He receives funds to pay for the Treaty of Bird's Fort, using the monies for a prisoner exchange required by the Indians and authorized by the Texas Congress.
This was the most comprehensive Indian treaty of Houston's administration
Sam Houston became the first president of the Republic of Texas on October 22, 1836. He had a unique relationship with American Indians. As a teenager in Tennessee, he had run away from home and lived for several years with the Cherokees....
This was the most comprehensive Indian treaty of Houston's administration
Sam Houston became the first president of the Republic of Texas on October 22, 1836. He had a unique relationship with American Indians. As a teenager in Tennessee, he had run away from home and lived for several years with the Cherokees. Houston was adopted by Chief Oolooteka and given the name Colonneh, or "The Raven." He developed a deep attachment to the tribe that continued even after he returned to the white world, where he became a successful military officer and protégé of Andrew Jackson. Houston served in the U.S. Congress and, in 1827, was elected Governor of Tennessee. In 1829, Houston's first marriage collapsed. The failure and scandal rocked him to the core, and he resigned his office and fled to Indian Territory. For the next three years, he lived once more among the Cherokees, who helped nurse him through this period of heartbreak and acute alcoholism. He married a Cherokee woman named Diana Rogers Gentry, became a Cherokee citizen and was actively involved in peacekeeping, trade, and other tribal affairs. In late 1832 Houston left for Texas. Though he never lived with the Cherokees again, he spent much of his career trying to promote peaceful and moderate policies towards American Indians.
During his first term as president (1836-1838), Houston held conferences with Indian leaders in an attempt to address past grievances and establish new trust. He appointed agents to deal with the tribes and to run government trading houses. Though Houston pulled back surveyors and military companies from the frontier, he authorized a new force of 280 mounted riflemen to enforce the trade laws and deal fairly with both sides, removing white trespassers and arresting Indian raiders. However, Houston's forces were unable to keep peace between whites and Indians. Many Texans refused to wait for Houston's policy to work and demanded that the Indians be removed from Texas. Violence flared a number of times during Houston's first term. By the time his term ended on December 22, 1838, a majority of white Texans were ready for a drastic change in Indian policy.
President Mirabeau B. Lamar, who took office at the end of 1838, had a very different attitude towards Indians than Sam Houston. Lamar believed that the Indians had no integrity; thus, there was no possibility of peaceful negotiation or co-existence. The only solution to the violent clashes between whites and Indians was to rid Texas of the Indians – permanently. The Texas Congress was quick to pass Lamar's frontier defense bills and appropriated more than a million dollars to pay for troops, military roads, and forts. The defeat and expulsion of the Cherokees followed. By 1841, East Texas was almost entirely cleared of Indians. Though most Texans approved of Lamar's policy, his achievements came at a tremendous cost. In his two years in office, Lamar spent $2.5 million on Indian affairs. By contrast, Sam Houston had spent just $190,000 on Indian affairs in his first term as president. This financial debacle helped bring about the return of Houston to the presidency in December 1841.
Houston's policy in his second term was to break the cycle of white-Indian revenge that had spiraled under Lamar. He disbanded most of the regular Army troops but mustered four new companies of rangers to patrol the frontier. He ordered the rangers to protect the Indian lands from encroachment by settlers and illegal traders. Texas troops were authorized to punish severely any infractions by the Indians, but they were never to be the aggressors. When depredations occurred, the troops were ordered to find and punish the actual perpetrators, rather than retaliating against innocent Indians.
At the same time, Houston made it one of his top priorities to end hostilities with the Indians. On July 1, 1842, he appointed a commission to “treat with any and all Indians on the Frontiers of Texas.” The Caddo Indians were the first to respond to these overtures, and in August 1842 Texas concluded a treaty with them. This in turn persuaded representatives from other tribes, who had lost many of their young men in wars with the whites, to agree to a peace council to be held at Waco on October 26, 1842. In the end the chiefs would not appear for a council until they were assured of a prisoner exchange; that Indians who were prisoners of the Texas government would be returned safely. Houston considered this a fair request, and proposed to the Texas Congress that the situation be remedied.
On December 28, 1842, the Congress passed an act "To provide for collecting and conveying Indian Prisoners to the Waco village." The act's preamble recited its purpose: Congress "has recently been assured that the different tribes of Indians have in their possession no less than 11 Texian prisoners, and that they will be brought to the Waco village on 9 February next, with the intention on the part of the Indians to exchange them for their own people held by us as prisoners; and whereas we firmly believe that unless all the Indian prisoners which are now in our possession are restored to their respective tribes on the date set apart to meet them at the Waco Village, that they will neither ratify the treaty of peace which has been commenced with them, nor deliver over to us our Texian brethren…" The act provided that President Houston was authorized to collect the Indian prisoners and convey them to the Waco village. It further appropriated $2,000 to implement the purposes of the act, and authorized Houston to supply the Indians needs and pay persons for assisting in the venture from those funds.
The law passed to meet the Indians' condition, on March 31, 1843, all parties agreed to a peace council. In the fall of that year, representatives from the Delawares, Chickasaws, Wacos, Tawakonis, Ionis, Biloxis, Kichais, Anadarkos, Hainais, and Cherokees met with Texas officials in a grand council. The Treaty of Bird's Fort – "a Treaty of Peace and Friendship" – resulted. Signed on September 29, 1843, it ended hostilities, and established a border between Indian lands and the territory that was open for settling. This line of demarcation became known as “Where the West Begins." This was ratified and proclaimed to the citizenry on February 3, 1844, and was the most comprehensive Indian treaty of Houston's administration.
Document signed, as Texas President, Treasury Department, January 2, 1844, representing Houston's receipt of funds to pay expenses pursuant to the act. "Received of Charles Mason, Auditor, a warrant on the Treasurer No. 1263, drawn from appropriation…for collecting & conveying Indian prisoners to Waco village, amounting to $1426.21." This was a considerable sum, amounting to three quarters of the amount of money appropriated for the purpose. On the verso there is a docket indicationg "Sam Houston, Drawn on requisition for collecting & conveying Indian prisoners."
The results of Houston's Indian policies, like his purposes, were clear: (1) the substitution of a policy of peace for one of war (Congress did not pass a single act providing for offensive action against the Indians during his administrations); (2) the drawing of the Indians into councils and the making of treaties with every major group in Texas; (3) the reduction of raids and the resultant decrease in need for protection; (4) the carrying out by the Indians, generally, of the terms of their treaties, especially with reference to surrendering captives and stolen horses; (5) the establishment of trading houses and the appointment of reliable agents and commissioners; and (6) reduction of the cost of administering Indian affairs. This broad success of his policies was an extraordinary accomplishment for Houston, and one that in its breadth and evenhandedness towards the Indians seems to stand in a class by itself in American history.
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