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HISTORY OF THE CLAIMS

OF THE

TEXAS CHEROKEES.

In the year 1822, MESSRS. BOWLES, FIELDS and NICOLEK, Chiefs of the Cherokees, visited Mexico to secure a grant of land for colonization purposes. They received a promise only; subsequently Don Felix TRESPLACIDS entered into an agreement with them, dated November 8th, 1822, and confirmed by ITURBIDE, April 27th, 1823. [See Yookum Vol., P. 216-17.]

In 1826, John Dunn HUNTER, Agent of the Cherokees, visited Mexico to receive the title to the lands, but failed; Mexico would receive the Indians as colonists, but not as citizens, neither grant them lands in common. This greatly incensed the Indians.

On the 20th December, 1826, HUNTER and FIELDS, Cherokee delegates concluded a treaty of amity and friendship with the whites as against the Mexicans, with the understanding that they were to receive title to their lands from the whites then in revolt against Mexico.

Soon afterwards, Mexican emissaries got among the Indians and under promises of titles to their lands, induced them to turn against the Texans: and Chief Bowles was hired to assassinate his associates, Hunter and FIELDS. (See Yookum Vol. pp. 247-250.]

(HELD AT SAN FELIPO DE AUSTIN.) The Consultation of Texas, on the 13th Nov. 1835, entered into solemn declaration with the Cherokees, to which both parties set their names, setting forth that the Cherokee Indians and their 12 associate bands had derived their just claims from the Government of Mexico to the lands lying north of the San Antonio road and the Naches, and west of the Angelina and Sabine rivers; that the Governor and Council, immediately on its organization should appoint Commissioners to treat with said Indians and establish the definite boundary of their territory and secure their confidence and friendship; that they would guarantee to the Indians the peaceable enjoyment of their rights to their lands; that all surveys, grants and locations made within those limits, after the settlement of the Indians are, and of right ought to be utterly null and void [Yookum pp. 64-5.] Also Journal of Consulta

on, p. 51. These were the pledges made by the delegates of all Texas, and in pursuance of them Messrs. Houston and FORBES, on behalf of the Republic of Texas, proceeded to Bowles Village, and concluded the treaty of 23rd February, 1836. See Documents submitted by the President, on Indian affairs; November 15th, 1838, to the Texas Senate. In the year 1839 the Texas forces attacked the Cherokees in their country, and after two severe battles, in which probably two hundred Indians were killed, the Cherokees fled their country leaving all their effects. The simple cause of this assault was that the whites desired the district ceded to the Indians.

This historian thus sums the matter up: “ Now the facts are, that in 1822, long before any colonist had settled in Eastern Texas or any colony contract had been made for that section, the Cherokees emigrated to Texas. They established a village north of Nacadoches, the town at that time being a waste, lately swept by the forces of Lory and Perez. On the 8th November of that year, the Cherokees by Capt. RICHARDS and others of their head men, entered into an agreement with the government of Texas, by which is stipulated that certain Cherokee Chiefs should proceed with their interpreter to Mexico to treat with ITURBIDE for the settement of their tribe, where it was then located. In the meantime this agreement guaranteed to the Cherokees the free and peaceful right to cultivate their crops and the privileges of natives. The Chiefs proceeded to Mexico and the Imperial government having satisfied them—whether verbally or in writing it matters not, they returned. An order from the Supreme government was dispatched to the commandant-general of the Eastern provinces and by him to the governor of Coahuila and Texas, dated August 15th, 1831, and by the latter to the political chief of Bexar dated September 1st, 1831, directing a compliance with the promises made by the supreme government to the Cherokees. The Governor states, in his communication that " for the preservation of peace, with the agricultural tribes, he had offered them their establishment on a fixed tract of land and they had selected it.” He requested the political chief to put them in possession with corresponding titles. The political chief on the 25th September replied that the matter should be attended to, in accordance with the prescribed forms.

Again on the 22d of March, 1832, Col. PIEDRAS was commissioned by the political chief to put the Cherokee families into individual possession of the lands they possessed. [See report of the Committee of the Indian affair, Texas Senate, January 220, 1810.) Whether there was any actual written title, is unknown and immaterial. In the empressario concession afterward made to David G. BURNET and including part or all of their settlement the lands were excepted from those to be occupied by the colonists under Burnet.

For fourteen years the Cherokees had occupied this land, holding it in quiet and undisputed possession. They were not intruders on the whites, for they were there first. The Mexican authorities recognized them, as an agricultural tribe, with Mexican privileges and Col. Piedras was official agent for them in common with other tribes and no voice had been raised against their title. It was deemed by all, both legal and equitable. To give weight and dignity to this title, the consultation of November 1835, at a time when Texas was weak, when a heavy cloud hung over her hopes, and her liberties were suspended upon a most unequal and unjust war, made a very solemn pledge to those Indians, acknowledging their just claim to their lands, setting forth thc boundaries thereof and saying further: “ We solemnly declare, that we will guarantee to them the peaceable enjoyment of all their rights to their lands as we do our own; We solemnly declare, that all grants, surveys, or location of lands within the bounds hereinbefore mentioned, made after the settlement of the said Indians, are and of right, ought to be utterly null and void;” To make it if possible still stronger, the Consultation resolved that each member sign it as "a pledge of the public faith on the part of the people of Texas.” And they did sign it; the names of WHARTON, WALLER, MARTIN, HOUSTON, ZAVALA, PATRICK, IIE RY, SMITH, GRIMES, J. W. ROBINSON, MITCHELL and MILLARD among others of the distinguished worthies of the Revolution were placed by themselves to that pledge. Surely they did not intend to deceive the Indians by thus purchasing their neutrality until the war was over, when they, having no further need of them, would declare that the Indians had no title either legal or equitable. The suggestion that the Consultation had no power to make such a pledge is preposterous. The members of it had power to adhere to the Constitution of 1824, or to sever from it, the Assembly was organic, primitive, revolutionary.

Twenty or thirty thousand people were defending themselves against eight millions. They met by their representatives for general consultation. They found a nation of Indians in their midst advanced in civilization and having an influence over other tribes. These Indians had occupied the country first, and it was important to conciliate them; this was done by the pledge given; it is a rule in ethics that the promiser is bound by what he believes the promisee understood by the promise. No mental reservation or technical objection can avoid this moral conclusion. From all which the result is, that President Lamar's message in this respect is unsupported by history or by the good faith of Texas toward those Indians. On the other hand it was impossible that the Indians should have an independent government within that of Texas; they must necessarily come under the laws of the latter or emigrate. It was not proposed to them that they should come under the Texan laws as citizens. The great object of many was to get their lands for they were located in a fine and desirable country. The Texans were the first violators of the pledge of 1835; the ink was scarcely dry on the paper, when locators and surveyors were seen in the forests; and this too, notwithstanding the Consultation, by the decree of November 13th, 1835, had ordered such locations and surveys to cease all over Texas. The Cherokees were charged with plundering and murdering the inhabitants residing in their vicinity. The Killough family were massacred, only three or four escaped, and they were

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brought into the settlements by the Cherokees who by their “cunning representations," says the Secretary of War, charged these acts upon the Prairie Indians and the treacherous Mexicans.

Maj. WALTERS marched to the Neches Saline, and Col. BURLISON, came to the same point with his command. BowlEs the Chief Cherokee informed Major WALTERS he would resist the occupation of the Cherokee Country with force. Commissioners had been in conference with the Indians trying to secure their removal. The Commissioners offered to pay them for their improvements, but not for their lands; they were required to surrender their

gun locks and remove to Arkansas. The Indians refused, and the Texans invaded their country with fire and sword, leaving nothing to tell the sad story of the civilized Cherokees, but the bleaching bones of the dead, and the smoking ruins of their homes. Texas certainly copied from the history of Alamo and Goliad and aped Mexican cruelty as near as possible. Be it Resolved by the General Council of the Provisional Government

of Texas : THAT, Sam Houston, John FORBES and John CAMERON be and they are hereby appointed Commissioners to treat with the Cherokee Indians and their twelve associate bands, under such instructions as may be given them by the Governor and Council, and should it so happen, that all the Commissioners cannot attend, any two of them shall have power to conclude a treaty and report the same to the General Council of the Provisional Government for its approval and ratification. (Passed December 22nd, 1835.) Be it Resolved, etc.. by the General Council of the Provisional Gov

ernment of Texas : Sec. 1. That, Sam Houston, John FORBES and John CAMERON, appointed Commissioners to treat with the aforesaid Indians be and they are hereby instructed to proceed as soon as practicable to Nacodoches and hold a treaty with the Indians aforesaid and that they shall no wise transcend the declarations made by the Consultation of November last in any of their articles of treaty,

Sec. 2. And be it further resolved, ele.

That they are required in all things to pursue a course of justice and equity towards the Indians and protect all honest claims of the whites, agreeably to such laws, compacts or treaties as the

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