Discovery and early exploration of Kansas.--The Indians of the Territory.--Their reserves.--The Shawnee Mission.
THE discovery of the valley of the Missouri is said to have been made by Father Marquette, a French missionary, about the year 1673; and that portion of the country now embraced in the Territory of Kansas, appears to have first been explored by M. Dutisne, a French officer, sent by his government for that purpose, in 1719. At that time it was claimed as part of the empire of Louis XIV. In 1762, it was ceded by France to Spain, and thus passed under the dominion of the Spanish crown; but subsequently, (in l800,) it was ceded back to France. In 1801 it came into the possession of the United States, through the negotiation of Thomas Jefferson, by which, for fifteen millions of dollars, he purchased all the western territory belonging to the French government.
When first discovered to the civilized world, and until within a very few years, the Territory of Kansas was occupied solely by a few roving tribes of Indians, whose subsistence was obtained by hunting. There were no civilized residents, in fact, until about the time of its organization, except the few Christian missionaries who went there to convert the Indians; the soldiers by whom the forts were garrisoned; the fur traders; and such of the Indians who had mingled with the white people in other districts, or were connected with the missions.
No use was made of this country by the government, until, it becoming necessary to remove the Indian tribes occupying districts where the progress of civilization rendered it inexpedient for them to remain, some of its best lands were granted to them by treaty, upon which they settled, and have since possessed. These tribes are the Shawnees, Delawares, Potawattomies, Wyandots, Kickapoos, Ottowas, Chippewas, Sacks and Foxes, Peorias and Kaskaskias, Weas and Piankshaws.
The immense tracts of land appropriated to the use of these Indians, were, at the time the treaties were severally made, considered of little importance; but the great flood of civilized emigration that has steadily been pouring westward, has so increased their value as to render their owners the wealthiest, though the most miserable population in the world.
The reservation of the Wyandots, but few in number, was purchased from the Delawares, and is, perhaps, the most eligible and valuable in the Territory. It is the fork at the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri Rivers. It extends six miles from the mouth of the Kansas, and embraces twenty-three thousand, nine hundred and sixty acres. The towns of Wyandot and Quindaro, both of which promise to be of some importance, are upon this reserve. The shares in these towns have recently attracted the attention of speculators, and have reached and obtained almost fabulous prices. A Wyandot Indian, (half breed,) named Walker, is at the head of this speculative movement, and was a member of the late Legislative Assembly of Kansas. He is a shrewd and intelligent man, and will make the most of his opportunities to acquire a princely fortune.
Immediately above the Wyandot begins the Delaware reserve. It stretches along the north side of the Kansas River westward forty miles, and to an equal or greater distance northward on the Missouri. It is a beautiful tract of prairie and woodland, and lies in a position to give it eminent advantages and make it especially valuable. Leavenworth City is built upon this reservation, the entire northern portion of which has for some time been covered with squatters, in violation of the Indian treaty, and in despite of a protest issued by the chiefs of the tribe. The whole of this large reserve, however, was sold in November, 1856, agreeably to a treaty made with the Delawares on the 6th of May, 1854, except a strip on the north side of the Kansas River, forty miles long and ten miles wide According to the Proclamation of the President, the lots were to have been sold at public auction to the highest bidder, after having been appraised by appointed commissioners, none of them to be disposed of, however, at prices lower than were fixed by the appraisement. But at a meeting of the squatters, it was resolved that no competition should be permitted at the sales; that each man should be allowed to purchase his own claim at the appraised value; and to commit violence upon those who should attempt to bid against him. This arrangement was mutually agreed to by the auctioneer, the Indian agent, the settlers, and the speculators, many of whom had assembled from distant parts, at Fort Leavenworth, where the sales were conducted. It was argued that the settlers having improved the lands and thus enhanced their value, the government would do them injustice by allowing others to purchase, and thus deprive them of the money and labor they had bestowed upon their claims. The proper reply was, that they had violated a treaty of the government with the Indians, in making those settlements and improvements, and instead of being rewarded were deserving of punishment for that act. But then, again, the government had neglected its duty in not driving these squatters from their settlements before the improvements were made. In allowing them to remain their right was virtually acknowledged. At all events, the lands were sold; squatter sovereignty prevailed; and the Indians received more money for their possessions than they had any reason to expect, quite as much as they deserved, and too much for their own best interests. The balance of this reserve is now covered with squatters, some of them having staked out and laid claims to entire sections, and the same policy is being pursued toward it as that which governed the trust lands that were sold.
The half-breed Kaws, of whom there are but several, own a tract of heavy woodland, equal in value to any in the territory, directly west of the Delaware reserve on the north side of the Kansas River. This is the tract, for speculating in which, Governor Reeder and Judges Elmore and Johnson were ostensibly removed from office; though it is alleged in some quarters, that there were stronger reasons than his desire to purchase a few acres of Indian lands, that actuated the powers at Washington in this measure, so far as the governor was concerned. This reserve, like every other in the territory, is now covered with squatters who are making fortunes by cutting the fine timber for the neighboring saw-mills, and are unmolested by the Indian agents.
The Potawattomie reserve is a spacious tract west of the Kaws, and lying on both sides of the Kansas River. This reserve is also taken up by settlers, who, without being disturbed by the government agents, are making the best of their time by cutting the timber for fuel and building purposes.
Just south of the northern line of Kansas, on the Missouri River, there is a reservation for the Iowas, another for the Sacks and Foxes from Missouri, and a colony of half-breeds. The Sacks and Foxes from the Upper Mississippi are located on the Osage River. These reserves are small, and the tribes number but few families.
The land assigned to the Kickapoos is a fine tract of prairie country, of about twelve hundred square miles, westward and northward of the Delaware reservation and south of the small tribes above named.
The Shawnees is the most important tribe in the territory. They are more numerous and farther advanced than any others 1n civilization. Their reserve is one of the most fertile tracts of land, chiefly prairie, in Kansas. It is well watered with several considerable streams and has an abundance of excellent timber. It lies on the Missouri border south of the Kansas River, and covers a space of country equal in extent to about fifty miles square. While the late legislature were making arrangements for the passage of a law to take the census of Kansas preparatory to an election for delegates to form a State Constitution, about three thousand citizens of Missouri, partly to seize upon the Indian lands, and partly to be registered as voters to carry out the object of the contemplated act, were rushing across the border and staking out claims upon this reservation. On every quarter section they laid what they call a " foundation." This is done by placing, four poles upon the ground in the form of a square. In order to conform as they supposed, more fully to the letter, if not the spirit of the pre-emption laws, some of these ingenious squatters, also "roofed in" their "foundations." This was accomplished by Standing a pole upright in the centre of the Square and nailing to the top of it a half-dozen shingles to represent a roof. In looking at these .singular creations, it is difficult to determine which most to admire, the ingenuity or the dishonesty which could prompt men to resort to such miserable pretexts to avail themselves unjustly of the benefit of a law, the true meaning and intent of which is too clearly and definitely expressed to be misunderstood. Having laid their foundations and shingled their houses, and thus established their claims, agreeably, as they pretend, to the requirements of the pre-emption laws, to lands granted by solemn treaty to the Indians, and having registered their names as citizens and legal voters, these worthy squatters returned to their Missouri homes, to await the election day, and then come back to exercise the freeman's right of suffrage and stultify the votes of actual and honest settlers. Should the lands be opened for pre-emption and settlement by treaty with the Shawnees, as is anticipated, the claims made upon these shallow pretexts, will be maintained with pisto1 and bowie-knife, against any who may dare to question their legality. Such is squatter sovereignty as understood and practised on the western borders of Missouri.
On this reservation, near Westport, Mo., stands the "Shawnee Mission'' of the Methodist Church South. Three sections of their best lands were granted by the Shawnees to this mission, which are handsomely fenced in, partly with stone, and upon which are erected several substantial and capacious brick buildings, al1 of which has been accomplished by government funds and per centages on Indian annuities. 'Two sections of the three comprising this elegant farm, which is better improved and more profitably cultivated than any in the territory, has, by skilful management on his part, become the property of Rev. Thomas Johnson, the head of the church, and late President of the Council of the Legislative Assembly.
Although there are shades of difference in the moral condition and industrial habits of the Indians in Kansas, there are very few of them, who are likely to profit materially by the arts of civilization. It is an exception to the general rule when a full blooded Indian is found to possess any admirable traits of character. Neither education nor Christianity seems to make any marked improvement in his habits or deportment. He is improvident, inhospitable and treacherous, with just industry and energy enough to keep himself from starvation, but not enough to pay any proper regard to personal cleanliness. Yet it is no uncommon thing to hear white men boast of the possession of Indian blood. What peculiar enviable quality it is supposed to impart it would be difficult to determine. An anecdote is told of a certain judge, the head of one of the "first families in Virginia," who was exceedingly proud of his Indian origin. He was haughty, vain, tyrannical and somewhat celebrated for his ill manners. In conversation with a gentleman, who happened to make a remark that displeased him, the judge insolently replied: "I suppose, sir, you do not know that I have Indian blood in my veins?" "No sir,'" was the answer, "I did not know it, but I would judge so from your behaviour!"
The destiny of the Indian races, is so plainly written that it can easily be read. The idea that they can live among and mingle with white people, acquire their habits and adopt their customs, is not entertained by any who understand their character. They will readily learn and imitate all the evil practices of civilized life, but they generally fail to profit by those which are good.
The recent treaties with the different tribes, are intended to give to each individual of each tribe his own quota of land, and not again to attempt their removal to a distant locality. The land thus acquired, they are too indolent to cultivate. It will soon pass into the hands of the crafty and grasping white man, and the proceeds be squandered in the purchase of bad whiskey. If sloth, and filth, and drunkenness fail to kill them, they must leave the white man's settlements, and wander, (who can tell where?) fugitives and vagabonds upon the face of the earth. Another century will not have passed, when the Indians of America will have an existence only on the pages of history.