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COMMISSIONER OF INDIAN AFFAIRS,
WITH THE MESSAGE OF THE PRESIDENT
OPENING OF THE SECOND SESSION OF THE THIRTY-SECOND CONGRESS,
THE COMMISSIONER OF INDIAN AFFAIRS.
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,
Office Indian Affairs, November 27, 1850. Sir: Before proceeding to submit for your consideration a general view of our Indian affairs and relations during the last twelve months, I would respectfully refer to the accompanying reports of the superintendents, agents, and missionaries, in the Indian country, for more particular information in relation to local operations, and the condition of the various tribes, than can be fitly embodied in a report of this description.
Among the less remote tribes, with which we have fixed and defined relations, and which, to a greater or less extent, have felt the controlling and meliorating effects of the policy and measures of the government, for preserving peace among them and improving their condition, an unusual degree of order and quietude has prevailed. It is gratifying to know, that amongst this class, comprising a large portion of the red race within our widely-extended borders, there probably has never, during the same period of time, been so few occurrences of a painful nature. All have been peaceful towards our citizens, while, with the exception of the Sioux and Chippewas, they have preserved a state of peace and harmony among themselves. These two tribes are hereditary enemies, and scarcely a year passes without scenes of bloody strife between them. From their remoteness and scattered condition, it is difficult to exercise any effective restraint over them, while their proximity to each other affords them frequent opportunities for indulging their vengeful and vindictive feelings. Each tribe seems to be constantly on the watch for occasions to attack weaker parties of the other, when an indiscriminate massacre of men, women, and children, is the lamentable result. During the last spring, mutual aggressions of an aggravated character threatened to involve these tribes in a general war; but the acting superintendent, Governor Ramsey, aided and assisted by the commanding officer at Fort Snelling, promptly interposed, and by timely and judicious efforts prevented such a catastrophe.
Such occurrences are not only revolting to humanity, but they foster that insatiable passion for war, which, in combination with love of the chase, is the prominent characteristic feature of our wilder tribes, and presents a formidable obstacle in the way of their civilization and improvement. We know not yet to what extent these important objects may be accomplished; but the present and improving condition of some of our semi-civilized tribes affords ample encouragement for further and more extended effort. Experience, however, has conclusively shown that there is but one course of policy, by which the great work of regenerating the Indian race may be effected.
In the application of this policy to our wilder tribes, 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