For the Watchman.
Missions to the Western Indians.—No. 5.
The tract called the Indian or Western Territory, and, more recently, Neosho, which has been assigned as a residence for such of the Indians as may be removed from the States under the direction of the government, is situated between the States of Missouri, and Arkansas, and the Rocky Mountains. Several unsuccessful attempts have been made to settle its boundaries, but no efforts have yet produced a final adjustment of them.Source of the quoted section (highlighted above) and most of the factual information is the Periodical Account of Baptist Missions for 1836, published in 1837 by frontier Baptist missionary Isaac McCoy.
The general location of the territory, however, has been definitively settled; and though a formal proposition has been submitted to Congress, during the present session, greatly to extend the limits originally proposed, yet it will probably be considered expedient to adhere to the former arrangement, which furnishes nearly the following boundaries.— A small river, called the Puncah, from a tribe of Indians, forms the northern boundary, from the twenty-third degree of longitude, eastwardly, to where that river discharges its waters into the Missouri. The latter river bounds the Territory on the northeast, and on the east until we meet the western boundaries of Missouri and Arkansas. These states complete the eastern boundary. Red River is the boundary on the southern side, and separates the country from Texas. On the west, it is proposed to make the twenty-third degree of longitude the boundary. These limits will be seen to include a tract about six hundred miles in length, with an average width of about two hundred miles.
The country presents an aspect of great uniformity. It is mostly an elevated prairie, or a tract naturally destitute of wood. In some parts the land is uneven; but by far the greater portion is a plain with only occasional undulations. The soil is extremely fertile; the climate pleasant and healthful. From the extent and position of the country, however, a considerable variety of temperature must be observable in different sections; the northern part of the Territory being in nearly the same latitude with Massachusetts, and the southern with the Carolinas.
The Territory is well watered; being intersected by numerous rivers, creeks, and rivulets. It also affords extensive facilities for the manufacture of salt; and has mines of iron, lead, and coal. A scarcity of wood, in many parts of the Territory, is an apparent deficiency; but the supply is calculated to be adequate to the wants of the present, and one or two future generations. It has also been proved by experiment that the settlement of the country conduces to the growth of wood in the vicinity of the settlements. This seeming paradox is explained in the following manner. The great obstacle to the growth of wood is the annual fires, which sweep across the prairies, and consume the tender shrubs. In the case of settlements, the cattle of the Indian colonists, by devouring the dry grass which supports the fires, proportionably diminish its ravages. In these spots, trees arise, and grow with astonishing rapidity. The united testimony of the most intelligent persons, who have enjoyed opportunities for observation upon this subject, goes to prove that the scarcity of wood in the Territory is owing, not to any natural unadaptedness of the soil to the production of that article, for nowhere do trees, if unmolested, ascend with richer luxuriance, but to the fact alluded to above. When this inconvenience shall be obviated by the population of the country, it is reasonable to suppose that the forest and the coal-mine will each furnish its stores in such abundance as to preclude all fears of a destitution of fuel.
The grass which covers the prairies is, in many places, suitable for the scythe. Some parts of the country abound with excellent game, and are thus fitted to afford a ready subsistence to those tribes who are unaccustomed to the labors of the field, and ignorant of the arts of agriculture.
In the occupation of the lands, each emigrant tribe is to have a distinct portion assigned to it, and each of these districts is to be sufficiently extensive to afford the most ample accommodations to its inhabitants, to render the close neighborhood of two tribes unnecessary, and thus to avoid the principal occasions of those bloody and interminable wars, which, under ordinary circumstances, are so apt to occur between proximate tribes of hostile savages.
The expenses incurred in the removal of the tribes are to be borne by the United States. The Indians are furnished with provisions and necessaries for their journey, and assisted to locate themselves in their new possessions. Each tribe is to receive more or less from the United States in the form of annuities, the appointment and support of teachers, agricultural implements, the preparation of land for planting and sowing, the erection of grist mills and saw mills, and, in short, in the supply of whatever may seem necessary to their comfortable subsistence and residence in the Territory assigned them.
It is proposed to tender to the tribes a simple and practicable system of confederative government for the Territory. The following are the outlines of the proposed organization. “Delegates are to be chosen by the several tribes, to represent them in general council, once a year, or oftener, if necessary. The character of this council will be similar to that of the legislative council of one of our Territories. It will be competent to enact laws of a general nature for the Territory. These laws will take effect after they have been approved by the President of the United States. Each tribe will enact laws which relate merely to its own internal concerns; similar to the action of townships or of city corporations. The tribes thus confederated will choose a delegate, who must be an Indian, to represent them at the seat of government of the United States, during each session of Congress. He will be paid by the United States, and his compensation will be equal to that of a member of Congress. All civil offices, excepting two, which shall be created in the Territory by this organization, will be filled by Indians, if such be found competent to discharge the duties.”
Such are some of the general features of the natural condition and proposed civil organization of Neosho, or the Indian Territory. Assigned by the general government as the future home of the Indians, it possesses an interest for their friends in the United States, and in other places, and especially for those self-consecrated individuals who propose to spend their lives in efforts to dispense the blessings of Christianity to this unfortunate people.
So then. Our professedly Baptist writer, call him "Melville," likes to re-write his sources, and in revision introduces bits of his own such as "proved by experiment." Proved by experiment?!
Herman Melville, re-writing one of his whaling sources, William Scoresby or Desmoulins via Beale:
But more surprising is it to know, as has been proved by experiment, that the blood of a Polar whale is warmer than that of a Borneo negro in summer. --Moby-Dick, The BlanketMy spell-check automatically underscored "proportionably" and "unadaptedness," neither in Isaac McCoy's 1837 publication.
Related melvilliana posts:
- Missions to the Western Indians No. 1 - Friday, November 10, 1837
- "Melville" on Missions to the Western Indians No. 2 - March 23, 1838.
- Missions to the Western Indians.—No. 3 - Wednesday, April 4, 1838
- Missions to the Western Indians.—No. 4 - Friday, April 27, 1838
- Missions to the Western Indians.—No. 5 - Friday, June 22, 1838
- Missions to the Western Indians.—No. 6 - Friday, July 13, 1838