1847 - Congress passes new Indian Non-Intercourse Act

Indian commissioner, William Medill

      This new Non-Intercourse Act provided for the imprisonment of whiskey sellers, payment of annuities to heads of Indian families, semi-annual payments to tribes with excessive funds, and a restriction that debts owed by individual Indians to traders would not be binding on tribal funds.

      It was hoped that these measures would end the abuses perpetrated on the Indians by traders for the past thirty years.  To his credit, Commissioner Medill lobbied Congress to pass laws that would allow tribes to get away from the annuity system, which, over time, had promoted unbridled graft between the traders and headmen of the tribes.  Wrote Medill:"….traders and others, in anticipation of a treaty being made with a tribe in which debts would be provided for, induced them recklessly to run in debt, by every means by which they could tempt their uncontrolled and unregulated fancy and inclinations, so that a great, if not the greater portion of the consideration paid for their lands, fell into their(the agent's) hands."  Treaties, in fact, were made almost exclusively for the benefit of such persons.  Through their influence over the Indians, the agents could dictate whatever terms they pleased.

         Medill also cautioned Congress that relations with the  'wild tribes' in the West were becoming strained.  The day was fast approaching when something would have to be done, as the Sioux were up to a lot of mischief, as were the Pawnee, "...who are also evil disposed and treacherous, and routinely make attacks on emigrants to Oregon.  It may be advisable to establish a small military post somewhere near the mouth of the Platte."

          Congress appropriated the money to purchase the dilapidated trading post, Fort William, and renamed it Fort Laramie after it was rebuilt as a military fort and stockade.


(for a history of the Non-Intercourse acts, click here)