Here is the full text of Major Rains’ letter to Major Townsend, in regards to the newly formed Wasco County, originally sent 29 January 1854, and reprinted in 1855 among the correspondences of General Wool with the U. S. government.:
Source: G. J. Rains to Major E. D. Townsend, Fort Dalles, 29 January 1854, in Correspondence of General Wool With the Government, 1855, 33rd Congress, 2nd session, Senate Executive Document, No. 16., pp. 16-17. Transcribed by Deborah Dale on 7 July 2018.
[Page] 16 CORRESPONDENCE OF GENERAL WOOL
Fort Dalles, Dalles of Columbia, Oregon
January 29, 1854
SIR: The time has arrived when it becomes necessary to determine the question of peace or war between the citizens of the United States and Indian tribes on this frontier, east of the ‘Cascades’ and west of the Rocky Mountains, as will be seen in the sequel.
Indian complaints have been often brought from time to time that white men are locating on their land, against their will, and that without respect to their individual possessions, or property, or priority of title of Indian claimants.
Such statements have been met by informing them that by an act of Congress of the United States, establishing the territorial government of Oregon, (approved, March 14, 1848), “no rights of persons or property now pertaining to the Indians in this country shall be impaired, so long as such rights shall remain unextinguished by treaty between them and the United States.”
They also complain of lawless violence, injury, and murder by white men who come among them, some for secret purposes of illegal traffic in spirituous liquors, irresponsible to their laws, and who are uncontrol[l]able by the civil law of the Territory of Oregon , which intends “good faith,” with inability to carry it out, by barring Indian testimony against them “in any court or in any case whatever.” –(See section 3, art. 1, of organic laws of Oregon, and section 37, legislative act or Oregon to regulate the “practice” in district and supreme courts, passed February 3 and 4, 1851.) Under the laws of Oregon these people ordinarily have no legal prosecutor, nor grand jury legally to represent their cause, and must forever be deprived of justice as long as the disparity in numbers is so great , or a white accomplice chooses to cloak crime.—(See sections 74, 76, and 77, legislative acts on crimes and misdemeanors, passed February 6, 1851.)
The Indian tribes immediately concerned are the “Des Chutes” and the “Waseves,” some 700 or 800 souls; “Nez Perces,” numbering about 2,500; the “Cayuses” and adjuncts ,about 300; the “Snakes,” composed of the Bannacks, the Shoshones, and Root Diggers, say 3,000; the Shastas, the Umatillas, the Tic, and some others, number unknown, say in all about 1,300 warriors.
If any country in the world has ever merited the title of “Indian country,” this is it; and yet by legislative enactment this has been erected in Wasco County of Oregon Territory, the largest county ever known, and civil officers appointed where there are but few white citizens, some thirty-five perhaps in all, who claim their right to locate their “donations” where they please (and often irrespective of Indian rights) by an act of Congress making donations to settlers in the Territory of Oregon.—(See sections 4 and 5 of the act creating the office of surveyor general and for other purposes, approved September 27, 1850). This, with a decision of the Supreme Court, sets aside the intercourse law, and bars our right to purge the land of incendiaries who set themselves down among the Indians to commit all crimes with impunity, even murder, with only Indian testimony against them to bring them to justice, which is not available in law.
[…] WITH THE GOVERNMENT.
Many of the squatters are good citizens, but this is not the case with all, far from it, and my predecessor (Major Alvord) having made representations, (referred), also the superintendent of Indian Affairs, whose business mainly it is, having previously done the same, I have been slow to move in the matter until “forbearance ceases to be a virtue,” and prompt action is required, doing justice to all, to prevent an Indian war with the Indian tribes combined, between the Cascade and Rocky Mountains.
Though these Indians are very uneasy, yet there is no immediate cause of alarm; still the necessity for prompt action exists, as may be seen by the following facts, similar to those which gave rise to the Rogue River war. Life for life is the Indian rule, and soon some innocent persons among the whites may suffer for the acts of the guilty.
Within a short period of time there have been five men killed, viz., two by the Indians of their own people—cause: spirituous liquor introduced clandestinely, (though Judge Olney, of Oregon, is said to have stated in open court that there is no law to restrain such sales, and the legislature is now making one.) One, a Frenchman , name unknown, in about thirty miles distance, murdered by an Indian. One, an Indian, murdered by a white man, whom I had in confinement to be turned out to civil power, to be released at the Cascades on account of some informality in the action of the magistrate committing, as informed. And still a recent case of another Indian killed by a white man, whom we have now in prison in the guard-house, and who surrendered himself probably for protection from the infuriated tribe which followed him to this post.
The Indians have been pacified by being promised justice in every case, which I regret to say has not been accomplished; which state of things under legislative enactments we cannot alter, and which the citizens themselves, as soon as their civil officers are properly qualified, with an eye to their own safety, will find it equally impossible under the law, or without further legislation.
The object of this communication is to awaken attention to the state of things on this frontier; to find its way (with the approbation of my superiors) before the Committee on Indian Affairs in Congress, for them, in their wisdom, to devise some means for retributive justice in this country of Indians, and among other tribes concerned, securing to each the land on which his lodge stands, and the soil, which his squaw cultivates, and defining the rights of the white settler for his better security.
Never a cent has been known to be appropriated for the benefit or improvement of these tribes, yet they are peaceably disposed, if undisturbed.
We are deficient at this post in our proper number of soldiers to fill up the two companies, 106 men, and a company of mounted men is much required.
All of which is most respectfully submitted by your obedient servant
G. J. RAINS,
Major 4th Infantry, commanding post and troops on this frontier.
Major E. D. Townsend,
Asst. Adj. Gen. Depart. of the Pacific, San Francisco, Cal.
Ex. Doc. 16—2
[End of transcript]