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The Cherokee Strip Live Stock Association
|EDWARD EVERETT DALE|
University of Oklahoma
At the beginning of the nineteenth century the Cherokee Nation of Indians occupied a large territory in Northern Georgia. That state was eager to be rid fo them and of the Creeks living further south and accordingly made an agreememnt with the government of the United States in 1802 by which Georgia agreed to cede her western lands to the United Sates as soon as the latter remove the Indians From Georgia as soon as it could be done peacefully and on favorable terms.1 The following year came the purchase of Lousiana, affording a great region into which the Indian tribes might be removed, and in 1817 came the first Cherokee removal treaty2. By this about one-third of the Cherokees gave up their lands in Georgia, receiving in exchange an equal area in western Arkansas to which they at once removed. The Cherokee Nation thus became divided into two parts--A western group in Arkansas known as the the Cherokees West, and a larger eastern group in Georgia known as the Cherokees East.|
The western Cherokees soon became dissatisfied with their location owing to the fact that a few whites had settled on their grant of lands and refused to leave. Accordingly, in 1828 a treaty was made with the United States by which these Cherokees West gave up their lands in Arkansas in exchange for a grant of seven million acres in northwest Oklahoma and a perpetual outlet one degree in width extending west from their lands as far as the western boundary of the United States, at that time the one hundredth meridian.3 This was the origin of the "Cherokee Outlet", usually known in the history of Oklahoma as the "Cherokee Strip." Ten years after the western Cherokees had received this cession and removed to Oklahoma, their bretheren in the east gave up their lands in Georgia, and came west to join them and the nation was again united.4
There was abundant room for all in the Cherokee proper, so the Outlet remained entirely unoccupied and almost untouched by the Cherokee people. Hunting parties sometimes traversed it on their way to or from the buffalo ranges further west, but that was all. No Cherokees made their homes there nor did they use it to pasture herds of cattle or other live stock.
In 1861 the Cherokees, in concert with all the other nations of the Five Civilized Tribes, made an alliance with the Southern Confederacy.5 This alliance a portion of the Cherokees later renounced with the result that the war ended with the tribe divided into two bitterly hostile factions.6 By the treaty of Washington in 1866, the Indians of Oklahoma were compelled to give up a large part of their western lands to furnish homes for other tribes. The were not forced to give up any of their lands in Oklahoma but were required to allow the United States to locate friendly tribes upon the lands of the Outlet, though the title to the Outlet remained with the Cherokees until the tribes were so located.7 These new tribes brought in were to purchase the lands at a price agreed upon between them and the Cherokees, and, in case they could not agree, the United States had the right to fix the price.8
Under the terms of this treaty the United States during the next few years removed to this region the Osage, Kaw, Ponca, Otoe and Missouria and the Tonkawa Each of these tribes purchased or had purchased for them a reservation in the eastern part of the Cherokee Outlet. The Pawnee reservation, composed largely of lands ceded by the Creeks also extended across the line into the Outlet. All of those tribes were located in the eastern part of the territory, thus cutting off the unoccupied portion from the country of it's owners, the Cherokees.
That unoccupied portion still remaining to the Cherokees was large. It had a length of over one hundred and fifty miles, a width of over sixty miles and contained more than six million acres. It's are was greater than than that of either Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, or New Jersey, or about equal to that of either Holland or Belgium. To the north lay Kansas, to the west the long strip known as "No Man's Land" and the Panhandle of Texas, to the south the great Cheyenne-Arapaho reservation and the unoccupied area called "Old Oklahoma," and to the east the reservations of Osage and other Indians and on beyond the country of the Cherokees.
The greater part of the Cherokee Outlet was excellent pasture land. The eastern portion was a region of level plains that has since proved to be one of the best agricultural areas in Oklahoma. The western part included wide stretches of low hills interspersed with fertile valleys. It was wateres by the North Canadian, the Cimarron, and the Salt Fork of the Arkansas together with the numerous tributaries of these streams.
The legal status of the Outlet was pecucliar. The Cherokees had received a patent to their lands and so held them in fee simple.9 Their title to the Outlet was the same subject to the right given the United States in 1866 to locate friendly Indians there.10 Yet they could not legally settle upon it, owing to this right held by the United States,11 nor could it well be used for grazing, since it was separated from the Cherokee country proper by the reservations of the Osage and other tribes previously mentioned. The Cherokee Outlet was thus valuable property that might eventually by sale or lease bring the Cherokees a large sum of money but for more than ten years after the close of the Civil War they derived no revenue or benefit of any kind.
But though the Cherokees were not able to make use of the Outlet themselves, it was inevitable that as the ranching industry spread over the western plains herds of cattle should eventually be brought into that region by the ranch men.
Space cannot be given here to any account of the beginnings and growth of the ranch cattle industry on the Great Plains as a whole. It is enough to say that it began on a gigantic scale soon after the Civil War and had its inception in the great state of Texas. Fostered by the Spanish land system and later by the huge grants given by Texas as a republic and as a state, ranching flourished in Texas on a large scale even before the outbreak of the Civil War. Also during the four years of that conflict Texas remained the least touched of any Southern state by the struggle. The result was that when the war ended and the Texas soldier-cowmen returned to their homes they found their ranges overflowing with fine, fat cattle for which there was little market.12
The pasturing of Indian lands was forbidden by the Department of Interior, but it was impossible to prevent the drovers from lingering along the trails if they so desired. Men with herds would turn aside from the main trail and stop for days, weeks or even months to allow their cattle to gain in flesh before resuming the drive. 14
One of the best parts of the Indian Territory in which to do this was the Cherokee Outlet, entirely unoccupied by any Indians and remote from the home countryof its owners. Other men, holding their herds in Kansas south of the cow towns while waiting a buyer, drove them back into this region, where the grass was better than near the shipping points. Still others came to southern Kansas and established ranches and these men frequently allowed their cattle to stray across the line into the Cherokee Outlet, or in many cases drove them across, seeking better pasturage.
In consequence, ranchmen in souther Kanssas were by the early seventies pasturing numerous cattle in part at least on the Cherokee Outlet, while many herds from Texas were held there temporarily at least.15
To this temporary occupation the Cherokees opposed at first no objection and in fct paid no attenntion. But as the years went by it is but natural that the rightful owners of this land should at last seek to derive some revenue from it. The first attempts were little more than demands for tribute by certain individual Cherokees who came to the Outlet and took up ranges under a sort of assumed head right. These Cherokees would allow a ranchman to bring his herd and pasture the cattle on or about the lands so claimed, thus giveng a show of legality to the occupation.16 Many more men brought in cattle without any right whatever, and established themselves upon the ranges the boundaries of which the various men determined among themselves under the common law of the range known as "cow custom."17
Since there was was no fencing, the cattle of these ranchmen could not be kept entirely separate. Also they mingled with "drift cattle" from Kansas or with trail herds of "pilgrim cattle" from Texas. Boundaries were not always clearly defined and difficulties arose in determining the rights of each man.
In consequence of all these things, a meeting was held at Cladwell, Kansas, in the spring of 1880 to arrange plans for the spring round-up and in addition to consider other matters relative to grazing, particularly upon the lands of the Cherokee Outlet. At this meeing a permanent organization was formed and a date set for a meeting the following year.18
Naturally the organization was a very loose one. It's purpose was to fix the date, place and plan of round-ups, to provide some method for settling disputes, and to take measures for protection against fire, thieves, wolves, and other destructive agencies. Yet it evoked in this region a squatter type of government not unlike that of the mining camps of th eRocky Mountains or the land claims association of the Mississippi Valley or many other frontier organizations. However, it was organized not to protect life and liberty, but property. The individuals caring for this property were comparatively few in number and in most cases felt quite competent to protect their own personal rights and liberties. What really required protection was the herds of cattle, valuable property that was placed in a region without law or courts and was, by its nature, pecularly open to attack.
As grazing in the lands of the Outlet increased, the authorities of the Cherokee Nation at last determined that it should be made to yield some revenue to the national treasury and in the summer of 1879 sent out one its citizens to collect a grazing tax from all the men pasturing herds there.19
The amount collected the first year was small, but the following year Major D. W. Lipe, treasurer of the Cherokee Nation, came out and collected nearly eight thousand dollars.20 The rate was forty cents a head for grown cattle and twenty-five cents a head for those under two years old. A receipt was given in the formof a grazier's license, which stated the holder was permitted to pasture a certain number of head for a specified time.21
In spite of the fact that the Cherokee treasurer opened an office at Caldwell and used his best efforts in collecting this tax, he was never able to secure payment for anything like all the cattle that grazed on the Outlet lands. Men ranching in southern Kansas sometimes drove their herds inot the Cherokee Outlet to avoid poayment of property taxes on them in Kansas and then drove them back home to avoid paying the grazing tax to the Cherokees.22
In the meantime the crude association formed in 1880 was growing stronger. As more men brought cattle to the Outlet and the competition for ranges grew keener, it was necessary to improve the organization in order to settle disputes and arbitrate differences. This was all the more important since they had little or no protection of law and the courts and all realized the uncertain nature of their tenure on these lands.
The Department of the Interior had stated that it could not approve of any lease of these lands for grazing, although it admitted that the Cerokees had possession of them and that they sometimes gave permits for that purpose.23 Therefore the ranchmen realized how essential it was that their differences be settled amongst themselves and not brought to the attention of the Secretary of the Interior or other federal authorities at Washington.
Encouraged by the fact that the Cherokees had adopted a regular system of issuing grazing permits, many ranchmen now began to construct wire fences to inclose their ranges. These were designed to facilitate the work of keeping their cattle within bounds and also to keep out drift cattle from Kansas. The fences were built with the full knowledge and consent of the Cherokee treasurer, who believed they would make it easier to collect the grazing tax.24 Many of these fences were erected under the names of individual Cherokees.
As the business increased, it was inevitable that sooner or later these mattes should be brought to the attention of the Secretary of the Interior, and in the early winter of 1882 this happened. Early in the autumn the ranching firm of Scott and topliff paid their grazing tax on a range in the Cherokee Outlet. A few weeks later two Chrokee Indians appeared with a representative of an organization known as the Pennsylvania Oil Company and set to work to fence a tract of 200,000 acres, including the range of Scott and Topliff.25
This was clearly a matter for arbitration and should not have been taken to Washington. But the oil company was a great corporation apparantly new at ranching and perhaps largely using that business for a cloak to conceal it prospecting for oil in southern Kansas and the Indian Territory. Its representatives cared little for cow custom and knew little of the danger involved in refusing to arbitrate. They began fencing at once, and Scott and Topliff, in anger and desperation, appealed the the Department of the Interior.
Only the barest outline of what followed can be given in so brief a paper as this. Secretary Teller referred the the letter of Scott and Topliff to Commissioner of Indian Affairs Price. The letter promptly began an investigation and soon reported to the Secretary of the Interior that fences and other improvemnets on a lrge scale were under construction in the Cherokee Outlet.27 He said that the Attorney General had held that the Cherokee Nation had no right to settle its citizens in the Outlet,28 and yet many tracts were fenced there under the names of individual Cherokees who had received large sums of money for the use of their names. He declared that this unauthorized settlement and improvement must be stopped and asked that the War Department be asked to furnish troops to remove or destroy all the improvements. Price also wrote the Indian Agent for the Five Civilized tribes instructing him as to what had been done and ordering him to give the ranchmen notice that they would be allowed twenty days to remove all fences and other improvements from the Outlet, failing which they would be removed by the military. When the twenty-day limit had expired, he was instructed to call upon the proper officer for troops to execute the order.29
The most charitable view that can be taken of the attitude of the Secretary and Commissioner is that they were entirely ignorant of every detail of the range cattle industry. To destroy not only all fencing but camps and corrals as well in a region larger than Massachusetts in which were grazing a quarter of a million head of cattle, and that, too, in midwinter, would be an act entirely indefensible, no matter under what circumstances these improvements had been erected.
Fortunately the War Department either had some realization of these things or else merely showed its usual relictance to coöperate with the Department of the Interior. At any rate, the Secretary of War asked to be shown some provisions of law which would protect officers and soldiers in removing and destroying such improvements and the matter rested there for some time.30 Protests from the ranchmen came pouring into the Secretary of the Interior's office and Agent Tufts was at last instructed to hold his order to remove fences in suspension while he made a complete investigation, the results of which should be reported to the Commissioner.31
Tuft's report, made on March 1, 1883, was very favorable to the cattlemen. He found nearly 1,000 miles of wire fencing on the Outlet. He recommended that this be allowed to remain and more fencing to be sanctioned, provided permission must be obtained ffrom the Cherokees, and that all fences be subject to removal at once upon notice of the Interior Department.32
The Secretary of the Interior now gave his decision that the ranchmen would be permitted to retain their improvements only after making satisfactory arrangements with the Cherokees.33
While the Secretary and the Commissioner were trying to arrive at some decision with respect to ranching upon the Outlet, the Ranchmen themselves had not been idle. Many of them were men of great ability with powerful political connections and they were fully determined not to allow their large interests to be destroyed without making a desperate effort to save them. the plan now formulated was to transform the cattlemen's organization formed some years before into a real corporation and secure from teh Cherokee government a long-time lease of the entire Outlet.
Unfortunately this latter step was rendered somewhat difficult by the political conditions in the Cherokee Nation. The tribe was at this time almost an independent republic with a principle chief, bicameral legislature, and system of courts. Political issues were closely drawn and the two cief parties, the Union and the National, were bitterly hostile toward each other.
The ranchmen now opened negotiations with the principaal chief, Dennis W. Bushyhead, a man of education and real ability, who was favorable to them and their interests.
In March 1883, Bushyhead visited Washington, where he had an interview with Secretary Teller and Commissioner Price.34 He promised them that upon his return he would call a special session of the Cherokee Council and consider the entire matter of grazing on the Outlet.
In the meantime the ranchmen held a meeting at Caldwell, Kansas, on March 6, 7 and 8. This was attended by virtually all the cattlemen pasturing herds on the Outlet. A committee was apointed to draft a constitution and bylaws and the new organization thus formed was incorporated under the laws of Kansas as "The Cherokee Strip Live Stock Association."35
The purpose of the new corporation as stated in the charter was the "improvement of the breed of domestic animals by the importation, grazing, breeding, sale, barter, and exchange thereof." The terms for which it was to exist was forty years; the number of directors nine, and the principal office and place of business was Caldwell, Kansas.36
The by-laws were, like the constitution, very brief. They provided that all persons, corporations, or companies occupying an undisputed range in the Cherokee Strip and who agreed to pay the assessments might become mem,bers of the association upon payment of the membership fee of ten dollars. Each member had one vote and persons holding contiguous ranges outside the Outlet might be elected honorary members upon recommendation of the directors. This was apparently done in order that such persons might be given round-up privileges. All transfer of ranges by sale or otherwise were to be recorded in the books of the secretary, and all members must within thirty days after their admission to membership furnish the secretary with a description of the marks and brands of all domestic animals owned by them, which should be recorded by the secretary in a book for that purpose.37
It should be noted that this organization was peculiar. It was not a coporation in the ordinary sense of the term, since it had no capital stock and, in consequence, no stockholders. It was an association with a membership composed of individuals, partnerships, and corporation, many of the last named with a heavy capitalization and numerous stockholders. Operating in a region without law or courts, it had little authority for its acts except the general consent of its members and yet for seven years or more this great association, with no property except such as it obtained from assessments of its members, was one of the most powerful factors in the history of the developement of Indian Territory.
Upon Bushyhead's return to the Cherokee Nation he at once proceeded to carry out his promise to Secretary Teller and Commissioner Price and called the Cherokee National Council to meet in special session. The association, besides its regular attorneys, had employed John F. Lyons of Ft. Gibson, an inter-married citizen of the Cherokee Nation, as special attorney. He was a man of rare tact and ability who, of course, practiced influence rather than law. Lyons kept his employers informed as to the situation in the Cherokee country and when the special session of the council met early in May, two directors of the association, Andrew Drumm anmd Charles Eldred, hastened to Tahlequah and remained there the entire session of the council.40
There was much difference of opinion in the council with respect to the matter of grazing and also there were a number of other men there seeking a lease of the Outlet.41 However, the representatives of the association overcame all opposition and at last secured the passage of a bill giving to the Cherokee Strip Live stock association a lease of the entire Outlet for a term of five years in consideration of the sum of $100,000 a year, payable semi-annually in advance. The bill was signed by the principal chief May 19, and on the same day the two directors of the association filed with the chief their acceptance of the provisions of the act together with such terms and conditions as the chief might think necessary.42
These provisions stated with considerable detail the terms under which the lease was made. The lessees bound themselves to erect no permanent improvements on the land, and such temporary improvements as might be necessary in caring for their cattle were to be the property of the Cherokee Nation upon the expiration of the lease. No timber was to be cut except for use in fencing or building necessary temporary structures. No person not a member of the association was to eb permitted to graze stock upon the Outlet withou the consent of the association. Finally, failure to make payment promptly was to work a forfeiture of the lease.43
The actual lease was signed early in July. It was given to the nine directors in trust for the association. The matterwas never presented to the Department of the Interior, though it is possible that Bushyhead may have talked it over informally with Sevretary Teller, as he made a trip to Washington soon after the adjournment of the council, though he left no official report of what had been done with the Department.45
The lease actually went into effect October 1, 1883, and on that date the first payment of lease money was made. The Cherokees asked that it be made in silver and the treasurer of the association, Mr. Bennett, took $50,000 in silver from Caldwell to Tahlequah, a long and dangerous journey to make at this time with so great a treasure.
The association now set to work to organize its affairs. The Outlet lands were surveyed and the boundaries of each range defined. Wide strips were left for trails across the Outlet and lands were also set aside for quarantine grounds, with the result that the total amount used for grazing was reduced to a little over five million acres.46 this was divided among a little more than one hundred individuals, corporations and firms, but some four or five hundred men were included in the organizations while including stockholders in the various companies, perhaps two thousand people were interested in the association.47
Each member of the association was given a lease of his land by the directors for the entire period of five years. For this he was to pay one and one-fourth cents an acre every six months, though the first semi-annual assessment was two cents an acre in order to give money enough to get the organization started. Each member then gave a series of notes for the amount of the future payments, maturing on March 15 and September 15, or fifteen days before the semi-annual lease payment must be made to the Cherokees. 48 Each man erected his ownfences, camps and corrals. Tens of thousands more cattle were now brought in and the ranges heavily stocked. The board of arbitration decided all disputes. Hunters were employed to kill wolves, rewards were offered for capture of thieves, and improvement of breeds of cattle was encouraged. Within a year all difficulties had been settled and the association was not only a going concern but was running smoothly. It was the greatest live stock organization in the world and its power and influence was enormous. Trouble on the Cheyenne-Arapaho reservation to the south and rumors of bribery and corruption in securing the lease from the Cherokees, resulted in a congressional investigation of the ranchmen in Oklahoma in the winter of 1884-85. However this investigation went the way of many other congressional investigations. Little was accomplished and the association was not seriously disturbed.49
Soon after the investigation ended, the association decided to try to secure a renewal of their lease, while their friend Bushyhead was still in office. The attempt was made at the regular session of the Cherokee Council in the autumn of 1886, but failed and the only result was to set in motion further rumors of bribery and corruption.50
At this session of the council there also appeared representatives of a syndicate that was seeking to purchase all the lands of the Outlet. The sum of three dollars an acre, or a total of eighteen million dollars, was offered, but of course the Cherokees could not sell without the consent of the United States.51
At the winter session of the Cherokee Council in 1887-88, the association succeeded in securing the passage of a bill giving them a renewal of the lease for five years at $125,000 a year, but the principal chief, Joel B. Mayes, who had succeeded Bushyhead, vetoed the bill on the ground that others were offering more money.52
A bitter fight was waged during the next year, ending at last in the approval of an act in the autumn of 1888 granting the the association a new lease for a period of five years in consideration of the sum of $200,000 a year.53
It would seem that with the approval of this lease the association was in excellent position. They had occupied this region for nearly ten years, the last five of which had been under a lease made with the full knowledge and apparent consent of the Department of the Interior, even though existing laws had prevented its giving formal approval.
But in spite of this promising outlook, disasters were impending. The years of agitation for the settlement of the "Oklahoma Lands" just south of the Outlet had at last culminated in the opening of that region to settlement in April, 1889. Settlers cam pouring across the Outlet to join in the race for homes in Oklahoma. Also the pioneer farmers, encouraged by the opening of the Oklahoma lands were clamoring to be allowed to settle still other areas, including the Cherokee Outlet. Railroads, border towns, wholesaling centers, and the press added their voices to the general tumult, all urging that these great areas in western Oklahoma occupied by a few or no Indians should be settled by the whites. The opening of the Oklahoma lands gave the pioneer settlers a foothold in the very center of the Indian country and made it inevitable that adjoining lands would also soon be opened to settlement.
Even before the settlement of the Oklhoma lands, or in March, 1889, an act of Congress was approved creating a commission of three persons to negotiate with the Cherokees and other western tribes relative to the cession of their surplus lands. This act provided tat the Cherokees should be offered $1.25 an acre for the Outlet and that in event of their acceptance, it should be oppened to settlement.54 This body was known as the Cherokee Commission. It promptly set to work, but soon found that the Cherokees were unwilling to sell at the price offered. This was natural, since a syndicate of cattlemen had already offered them $3.00 an acre for their lands, so they could hardly be expected to be willing to sell for less than half that sum.55
Secretary of the Interior Noble urged that the Cherokee title was very shadowy and that the United States had the right to take these lands if necessary, while the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, T. J. Morgan, asserted that the Cherokee title was perfectly good. Late in October Secretary Noble stated his policy in a letter to General Lucius Fairchild, chairman of the Cherokee Commission, who was then at Tahlequah. Noble stated that adverse and, it was believed, illegitimate influences had been brough to bear upon the Cherokees by the cattlemen. He reviewed the whole history of grazing upon Outlet lands and said that the leases of Indian lands for grazing were void and that the President had the authority to so declare them and to remove the ranchmen and their property by force. He declared that the offer of $1.25 an acre for the lands was under the circumstances munificent, while the title of the Cherokees even to use was precarious and liable to be defeated uterly. He criticized the "cattle syndicate" for its attempts to "rival and defeat the Government," he said it was acting in "defiance of the law and against the public interest." He said that it was now deemed best to lay hands upon these pretended lessees and remove them and their property by force not later than June 1, 1890. He said that if the United States found that its own title to the Outlet was good, it would not hesitate to take over these lands if the circumstances of the American people should require it.57 Noble closed by instructing Fairchild to make such use of the letter as he saw fit and to report whatever action he might take to the Department.
The letter of Noble was at once a warning and a threat. Public opinion demanded that the Cherokee Outlet be opened to white setlement. If the Cherokees refused to sell at a price fixed by the government of the United States, they should be punished. Their revenue from these lands was to be stopped, not withstanding the fact that they had received those revenues reguklarly for ten years. At the same time a threat was made to take the lands by force if the United States found it had the superior title. This would of course be determined by the United States itself and the Cherokees knew by bitter experience not to expect too much if the matter were pushed to an issue.
In themeantime the Cherokee Strip Live Stock Association was the victim. The Indians, so long as they received revenue from these lands, would not cede them for seven and a half million dollars when private parties were offering them eighteen millions. In order to compel a cession the ranchmen must be removed and all revenue cut off until such a time as the Cherokees were willing to yield.
Perhaps public interest demanded such a policy and yet it is difficult to defend. The ranchmen had been allowed to occupy these lands for ten years. A situation had not only been allowed to develope but had been encouraged and then a great productive industry was to be destroyed upon short notice. Worst of all, the men whose business was thus threatened had no recourse. No courts could give them redress or protection, or even order that they be allowed time in which to arrange their affairs.
Recognizing the seriousness of the situation the association prepared and presented to the Presidenta very able memorial setting forth their side of the case, but nothing could help the ranchmen very much at this time. The Department of the Interior, urged on by popular clamor, had determined to open the Cherokee Outlet to settlement. The most that the cattlemen could hope for was that they might be given a reasonable time in which to adjust their affairs and market their herds.
Fortunately, President Harrison was more lenient than Secretary Noble. Having secured from the Attorney General an opinion that the lease was without legal force,58 the President issued about the middle of February a proclamation forbidding all grazing on the lands of the Cherokee Outlet and ordering all cattle to be removed by October 1, 1890.59 When we consider that these lands were not opened to settlement until September, 1893, or almost three years later, it must be obvious that the purpose here was not to prepare the lands for settlement but that it was a political move directed against the Cherokees to force cession of the lands.
For a time the Cherokees remained obdurate, but they, like the ranchmen, were fighting a losing battle. Early in 1891 a bill was introduced into Congress proposing to pay the Cherokees $1.25 an acre for the lands of the Outlet and take them without further negotiation. Noble favored this bill but the Commissioner of Indian Affairs disagreed entirely with his chief and said that for Congress to take these lands would be for the "Government to violate its faith and disregard its solemn obligations."60
Fortunately the Cherokees were wise enough not to push the matter to far. When it became evident that they must either cede the lands or see them taken by an act of Congress, they decided to accept the inevitable and late in 1890 signed an agreement with the Cherokee Commission ceding the lands of the Outlet in consideration of the sum of a little over eight and a half million dollars, or about $1.40 an acre.61
In the meantime the Cherokee Strip Live Stock Association had seen its last hope vanish with the issuance of the presidential proclamation. A brief extension of sixty days was secured, but December 1, 1890, was set as the final date for the removal of the cattle from the Outlet. Nothing remained for the ranchmen to do but to market such cattle as they could and remove the remainder to other ranges.
Chief Mayes of the Cherokee Nation brought suit against the association for the remainder of the lease money. The case was fought out in the courts of Kansas and at last won by the cattlemen, but this litigation with attendent costs and the constant appearance of debts and claims proved most discouraging. At last at a directors' meeting held in Kansas City in April, 1893, Vice-President Charles Eldred was given authority to sell or dispose of all notes, claims and debts due the association. This he did soon after by transferring them to three members of the association who agreed in consideration of this transfer to assume all debts, nots, claims and judgements against the organization. By this transacvtion the Cherokee Strip Live Stock Association ceased to exist and a few months later, in September, 1893, the region in which it had operated, the Cherokee Outlet was opened to white settlement.
The Cherokee Strip Live Stock Association was for years perhaps the greatest organization in the world engaged in the live stock industry and its influence upon the history of Oklahoma and Kansas was very great. Some significant features of its activities may be summed up as follows:
1. Here is to be seen an excellent example of the ability of the American pioneer to organize in a region without law or courts extra-legal institutions that seemed to function with surprising efficiency and afford adequate protection to extensive economic interests.
2. The association in its relations with the Cherokees affords an example of the curious reactions secured when red men and white are brought together in business or political affairs. An illustration is also given of the rare political ability of teh Cherokee people--an ability that has since that time put many persons of Cherokee blood into high official positions in Oklahoma.
3. In dealing with this association the Department of the Interior and most other officials of the United States showed an utter lack of of understanding of the ranching industry, with the result that policies were adopted which were often unjust, inefficient, and in some cases little short of absurd.
4. Seeking as it did to discourage agricuktural settlement of teh Indian lands of Oklahoma, the association, by its very presence on these lands, did much to render such settlement inevitable.
5. The accusations made against this associationby the pioneer farmers, the United States Government, and the press served in time to develope a public opinion hostile to the ranching industry as a whole which, in certain sections of the country, has never completely disappeared.
6. By its opposition to the opening of Indian lands to settlement, the association incurred the bitter hostility of the agricultural population in Kansas and adjoining states. From this hostility toward wealthy cattlemen it was a natural step to hostility toward all forms of corporate wealth. The ranchmen were thus an important factor in the developement of populism in this country.
7. The opening of the Cherokee Outlet and other Indian lands in Oklahoma furnishes an example of the changing of the economic life of large areas by legislation. To say that the land was taken from the Indian and given over to white settlement is only nominally correct. The Indian as an economic factor was negligible. What really happened was that the land was taken from the ranchman and given to the farmer. Vast numbers ofcattle were removed from these ranges and shipped to market and the ranges themselves almost completely turned into wheat fields. The result was important in the production of the cheap meat and bread of the early nineties.
8. Finally, the forced removal of the ranchmenfrom the Cherokee Outlet in order to deprive the Cherokees of further revenue and so force a sale of these lands at a price representing only a fraction of their value presents one of the most glaring examples of injustice done the Indians by the Government of the United States.
In conclusion, the writer wishes to urge upon scholars specializing in history and economics the importance of the ranch cattle industry in the West as a subject for investigation. He feels that in the past too much has been left to writers of fiction and for the screen and such serious research in this field will yield rich returns and show that ranching has had influences upon American history hitherto unsuspected.
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