Brigham Young and Indian Affairs

Brigham Young

From “Great Salt Lake City, U.T.” on June 24, 1865, O.H. Irish wrote a letter to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C. He described his experiences negotiating a treaty with the Ute Indians living in Utah Territory.
          He had asked several bands of Utes to meet him at Spanish Fork Indian Farm on the sixth of June. He also invited “the Federal Officers and the Military Commandant…and Ex-Gov Brigham Young to accompany me, to render such information and assistance as they could. All of the Federal and Military Officers declined going because Brigham Young was invited.” The Territorial Governor, the U.S. Marshall, the Collector and Assessor were the only officials who agreed to attend.
          Irish reported that Utah Territorial Governor James Doty had assisted in preparation for the meeting and approved the proposed treaty terms (which the Utes later accepted). Doty was unable to attend the meeting due to illness. He died ten days later. Irish noted that the Governor “advised me not to be discouraged by the opposition manifested by the other officers of the government who declared that rather than associate with Brigham Young on such an occasion, they would have the negotiation fail, that they would rather the Indians than the Mormons would have the land.”
          “Brigham Young accepted my invitation…His name appears on the treaty as a witness only, and he acted only in advising the Indians to make the treaty. The fact exists however much some might prefer it should be otherwise, that he has pursued so kind and conciliatory a policy with the Indians that it has given him great influence over them. It was my duty and policy under your instructions to make use of his influence for the accomplishment of the purposes of Government.”
          By terms of the treaty, the Utes would give up their right to all lands in Utah Territory except the Uintah Valley, which would be their reservation. In return, the government would give the Utes $1,000,000 paid over the next sixty years. Four existing reservations totaling more than 291,000 acres would be sold and the Utes would receive the proceeds. The government would build a mill and mechanic shop and provide a variety of support and training for ten years.   
          The Utes agreed to move to the Uintah Valley and allow the government to build roads and telephone lines through the new reservation. They also agreed that “no liquor shall be used by any of them and no white person shall be allowed to bring any upon the reservation.”
          This treaty was never ratified by the U.S. Congress.

Quoted text from the Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs 1865

Photo courtesy Library of Congress

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