George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Indian Nations, 29 November 1796

29 November, 1796

Chiefs and Warriors, Representatives of the Wyandots, Delawares, Shawanoes, Ottawas, Chipewas, Putawatimes, Miamis, Eel River, Weeas, Kickapoos, Piankashaws, and Kaskaskias.

My Children,

I have heard and considered what you have said to me through the Secretary of War, and I am pleased to see you at the Seat of Government, and to receive you as friends.

You have asked for my advice, and I will give it to you freely upon such matters as appear to me, to be essential to your welfare.

In the treaty which you have entered into with my great Warrior, General Wayne, and which has been ratified by the Senate of the United States, you have made certain grants and promised certain things, that I make no doubt you will comply with. On the other hand the United States have promised in the same treaty, certain things to you, which they mean to perform.

The United States, who love justice, have agreed to pay to you and your Children for ever, a yearly sum of money in Goods, for a certain parcel of your land. By the same treaty, the Indian Nations mentioned therein, have bound themselves not to sell any of their land, except to the United States. This is a wise part of the treaty, inasmuch as it prevents your people from being cheated out of large tracts of their Country by designing Men, who would not pay them what the land was worth; whilst what they might receive for it, could be of no use to their posterity. This is not the case when the United States buy your land. They are careful that the Children of those who sell it, shall reap as much advantage from the Sale, as their fathers did. Thus the treaty secures to each Indian nation their land against purchases by Individuals, whilst the laws of the United States, have in addition to that treaty, provided a punishment for persons who shall attempt to buy it, contrary thereto.

Let your Nations therefore, pay a due respect and attention to this part of the treaty, and they will have nothing to apprehend for their land.

It may be proper to say something to you relative to the distribution of the Goods agreed to be paid to you annually for the land ceded by the treaty. It is right that the Quota, apportioned to each Nation, should be delivered to such persons only as the Nation may appoint to receive it. To prevent frauds, therefore, and ensure a fair distribution among yourselves, it is recommended that each Nation should fix every year upon the persons whom it wishes should receive it’s quota, and that they should instruct their Interpreter to inform the Agent who is to deliver the Goods, of the names of the Persons so chosen.

I shall now give you some advice respecting the conduct of your people, the observance of which, I consider of importance to their tranquillity and peace. There are among the Indians as among the Whites, Individuals who will steal their Neighbour’s property, when they find the opportunity, in preference to acquiring property to themselves by honest means. Bad white Men, for example, will go into the indian Country, and steal horses; and bad Indians, in like manner, will go into the settlement of the Whites and steal their horses. If the Indian Nations wish to deserve the friendship of the United States and to prevent the white settlers on the frontiers from retaliation on their property, the Chiefs and Warriors of the respective Nations must use their endeavours to punish such Offenders, and restore to the Whites, or to some Officer of the United States, the property they may have stolen. As for the Government, it will use it’s utmost endeavours to restore to every Indian any property of his which may have been stolen by Citizens of the United States, and will moreover punish those who violate the laws that have been made to prevent such practices, whenever the fact can be proved upon them.

But, it is not enough that the United States should furnish your Nations with an annual quantity of Goods; that you should not sell your lands for that which could be of no advantage to your Posterity; that you should prevent bad Indians from stealing from the white frontier People; and that you should live in friendship with the United States. More than all this is required to render your condition comfortable. Your lands are good. Upon these you may raise horses and large flocks of Cattle, by the Sale of which you may procure the conveniencies and necessaries of life in greater abundance, and with less trouble than you do at present. You may also, by a little more industry, raise more corn and other grain, as well for your families as for the support of your Stock in winter. I hope the Nations will maturely reflect upon this subject, and adopt what cannot fail to make them happier. When the Government shall be informed that they have taken this wise course and are sincerely desirous to be aided in it, they may rely upon receiving all necessary assistance.

In order that my Children of the different Nations should be informed of this advice, I request that you will explain to them what you have heard me say. I shall also, to the end that it may remain among them, and not be forgotten by their Children, request my beloved Secretary of War to send a copy of this Talk to each Nation, to be explained to them by their respective Interpreters.

Should you have any thing particular to say before you leave the Seat of Government, you will address it to the Secretary of War, who is instructed by me upon all matters relating to the Indian Nations, and who will furnish such of you as have acquired the title of Chiefs or Warriors with a Testimonial, of the same import as that delivered up by Blue Jacket, as a proof of my esteem and friendship.

I now sincerely wish you a good Journey, and that you may find your Brothers and families well on your Return, and that the Great Spirit above, may long preserve your Nations in peace with each other, and with the United States.

Given at Philadelphia this twenty ninth day of November 1796 and in the twenty first year of the Independence of the United States of America.

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