing the wealth possessed by said nations per capita as the
average Choctaw and Chickasaw population. Under these circumstances their
condition is not simply anomalous; it is unjustifiable, oppressive, and wrong,
and ought to be remedied.
Now for the provisions of the bill. It provides that the persons of African
descent before alluded to shall have all the rights, privileges, and immunities,
including the right of suffrage, of citizens of said nations, respectively, and
in the annuities, moneys, and public domain claimed by or belonging to said
nations, respectively. Is this wrong? The Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations are
under treaty obligations to secure to these people the rights, privileges, and
immunities of citizens, including the right of suffrage. They ought to have done
so long since. Their failure to do so is a great wrong and a great injustice,
which should be speedily corrected.
But ought these people to have an equal right in the annuities and public domain
of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations? Let us see. The present annuity-fund of
these nations amounts to about one hundred dollars per capita. The United
States, by the treaty aforesaid, secured to these persons of African descent,
under certain conditions, one hundred dollars per capita, and this is about what
the three hundred thousand dollars amounts to.
By the second section of the bill objected to, this three hundred thousand
dollars is to be invested and paid in trust for the use and benefit of the
Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations, so that these persons of Africaa descent will
bring to the trust-fund of said nations a sum per capita equal to the amount per
capita of the present annuity trust-fund of these nations.
This, it seems to me, answers satisfactorily the objection to this bill so far
as it relates to the rights of the Africans in the annuity-funds of the Choctaw
and Chiekasaw Nations.
But the bill also gives to these Africans an equal right in the public domain
claimed by said nations. Is this wrong? Lands are not held in severalty by these
nations, they are held in common. The treaty contemplated making the Africans
citizens, with equal rights and privilieges with the Choctaws and Chickasaws,
and upon this principle, in justice and equity the common property of the nation
should belong as much to the Africans made citizens as to the native-born
citizens of said nations.
The argument against this provision, drawn from a pretended analogy between this
case and the case of the liberated slaves of the United States, does not rest
upon a solid foundation. The liberated slaves of the United States did not
become entitled to the property held by individual citizens of the United States
in severalty, but to so much of the public domain and other property of the
United States as was not the separate property of individuals, these liberated
slaves, when they became citizens, did become entitled to equal rights and
privileges as other American citizens.
If you look at the manner in which the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations acquired
their property, and if you consider that the improvments made thereon have been
made by the labor of the African people in as large, if not a larger proportion,
than by the labor of the native Choctaws and Chickasaws, you will see that there
is not any injustice in giving to these persons of African descent, made free
and made citizens, equal rights in all respects with the native Choctaw and
A failure to pass this bill will leave the treaty of 1866 unexecuted; will
continue the Africans among the Choctaws and Chickasaws in their present unjust
and disastrous situation, will preserve the strife, animosity, and disturbance
incident to these relations, and therefore I cannot too earnestly or too
urgently recommend the passage of the bill referred to, or some equivalent
measure, during the present session of Congress.
I beg your careful and attentive consideration of this subject, and hope you
will bring it before such of your colleagues as feel an interest in the welfare
of these people, and that if you concur with me in this opinion you will
endeavor to procure the passage of the measure referred to immediately.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
C. DELANO, Secretary.
Hon. WILLIAM A. BUCKINGHAM,
Chairman Committee Indian Affairs, United States Senate.
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