Grover Cleveland

Special Message

February 05, 1889

To the Congress:

I transmit herewith, for approval and ratification, a provisional agreement lately entered into between the Government of the United States and the Creek Nation of Indians, through their duly authorized representatives, and which has been approved by the National Council of said nation, by which agreement the title and interest of the said Creek Nation of Indians in and to all lands in the Indian Territory or elsewhere, except such as are held and occupied as the homes of said nation, are ceded to the United States.

The eighth section of the Indian appropriation bill approved March 3, 1885, authorized the President "to open negotiations with the Creeks, Seminoles, and Cherokees for the purpose of opening to settlement under the homestead laws the unassigned lands in the Indian Territory ceded by them respectively to the United States by the several treaties of August 11, 1866, March 21, 1866, and July 19, 1866." This section also contains an appropriation in furtherance of its purpose, and requires that the action of the President thereunder should be reported to Congress.

The "unassigned" lands thus referred to should be construed to be those which have not been transferred by the United States in pursuance of the treaties mentioned in the section quoted.

The treaty with the Creeks is dated June 14, 1866. It was confirmed by a Senate resolution passed July 19, 1866, and was proclaimed August 11, 1866(14 U. S. Statutes at Large, p. 785).

The third article of the treaty makes a cession of lands in the following words:

In compliance with the desire of the United States to locate other Indians and freedmen thereon, the Creeks hereby cede and convey to the United States, to be sold to and used as homes for such other civilized Indians as the United States may choose to settle thereon, the west half of their entire domain, to be divided by a line running north and south; the eastern half of said Creek lands, being retained by them, shall, except as herein otherwise stipulated, be forever set apart as a home for said Creek Nation; and in consideration of said cession of the west half of their lands, estimated to contain 3,250,560 acres, the United States agree to pay the sum of 30 cents per acre, amounting to $975,168.

The provision that the lands conveyed were "to be sold to and used as homes for such other civilized Indians," etc., has been steadily regarded as a limitation upon the grant made to the United States. Such a construction is admitted to be the true one in many ways, especially by the continual reservation of the ceded lands from settlement by the whites, by the sale of a portion of the same to Indians, by the rise of other portions as the home of Indians, and also by various provisions in proposed legislation in Congress. Thus the bill now pending for the organization of Oklahoma provides for the payment to the Creeks and Seminoles of the ordinary Government price of $1.25 per acre, less the amount heretofore paid.

The section of the law of 1885 first above quoted appears also to have been passed in contemplation not only of the existence of a claim on the part of the Creeks, but of the substantial foundation of that claim in equity, if not in law, and in acknowledgment of the duty of the Government to satisfactorily discharge the claim of the Indian people before putting the land to the free uses of settlement and territorial occupation by whites.

But it seems to have been considered that so far as the lands had been assigned they may fairly be taken to be such as under the treaty were "to be sold." As to these, they having been assigned or "sold" in accordance with said treaty, the claim of the Creeks thereto has been entirely discharged, and the title from the United States passed unburdened with any condition or limitation to the grantees. This seems to be an entirely clear proposition.

The unassigned lands must be those which are unsold, because not only is that the fair significance of the term, as used technically in conveyancing, but because the limiting condition in the Creek treaty was that the lands should be sold to, as well as used as homes for, other Indians.

The total quantity of lands in the western half of the Creek Nation, and Acres.

which were ceded in 1866, is------------------------------------------------------------- 3,402,428.88

The assigned lands as above defined are in three bodies: Acres.

1. The Seminole country, by the treaty of 1866--------------------------------------------- 200,000.00

2. The Sac and Fox Reservation, sold and conveyed by article

6 of the treaty of February 18, 1867 (15 U. S. Statutes at

Large, p. 495), amounting to-------------------------------------------------------------- 479,668.05

3. The Pawnee Reservation, granted by section 4 of the act of

Congress of April 10, 1876 (19 U. S. Statutes at Large, p. 29),

for which the Government received the price allowed the

Creeks, 30 cents per acre------------------------------------------------------------------- 53,005.94
Making a total of assigned or sold lands of------------------------------------------------- 732,673.99
And leaving as the total unassigned lands------------------------------------------------ 2,669,754.89

Of this total quantity of unassigned land which is subject to the negotiations provided for under the law of 1885 there should be a further division made in considering the sum which ought fairly to be paid in discharge of the Creek claim thereto.

I. In that part of these lands called the Oklahoma country no Indians have been allowed to reside by any action of the Government, nor has any execution been attempted of the limiting condition of the cession of 1866.

The quantity of these lands carefully computed from the surveys is 1,392,704.70 acres.

II. The remainder of these unassigned lands has been appropriated in some degree to Indian uses, although still within the control of the Government.

Thus by three Executive orders the following Indian reservations have been created:

1. By President Grant, August 10, 1869, the reservation of the Cheyennes and Acres.

Arapahoes, which embraces of this land---------------------------------------------------- 619,450.59

2. By President Arthur, August 15, 1883, the reservation for the Iowas, con-

taining------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 228,417.67

3. By President Arthur, August 15, 1883, the Kickapoo Reservation, embra-

cing---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 206,465.61

4. A tract set apart for the Pottawatomies by the treaty of February 27, 1867

(15 U. S. Statutes at Large, p. 531), followed by the act of May 23, 1872 (17

U. S. Statutes at Large, p. 159), by which individual allotments were authorized

upon the tract, though but very few Indians have selected and paid for such

allotments according to the provisions of that law. The entire quantity of the

Pottawatomie Reservation is------------------------------------------------------------- 222,716.32

This shows the quantity of lands unassigned, but to some extent appropriated

to Indian uses by the Government, amounting to---------------------------------------- 1,277,050.19

For the lands which are not only unassigned, but are unoccupied, and which have been in no way appropriated, it appears clearly just and right that a price of at least $1.25 should be allowed to the Creeks. They held more than the ordinary Indian title, for they had a patent in fee from the Government. The Osages of Kansas were allowed $1.25 per acre upon giving up their reservation, and this land of the Creeks is reported by those familiar with it to be equal to any land in the country. Without regard to the present enhanced value of this land, and if reference be only had to the conditions when the cession was made, no less price ought to be paid for it than the ordinary Government price. Therefore in this provisional agreement which has been made with the Creeks the price of $1.25 has been settled upon for such land, with the deduction of the 30 cents per acre which has already been paid by the Government therefor.

As to the remainder of the unassigned lands, in view of the fact that some use has been made of them of the general character indicated by the treaty of 1866, and because some portion of them should be allotted to Indians under the general allotment act, and to cover the expenses of surveys and adjustments, a diminishment of 20 cents per acre has been acceded to. There is no difference in the character of the lands.

Thus, computing the unassigned and entirely unappropriated land, being the Oklahoma country, containing 1,392,704.70 acres, at 95 cents per acre, and the remainder which has been appropriated to the extent above stated, being 1,277,050.19 acres, at 75 cents per acre, the total price stipulated in the agreement has been reached--$2,280,857.10.

But as it was desirable that the Indian title should be beyond all question extinguished to all parts of the land ceded by the Creeks in 1866, with their full consent and understanding, the agreement of cession has been made to embrace a complete surrender of all claim to the western half of their domain, including the assigned as well as the unassigned lands, for the price named. So the agreement takes the form in the first article of such a cession, and in the second article is stipulated the price in gross of all the lands and interests ceded, with no detailed reference to the manner of its ascertainment.

The overtures which led to this agreement were made by representatives of the Creek Nation, who came here for that purpose. They were intelligent and evidently loyal to the interests of their people. The terms of the agreement were fully discussed and concessions were made by both parties. It was promptly confirmed by the National Council of the Creek Indians, and its complete consummation only waits the approval of the Congress of the United States.

I am convinced that such ratification will be of decided benefit to the Government, and that the agreement is entirely free from any suspicion of unfairness or injustice toward the Indians.

I desire to call especial attention to the fact that to become effective the agreement must be ratified by the Congress prior to the 1st day of July, 1889.

The draft of an act of ratification is herewith submitted.


Grover Cleveland, Special Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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