By Berlin B. Chapman
In the federal management and disposition of lands of Oklahoma Territory there was no commission more important than the Cherokee Commission. When the Commission was organized on June 29, 1889, the members were General Lucius Fairchild of Wiscousin, chairman, General John F. Hartranft of Pennsylvania, and Alfred M. Wilson of Arkansas. Each of the commissioners was allowed his railway fare and transportation expenses, and five dollars per diem during the time of actual service, in lieu of all other expenses, and was allowed a compensation at the rate of ten dollars per diem during the time of his actual service. Hartranft died on October 17, and Warren G. Sayre of Indiana was appointed in his stead. Fairchild said of Sayre: "He is a hard headed lawyer, pleasant and genial. Has a lot of sound, hard horse-sense, a valuable acquisition."1
Congress provided for the Cherokee Commission when by an act of March 2, 1889 the President was authorized to appoint three commissioners, not more than two of whom should be members of the same political party, to negotiate with the Cherokees and with all other Indians owning or claiming lands lying west of the ninety-sixth degree of longitude in the Indian Territory for the cession to the United States of all their title, claim or interest of every kind or character in and to said lands.2 Any and all agreements resulting from such negotiations should be reported to the President and by him to Congress at its next session and to the council or councils of the nation or nations, tribe or tribes, agreeing to the same for ratification. By that act $25,000 was appropriated to enable the Commission to prosecute its work, and a lesser amount was appropriated each year during the next four years to enable the Secretary of the Interior to continue the Commission.3
1Fairchild to "Frank" (his wife), Nov. 18, 1889, Fairchild Papers, State Historical Society, Madison, Wis. Manuscript materials used in this article, unless otherwise stated, are in the National Archives, Washington, D. C.
I am indebted to my friend and colleague, Professor J. H. Caldwell of the History Department of the Oklahoma A. & M. College, for a critical and helpful reading of this article.
3On May 26, 1890 Secretary John W. Noble recommended that the sum of $25,000 be appropriated to enable the Commission to visit all the tribes in Oklahoma Territory living west of ninety-six degrees. Sec. Int., Rec. Letters Sent, No. 65, pp. 239-240. The Indian appropriation act for 1891, approved Aug. 19, 1890, provided $20,000 for continuance of the Commission. 26 Statutes, 356. The Indian appropriation acts for 1892, 1893, and 1894 each provided $15,000 to enable the Secretary of the Interior to continue the Commission. Ibid., p. 1008; 27 Statutes, 138; 633.
Among instructions given to the Cherokee Commission are two principal documents. On May 9, 1889 Commissioner Oberly transmitted to the Secretary of the interior for the guidance of the Commission a compilation made in the Indian Office concerning the legal status of the lands in Indian Territory, to which was appended certain "Instructions and Suggestions." The document is in OIA, L. Letter Book 184, pp. 165-258; also in OIA, Library, Misc. Documents, pp. 43496-43541. On July 6 printed copies were sent by Noble direct to members of the Commission. The compilation, or about five-sixths of the document, was transmitted by Noble to the Senate on March 12, 1890 and is printed in S. Ex. Docs., 51 Cong. 1 sess., ix(2686), no. 78.
The second principal source of instructions was a document approved by Noble on June 20, 1890. It is in OIA, L. Letter Book 200, pp. 342-347.
After the Cherokee Commission made two unsuccessful attempts to negotiate with the Cherokees for a sale of the Cherokee Outlet to the United States, Fairchild resigned from the Commission on January 1, 1890. "Because I am not in physical condition to do the work," were the words in which he assigned the reason for his resignation.4 When the Commission met at Guthrie on May 12 to resume its labors, and before any agreements were concluded, David Howell Jerome, formerly governor of Michigan, succeeded to the chairmanship.5
The Commission consisting of Jerome, Sayre and Wilson was continued until November 7, 1893, during which time it concluded eleven agreements with Indian tribes for the dissolution of reservations, embracing more than 15,000,000 acres in Oklahoma Territory. All the agreements, much of the correspondence of the Commission, and considerable material concerning its work are in the United States Public Documents. But a careful search does not reveal that the final report of the Commission has heretofore been printed. It is the purpose of this article to edit the report in full.6
The Cherokee Commission survived the administration of President Harrison, but the eleven agreements it concluded for the dissolution of reservations in Oklahoma Territory were made during his administration. Secretary John W. Noble was intimate with his Republican friends who held a favorable balance of power in the membership of the Commission. He took up with them enough matters informally or by personal correspondence to deduct considerable value from the files of his official papers in regard to the Commission. He was careful enough to keep Commissioner Thomas Jefferson Morgan of the Indian Office bridled7 and to hurry up allotting agents, but he seemed to have been always content with the Commission and to have considered its judgment of high merit.8
4In regard to the work of the Cherokee Commission under the leadership of Fairchild, and in regard to the half dozen persons offered a place on the Commission before Fairchild and Hartranft were named, see Chron. of Okla., xiv (Sept., 1937), pp. 291-321.
6The final report of the Cherokee Commission is dated Aug. 21, 1893 and is in Sec. Int., 7801 Ind. Div. 1893. A photostatic copy of the report has recently been given to the Oklahoma Historical Society.
8See for example Noble's letter to S. W. Peel, Jan. 23, 1893, Cong. Record, 52 Cong. 2 sess., p. 2136.
Secretary Hoke Smith, a Democrat from Georgia, did not hold the Commission in such high esteem. In a telegram to him from Saginaw, Michigan on Saturday, March 18, 1893 Jerome said: "Unless otherwise directed by you by wire the Cherokee Commission will leave on Monday next for Ponca agency, Oklahoma, to resume negotiations with the tribes on the east end of the Strip. Our address will be Ponca agency where we hope to receive any instructions you desire to give."9 In a letter to Smith on March 20 Jerome stated that since he had heard nothing from him to the contrary he would proceed that evening to join his associates.10 In a telegram to Jerome the next day, addressed to Saginaw, Smith said: "Your telegram was received Sunday night, giving no time for investigation. To announce a purpose of acting without giving time here to consider its propriety, was practically to determine the matter yourselves. I trust you have not acted with the haste which your telegram indicates."11 Since the Commission was already en route, Assistant Secretary Chandler directed that necessary funds be placed to its credit for continuance of the work.12
Of the thirteen reservations in Oklahoma Territory, only the four occupied by the Poncas, Otoes and Missourias, Kaws, and Osages showed a tendency of stability when the Commission resumed its labors in the spring of 1893. The Commission considered it advantageous to its cause that Congress on March 3, 1893 had ratified agreements made with the Tonkawas, Cherokees, and Pawnees; and the Commission thought that the opening of the Cherokee Outlet soon to homesteaders would favor the progress of negotiations decidedly. By March 20 the weather was suitable for tent life and the Commission hoped by pushing forward promptly to complete negotiations for the dissolution of the four remaining reservations before the midsummer heat drove them out. About April 6 the Commission began holding councils13 with the Poncas for the sale of the surplus lands of their reservation and continued
13The proceedings of the councils contain 237 pages and are in OIA, drawer labeled, "I. S. P." (Irregular Sized Papers). The period covered is from April 6 to June 6, 1893. The proceedings of all the councils the Commission held with the Poncas total more than 750 pages. In the proceedings there is a sprinkling of humor, several touches of pathos, a variety of proverbs and some tiresome repetition; but few documents send more piercing rays of light into the mental atmosphere of these Indians and into negotiations concerning the disposal of the surplus lands. We are left to surmise whether outside conversations and discussions, of which there is no record, may not have been as important as the notations made by stenographers.
without material interruption until June 21. Councils were held about once or twice a week.
The Leased district comprised the territory in what is now the southwest corner of Oklahoma, west of 98 degrees and south of the Canadian river. A treaty made in 1866 stated that the Choctaws and Chickasaws in consideration of the sum of $300,000 "hereby cede" the Leased district to the United States. If the cession clause is torn from its context in the treaty, and if the words in the clause are given their natural and ordinary significance, the meaning is clear enough. They import beyond question an absolute cession of the Leased district to the United States, unaccompanied by any condition in the nature of a trust, express or implied. If this was the meaning of the words "hereby cede", the context of the treaty and the construction placed on contemporary treaties, clothed the meaning in perplexing obscurity.
Within a half dozen years after the Choctaw and Chickasaw treaty of 1866 the Leased district, embracing about 7,713,239 acres, was divided into four distinct parts. The Kiowas, Comanches and Apaches, by article two of the treaty of October 21, 1867, secured a tract of 2,968,893 acres in the southeastern part of the district. A tract of 2,489,160 acres in the northwestern part of the district was included in the Cheyenne and Arapahoe reservation established by executive order of August 10, 1869.14 By the unratified agreement of October 19, 1872 a tract of 743,610 acres in the northeastern part of the district was set apart for the Wichitas. Finally there was Greer county, a tract of 1,511,576 acres west of the North Fork of the Red River. This tract was not assigned to Indians but was claimed by Texas as a part of its territory.
The question of paying the Choctaws and Chickasaws for a portion of the Leased district was effectively brought before Congress when the Cheyenne and Arapahoe agreement concluded by the Cherokee Commission in the autumn of 1890 was presented to that body for ratification. Neither Secretary Noble nor President Harrison favored additional payment to the Choctaws and Chickasaws for any portion of the district. Nevertheless by section fifteen of the Indian appropriation act approved March 3, 1891 the sum of $2,991,450, or $1.25 an acre for surplus lands, was appropriated to pay the Choctaws and Chickasaws for the Cheyenne and Arapahoe portion of the Leased district, estimated to embrace 2,393,160 acres not needed for allotments under the agreement.15 The act plainly said that the lands in the Cheyenne and Arapahoe reservation south of the Canadian river had been "ceded in trust" to the United States by the Choctaw and Chickasaw treaty of 1866.
14In a strict sense the Wichita reservation was a part of the Cheyenne and Arapahoe reservation of 1869, but in a practical sense it was not; the area given does not include it.
Three-fourths of the above named sum should be paid to the Choctaws and the remaining fourth to the Chickasaws upon making absolute releases to the said lands, in manner and form, satisfactory to the President.
By a joint resolution16 approved January 18, 1893 the appropriation of 1891 for the Choctaws and Chickasaws was reduced by $48,800 since it was ascertained by a recount of the Cheyenne and Arapahoe allottees to be by that amount more than was due the two tribes upon the purchase and settlement of their interest in the Cheyenne and Arapahoe portion of the Leased district. The resolution also provided that neither the passage of the original act appropriating the $2,991,450 nor the resolution itself should "be held in any way to commit the Government to the payment of any further sum to the Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians for any alleged interest in the remainder of the lands" in the Leased district. The $48,800 was deducted accordingly, and in June 1893 the sum of $2,942,650 was paid to the Choctaws and Chickasaws.
These facts are commonly known among students of Oklahoma history. It is not commonly known that the Cherokee Commission in 1893 offered the Choctaws $1,750,000 for a cession of all their right and claim to lands "remaining west of the 98th degree West Longitude," and that the offer was promptly declined. These facts are recorded in the final report of the Cherokee Commission. The Choctaws and Chickasaws, even to the Supreme Court of the United States, prosecuted their claim for compensation for portions of the Leased district not in the Cheyenne and Arapahoe reservation, but without avail. The highest court found that the cession of 1866 of the Leased district was absolute.17 It may be
17United States v. Choctaw Nation and Chickasaw Nation, 179 U. S. 494 (1900). There is much material on the case of the Leased district. Extensive briefs on behalf of the plaintiffs and defendant are filed in the Court of Claims, Printed Records, vol. 164. See also Choctaws et al. v. The United States et al., 34 Ct. Cls. 17 (1899); Senate Reports, 71 Cong. 2 sess., ii (9186), no. 652, pp. 9-10; bill passed by Congress, and veto message of President Hoover, Cong. Record, 71 Cong. 3 sess. (Feb. 20, 1931) , pp. 5467-5468.
In a decision on January 9, 1939 the Court of Claims gave special findings of fact and conclusions relative to the claim of the Choctaws and Chickasaws against the United States for just compensation for lands in the Leased district. In its conclusions the court said: "The plaintiffs have no legal or equitable rights and there has been no taking by the defendant of any lands of the plaintiffs for which the defendant has not paid a valid consideration. There is no claim made against the defendant but solely a request for a gift, grant, or bounty. Whether a gift, grant, or bounty should be made is within the sound descretion of the Congress and, being political and not judicial, this court will not express an opinion thereon." The decision is in 88 Ct. Cls. 271.
Subsequently Senator Elmer Thomas, Chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs, introduced in the Senate, bill 2001, authorizing an appropriation of $8,096,047.31 for payment in full to the Choctaws and Chickasaws for the Leased district. The bill was approved by the Committee and was reported to the Senate June 3 (legislative day, May 28), 1940. The report is in S. Reports, 76 Cong. 3 sess., no. 1743.
For more than a third of a century after the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of the Leased district the Choctaws and Chickasaws contended that they should be paid more money for the district. And in support of that contention their attorneys went up and down Pennsylvania avenue, keeping warm the trail between Congress and the Court of Claims.
of interest to the Choctaws and Chickasaws to meditate upon what appears as lost opportunity, but few crumbs of comfort are found in reflecting upon how things might have been. Certain it is that Congress ratified all the agreements the Cherokee Commission concluded, and the Commission in 1893 offered the Choctaws and Chickasaws $1,750,000 for a cession of their right and claim to lands "remaining west of the 98th degree West Longitude."
This explanation should clarify the final report of the Cherokee Commission, which is as follows:
St. Louis, Mo. August 21st., 1893
We, the subscribers hereto, constituting what has come to be commonly known, The Cherokee Commission, now have the honor to report that shortly after the 4th of March last, we repaired to the Indian Territory to further persue our labors in extinguishing the Indian title to lands therein, west of the 96th degree of West Longitude.
We first visited the Poncas whom we had visited before, and began holding councils with them early in April, and continued without material interruption until the 21st day of June last. Every possible condition and prospect was fully discussed and explained, but they absolutely refused to enter into any agreement whatever. We remained with the Poncas longer than would seem necessary, if reference be had only to their numbers or the area of their reservation. But the remaining tribes, viz: the Otoes and Missourias, the Kansas or Kaws, and the Osages are all the neighbors of the Poncas, and were constantly being advised of our progress or lack of progress with the Poncas. For these reasons the Ponca attempt was largely a test case, for failure with them was at least a vigorous promise of failure with the other tribes named.
It can be laid down as a rule of universal and unvarying application that no Indian tribe is willing in the first instance to make any new arrangement with the Government. The individuals of each tribe must be educated, as it were, and when they comply with the wishes of the Government, do so against their inclination.
Influences hostile to the purposes and plans of the Government can, all the time, be felt but rarely seen. We can surmise and assert what these influences are, but if called upon to prove the assertion, could not do it.
The Ponca and Otoe Reservations have been the highway for travelers and homeseekers from Kansas to Oklahoma, and from Oklahoma to Kansas. It would be difficult to determine which way the travel for the past two years has been the greatest, but going and returning, the road has been fairly crowded with emigrant wagons, and at night every watering place becomes quite a village of people, tents, wagons, horses, mules and cattle.
Indians are like white men in the particular that they want advice that will sustain their own preconceived notions. So that a vagrant cowboy or irresponsible and disheartened "Boomer," or a malicious meddler, can quietly and covertly advise an Indian against making an agreement, and such advice, comporting with the Indians desires, can hardly be over-
come in weeks by Commissioners representing the Government, whose only aim is to make the condition of the Indian better and his lot happier.
The practice of making cattle leases, we feel, is entirely antagonistic to the best interests of both the Indian and the Government.18 The rental, ranging from three and one-half to fifteen cents an acre, yields a gross sum that results in a per capita distribution in money or checks. With the Poncas and Otoes this yeilds [yields] from seven to twelve dollars per annum to each member of the tribe. The father receives the money for his entire family, and is thus in possession of a fund or entitled to a credit at the trader's store that has cost him no labor. The Indian therefore prizes it much more highly than he does a crop of corn or wheat, for the corn and wheat have cost him much toil. Besides this, an influential Indian can occasionally receive from the foreman of a "cow ranch" a present of alive beef or can purchase one on credit. This enables him to give a feast to many, when the advantages of the system of cattle leases are extolled. A beef animal in hand, is worth much more to an Indian, than two such animals in prospect. The plan of the Government to allot lands to the Indians in severalty, and open the residue or, surplus to settlement only promises a living to the Indians, as a price of some toil: A more meager subsistence that comes without toil is much preferred.
All these matters conspire to make the Indian stubborn in his unwillingness to change his condition. The lands of all the Indians above named are taken from the Cherokee Outlet, and were purchased by the Goverment from the Cherokee Nation for said tribes respectively, under the provisions of the 16th Article of the Treaty of 1866 with the Cherokees. That Article provides that the lands shall be conveyed in fee simple. The conveyances were made to the United States in trust for the use and benefit of the tribes respectively. On September 6th. 1890, the President, under the authority conferred upon him by the general allotment law of 1887, ordered the Poncas, Tonkawas, Pawnees and Otoes and Missourias to take allotments of land to be held by them respectively in severalty. The Tonkawas and Pawnees not only took their allotments, but sold their surplus land to the Government, and by the agreements their allotments were confirmed to them. But the Poncas and Otoes and Missourias were very much averse to doing so. A few of the Otoes and Missourias and about half of the Poncas selected their allotments, but all the others persistently refused to do so. Prominent men in the Cherokee Nation have advised them that they are not compelled to obey the order of the President; that they, the Cherokees, sold them the land which they now own in fee simple, and that they can do with it as they please. This being advice to their liking, they adopt it for their guidance and affect to believe that the President's order will be ineffectual.
18In his letter to Secretary Smith on March 20, 1893 Jerome stated that the leasing of reservation lands to cattlemen had been a menace to the Commisison in previous negotiations with the Poncas, Otoes and Missourias, Kaws, and Osages. On April 6 Acting Commissioner Belt of the Indian Office advised the Secretary of the Interior that there were thirty-four leases of grazing lands in force on the Osage reservation covering in the neighborhood of 800,000 acres; on the Otoe and Missouri reservation, two leases covering about 90,000 acres, and on the Ponca reservation, two leases covering about 66,000 acres. Four leases on the Kaw reservation had expired April 1, and steps had been taken toward the leasing of pastures there for another year. Belt stated that each of the leases then in force contained a clause by which the lease should terminate when the Indian title to the lands covered thereby should be extinguished. He explained that a similar clause would be incorporated in any leases thereafter made. Letter of April 6, 1893, OIA, L. Letter Book, 256, pp. 20-25.
While with the Poncas, we met the Principal Chief of the Otoes and Missourias, who informed us that these Indians would not enter upon negotiations at all, being fortified in their notions by all the considerations that affected the Poncas; therefore, we held no formal councils with his people.
On June 22nd last, we went to, the capital of the Osage Nation, Pawhuska, and proposed to and did enter into negotiations with the Osages. These Indians are expressly exempted from the operation of the general allotment law of 1887.
The Osages have a crude sort of Government with a written constitution and laws but a more crude intelligence as to its importance, powers or obligations. They were agreed however, that the power to enter into negotiations with the Government, resided in the people. Therefore we arranged for and held general councils and continued them from day to day until the first week of August. In the beginning all seemed opposed to entering upon the business for which we visited them, but as the desires of the Government were developed by discussion a considerable number, including quite all of the half or mixed bloods, expressed themselves as willing to adopt the new relation sought by the Government, if the details of an agreement could be made acceptable to them; but the majority of the tribe, composed almost entirely of the full blood element, refused even to discuss the propositions submitted to them.
They have what they are pleased to call unsettled differences with the Government, and finally proposed that if all these differences should first be adjusted, they would be ready to enter upon a new condition of life, as desired by the United States.
These differences referred to were 1st: That the Government had arbitrarily withheld some half million dollars of interest accrued upon their invested funds. This they call "dead money", and wanted it paid to them. 2nd. By a provision of the Treaty of 1867, the avails of the sale of fifteen-hundred /1500/ sections of their lands in Kansas, was to be used as a "Civilization Fund", to be expended in the discretion of the Government, for the education and civilization of any Indians in the United States. This fund, the principal, amounts, it is alleged, to about three quarters of a million dollars. They claim that they did not understand the Treaty as now interpreted and intended that the fund should be used only for the benefit of the Osages. They wanted this adjusted in accordance with their own understanding.19 3rd. By a subsequent agreement, the United States bought the remainder of their lands in Kansas and agreed to account to them for the proceeds of said land as it should be sold to settlers. Some of this land, in the dry regions of western Kansas, has not been sold, and probably never will be, but the Osages insisted the United States should pay for all the unsold land in Kansas at the rate of one dollar and twenty five cents per acre.
These matters were not to form a part of an agreement negotiated by us, by which they take and hold allotments of land in severalty, but all were to precede any such agreement. An ill feeling had developed between the contending factions, and there was not even a hope of reaching an agreement at this time.
While with the Osages, we sought interviews with members of the Kansas or Kaw tribe, who occupy a small portion of the Osage Reservation. We ascertained from them that they would only follow when the Osages led, so we did not visit them at their homes.
19In regard to the "Civilization Fund," see the Osage treaty of September 29, 1865, proclaimed January 21, 1867, Kappler ii, 673. After many years of dissatisfaction this question came before the Court of Claims in 1929. Osage Tribe of Indians v. United States, 66 Ct. Cls. 64. A literal construction of the treaty obtained and the claims of the Osages were not sustained.
We feel that the work done with all these tribes has in no sense been lost, for every Indian has been made to fully understand the policy of the Government, the reasons therefor, and the effect it will have upon the Indian. They have it all in mind and, until further efforts are made, will be constantly thinking and talking and getting ready to act.
With the Osages, we found another objection made by them to any present new arrangement of their relations with the Government. The Cherokees have invited them to hold out with them and to yield only when the Cherokees yielded, and an ambition had been aroused among the Osages to become the "Sixth Civilized Tribe", and finally a part of the "Indian State" which they fondly hope may be in the near future organized and recognized.
While we were at the Capitol of the Osage Nation, Pawhuska, we made an appointment to meet with accredited delegates of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations at St. Louis, Missouri on the 14th day of August, for the purpose of negotiating a surrender or relinquishment to the United States of a claim of these Nations of a reversionary interest in and to the lands occupied by the Wichitas and affiliated bands, and by the Comanches, Kiowas and Apaches west of the 90 degree West Longitude. It would hardly be proper, surely not profitable, for us to enter upon any argument at this time, for or against the validity of this claim. It has been fully and freely discussed in both branches of Congress within the past three years, as well as in executive messages. After the action of Congress upon a like claim in the Cheyenne and Arapahoe Country, we were advised by the then Secretary of the Interior, to enter upon such negotiations, but upon a basis to keep, if possible, within the price for which the Government could be reimbursed by settlers; that is to say that the aggregate price paid to the Indians occupying said lands and the Choctaws and Chickasaws should not exceed the amount for which the Government could probably dispose of the lands to settlers.20 The Whichitas and affiliated bands occupy their reservations, as did the Cheyennes and Arrapahoes, viz: by unratified agreements, Executive or Departmental orders. The Comanches, Kiowas and Apaches hold their lands by reason of a treaty with the United States, made after the Treaty of 1866 with the Choctaws and Chickasaws for the same land. Their title is very much like the title of the Sacs & Foxes, the Pawnees and the Seminoles in the Creek lands, made by treaty with those tribes respectively, after the Treaty of 1866 with the Creeks.
In communicating to Congress upon the Creek sale of Oklahoma in 1889, the President had occasion to speak of the rights of the Creeks in and to the Seminole, Sac and Fox and Pawnee lands. That his mind may be refreshed as to, the views he then held upon that question, we respectfully call his attention to his message to Congress upon that occasion. It is proper to add that the Choctaws and Chickasaws strenuously contend that the position taken by him in the Creek sale, in no way applies to their claim. We knew the course of Congress and the Executive in relation to the Cheyenne and Arapahoe lands.
The Choctaw and Chickasaw delegates, agreeable to their appointment, met us in St. Louis, near the day mentioned. The matter was considered with them carefully and resulted in an offer to them of one million seven hundred and fifty thousand /1,750,000/ dollars for a cession of all the right and claim of the Choctaws and Chickasaw remaining west of the 98th degree West Longitude. We had already made an agreement with the Comanches, Kiowas and Apaches for their surplus land, agreeing to pay
20See Noble to Jerome, May 19, 1892, Sec. Int., Rec. Letters Sent, No. 75, pp. 431-433; Jerome to Noble, Oct. 7, 1892, Sec. Int., 7722 Ind. Div. 1892; tel. from Noble to Jerome, Oct. 12, 1892. Sec. Int., Misc. Letters, p. 358½; and Jerome to Noble, Nov. 14, 1892, Sec. Int., 8706 Ind. Div. 1892.
to them a sum equal to eighty cents per acre, which agreement is now before Congress for ratification. We had also made an agreement with the Wichitas for their surplus land, the price however to be fixed by Congress. This agreement is also before Congress awaiting ratification. From all these sources of information and matters of inducement, we made to the Choctaws and Chickasaws the above offer, including in the proposition that their relinquishment to the Government should include any possible reversionary interest in the country known as Greer County, Texas. The Choctaw and Chickasaw delegates promptly declined the proposition and the conference ended.
The appropriation for the support of this Commission was already exhausted, so the Commission adjourned without day.
We hold our appointments during the pleasure of the President, and while we have been over all the work assigned us, and having temporarily failed with the Osages, Poncas, Otoes and Kaws, we believe agreements can be made in a few months with these tribes. Whatever may be the desire or judgment of the President in the premises, will meet with our ready acquiescence and approval. Should it be desired that we continue the work, we will cheerfully do so, but should it be desired to adopt some other course, that will be equally agreeable. Therefore, whether the Commission should continue or be dissolved finally, we respectfully submit for your consideration.
For the information of the President, we submit a succinct statement of the agreements made by the Cherokee Commission with the tribes in the Indian Territory.
We, have the honor to be very respectfully,
Your Obedient Servants:
To the President
A Statement of the tribes with which the Cherokee Commission has concluded successful negotiations, the area of the respective Reservations, the money considerations, and the number of Indians taking allotments under the several agreements:21
21There were eleven agreements. The agreement with the Pottawatomies was concluded June 25, 1890. The agreement with the Absentee Shawnees was concluded the next day.
The members of the Cherokee Commission were paid up to and including August 16, 1893.22 The final report of the Commission was transmitted by Wilson to Secretary Hoke Smith on October 15. In a letter to the Secretary of the Interior on November 3 Commissioner D. M. Browning summarized the final report and concluded:
"In view of the fact that the commission has concluded agreements with all of the tribes located west of the 96th degree, except the Poncas, Otoes, Osages and Kaws, with whom there is no probability of securing agreements for some time to come, at least, nor with the civilized tribes for lands west of the 96th degree, with which tribes another commission has recently been appointed to negotiate, I do not deem it advisable that the commission known as the Cherokee Commission should longer be continued. I therefore have the honor to recommend that the commission be finally dissolved."23
In a reply of November 7 Secretary Smith said that by direction of the President the Commission "is hereby dissolved."24 The final report of the Commission is not a model in the use of the English language. The report rests however on the foundation of intimate knowledge acquired during four years of negotiations with tribes in Oklahoma Territory.
A few words should be said about the work the Cherokee Commission left undone. The full blood Osages claimed that the names of many persons were on the Osage rolls that were not entitled to be there. The full bloods did not want such persons to participate in the disposition of tribal property, and were so bitter about the matter they insisted that the rolls be purged as a preliminary step to negotiations. The Department of the Interior, content to request a list of the names of those charged with fraudulent enrollment and the evidence,25 proceeded to send a commission to the reservation in 1894 to negotiate with the Osages for the surrender to the United States of such portion of their reservation as they might be willing to cede. On May 18 the Osage Commission consisting of James S. Hook, chairman, John A. Gorman and John L. Tullis was appointed for the purpose. Under instructions26 approved by the Department of the Interior on May 25 negotiations were to be had with a full council of Indians and any agreement concluded should be assented to by a majority of male adults in order to be valid. The Commission was advised not to use "undue pressure," but to present the matter plainly and care-
23Letter of Nov. 3, 1893, OIA, L. Letter Book 267, pp. 462-464. The commission recently appointed was the Dawes Commission.
25The full bloods, who urged an investigation of the enrollment, were handicapped because the records prior to 1893 were lost when the Council House burned.
26The letter of instructions, under date of May 23, 1894, is in OIA, L. Letter Book 281, pp. 176-183.
fully for the consideration of the Osages. The question of allotment was bound up with that of the cession of surplus lands.
The story of the Osage Commission and its failure need not be told here. When we consider that the question of the tribal rolls was a source of bitter contention on the reservation, that the Osage Commission was successor to the "Jerome Commission" which was of bad repute among many Indians in Oklahoma Territory, and that the Osages had a good Indian title, it is not singular that Hook, Gorman and Tullis, unable to cooperate well in drawing up and presenting an offer, met outright failure. The Osage Commission was discontinued on February 12, 1895 by order of the Secretary of the Interior. On the reservations of the Osages, Kaws, Poncas, and Otoes and Missourias allotments were made, but no agreements were made by which surplus lands were opened to white settlement.