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


R. D. HUNTER.

Washington, D. C., January 7, 1885.
R. D. HUNTER, sworn and examined:
By the Chairman :
Question. What is your name?—Answer. Robert D. Hunter.
Q. Where do you reside?—A. Saint Louis, Mo.
Q. What is your business?—A. I am engaged in the cattle business.
Q. How long have you been in that business?—A. About eighteen years.
Q. Have you had anything to do with the Indians in that time I Have you dealt with them or lived with them?—A. I have never lived with them, but I have had dealings with them for the Government.
Q. In what way?—A. Furnishing supplies.
Q. Are you interested in any lease in the Indian Territory?—A. Yes, sir; we have a lease in the Indian Territory.
Q. Did you furnish supplies for the Indians in the Indian Territory, or to the Western Indians?—A. We furnished supplies to the Indians in the Indian Territory and elsewhere.
Q. You say you have a lease? —A. Yes, sir.
Q. Describe it; with what Indians was it made?—A. With the Cheyenne and Arapahoes.
Q. When was it executed?—A. It was executed at the same time the others were.
Q. Have you a copy of the lease with you?—A. Yes, sir [witness submits lease].
Q. Is the lease substantially the same as the others?—A. Yes, sir, it is substantially like the others; in fact, it is just the same as the others, Mr. Senator.
Q. Was the lease made to you alone?—A. Yes, sir.
Q. How many acres does it contain?—A. It embraces about 500,000 acres; the lease was made to myself and associates.
Q. Was the word "associates" in the lease?—A. I don’t remember.

By Mr. Harrison :

Q. Was the lease made simply to Robert D. Hunter?—A. Yes, sir; the lease was made to me.
Q. What part of the reservation is it located in?—A. It is located immediately north of the Evans’ lease mid east of Fenton, Deman & Mallaley’s lease. It runs to the north line.
Q. How far does it run along the northern line?—A. I think it is 18 miles wide on the extreme north line.
Q. How far south does it run?—A. If I am not mistaken it runs some 41 miles.
Q. What Streams is it watered by?—A. The Wachita, South Canadian, and Deer Creek are the principal streams. I am speaking of both Mr. Evans" and my own lease. The principal running through my lease is the South Canadian; that is the only stream of any note.
Q. Are you personally acquainted with the character of the land?—A. Well, yes, sir.
Q. Well, describe it, please.A. The land is very hilly, broken coun­try on the Canadian, and there is a good deal of "black jack " country, as we term it.
Q. What is "black jack" country?—A. Well, the "black jack" is the scrub timber on high, sandy land.
Q. Is there any good timber on the land?—A. Well, no, sir. On the Canadian there is some burr oak and some walnut, and there is some red cedar, also, in the breaks and cañons.
Q. Do you cut timber on the lease?—A. Yes, sir; we cut all necessary timber.
Q. What is the rental?—A. Two cents per acre.
Q. Were you present when the lease was obtained?—A. No, sir; I was in Washington.
Q. Who represented you?—A. My partner, Captain Evans; he was down there.
Q. What is his full name?—A. A. G. Evans. We made our application there, and I asked the Secretary of the Interior here about the feasibility of the matter.
Q. What did the Secretary of the Interior tell you?—A. He did not consider that he had the power to approve the lease, but he did not see any reason, if the Indians were agreeable and we could make the leases with these Indians, why there should be any obstacle. He said the lands were idle, and if the Indians could make money out of them, without detriment to their interest, he did not see why they should not do it; and he advised us that the only way to get the leases was from the Indians. He also stated that as long as we could get along with the Indians he did not see why we should not occupy the lands. The lands at the time were occupied by parties who did not pay anything.
Q. In what way were you to obtain exclusive use of the lands if the matter was left to the Indians alone?—A. Well, we were to make our own arrangements.
Q. How were you to secure to yourselves the exclusive occupation of these lands during the term of your lease?—A. Well, sir, it was understood from the letter the Secretary wrote to Mr. Fenlon in regard to the lease that we were to be protected in the occupancy of these lands during the term of our lease.
Q. Did you understand that you were to have the aid of the Department in keeping others off?—A. Yes, sir; we understood that we were to be protected in the enjoyment of the rights under the lease as long as we obeyed all the laws governing the Indian country.
Q. You were here and your partner was in the Indian Territory negotiating the lease?—A. Yes, sir.
Q. Did you communicate to your partner what assurances you had obtained?—A. No, sir; not at that time. I did not have the opportunity to do so.
Q. You took your lease under the impression you obtained here?—A. Yes, sir.
Q. Since then have you had further conversation with the Department?—A. Yes, sir. After obtaining the lease I went to the Secretary and tried to have him approve all our leases.
Q. Did be approve them?—A. No, sir; only in the way indicated in the letter to Mr. Fenlon.
Q. But he did not disapprove of them?—A. No, sir. He thought it a good thing, and he did not see why we should not occupy this land as long as we obeyed all the laws governing the Territory.
Q. Did he give assurance that you should have the countenance of the Department?—A. He only stated about what the letter contained.
The Chairman. No matter about that.
The Witness. That was the substance of the conversations, that as long as we lived up to our agreement with the Indians we should be protected as against other parties who had no leases.
Q. And it was that assurance that you have gone on?—A. Yes, sir; we would not have spent the amount of money we have if we had not understood it in that way.
Q. Now, sir, who are interested with you?—A. Captain Evans, Mr. Newman, Mr. Fair, and their associates.
Q. Who do you mean by their associates?—A. Mr. Newman has a brother interested with him.
Q. But Captain Evans was the only person originally interested with you in the lease?—A. Yes, sir; we were regular partners, but it was understood before we got this lease that Mr. Newman and Mr. Fair, who had been there together, should have their portion of the land.
Q. Has the interest in the lease changed hands in any respect lately?—A. No, sir; not in the least. These parties have an interest in the cattle we have upon the lease but not in the lease itself.
Q. Could you give the names of all the parties interested in your lease t—A. I think so.
The Chairman . Well, do it, please.
The Witness. Evans, Hunter, Newman and Fair, and the brother of Mr. Newman has an interest, too; and I think Mr. Newman has also an associate himself, a Mr. Maybry.
Q. Is that all?—A. Yes, sir; that is all as far as I know.
Q. You are not a corporation?—A. No, sir.
Q. Have you stocked this land?—A. Partially.
Q. When did you commence to stock it?—A. Last May we put the first cattle on there.
Q. How many payments have you made?—A. Four.
Q. Have you been present at these payments?—A. I was only present at one, the first one.
Q. Describe the method in which that payment was made?—A. We have paid them all in silver dollars, which they desired. We carried the money there and they were paid in the commissary department upon tickets issued to them. The head of every family gets so much rations, and that depends upon the number of persons in the family. These Indians pass through one door into the commissary building and receive their money per capita and pass out the other door.
Q. Who was your paymaster?—A. Mr. Fenlon was our paymaster.
Q. Who was there to see that the Indians were fairly treated?—A. The agent, the agency employés, and the commanding officer from Fort Reno; he and some of his officers.
Q. Suppose any of the lessees were dishonest men and were disposed to cheat, was there any provision made for the protection of the Indians in the lease?—A. I think so. I think it was that if the lessees did not obey the tenor of the lease they forfeited the lease.
Q. Who is to enforce it f—A. It is supposed the Government will enforce it.
Q. Suppose the Government refuses to have anything to do with it, how can it be enforced?—A. We feel that we can rely upon the Government, but if we fail there we must enforce it amongst ourselves.
Q. I am supposing the possibility of some one practicing upon the Indians. In such a case, who can enforce the rights of the Indians?—A. If the Government takes no cognizance of it, I do not know how that is to be done.
Q. If the Indians should refuse to acknowledge your rights, who could enforce them f—A. We have no protection now against the Indians. That is the great trouble. It makes our lease almost valueless, but we feel that we have some protection from the outside. We rely upon the Government.
Q. What assurances have you from the Government?—A. We rely upon the implied promise of the Secretary of the Interior.
Q. I thought you said it was an expressed promise.—A. I do not know whether you would call it so or not. We received that assurance from the Secretary of the Interior, but it is the same thing that is contained in the letter to Mr. Fenlon.
Q. Will you please state the words from which you inferred that assurance.—A. Well, sir, to the best of my recollection, he said there was no reason why we should not lease the lands and occupy them as long as we kept good faith with the Indians, but that as far as the Department was concerned it could not approve of the leases, yet it would protect us against intruders.
Q. You said you paid the first six mouths before due?—A. Yes, sir.
Q. Do you know whether any money was paid before the lease was executed t—A. Not that I ever knew of or heard of.
Q. Did anybody promise any?—A. I know that neither my partner nor myself promised any; I only speak for ourselves.
Q. Why do you limit it to yourself and partner?—A. Because I am responsible for nobody else.
Q. I am not inquiring as to the responsibility, but as to the fact?—A. Well, sir; I never heard of anything of the kind.
Q. Did you never hear of any money or any other thing being offered?—A. No, sir; I never did.
Q. This agent must have spent a good deal of time in preparing the lease and holding the half a dozen councils; did he get any remuneration for this?—A. Not from us, sir.
Q. Did you pay anything to any one?—A. We paid the clerk for drawing up our leases.
Q. How much?—A. Oh, a very small amount; I do not remember the exact amount; but nothing more than a lawyer would have charged, or not so much, perhaps.
Q. Previous to the execution of this lease did you apply to the Interior Department to obtain a lease?—A. Yes, sir.
Q. With what result?—A. Well, sir, we applied to the Department for a lease, but were refused. We came to Washington to see the Secretary of the Interior in regard to the matter.

By Mr. Harrison:

Q. Will you be kind enough to fix the date?—A. That was in the month of November, 1879.
Q. Where did you expect to get this lease?—A. Our first attempt was in reference to the Kiowa and Comanche Reservation, 1879, and then again we applied through the military department to rent the Oklahoma lands. We made an application for the Oklahoma lands through the War Department. In furnishing the contract for the Government at Darlington, and at Anadarca, I had become acquainted with Agents Miles and Hunter I talked with Miles and Hunter about renting some of their unoccupied lands. They thought it a good thing if the money could be properly applied, and they expressed the opinion that if the money were properly applied in ten or twelve years the Indians would be self-supporting. When Mr. Fenton went into the Territory and had a council with these Indians and proposed to lease their lands, and after the Indians had agreed to lease them and did lease them, then Colonel Miles wrote to us at Saint Louis, Mo., stating that the lands had been leased.
Q. Who did you say wrote?—A. Colonel Miles wrote that a portion of the reservation had been reserved for us, as we had been the first to talk of leasing the land, and it would be retained for us if we wanted it. Captain Evans wired me, and I in return wired him back to go and see about it. The council was then over, and the whole thing had been amicably arranged, and Mr.Fenlon and others had obtained their leases. Arrangements having been completed in reference to leasing to us, Cap­tain Evans came home, and in the course of a week or two they leased us a portion of the reservation.
Q. Were. these negotiations for leases instituted before you got the assurances you spoke of from the Department?
The Witness. How is that?
Q. Were the negotiations with the Indians commenced before you got the assurances from the Department?—A. No, sir; these assurances I had before the leases were pledged or before any attempt was made to secure the lease; of course we did not know what the others were doing. I did not know that Mr. Fenlon was trying to obtain a lease. My idea was that the Interior Department was the proper place to go in order to negotiate for a lease, and after the Department had taken it under consideration Major Pollard, my attorney, came here with me and we visited the Department together, and then the Secretary of the Interior said he did not see why we should not have the lease, but he considered that the Department had no right to make these leases, and referred us to the ,Indians themselves, and he said it was a question, whether the Department could officially approve them or not. He saw no reason, if we made a lease and lived up to the agreement we made with the Indians, the same as we would do with anybody else, he did not see why we should not do it; he did not see why these Indians should not. be receiving money for their waste lands which had been unoccupied for. years.

By the Chairman :

Q. I see that these leases recite that they shall be subject to the approval of the Secretary of the Interior?—A. Well, sir, the Secretary was not sure whether he could approve them or not, but it was expected that they would be approved.
Q. Then this lease of yours was executed under the idea that it should be approved?—A. Yes, sir; all of these leases were made subject to the approval of the Secretary, but that I knew nothing about until the lease was made.
Q. Had these other parties any assurances when they were negotiating their leases that they would be permitted to enjoy the land without the approval of the Secretary, that is, as far as you know?—A. No, sir; I know nothing about it, except what I have already stated.
Q. I do not understand that you communicated your assurances to the others?—A. No, sir; I did not.
Q. But, so far as you know, were they not negotiating under the idea that to make them effective they must have the approval of the Department?—A. Well, sir, I do not think my partner thought so until afterwards.
Q. Were not all the leases negotiated under the idea that they were of no use unless approved?—A. I think so, as far as I know; of course, I did not know how these other parties were negotiating their leases while I was here. I do not know anything about that; I was not there.
Q. I wish to inquire, but I do not desire to be misinterpreted, whether you paid any money to get this lease, that is, if you have paid any money outside of the amount you have named in the lease, since the execution of the lease?—A. No, sir; we have paid no consideration whatever, Mr. Senator.
Q. You never told anybody that you had?—A. No, sir; we have paid nothing but our legal fees.
Q. Well, I do not allude to your attorney"s expenses or anything of that kind. Did you go to New York and try to dispose of your lease at any time?—A. No, sir.
Q. Have you made any offer to dispose of it?—A. Well, we have made several propositions to try to get parties to join us and help to stock our range.
Q. You never told anybody that you were obliged to pay so much blood. money that you could not afford to hold this lease?—A. No, sir.
Q. Did you ever hear any of these lessees make any such statement?—A. No, sir.
Q. You spoke of a conversation with Colonel Miles in reference to the rental being invested in cattle?—A. Yes, sir.
Q. Has it been done?—A. No, sir; it has not been done.
Q. Is it possible to do this if you pay the money per capita?—A. No, sir.
Q. Is it your opinion that it is a wise way to pay it?—A. Well, sir; I think if it were put into the hands of some Government agent and applied to the purchase of cattle, and if some good man in the Government employ superintended the growing and management of the herd until it would increase and grow so that the cattle could be divided up amongst families, it would be a better plan, but I think it is a great deal better to pay the money per capita than to pay it to any one Indian in gross. It would have been better in the outset to have paid it to somebody to invest for the Indians.
Q. Would it be more difficult now than in the beginning to change that method?—A. I do not think so.
Q. Would they be willing to give up the per capita payment?—A. Well, sir, I understand that the Indians requested the next payment in cattle. They have a right to demand money or cattle. I think it would be better for the lessees if the Government had a good agent to receive or buy this cattle for the Indians, rather than to have the cattlemen furnish them to the Indians. This business should be conducted by a regularly appointed agent and a good business man under the control of the Government.
Q. Do you think that under proper management the Indians could be made good herders s—A. I do, if they were forced to work, and if they refused to work they should not receive anything to eat; their rations should be stopped immediately.
Q. Do you think that it would be better for the lessees and the Indians too, to have their money invested in cattle for them?—A. Yes, sir.
Q. Have the Indians used their money judiciously?—A. Well, sir; the last payment I think they did use judiciously. But I think that if this money were used by the Government to supply their wants a few years longer—in ten years’ time these Indians would be self-supporting.
Q. Have they still remaining sufficient land to hold their cattle for that time—A. Yes, sir.
Q. Under the present condition of things, is it your opinion that it would have been the wiser plan to have had the Secretary of the Interior take supervision of this latter matter in the outlet?—A. Yes, sir; it would have been much better to the Secretary to have taken supervision of the matter in the beginning, and to have used the money for the benefit of these Indians.
Q. Does any legislation suggest itself to you by which some uniform system of leases could be adopted?—A. Yes, sir; we would like to have some Congressional action upon the subject. We look to Congress to give us some relief.
Q. Suppose the committee should request of the cattlemen to have their associations out in that country devise some sort of plan which would commend itself to them for the permanent disposition of this country?—A. Well, sir; we would all be very glad to assist in any way, because it is a vexed question as it is now. The spend large sums of money there and we have derived no benefit yet, and we have no protection from these Indians. The Indians kill a great many cattle, and they are getting very impudent and saucy. There are not enough troops to restrain them, and we have no guarantee of protection.

By Mr. Harrison:

Q. Mr. Hunter, I notice that this lease that I hold in my hands does not require you to fence the land.—A. No, sir; but we could not keep our lease without fencing.
Q. Have all of these lessees fenced up their ranges?,—A. Yes, sir; I think so, except, perhaps, in the southwestern portion of the reservation, where they are putting up fences now. It was essential that the land should be fenced; it was better for the Indians and better for us. The Indians raised small patches of melons and roasting-ears, and different kinds of vegetables, and if we did not fence our lands, whatever little crops they attempt to raise would be at the mercy of our herds.
Q. Was this essential stipulation put in?—A. I think not, sir.
Q. Why was it that it was not put in?—A. Well, sir; I suppose it was not thought of. I was going to add that, for our own protection, and to avoid such difficulties, we thought it necessary to fence our lands.
Q. Do you not think that any careful representative of the Indians would have absolutely bound the lessees to fence their leases?—A. Yes, sir; if he had thought of it.
Q. Otherwise any attempt to encourage farming amongst the Indians would have been rendered futile, would it not?—A. Yes, sir. Mr. Chair­man, I do not think that there is a foot of this land, unless it be in the southwestern corner, and there they are fencing, or preparing to fence.
Q. What company is in that section of the reservation?—A. The Standard Cattle Company.
Q. Is there any stipulation in the lease providing for a forfeiture?—A. Yes, sir; I think it is specified that we should not introduce liquor or fire-arms, or things of that kind.
Q. But there is no stipulation in regard to the forfeiture of the lease for not fencing t—A. No, sir. I think that is included in a general way, though.
Q. Well, Mr. Hunter, will you please read to us any stipulation in the lease which relates to this matter? I think the only stipulation is what purports to be a lien upon your cattle for the rent.


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