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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - May 9, 1973, Lethbridge, Alberta Wednesday., May 9, 1973 THE LiTHBRIOGE HERALD 4S INDIAN TREATIES: Breaking them not honorable, On Feb. 27, Indian mili- tants seized control of Wounded Knee, S.D., a hamlet on the Pine Ridge Indian Reserve. They vowed to remain until the United States agrees to honor treaties with the Og- lala Sioux that date back more than 100 years. The question of how, or whether, Indian treaties should be honored dates back to the day white settlers first came to America. This is the first of two stories on Indian treaties. BY DON McLEOD WASHINGTON (AP) In- dian treaties are easily broken. Once any treaty is ratified, it becomes part of United States law. Like any other law, it can be amended, superseded or re- pealed. So breaking an Indian treaty may not be honorable, but it can be legal. The question of Indian stand- ing, and therefore claim to the land on which they live, has been ambiguous since the first white men came to America. Charles V, king of Spain and grandson of Ferdinand and Isa- bella, made the first attempt at defining Indian property rights and turned to Franciscus de Victoria, professor at the Uni- versity of Salamanca and one of the foremost theologians of his day. Victoria said Indians had title to their land and Spaniards could not claim it by virtue of He suggested that if Europeans wanted Indian land, they buy it. THEY WERE FIRST "The aborigines in question were true Owners, Victoria told Charles, "before the Spaniards came among them. Victorias advice was not al- ways taken literally, as white explorers continued to claim new discoveries in the name of European monarchs, although his ideas survived in an unwrit- ten code which generally as- cribed sovereignty to the white kings but title to the Indians. The English colonizers fol- lowed this rule, and' individual colonies passed ordinances re- quiring acquisition of Indian land be by purchase authorzed by the colonial government. During the American Revolu- tion the Continental Congress continued to deal with Indians in the same way and concluded the first U.S.-Indian treaty with the Delawares Sept. But at the close of the war George Washington expounded tha theory that Indian lands were "conquered provinces as a result of the military victory over the British. In 184, Congress appointed commissioners to negotiate peace terms with Indians along the frontier and set up bound- aries, making it clear that the territory belonged to the gov- ernment although the Indians could live on it. r But the Indians resented the governments approach and it became apparent that the United States, which had no standing army once the revolu- tion was over, was going to have to soften its stand or fight. Consequently, the secretary of in 1788 recommended a new policy of purchasing land the government had been vir- tually confiscating in peac; treaties. Treaties were renego- tiated. NEW TREATIES SIGNED On Jan. 9, 1789, treaties were signed with the Six Nations and the Wiandot, Delaware, Chi- pewa and Ottawa establishing a new official view of Indian lands rights. In these landmark treaties, the United States gave upclaim to designated territory to be held by the Indians. As early as the 1778 Delaware treaty, the U.S. government guaranteed the integrity of In- dian territory. In some cases passports were required of U.S. citizens going into Indian nations. Some treaties provided extradition provisions. Treaties signed with northern tribes in 1785 and 1786 provided that any U.S. citizen attempting to settle on Indian land forfeited the protecion of he United Sates. The U.S. government ob- viously recognized an inter- national character to Indian re- lations. Indian nations had formed al- liances with first one power and then another In the many wars among Europeans in the Ameri- can wilderness. Some joined the British against the Americans in the revolution and the War o; 1812. In the American Civil War some tribes formed treaty al liances with the Confederacy and then renegotiated with the United States after the war. But ime eroded whatever standing the Indians had as in dependent nations. MOST OBSOLETE Some treaty provisions be- came obsolete, such as those re- quiring the government to pro- vide grist mills and Blacksmiths to repair hunting rifles. A Che- rokee treaty still requires the government to hire mounted riders at a day to guard the reserve. Such anachronisms encourage a view of the treaties as quaintly out of date and not to be taken seriously, although some guarantees of goods and services are still vitally impor- tant to the Indians. These anuities, though vital today, were the first step in downgrading Indian stature. They made the Indians depend- ent on the government at a time when the shrinking fron- tier denied their traditional huntsmans livelihood. Weakness on the part of In- dians invited whites to take ad- vantage. Defeated by U.S. forces in 1814, the Creeks were forced to surrender 23 million acres, half their ancestral do- main. As circumstances made In- dians more dependent and less unable to resist, other tribes ac- cepted the inevitable, signing away what remained of their in- dependence. Congress eradicated the last illusion of Indian independence by legislating in 1871 "that hereafter no Indian nation or tribe within the territory of the United States shall be acknowl- edged or recognized as an inde- pendent nation, tribe, or power with whom the United States may contract by treaty." In 1903 the Supreme Court said Congress could break old treaties and take Indian land as long as it was justified by cir- cumstances. Anything goes, the court said, as long as it is "consistent with perfect good faith towards the Indians." Indians today claim the gov- ernment has found it in their best interest to allow their lands to be dried up or flooded by dams, ravaged by strip min- ing, denuded of forests, stripped of minerals and turned over to real estate developers. Land was stolen from the Sioux WASHINGTON Sioux] hdians have been trying since 1923 to recover in court what vas taken from their ancestors n violation of treaties with the United States. The Sioux claim is one of the oldest pieces of litigation in the country. It also was one of the basic ssues in the confrontation be- tween federal marshals and In- dian militants at Wounded Knee, S.D. If their treaties had been hon- ored, the Sioux would own or lave rights in two-thirds of iouth Dakota and portions of North Dakota, Nebraska, Colo- rado, Montana, Wyoming and Kansas. The United States government recognized Sioux title to the major portion of this territory n a treaty signed with the Plains Indians at Fort Laramie, Wyo., in 1851'. In return, the Sioux granted rights of passage to whites jushing across the continent to California's new gold fields. But the discovery of gold in Montana 10 years later put a fa- tal strain on the treaty and in- ;rodue3d the government's pol- icy of winking at its agreements when white interests crossed In- dian rights. TOWNS BOOM By 1865 Bozeman, Helena and Virginia City were booming mining towns, and the miners were complaining about the dif- ficulty of getting supplies to the isolated country. That summer the government began surveying a new road running out of Laramie through thj rolling green foothills of the Big Horn Mountains to Boze- man. This was the Sioux's fin- est hunting ground. When Chief Red Cloud pro- tested the treaty violation, the government sent in troops who began building three forts along he proposed rouae. War fol- lowed, and the Indians won. By 1867 the soldiers guarding the Bozeman Trail were vir- tually hostages in their own forts. Congress felt hat the way of peace was to separate white settlers and travellers from the Indians. For that to work, the Indians would have to curtail their life style for protected live- on fixed reserves. So a second Fort Laramie Treaty was signed April 29, 1868. In return for government pro- tection and annuities, the In- dians agreed to stay away from established roads and to stop raiding white travellers. The government abandoned the Bosenian Trail and the three forts along it, which were burned to the ground. PROMISED BENEFITS The Indians were promised provisions, supplies, education and other benefits. To this day the Sioux contend the government didn't deliver all it promised. The new treaty defined the Great Sioux Reservation as all of South Dakota west of the Missouri half the the land north of the state. All North Platte River and east of the summits of the Big Horn Mountains was declared "un- ceded Indian territory" in which the Sioux could move and hunt. This unceded land took In ad- jacent corners of North Dakota, Montana, Colorado, Kansas, Wyoming and Nebraska. But trouble developed imme- diately. Whan Red Cloud took Ms Og alas to Fort Laramie the fol lowing spring to trade and pick up treaty supplies, he was tolc the Sioux trading post was 30 miles away at Fort Randal near Pierre, S.D., on the Mis souri River. The ploy was obvious. Fore ing the Sioux to trade on th Missouri would effectively re strict them to the reserve anc draw them from the hunting grounds coveted by the whites. After a face-to-face con frontation with President Ul ysses S. Grant, the Indians re- ceived a new interpretation They would, after all, b allowed to live in the Indian ter ntory outside the reserve an< did not have to go to the re- serve to trade and receive their goods. Ths reserve ground itself, in eluding the gold-rick Blac" Hills, literally guaranteec to the Sioux forever. "No white person or person shall be permitted to settl upon or occupy any portion o the the treaty said "or without the consent of th Indians first having been ob tained, to pass through th same." But pass through they did, i quest of gold. After Lt.-Col. George Arm strong Custer's 1874 expeditio confirmed gold in the Blac Hills "from the grass root the gold rush was on Miners flooded into the sacra Indian country in defiance o the treaty. COMMISSION APPOINTED Another government commis sion was appointed to bargai for the Black Hills. When i failed, Grant withdrew the pro tective troops, and the last re straint on the white intruder was removed. secretary of the interior with Grant's endorsemen asked Congress to cut off th treaty-promised provisions un less the Sioux agreed to se their holy ground. Congress failed to act and th secretary decided to force th issue. In clear violation of th treaty of 1868, he ordered a Sioux off their guaranteed hun ing grounds and into close con finement on the reserves. The Sioux resisted and Gran sent Gen. Philip Sheridan t subjugate item and protect th white trespassers. It was in this campaign o armed abrogation of a treat that Custer's last command wa wiped out. But the Sioux even tually were herded onto the re- serves. CUT OFF FUNDS When news of Custer's dis- aster reached Washington, Con- gress undid what was left of the treaty and cut off all appropria- tions for the Sioux. Restricted to small areas on their reserves, unable to reach their hunting grounds and de- nied sustenance from the gov- ernment, the Sioux were left with the choice of selling or starving. Despite threat of starvation, less than 10 per cent of the Sioux braves signed the agree- ment forced on them. This agreement was ratifipH by Con- gress on Feb. 28, 1877, even though the treaty of 1868 had required that at least three- fourths of the adult male In- dians agree to changes. Through the years, by threat, cajolery or promises never kept, the government continued continued on Page 48 Nobody home There's nobody home at a house in Dawson City, Y.T., that was the last active brothel in the Klondike Gold Rush country. The federal govern- menfhas declared the brothel, closed down in the mid-1950s, a national historic site as part of a million, protect to restore the gold rush city.___ SIMPSONS bears Wheels 10 SPEED Everyone wants a 10-speed now! 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