5.Indian Agent

I do not know whether I done rite or wrong,
but I done what I thought was best.
Carson to James L. Collins, September 20, 1859

To establish order in this territory, you must either submit to these
heavy expenditures, or exterminate the mass of these Indians.
James S. Calhoun to Commissioner of Indian Affairs, March 30,
1850, Annie H. Abel, ed., Official Correspondence of James S. Calhoun


AN ALTERNATIVE TO EXTINCTION

Kit returned to his family in Taos on Christmas Day, 1853. He soon posted the required bond and took up his duties as Indian agent. His appointment had been dated March 1, 1853, but he had been gone on his California trip for months before he heard of it. That the job was kept open for him suggests the lack of any sense of urgency in Washington regarding Indian affairs in New Mexico—or perhaps any affairs whatever in that remote part of the national domain. With a largely Hispanic and Indian population and separated from the East by hundreds of miles of Great Plains traversed only by horse or wagon, New Mexico Territory (including present Arizona and southern Colorado) stood low on the list of the nation’s priorities, except as a possible route to the Pacific Coast. The gold rush made California a state in 1850; New Mexico would wait for statehood until 1912, sixty-six years after Kearny’s army entered Santa Fe.1

The low priority given New Mexico affected Carson’s work as Indian agent in a number of ways. During his entire tenure he would operate out of his adobe house near the plaza in Taos. This was convenient for him, but it was also unavoidable since the government provided no quarters. For the Indians, as Carson would point out, it was considerably less convenient because they had to journey into Taos, which was not only time-consuming but exposed them to various risks and bad influ-

-148-

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Kit Carson and the Indians
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgments xix
  • 1- Will the Real Kit Carson Please Stand Up? 1
  • 2- Backcountry 24
  • 3- Mountain Man 37
  • 4- Guideandscout 85
  • 5- Indian Agent 148
  • 6- Soldier 228
  • 7- Peacemaker 343
  • 8- Conclusion 418
  • Notes 461
  • Index 509
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