Friday, May 22, 2009

The Directive of Hoke Smith

As the Citizen vs. Indian conflict raged on, more federal agents came to the conclusion that all the treaties and acts of Congress - despite their claims of being "for the relief" of the Indians - only reinforced the bitter in-fighting among the Stockbridge Mohicans.

M. Hoke Smith,
US Secretary of the Interior,
1893-1896 --->

Could anything be done to stop the hiring of lawyers, trips to Washington, closed-door meetings and all the unpleasantness that went with them? One recommendation, first made by Indian Agent Edward Kemble in 1877, was to terminate federal relations with the tribal government (Oberly, page 125). Eighteen years later, Kemble's thinking was adopted at the highest levels of the bureaucracy. In 1895, Secretary of the Interior Hoke Smith wrote a directive to abolish the Stockbridge Mohicans' tribal government and set up a business committee to replace it.

However, for a number of reasons, Smith's directive doesn't seem to carry much weight on the pages of history. According to James Oberly, Smith didn't even have the legal authority to abolish the tribal government. But even if he did, the federal government had unfinished business with the tribe. Allotments of land needed to be made and cash payments needed to be distributed. Those things were carried out in a government-to-government fashion over a period of roughly twenty years.

The issue of the current reservation's boundaries has been in the courts recently . There was a period of time when the Stockbridge Mohicans didn't have a reservation [I've now learned that this too is being argued by lawyers, I may address it in a future post]. But - despite Hoke Smith's directive - tribal lawyers can still make the argument that the Stockbridge Mohicans always had a tribal government.

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