Henry M. Teller: Colorado's Grand Old Man

By Duane A. Smith | Go to book overview
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In a speech at the Carlisle Indian School in May 1883, the guest of honor, Secretary of the Interior Henry Teller, observed that he always wished “to deal with this Indian question dispassionately and upon the plain, common sense principles of national and political economy.” A reporter called the address the event of the day, and it “produced the deepest impression upon his hearers.” The reporter's only regret was that the speech could “not be spread in full over the whole country.”

Ever since the arrival of English settlers in Jamestown, Virginia, and Plymouth, Massachusetts, more than 260 years before, the “Indian question” had vexed both cultures. The longest-running U.S. Civil War had started in 1622 in Virginia between two American armies fighting on American soil for their way of life, homeland, and future. Although winding down, the struggle continued in the courts and on the military field in such widespread western regions as Montana, Arizona, Indian Territory, and California.

That question had bedeviled the federal government since its creation and secretaries of the interior since the first one had been appointed. Now, in the 1880s, a more vocal group of Americans attempted to sway Congress and the public to turn toward justice for the tribes, particularly those in the West who still struggled to maintain their homeland. Many westerners, on the other hand, simply wanted them removed so their land could be opened for settlement. Colorado had

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