1844 Reports of the Commissioner Affairs and Indian Agent Reports

"Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs," pp. 299-502. In U.S. House. 28th Congress, 2d Session. Message from the President of the United States to the Two Houses of Congress, 1844 (H.Ex.Doc.2). Washington: Blair and Rives Printers, 1844. (Serial Set 463)


From: Report of Elijah White, Sub-agent in Oregon, pp. 489-495.

. . . I received several communications from missionaries of the interior—some from the Methodists, and others from those sent out by the American Board, representing the Indians of the interior as in a state of great excitement, and under much apprehension from the circumstance that large numbers of whites were coming in, as they were informed, to take possession of their lands and country. The excitement soon became general, both among whites and Indians, in this lower, as well as upper district; and such were the constantly floating groundless reports, that much uneasiness was felt, and some of our citizens were under such a state of apprehension as to abandon their houses, and place themselves more immediately within the precincts of the colony. As in all such cases, a variety of opinion was entertained and expressed; some pleading for me, at the expense of the general government, to throw up a strong fortification in the centre of the colony, and furnish the settlers with guns and ammunition, so that we might be prepared for extremities. Others thought it more advisable for me to go at once with an armed force of considerable strength to the heart and centre of this conspiracy, as it was represented; and, if words would not answer, make powder and ball do it. A third party entertained other views; and few were really agreed in any one measure.

As may well be imagined, I felt the awkwardness of my position; but, without stopping to consult an agitated populace, selected a sensible clergyman and a single attendant, with my interpreter, and so managed as to throw myself immediately into their midst unobserved. . . .

The Indians flocked around me and inquired after my party, and could not be persuaded for some time but that I had a large party concealed somewhere, and only waited to get them convened, to open a fire upon them and cut them all off at a blow. On convincing them of my defenceless condition and pacific intentions, they were quite astounded and much affected, assuring me they had been under strong apprehension—having learned I was soon to visit them with a large armed party with hostile intentions; and I actually found them suffering more from fears of war from the whites, than the whites from the Indians—each party resolving, however, to remain at home, and there fight to the last; though, fortunately, some three or four hundred miles apart.

The day following, we left the Wallawallas and Keyuses to pay a visit to the Nez Percés—promising to call on our return, and enter into a treaty of amity, if we could agree on the terms, and wished them to give general notice to all concerned of both tribes.

In two days we were at Mr. Spaulding’s station. The Nez Percés came together in greater numbers than on any former occasion for years, and all the circumstances combining to favor it, received us most cordially. Their improvement during the winter in reading, writing, &c., was considerable; and the enlargement of their plantations, with the increased varieties and quantities of the various kinds of grain and products now vigorously shooting forth, connected with the better state of cultivation and their unusually good fences, was certainly most encouraging.

Spending some three days with this interesting tribe and their devoted missionaries in the pleasantest manner, they accepted my invitation to visit with me the Keyuses and Wallawallas, and to assist, by their influence, to bring them into the same regulation they had previously adopted, and with which all were so well pleased.

Mr. Spaulding, and Ellis, the high chief, with every other chief and brave of importance, and some 400 or 500 of the men and their women, accompanied us to Waülatpu, (Dr. Whitman’s station,) a distance of 120 miles; where we met the Keyuses and Wallawallas in mass, and spent some 5 or 6 days in getting matters adjusted and principles settled, so as to receive the Keyuses into the civil compact; which being done, and the high chief elected, much to the satisfaction of both whites and Indians, I ordered two fat oxen to be killed, and wheat, salt, &c., to be distributed accordingly.

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This was the first feast at which the Indian women of this country were ever permitted to be present, but probably will not be the last; for, after some explanations of my reasons, the chiefs were highly pleased with it, and I believe more was done at that feast to elevated and bring forward their poor oppressed women, than could have been done in years by private instruction.

The feast broke up in the happiest manner after 5 Crows, the Keyuse chief[,] Ellis, and the old war chief, (of whom I made particular mention in my last report, as being so well acquainted with Clark,) and a few others had made their speeches, and we had smoked the pipe of peace, which was done by all in great good humor. . . .

As my former worthy interpreter is dead, allow me to pray the appointment of Ellis, the high chief of the Nez Percés, in his stead; who is not only versed in his own tongue and the Wallawalla, but is an English scholar and a man of sense. As he is so well regarded, his appointment will have a good influence both among whites and Indians. . . .