Treaty Negotiations

Caddo IndianPresident Lamar's Indian policy succeeded in extending the western frontier and in opening up the Cherokee lands in East Texas for white settlement. Most Texans approved of Lamar's policy of removing peaceful tribes to reservations and actively warring against aggressive tribes. However, Lamar's achievements came at a tremendous cost. In his two years in office, Lamar spent $2.5 million on Indian affairs. By contrast, Sam Houston had spent just $190,000 on Indian affairs in his first term as president. This financial debacle helped bring about the return of Sam Houston to the presidency at the end of 1841.

Houston's military policy was to disband most of the regular Army troops but muster four new companies of rangers to patrol the frontier. Houston ordered the rangers to protect the Indian lands from encroachment by settlers and illegal traders. Houston wanted to do away with the cycle of revenge that had spiraled under Lamar. Under Houston's policies, Texas troops were authorized to punish severely any infractions by the Indians, but they were never to be the aggressors. When depredations occurred, the troops were ordered to find and punish the actual perpetrators, rather than retaliating against innocent Indians.

At the same time, Houston began diplomatic initiatives to bring peace to the frontier. The Caddos were the first to respond to these overtures. In August 1842, Texas concluded a treaty with the Caddos, who in turn persuaded representatives from other tribes to join in a series of larger meetings known as the Tehuacana Creek councils. In March 1843, representatives from the Delawares, Chickasaws, Wacos, Tawakonis, Kichais, Anadarkos, Hainais, Biloxis, Cherokees, and others met with Texas officials. In the fall of that year, a grand council held at Fort Bird resulted in a treaty that was ratified by the Texas Senate and signed into law on February 3, 1844 (see Texas Treasures for more).

Houston also moved to mend fences with the Comanches. In August 1843, a temporary treaty led to a ceasefire between the Comanches and the Texans, and in October the Comanches agreed to meet with Houston and to try to hammer out a treaty similar to the one just concluded at Fort Bird. In 1844, Buffalo Hump and other Comanche leaders signed a treaty at Tehuacana Creek in which they agreed to surrender white captives and cease raiding Texan settlements. In exchange, the Texans would cease military action against the tribe, establish more trading posts, and recognize the boundary between Texas and Comanchería. Comanche allies, including the Wacos, Tawakonis, Kichais, and Wichitas, also agreed to join in the treaty. However, the boundary provision was deleted by the Texas Senate in the final version, which soon prompted a resumption of hostilities.

Muskogee Indians to Caddo Chiefs, 1842

The Muskogees Send Advice to the Caddos, 1842

President Lamar's campaigns had forced the Caddos out of East Texas. They joined up with the tattered remnants of the Shawnees, Delawares, and other tribes at the Three Forks of the Trinity where they farmed and traded buffalo robes. In 1841 the Texas Rangers burned down their village. In this letter, a group of Muskogee Indians, probably the Pakana Muskogee living in present-day Polk County, urge the Caddos to make peace with the Texans.

 


Texas Indian Papers, Volume 1, #110. Letter to the Chiefs of the Caddo from the Muskogee, July 20, 1842.

Council at Tehuacana Creek, 1843

The Tehuacana Creek councils were meetings between Texas officials and Indian representatives. The first in the series began in the spring of 1843 near the Torrey Brothers trading post south of present-day Waco.


Texas Indian Papers, Volume 1, #122. Minutes of Indian Council at Tehuacana Creek, March 28, 1843.

George W. Terrell's speech at Tehuacana, 1843
Thomas G. Western to Benjamin Sloat, 1844

"Bear in Mind That A Treaty of Peace Exists Between Us"

Thomas G. Western served as superintendent of Indian Affairs for Texas from 1841 until annexation four years later. A prominent rancher near Goliad, Western had been a close ally of Stephen F. Austin and served as an emissary to the Karankawa Indians during the Texas Revolution. He lost all his property in the war. He served under Juan N. Seguín through 1838, and delivered the eulogy at the reburial ceremony for the defenders of the Alamo. Following the war, he rebuilt his life, serving in various public offices as Texas Ranger, Indian interpreter, and Spanish translator.

 


Texas Indian Papers, Volume 2, #52. Letter from Thomas G. Western to Benjamin Sloat, July 27, 1844.

"A Bad Chief Took My Place"

In 1844, Sam Houston met with Comanche leaders, including Buffalo Hump, and tried to establish a boundary that would allow the Comanches to roam while guaranteeing peace for Texans. In this idea Houston met resistance from both the Indians and the Texas Congress.


Texas Indian Papers, Volume 2, #75. Minutes of Council at the Falls of the Brazos, October 7, 1844.

Sam Houston speech at the Falls of the Brazos, 1844

Thomas G. Western to Indian Commissioners, 1845

Thomas G. Western to Indian Commissioners, 1845

Indian Commissioners James C. Neill, Edwin Morehouse, and Thomas Smith held a council with the Comanches and other tribes in September 1845 at a trading post on Tawakano Creek. The commissioners distributed presents, negotiated the return of stolen property, and warned the Indians to discontinue their raids on the settlements.


Texas Indian Papers, Volume 2, #313. Letter from Thomas G. Western to Indian Commissioners, September 8, 1845.


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