Indian Commissioner George Manypenny
George Manypenny arrived with altruistic reverence for Indian
rights. Of the Kansas/Nebraska Act, he told Congress that
"the rights of person or property now pertaining to the Indians in
said Territories" were inviolate, and that all lands held by
Indians could "constitute no part of the [new] Territories… until
ceded by treaty or otherwise," as was stipulated in the treaty
between France and the United States in 1803 ceding the Louisiana
Territory to the Americans.
But within two years,
Manypenny would do a complete about face on Indian rights. He
reports to Congress in 1856 that he successfully negotiated
numerous treaties of cession: "Since the 4th of March,
1853, fifty-two treaties with various Indian tribes have been
entered into…the quantity of land acquired by these treaties…is
about one hundred and seventy-four millions of acres…in no former
equal period of our history have so many treaties been made, or
such vast accessions of land obtained."
strongly influenced by Thomas "Broken Hand" Fitzpatrick's
criticisms of the Removal Era. He also adopted D.D.
Mitchell's solution to the Indian question in the West by promoting
a program of land allotment in severalty in the territories.
But Manypenny neglected to observe two of Mitchell's stipulations;
1) that any land deeded to Indians could not be estranged from the
titleholder for 50 years, and 2) that each Indian who acquired a
section of land should be made a citizen of the U.S.
the program faltered. The emigrant population, already
struggling to accommodate black men, had no sympathy for the
In his annual
report to Congress in 1856, Manypenny advised lawmakers that Indian
Policy on the whole needed to be reworked. The unsettled
conditions in the new Territories had resulted in serious harm to
the Indians: "Trespasses and depredations of every conceivable kind
have been committed on the Indians…they have been personally
maltreated, their property stolen, their timber destroyed, their
possession encroached upon, and diverse other wrongs and injuries
done to them…their rights and interests seem thus far to have been
entirely lost sight of and disregarded by their neighbors."
As was its
custom regarding the protection of Indian lands and resources,
Congress did nothing.
(for more on Commissioner Manypenny, click