Testimony taken by the Committee on Indian Affairs - 1885
Testimony taken by the Committee on Indian Affairs
1885


JAMES MADISON BELL.

JAMES MADISON BELL sworn and examined.
By the Chairman :

Question. What is your name?—Answer. James M. Bell.
Q. What does the M stand for?—A. Madison.
Q. Where do you reside?—A. I reside in the Cherokee Nation.
Q. Are you a member of the Cherokee Nation?—A . Yes, sir.
Q. By birth or adoption?—A. By birth.
Q. Do you hold any official position?—A. No, sir; none whatever.
Q. Have you ever held any?—A. No, sir; except a deputy clerk's position.
Q. You never held any other?—A. No, sir.
Q. What is your business down there in the Cherokee Nation?—A. I am a farmer.
Q. How much land have you under cultivation?—A. One hundred and sixty-seven acres.
Q. What title do you hold it under?—A. None; except the right of occupancy.
Q. Can you keep that from anybody else who wants to come and settle upon it?—A. Yes, sir; as long as I am in possession of it.
Q. Suppose you died.—A. Then it would go to my heirs.
Q. Would they have the same kind of occupancy?—A. Yes, sir.
Q. Do you know anything about the cattle leases down there?—A. Well, I know there has been such a thing as a lease made.
Q. Do you know anything about the way in which it was obtained? I mean the lease of the Cherokee outlet.—A. I know that when they obtained it it was obtained under a law enacted by our council.
Q. Do you know the circumstances under which it was obtained ?—A. I know something about the circumstances, I presume, that led to it.
Q. State them, if you please.—A. In 1879 the Cherokees authorized, or rather, their treasurer authorized, a citizen of our country named Bell to collect taxes on that outlet, and he did collect taxes to a certain amount, but that amount I never learned. Then Mr. Lytle collected the taxes.
Q. Who was Mr. Lytle?—A. He was the treasurer of our nation; and the collection of the taxes for the last year he collected amounted to about $40,000, but the parties in occupancy of the land (cattlemen) supposed it would be to their advantage to lease the country, which they proposed to do with the Cherokee authorities. These were about the circumstances that led to the lease. They were there with their herds at the time.
Q. Do you know anything about the means they used to get the lease from the Cherokee council?—A. I do not know of any improper means.
Q. Others were there who wanted to lease, too, were there not?—A. Yes, sir.
Q. But it was given to these parties?—A. Yes, sir.
Q. Did you understand what the other party offered?—A. I understood the opposite party was offering a greater amount of money.
Q. Why did they give it to the others then?—A. That is a mystery to our people down there.
Q. It was the council that did it?—A. Yes. sir. The council authorized the chief to make the lease. It passed a law authorizing him to make this lease for this sum of money—$100,000.
Q. Did your people inquire of the council why they did this?—A. Not to my knowledge.
Q. You say it is a mystery to your people why they did this?—A. Yes, sir.
Q. What did they say to it?—A. They seemed to blame the authorities for not taking a greater amount of money.
Q. Do they think it is better to lease this land to these outsiders at the same price the other would have given, or better to lease it to people in your own nation?—A. Many of the people thought the Cherokees should have the preference above the outsiders.
Q. Why?—A. Well, they feared the land would fall into the hands of these parties at the end of the lease. A great many of our people considered that the possession of this land by these parties for five years would virtually place it within their grasp. That is the principal objection I heard. That is the one that has been urged more particularly than any other one.
Q. Did you hear any other objection?—A. And then they thought the Cherokee Nation should encourage its own citizens in preference to outsiders.
Q. Do you think your people are capable of taking care of cattle?—A. Yes, sir; most assuredly.
Q. Do you think they could rear them and market them profitably?—A. Yes, sir.
Q. Do you think this would have been a better plan than renting it to others?—A. Yes, sir.
Q. What is the difference?—A. Well, sir, there is not such a great difference. It would not have affected the collection of the taxes by authorities of the nation, at least they could have collected the taxes off of our own people as well as these people. This would not have prevented them from collecting off of our own people. So, I think, it would have been better to lease it to our own people, rather than to outsiders. In the first place, it is contrary to our laws to lease lands to citizens of the United States.
Q. But your council made a law for that purpose.—A. Yes, sir; they made a law in opposition to one already in existence, without repealing the other law.
Q. Was there any other reason?—A. Well, sir, I think not.
Q. Suppose your people were herding cattle themselves. Would that be of any benefit to them?—A. Yes, sir; I think it would be so; that is, as a class.
Q. Is it better for your people to earn a dollar or to have it given to them without work?—A. It is, of course, better for them to earn it.
Q. Is that the bottom of your idea—that it is better for your people to herd cattle themselves?—A. Yes, sir.
Q. Is it a good plan to have money brought to them without work?—A. No, sir; it. has a demoralizing effect.
Q. Did Bushyhead take that view of it
A. Yes, sir.
Q. That it was better to lease to the white men?—A. Yes, sir.
Q. Did he not think it better for your people to have this land themĀ­selves?—A. No, sir.
Q. Why did he not take that view?—A. I do not know, sir, unless it was on account of some direct pecuniary benefit to him at the time.
Q. Have you any idea that it was?—A. Well, I am inclined to believe that way.
Q. On what ground, Mr. Bell, do you have that belief?—A. It seems evident to my mind, if he had been acting in the interest of the people he would have taken the greater bid which was offered for this land.
Q. Might he not have been honestly mistaken as to what was best for his people?—A. I don't think he could have been in that respect.
Q. Any other reason you have for believing there was a pecuniary benefit to him, that led him to adopt this course; anything that he said or that others said?—A. No, sir; I never have heard anything that he said.
Q. Did you never talk with him?—A. No, sir; I have never seen him since.
Q. How is it the council approved of it down there lately, and instructed their delegation to come here and oppose any change?—A. The present council is very much under the influence of Mr. Phillips.
Q. Under Mr. Phillips's influence?—A. Yes, sir; very lunch influenced by him. He made a speech to the council, I understand, in favor of this lease.
Q. The present council, you think, do not represent the wishes of the people generally?—A. No, sir; I do not think they do. Many of them never had any instructions, with regard to the making of that law, from the people.
Q. Do you think the people feel as this council feels about the matter, or different?—A. I think a large class of intelligent people take a very different view from what the council does.
Q. Very different?—A. Yes, sir.
Q. What plan do you think a large body of the people desire instead of this one?—A. I think they would prefer a direct sale to the United States Government.
Q. What would they do with the money?—A. A great majority of the people would like to have the land sold and the money divided per capita
Q. You got $300,000 last year?—A. Yes, sir; in our annuities and in our lease.
Q. You did not divide that. I mean the $300,000 you got from the Government, and not on account of the lease.—A. Well, sir; that was paid to the people.
Q. You did not pay it to the whole people did you?—A. No, sir; we paid it to the Cherokees by blood, not full blood but all those by blood, leaving out the freedmen and the Shawnees and Delawares and white adopted citizens.
Q. You would do that again if you got paid for that land?—A. Yes, sir; we might want to do that way.
Q. Do you think that way right?—A. Well, not altogether, I do not.
Q. You think then the great majority of your people prefer to have this Cherokee outlet sold?—A. Yes, sir; they prefer that to the way in which it is occupied now.
Q. Would they prefer to have the money invested or distributed, one or the other?—A. Yes, sir; to have the money invested or distributed per capita.
Q. Do any of your people work for these cattlemen?—A. No, sir.
Q. Do not these cattlemen take kindly to your people?—A. They did seem to take kindly to us at first; but since they got this lease they are independent.
Q. Do they treat your people as kindly as white people?—A. I think so.
Q. Are they just as quick to hire an Indian as a white man?—A. I do not know about that, sir.
Q. Do you think the Indians make as good cowboys as white men?—A. Yes, sir.
Q. How do these cattlemen live there?—A. Well, sir; they have houses. They formerly lived in dugouts in the side of the hills.
Q. Do all the herders live in the same house, Are they married?—A. Yes, sir; some of them are; but their wives and families are in the State of Kansas.
Q. How do they get along without their wives?—A. They visit their ranges once or twice a year, sir. They are at home the rest of the time in the State.
Q. Where do they live the rest of the time?—A. Their wives, as I said, are in Kansas, and they are there with them.
Q. I mean the cow-boys.—A. They live on the range. They are with the cattle all the time.
Q. Well, then, the men who own the cattle live in the State?—A. Yes, sir; and the men who take care of the stock live on the range. They formerly had dug-outs, but houses now, I presume. They have no families with them.
Q. They cook their own food?—A. Yes, sir.
Q. Do they mingle with the Indians?—A. No, sir; I do not think so. They do not have much to do with the Indians.
Q. Did you ever have anything to do, before this lease was made, with pasturing cattle?—A. Well, sir, I was West. in 1879.
Q. What do you call West? What do you mean by that?—A. I was west of ninety-six.
Q. You went there?—A. Yes, sir.
Q. What did you do?—A. I went there for the purpose of staying there.
Q. Were you there when the leases were made?—A. No, sir; I had come back.
Q. What did you do with your property there, or did you have any?—A. Yes,.sir; I had some property there.
Q. Describe your place.—A. When I first went there, in April, 1879, I located on the west bank of the Chickasaw River, immediately east of the Nez Perce Reservation. I had been there only a few days after locating when the United States troops removed me from that country to Kansas.
Q. Off from the Cherokee Strip?—A. Yes, sir; when they moved me they were under the impression that I was an intruder.
Q. Were you alone?—A. No, sir; there were about half a dozen Cherokee families with me.
Q. And they moved them all off?—A. Yes, sir; they moved all of them away.
Q. Have not the Cherokees a right to occupy this land until the United States takes possession of it?—A. That was my impression, sir.
Q. On what ground did the troops remove you and the rest of the party?—A. Simply that they suspected us of not being Indians.
Q. You did not look enough like an Indian?—A. No, sir.
Q. Did the others look like you?—A. None of us looked like Indians.
Q. Were all of them of Indian blood; you have some white blood?—A. No, sir.
Q. But the families with you, did they have some white blood ?—A. They were all Cherokee people with families, and none of them showed that they were Indians.
Q. The troops removed you all?—A. Yes, sir.,
Q. Thinking you were Kansas intruders?—A. Yes, sir; you could not convince them otherwise. They would not take the testimony I had with me.
Q. Where did they carry you?—A. They took us to Kansas, and then allowed us to come back across the line where we had our stock.
Q. How much stock did you have?—A. I had four head of cattle, eighty hogs, and our team horses. We were hurried off so that the troops gave us no time to collect the stock. After we were taken out of the Territory we were allowed to come back to get our stock.
Q. They allowed you to come back into the Territory?—A. Yes, sir; into the Territory. Our stock was left there, and we were allowed to come back to get them.
Q. That was on the Cherokee outlet?—A. Yes, sir. After we collected our stock, these troops allowed us to graze our cattle on the State border, but we were not allowed to make any improvement or do any work.
Q. Were you in that situation when the lease was made?—A. No, sir; I had purchased a little place and added to it.
Q. You had made another place?—A. Yes, sir.
Q. On the Cherokee outlet?—A. Yes, sir.
Q. What did you do there?—A. We remained there for a year, made a crop, and cleared some land, built some houses, but we got no protection from our own Government, and in the summer of 1880 we moved back again, but I left a man on the range I had there, and he still occupies it as my tenant.
Q. He is there now?—A. Yes, sir; he was notified by the cattlemen that he had no right or privilege there after the lease was made, but still he occupies the same place.
Q. How much stock has he?—A. About fifty head of horses.
Q. Is there any land under cultivation?—A. No, sir; there is no land under cultivation. He has certain limits in which he is allowed to graze his stock. The cattlemen did respect these limits up to the time of the lease, but have encroached upon them since.
Q. Have you ever tried to get a lease from those cattlemen?—A. No, sir.
Q. Are you still occupying this land in that way?—A. Yes, sir; by my tenant.
Q. Were there many Cherokees who would have been glad to do what you did?—A. Yes, sir; many would have come there if I had been allowed to remain.
Q. Do you know how much these cattlemen are obliged to pay for this land?—A. One hundred thousand dollars a year, and the lease runs for five years.
Q. Then that would be at the end of five years $500,000?—A. Yes, sir.
Q. How much would that amount to per capita?—A. At the end of five years it would be $25 to each person. I am giving the census of the nation, which makes our people 20,000 in number, and each one of these persons at the end of five years would receive $25 for his portion of this money.
Q. What would the majority of these people do if they got this money?—A. They would spend it all before they got it.


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