Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, Transmitted to Congress, With the Annual Message of the President, December 4, 1882
Mr. West to Mr. Frelinghuysen.
Sir: With reference to previous correspondence upon the subject of the alleged forays of British Indians on American territory, I have the honor to transmit to you herewith a copy of an approved minute of the Privy Council of Canada embodying a report by the Right Honorable Sir J. A. Macdonald, premier of the Dominion, to which is appended a report by Lieutenant-Governor Dewdney, Indian Commissioner for the northwest territories, on the subject.
In transmitting this document I would beg to call your attention to the proposed system of “permits,” which is submitted to the consideration of the United States Government.
I have, &c.,
Report of a committee of the Privy Council for Canada, approved by the Governor-General on the 24th day of April, 1882.
The committee of Council have had under consideration a dispatch, dated March 31, 1882, from Her Majesty’s minister at Washington, Mr. Sackville West, inclosing communications from Mr. Frelinghuysen, the Secretary of State for the United States, together with a memorandum from his excellency the Governor-General upon this dispatch, adverting to previous correspondence on the subject of alleged incursions of British Indians into United States territory.
The Right Hon. Sir John Macdonald, the first minister, to whom the said dispatch with inclosures and his excellency’s memorandum were referred, reports that, previous to the transfer to Canada of the Northwest Territories by the Hudson’s Bay Company, the Indians of that country on both sides of the line were allowed to roam at will in pursuit of buffalo. In fact, the international boundary might be considered unknown to the aborigines. Indians of the same tribe, race, and lineage lived on both sides of the line, and were as one people.
That since the acquisition of the country by Canada every exertion has been made by the Canadian Government to induce the British Indians to abandon their nomadic habits, and settle down on reservations provided for them.
That considerable success has attended those efforts in the most northerly portion of the Canadian territories, but it has been impossible to attain any marked progress with the Indians near the international boundary, owing to the presence in Canadian territory, until recently, of several thousand United States Indians.
That those Indians having now returned to the United States, your excellency is aware that the policy of urgently pressing our Indians to leave the frontier and settle on reserves provided for them, well in the interior, is being pursued with increased vigor, and with good hopes of success. It cannot, however, be expected that the Indians will be induced, by the efforts of one season, to abandon altogether what they consider their traditional rights.
That in the cases of the Blackfeet and Assiniboine tribes, allied by blood to each other, who are settled by treaty, both by the United States and Canadian Governments, near to each other, it is not reasonable to demand that these people should not visit each other; but regulations may be introduced to allow this, while any proved depredation committed by Individuals may be punished.
That it is believed that no military force, however strong, will prevent occasional raids from either side, as is shown by repeated horse and cattle stealing expeditions from the United States to Canadian territory.
That the suggestion made by your excellency that individual permits be granted by the authorities of both nations to their respective Indians who may wish to cross the border for the purposes of hunting and visiting relations, would, if adopted, place in the hands of the officials of the two countries the means of satisfying all reasonable demands of Indians of the various tribes who have intermarried or may desire to hunt together. A short personal description on the permit of the Indian bearing it would prevent a transfer of it to any Indian haying no right to carry the permit.[Page 321]
That should the United States Government concur in your excellency’s suggestion, he, Sir John Macdonald, recommends the adoption of a form of permit, and instruction as to the issues of the same, which will be applicable to the officials of either country, and insure uniformity of action by them. On this subject a report from the honorable E. Dewdney, lieutenant-governor and Indian commissioner of the Northwest Territories, is hereto annexed. Neither government should be held responsible for any wrongful act of an Indian holding a permit, but he should be held personally responsible, and be as severely punished as the law will allow, and forfeit forever afterwards all claim to a renewal of his permit.
That in submitting the above for your excellency’s approval, he, the first minister, states that it is the earnest wish of the Canadian Government to prevent depredations by Canadian Indians on United States territory, and at the same time to express their appreciation of the friendly desire of the Government of the United States to act in regard to their Indians for the same end, and it is confidently hoped that a thorough understanding between the officers on either side will facilitate the adoption of an arrangement which will regulate what cannot be prevented, viz, the occasional movement of Indians across the line.
Your excellency’s telegraphic dispatch to Her Majesty’s minister, of the 4th of April instant, fully expresses the intention of the Dominion Government to aid in the prevention of incursions and to give every information as to the southward movements of our Indians.
Sir John Macdonald suggests that some arrangement should be made between Her Majesty’s Government and the United States Government by which Indians on either side should, on complaint under oath charging them with felonies or serious outrages against property, be arrested and surrendered for trial in the country where the offenses may have been committed, notwithstanding that such offenses may not come within the terms of existing extradition treaties. This can, of course, only be done by negotiations between the two governments, as Canada has no power to act in the matter.
Sir John Macdonald further suggests that the Government of the United States should be informed that by the statute of Canada, 32, 33 Victoria, cap. 21, section 112, there is the following provision:
“If any person brings into Canada, or has in his possession therein any property stolen, embezzled, converted or obtained by fraud or false pretenses in any other country in such manner that the stealing, embezzling, converting, or obtaining it in like manner in Canada would by the laws of Canada be a felony or a misdemeanor, then the bringing such property into Canada or the having it in possession therein, knowing it to have been so stolen, embezzled, or converted or unlawfully obtained, shall be an offense of the same nature and punishable in like manner as if the stealing, embezzling, converting, or unlawfully obtaining such property had taken place in Canada, and such a person may be tried and convicted in any district or place in Canada into or in which he brings such property or has it in possession.”
That under this clause any Indian stealing cattle or other property in the United States can be tried for the offense as if the crime had taken place within the Dominion of Canada. If a similar law obtains in the United States territories, the enforcement of its provisions would seem to afford an efficient check on the system of raids prevailing along the border.
The committee concur in the report of the right honorable the first minister, and advise that a copy of this minute, when approved, be transmitted to Her Majesty’s minister at Washington.
Acting Clerk Privy Council, Canada.
Mr. Dewdney to the Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs.
Ottawa, March 27, 1882.
Sir: I have considered the dispatch and the accompanying papers forwarded to me in your letter of the 20th of March, No. 28748, relative to the incursion of Canadian Indians into the United States and American Indians into Canadian territory.
I feel very confident that for the future our Indians will not cross the boundary in anything like the number they have hitherto done, and had not the American traders on the Missouri River held out inducements to our chiefs to come south, very few could have done so this winter.
The suggestion made by his excellency the Governor-General to grant permits to Indians who wish to cross the border would, I think, answer well in treaty No. 7.[Page 322]
Previous to the establishing of the international boundary, the Piegan, Blood, and Blackfeet Indians occupied the country of Northwestern Montana in United States territory and Fort McLeod in Canadian territory.
The Indians living north and south of the boundary are intermarried and are continually visiting each other. It would be considered a great hardship were we to forbid them continuing their visits.
It has come to my knowledge that the south Piegans have invited our Indians to join them in the hunt, both in the fall of 1881 and 1882, and as the United States Piegans obtain permission from the Indian agent to leave their reserves, I should not think the American authorities would object to our Indians joining them for the same purpose, or to their visiting their friends, provided they were furnished with a permit from the person authorized to issue such on this side. This system would answer for the Assiniboines, who also have relations living south of the line.
With the Crees it is different. The only object they can have for going south is to hunt or steal horses, and, with buffalo so scarce, I think there would be no object in giving them permits.
I think if an arrangement could be made with the United States Government in the direction suggested by his excellency the Governor-General, and the Indians were formally notified of it, it would assist us in inducing a large number of Crees to go north, as they would have to understand that any found in United States territory without the required permission would be arrested.
At any rate I think it would be more advisable to endeavor to bring about an arrangement of this nature with the American Government than to assent to the proposition made by the minister at Washington, through Mr. L. S. Sackville West, to his excellency the Governor-General, which I am convinced is impracticable.