Wednesday, July 11, 2007

1808 - they must migrate west

On July 11, 1808. Cherokee Indian Agent Return J. Meigs wrote to Secretary of War Henry Dearborn:

A crises in their national existence is taking place. Those in the lower towns ostensibly hold up the Idea of becoming farmers but their real object is to sell their excess land to the white people.

Those of the upper towns will try everything before they conquer indolence. . . . They can no more hold their property as citizens than a sieve can hold water. . . . if their land is divided out here to individuals, it will deprive the government of many millions of dollars by the sales of it and the Indians will become more wretched than they now are. There are perhaps two or three hundred families that might hold land as individuals and would make useful citizens, [but the principal mass would soon be cheated out of what they had by unscrupulous whites].

[At the national council to be held at Broomstown in August] it is probable that a Division of the Cherokees into upper and lower towns will be agreed on. . . . the result of all these alterations will finally eventuate in the exchange of Country. To preserve their national existence they must migrate west.

[Though some Cherokees] have become good farmers, great numbers who have been bro't up to the hunting life will not, nor can it be expected that they will, change habits too long in use for habits of agriculture and manufacture.

In order to place the Cherokees in a situation where all may have objects of pursuit agreeable to them, it is proposed to place the Cherokees on good hunting grounds to the west. . . . farming and domestic manufactures may still be pursued there by those who shall chose those pursuits in preference to hunting.

. . . there is a good number who wish to go over the Mississippi. . . . the general idea of an exchange is that they shall have an equal extent of land to which they now hold here, I think they will think it better to have a less extent of land in Arkansas, say one half, and that they have the difference in value in cash or goods and payable in installments in ten or perhaps twenty years without interest.

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