Mr. West to Mr. Frelinghuysen
With reference to correspondence, which has passed between Her Majesty’s legation and the United States Government with regard to alleged killing of cattle and stealing of horses belonging to inhabitants of the United States, by Canadian Indians, the following extract from the annual report of the Indian commissioner for the Northwest Territories appears to place that matter in what is probably its true light:
In 1879 a large number of Blackfeet and Bloods went south to hunt buffalo. Most of these remained in American territory until the summer. Prior to their leaving they had been living on the buffalo, and were still in a wild, uncivilized state. They had realized the beneficial results of the advent of the mountain police and the stamping out of the whisky traffic, and had we been in a position at that time to have kept them on the reserves, I am sure (says the commissioner) they would have been much more contented than they are; but, understanding the position they were in, and that the Sioux were keeping the buffalo from them, they had no alternative but to strike out for the south, where they had been informed they could get meat, and, at the same time, robes for clothing and leather.
While on the American side they had a good hunt, and had the whisky traders been kept away from them they might have returned in better circumstances than when they left. As it was they were followed by the lowest class of thieves and whisky traders, who, in exchange for robes, supplied the Indians with horses, then made them drunk, and drove the horses off. It was when on foot that they commenced stealing from each other, from the American Indians, and, to some extent, from the whites.
Complaints were made to the Government of Washington that British Indians were killing cattle, and there was some excitement among the cattle-men.
I think it is likely that while on their horse-stealing expedition a few cattle might have been killed by our Indians, but from information received on the Missouri River, I am satisfied that the loss sustained by the cattle-men was not as large as was represented, and that the severe weather had more to do with it than had the Indians. Although our Indians got the credit of killing all that was missing, it is well known [Page 323] that the American Indians committed the hulk of the depredations. Our Indians are in this position. The Indian traders on the Missouri hold out great inducements to them to go south and hunt, and to this end fee the chiefs, while the United States Government instruct the military to drive them back should they come south across the boundary.
It is hoped that under these circumstances the United States Government will take into serious consideration the expediency of adopting in concert with the Dominion Government measures based upon the suggestions of the Marquis of Lorne for preventing Indian raids, and which were communicated to the Department of State in the note of the 4th ultimo.