Mr. Frelinghuysen to Mr. West
Washington , March 29, 1882.
The situation along the northwestern frontier has of late assumed such an aspect as to constrain me to again urge through your legation upon the British authorities the need of a distinct and prompt understanding in the premises.
The Secretary of War reports to me that some twelve hundred British Indians are on the American side of the frontier, along Rock Creek and Milk River, in the reservation of the Fort Peck Agency, in Montana Territory, and are robbing the American Indians of their winter supplies of meat, besides affording a rendezvous for illicit traffic across the frontier. In view of these depredations and the intolerable state of things thereby occasioned, the general commanding in the Northwest recommends urgently that the camps of the intruding Indians be broken up and their occupants driven across the line. This recommendation is concurred in by the Secretary of the Interior and by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs.
On the 25th ultimo I had the honor to inform you that the authorities of the United States would be instructed to compel all our Indians to remain on this side of the line, with the expectation that the Dominion authorities would do the same with their independent tribes, and I added that, to assist in encompassing this end, the United States forces on the border would be directed to give to the Dominion police prompt notice of any movements of Indians which might seem likely to occasion trouble, and that reciprocal information would be expected from the Dominion authorities. I am as yet without any intimation that the reciprocal course thus proposed is acceptable to the Dominion Government or that it is prepared to respond to the action which our own forces have been ordered to take in the interest of the mutual preservation of peace along the border.
The presence of so large a body of alien Indians depredating on the reservations of our own Indians seems, however, to render necessary some more immediately active remedy, and I am constrained to recommend to the President that the suggestion of General Terry be adopted, and that the military authorities of the United States in Montana be instructed to remove the intruding Indians by force, breaking up their camps and sending them across the frontier. Before taking such a [Page 316] course, which necessarily involves the destruction of what belongs to the intruders and the use of force to tribes not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, it seems but proper that I should bring the matter to your attention in order to learn whether the Dominion authorities are prepared for their part to receive and maintain their own Indians and to use such measures of police surveillance, and force, if need be, to prevent their again marauding upon the territory of the United States, or, if their forays cannot be prevented, then to give to our military forces on the frontier such information of the actual or apprehended movements of the Dominion Indians as may enable them to be successfully repelled by our own authorities should they again seek to cross the border.
I confess that I am reluctant to counsel the President to adopt a measure which would have the appearance of a harsh use of force toward alien tribes, but in the absence of a practical system of co-operation whereby the forces on either side of the line may effectively maintain their respective Indians and restrain their predatory forays, I do not see any remedy for these destructive raids but the removal of the intruders from the territory of the United States.
I have, &c.,