Report of the Business Committee

Fifth session,
Friday morning, October 18.

The platform was presented by Dr. Lyman Abbott, chairman of the business committee.


Report Of The Business Committee.

The nineteenth annual session of the Lake Mohonk Indian Conference congratulates the country on the gratifying evidence of healthy progress and important results attendant upon efforts that have been put forth in recent years for the education and elevation of the Indian race, seen in a Federal school system providing for the education of upward of 25,000 Indian children and the allotment of over 6,500,000 acres of land to over 55,000 Indians, with a secure individual title, and in the possession by these Indians of all the rights, privileges, and immunities of citizenship. We note with special satisfaction the action of the Department of the Interior, since our last meeting, in issuing regulations for licensing and solemnizing marriages of Indians, for keeping family records of all agencies, and for preventing polygamous marriages. There still remain evils to be corrected and work to be done. The frequent changes in the Indian service, involving both removals and appointments for purely political reasons, lead us to suggest to the President the propriety of framing and promulgating some rules prescribing such methods in nominating agents as will put an end to this abuse. The same pressure for patronage operates to delay or prevent the abolition of needless agencies. Congress, at its last session, acting on the recommendation of the Indian Commissioner, abolished three such agencies. There are at least half a score more which, in the judgment of experts, should be abolished as sinecures which not only involve needless expense to the country, but also operate deleteriously upon emancipated Indians.

We recognize the administrative perplexities attending the allotting and leasing of lands. There are the aged and infirm, the feeble and incompetent, women and children; many who prefer other occupations than that of farming or grazing; others who, by renting their lands, may be able to pursue their education; all of whom, under a just system of leasing, would derive great advantage from holdings which would otherwise be valueless. But indiscriminate leasing, which strengthens the white man’s hold on the Indian’s land and encourages lazy landlordism in the Indian, should be prevented, either by more stringent legislation or by a careful scrutiny of all leasing recommended by agents in the field.

The tribal funds held in trust for Indians by the Government of the United States should be placed to the credit of individual Indians who are entitled to share in them as rapidly as lists of such individuals in each tribe can be prepared and recorded. Children born after the preparation of such lists should share in such funds only by inheritance, and not as members of a tribe; and, so far as possible, consistent with the spirit and the equitable intent of the special term which created each such fund,, these funds should thus be broken up into individual holdings, when provisions shall have been made for certain educational uses for all the members of the tribe, and perhaps for payment of Territorial, State, and county taxes on allotted lands during all or part of the period of protected titles. The money which belongs to the Indian should be paid to the Indians as rapidly as they are pronounced fit to receive it, that by receiving and using each his own money Indian citizens may be educated to the use of money.

Improvements are doubtless required in our Indian schools. This conference puts itself on record as believing in schools, both in the Indian neighborhoods and at a, distance from them; and the proportion to be maintained between the two must be left to be determined from time to time by experience. The eventual result to be reached is the abolition of all distinctly Indian schools and the incorporation of Indian pupils in the schools of the country.

The importance of the native Indian industries is such that the Government and all teachers and guides of the Indian should cooperate in the endeavor to revive them. To the Indian they are valuable as a means of profitable occupation and natural expression; to the country as specimens of a rare and indigenous art, many of them artistically excellent, some of them absolutely unique; all of them adapted to furnish congenial and remunerative employment at home and to foster in the Indian self respect and in the white race respect for the Indians.

The evil condition of Indian reservations in the State of New York has been a matter of frequent consideration. This conference emphasizes the recommendation made in December, 1900, by a committee of five appointed by the then governor, Theodore Roosevelt, that these reservations be allotted in severalty, and it urges Congress to consider at an early day the practicability of enacting such legislation as will accomplish this result without further delay.

The experience of the past indicates the errors which we should avoid, the principles by which we should be guided, and the ends which we should seek in our relations with all dependent races under American sovereignty. Capacity for self government in dependent and inexperienced races is a result to be achieved by patient and persistent endeavor; it is not to be assumed that they already possess it. Meanwhile the duty of administering government for the benefit of the governed involves the obligation of selecting all officials, not with regard to services, which have been rendered to their party, but solely with regard to the services which they will render to the governed community. Loyalty to the American spirit requires us so to organize and administer government over dependent peoples as will most speedily prepare them for self-government. All men under American sovereignty, whatever their race or religion, should be treated as equals before the law; amenable to the same legal penalties for their offenses, and secured in the same legal protection for their rights. The principle recognized by all experts in social science, and abundantly confirmed by American experience, should prevent the Federal Government from granting any permanent franchises in any of our territories. Lands which have come or shall come into the possession of the United States should be held in trust for the people of the territory, and, as far as practicable, should be disposed of to actual settlers in the spirit of the homestead laws. In all territories of the United States the Federal Government should see that public schools are provided under Federal control, and, when necessary, at Federal expense, for the education of all children of school age until permanent governments are organized able to provide and maintain such schools. The Christian religion is the basis of Christian civilization, and the new opportunities opened before the American people and the new responsibilities laid upon them demand the cooperation of all the Christian churches in an endeavor to inculcate the principles and impart the spirit of the gospel of Christ. In brief, the object of action, whether governmental, philanthropic, or religious, should be to secure to these dependent peoples just government, righteous laws,, industrial opportunities, adequate education, and a pure and free religion.

Adoption Of Platform.

President W. F. Slocum. I take great pleasure in moving the adoption of these resolutions. Since coming here there has grown upon me during the hours of this conference the feeling that it is perhaps one of the most important that has been held in this place. Certainly no other has impressed me so strongly as this one, partly because of the seriousness of the problems that confront us, and also because we have looked into the heart of certain questions as perhaps never before. I am sure that none of us can have listened to the addresses that have been given without feeling that in reference to the Indian question we have discovered not only the secret of the success that has been achieved, but that we have also discovered the ground of failure at certain points. When Mr. Smiley said yesterday that the time had come for the banishment of the reservation and the reservation idea, it seemed to me that with that peculiar insight which he has in regard to all these matters he had reached the point which needs to be maintained for the sake of the larger solution of our problems. One of the most significant facts that have appeared in the study of penology and the charitable movements is a principle that was recognized in the State of New York by perhaps the most remarkable investigation ever carried on for the purpose of discovering the cause of pauperism. When Mr. Dugdale issued the book concerning the Dukes, the results of the examination of between seven and eight hundred cases of pauperism and crime, he drew this conclusion, which has been accepted by every student of charity and crime ever since, that pauperism is a more dangerous condition than criminality. In other words, there is more hope for the criminal than for the pauper. There would be more hope today for the regeneration of a blanket Indian if he were a thief than if he were a pauper. Our policy has been one, which has thrust our red brother into a condition where the odds have been strongly against him, and the marvel is that with our schools and Christian missions we have been able to accomplish so much in spite of the violation of one of the most fundamental principles in all philanthropy. I think that is the most startling fact that we have to deal with, and this conference up here on the hilltop, independent of any political influence, has discovered the fundamental fact in regard to our Indian question. With the acceptance of that discovery made by Mr. Dugdale, that pauperism is more dangerous than criminality, we shall be able to go forward into larger conceptions of our work. We support the position of Mr. Smiley, wishing the reservation to go; and this hope is also expressed by one of the members of an Indian tribe here, who says that the only hope of his race is in the abolition of the reservation.

I was much impressed, as you all were, by the suggestion made by Mr. Daniel Smiley. I think it is very well for us at times to plan our movements out of humility rather than from our pride. As we go forward into the larger field, are we to profit by the lesson from the failures of the past? I am sure our souls were wrung as we heard the remarkable paper telling us of the condition of things in the Hawaiian Islands and the failure that has come there in the handling of the native races. We have witnessed the failure that has come to a certain extent because of the wrong principles enunciated with regard to our American Indians. It is a significant thing, as we turn back to the history of the education of our Negro, that there had to be raised up a man from the colored race itself a new Washington to show us what the education of the Negro really involves. We should not be too proud of our achievements. If out of our successes and our failures we can learn the lesson that is thrust upon us for the future, we shall do our work vastly better than if we applaud ourselves and say, We are so good and so successful that failure never has come to us.”

Now, the fact is that we are facing one of the most stupendous opportunities as well as one of the most serious conditions that ever confronted an honest people. Here are these millions of people in the far off islands of the Pacific. What are we going to do with them? As we listened to that memorable address by Dr. Abbott I said to myself, “Almost thou persuades me to be an imperialist.” Certainly if we can catch that larger vision of my good friend, if we can lift our thought to the conception that these people are put in our hands by a destiny above us for some great and good purpose, then, whether we be imperialists or not, we can stand shoulder to shoulder, listening and giving heed to the strongest appeal that has ever come to an earnest, thoughtful people. What are we to do, then, with our Filipinos? Surely we must educate them. But do you understand what a complicated problem you have before you there? I think it is well for us and those who criticize this movement to realize that we are dealing with human souls possessed with moral and intellectual and religious capacities. I was very much struck in Washington in a conference in regard to certain conditions of the Filipinos, to hear one of the officers who had been in command at the Philippines say to another gentleman from there, “Did you ever notice that every squash and pumpkin and melon raised in the Philippines tastes exactly alike?” The officer observed that that was a scientific conclusion. I can but feel that that represents the moral condition in the Philippines. My wife’s sister, who has been there for three years, said to me the other day that when she was forced to leave Manila with the wives of other officers on account of the dangerous conditions existing there, she left her washing in the hands of her laundry woman. She had to hurry away so fast that she was not able to take it to Japan with her. After nine months she returned to Manila, and one of the first smiling faces that greeted her was this laundry woman, who returned all her linen washed and ironed and in excellent condition. This poor woman was delighted that she could safely return it, and my sister was delighted to find one whom she could trust so well. I have thought a great many times of the faithfulness of that Filipino washerwoman holding for nine months, in all that turmoil and trouble, the washing of the wife of an American officer. On the other had, my sister’s coachman took the opportunity to take her purse and disappear. I think that represents the conditions there the tangling up of the moral conditions. Can you wonder at it? Do you wonder that under the oppression of the Spaniard all moral and intellectual matters should be tangled up? But it is our business to straighten them out. It is our business to teach them what morality means, what a true education really is. We must master that difficulty just as Dr. Abbott said, by rising to the occasion and praying God that our shoulders shall be broad enough to bear the burden that the Almighty seems to have placed upon them.

There is one other thing that should give us encouragement. We have discovered that we have made mistakes. Let us profit by them. We are ready, I believe, as never before to take up our burden. I heard some one quote here that passage, ” Possess your souls in patience.” That is a wrong interpretation of a beautiful passage. The real translation of the Greek is, “In your patience win your souls.” The Master was looking into the faces of his disciples before they went out to their work, and instead of telling them to win other men’s souls, He told them to win their own souls. He had just told them of the destruction of their nation and city and temple. In the midst of that, in the midst of all these troubles and the difficulties, which they involved, they were to win their souls. To pure American people has come a stupendous problem. The God of nations has put into our keeping the doing of that which may be not only for the saving of the Filipino, but for the development of the moral, political, and social advancement of our nation and of us as individuals.

One other sign of encouragement has come. I am sure that there never was a time in the history of our country when we had such a number of earnest people who will stand by civil service as there are today. We have a man independent of political promises, a man of high ideals, who has come under peculiar conditions to occupy the chair of the Chief Executive of the nation. He is saying to himself, he is saying to all of us: “If I know my own heart I will not make any appointment for a political reason. I will make it for merit only.” He means it. But he has on hand one of the most difficult battles that ever came to an earnest man, and he will be defeated if the good people of America do not rise up as one man and stand by him; not because he belongs to this or that party, but because as an earnest man he is trying to win the battle not only for our American nation but for all that pertains to the Indians, to the Filipinos, to the Hawaiians, to every one of those dependent races. The door is open. It is a far-reaching opportunity, and if from the seriousness of this meeting there comes the determination on our part that we will stand by the President just so far as he maintains that policy, we shall find that this meeting has brought to pass one of the best things ever accomplished in the history of this conference.

Mr. D. W. Mc Williams, Brooklyn. I very heartily second the motion to adopt the platform offered by the business committee. That platform has the right ring; the Mohonk platform always has. I do not look upon Lake Mohonk as a mere hotel. I look upon it, and have for two decades and a half, as a great educational institution. Its influence is felt in the political, social, and Christian life of America, and it has its influence beyond the sea. That platform was framed by experienced men of heart and brain.

This thought comes to me in regard to the necessity for patience in dealing with these subject nations. Fifteen or twenty years ago Rev. Dr. Jessup was delivering a missionary address in Dr. Cuyler’s church in Brooklyn when a man asked, “How long will it take to convert the Mohammedans?” Dr. Jessup looked down from the pulpit to the inquirer and asked, ” How long has it taken to Christianize the Anglo-Saxon race?” Let us reflect upon that aspect of the case while we are studying these interesting questions, and as we are passing from the scene of action without seeing these great questions solved, let us train our boys and girls, the young men and women of our schools, churches, and Sabbath schools, to help solve these problems which God has laid upon the heart of the people of the twentieth century. Very heartily I second the motion to adopt the resolution.

After a little discussion between Mr. Joshua W. Davis, Dr. Abbott, Mr. Hamilton, and the Chair on the wording of the platform with reference to law for the Indians and Treasury payments, the platform was unanimously adopted.


Board Of Indian Commissioners. Thirty-Third Annual Report Of The Board Of Indian Commissioners. Government Printing Office. 1901.

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