William P. Dole was Lincoln’s hand-picked Commissioner of Indian Affairs, appointed to office on March 8, 1861. Dole “had made the necessary bargains that swung the votes of the Pennsylvania and Indiana delegations to Lincoln,” and thus won the new president’s first federal appointment. As Republican party railroad support and homesteading policy was attracting white settlers to the West, many tribal lands and previous Indian treaties got in the way of progress.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
Lincoln’s Indian Affairs
“Dole began working closely with [Wisconsin Republican] Senator James R. Doolittle, chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs, to conclude treaties with all Indian tribes not yet covered by binding agreements. Nearly every treaty contained the Indian Bureau’s careful description of tribal lands, along with an equally careful disclaimer inserted by senators to eliminate any possibility that the treaty might be interpreted as a recognition of Indian title to the land.
When a few Southern tribes joined the Confederacy, Dole began to press for confiscation of their lands in present Oklahoma so that other tribes might be settled on them after the war. This idea had a great deal of appeal, since it seemed to solve the problem of where to put the Indians of Kansas and Nebraska whose land was coveted by white settlers and speculators.
[Episcopal] Bishop Henry B. Whipple had called for an end to whiskey smuggling on the reservation . . . [and] During the fall of 1862. Bishop Whipple visited Lincoln to plead for mercy for the 303 Indian warriors sentenced to death by [General John Pope’s] military court for their part in the Sioux uprising.
Dole interpreted Pope’s [draconian resettlement] proposal to mean that the general wanted to herd all Indians together in one vast reserve where white civilization could not intrude. He . . . wondered just how Pope proposed to bring hostile warriors onto his reservation without involving the nation in a bloody Indian war.
Something very much like Pope’s policy was being tried in New Mexico with disastrous results. During 1862 and 1863, the army moved several thousand Navajos and Mescalero Apaches onto a reservation . . . both groups rebelled at the harsh surroundings and the strict control imposed by the military. Indians fled from the reservation faster than troops could find them and return them to captivity.
[It was] a military operation that brought Dole’s tenure to an end. Colonel John M. Chivington and his volunteer militiamen massacred a sleeping camp of Arapaho and Cheyenne Indians at Sand Creek, Colorado Territory, in late November 1864. An outraged Congress immediately demanded the removal of the army officers, Indian agents and politicians who were in any way involved in the events leading up to the episode.
Lincoln tried to save the career of old his friend from Illinois, but a few weeks after Lincoln’s assassination President Andrew Johnson removed Dole without much ceremony.”
(The Commissioners of Indian Affairs, 1824-1977, Kvasnicka & Viola, editors, University of Nebraska Press, 1979, pp. 91-95)