1845 Reports of the Commissioner
Affairs and Indian Agent Reports
"Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs," pp. 448-643. In U.S. House. 29th Congress, 1st Session. Message from the President of the United States to the Two Houses of Congress, 1845 (H.Ex.Doc.2). Washington: Ritchie & Heiss, 1845. (Serial Set 480)
From: Report of Elijah White, Sub-agent in Oregon, pp. 630-639.
. . . The most painful circumstance that has occurred lately, transpired last fall, at California. The Kayuse, Wallawallas, and some of the chiefs of the Spokans, entered upon the hazardous but grand and important enterprise of going directly through the Indian country to California, with a view of exchanging their beaver, deer, and elk skins, together with their surplus horses, for neat stock. . . .
Taking their own statement, their reception was cordial, and the impression made upon the whites by these distant and half civilized people, upon an errand so commendable, was most favorable. The treating and salutations being over, the trade commenced in good faith, and to mutual satisfaction. All moved on well, till . . . [here follows an account of an attack by "mountain free booters," which led to conflicts with Spaniards and Americans, resulting in the death of a young chief, Elijah, who was murdered by an American]
Taking for truth an Indian report, this horrible affair creates considerable excitement, and there is some danger of its disturbing the friendly relation that has hitherto existed between us here, and all those formidable tribes in the region of Wallawalla and Snake river. They had no sooner arrived than Ellis, my interpreter, the high chief of the NespercÚs, was deputed to come down and learn our opinions regarding the affair. . . .
. . . Ellis arrived at my residence, in Willamette, about the first instant, having a short time before, got a hasty communication, written in excitement, from Dr. Whitman, who was under serious apprehensions that it might be avenged upon some of the whites of the upper country: be assured I was happy to see this my most faithful friend and interpreter. Sir, pardon me for sayingisolated as we are here, agitated, as we have a thousand times been, by faithless savages, and still more faithless whites, responsible yet powerless and defenceless in our unsettled state of thingsto meet with this honest man, this real friend, though an Indian, gave me most hearty satisfaction.
His thorough education at Red river moulded him into more of the white man than red. His prudence and good management with his tribe sanctioned the choice that had been made, and all the whites spoke handsomely of his kind offices and obliging deportment, whilst emigrating through his country. Being satisfied of the safety and policy, I feasted him well, and took at once unobserved measures to have him invited to every respectable place, all abroad, where the ladies and gentlemen received us so cordially, and feasted us so richly and delicately, that he almost forgot the object of his embassy, and, I verily believe, thought extremely highly of the whites of Willamette, however ill he might have thought of the conduct of the Californians.
Being anxious to make this visit useful to him and his people, as well as pleasant, after spending a few days in visiting the schools, as well as the principal inhabitants and places of interest, I showed him my little library, told him to make himself at home; put on my farmer's garb and commenced working upon my plantation. He soon came out, accompanied by a wealthy cousin, and begged for tools to assist me. I loaned them, and found he was much at home in their use. He spent with me a sufficient length of time to convince me of the truth reported concerning his cheerfulness. He spoke sensibly of the advantages of industry, and the astonishing change that had been effected among his people, by the cultivation of the soil; assured me that every family or lodge now raised an abundance for home consumption, besides having considerable quantities to barter with the whites. He says he raised himself, the past season, six hundred bushels of peas, with a fine crop of wheat, potatoes, beans, &c, &c.; spoke properly of its moral and social effects. Wars were not longer talked of and the chase was nearly abandoned; the book and the Bible consumed their leisure moments. Polygamy, once so common, except in two solitary cases, was now done away, and not a lodge of my people but observe the Sabbath, and regularly attend morning and evening devotion. All this was only corroborative of what I had previously heard from other sources. He spent ten days with me in the most cheerful, agreeable, and profitable manner, and at the close I felt myself the happier and better man for the visit; nor did I marvel that his influence was increasing and the prospects of his people brightening. . . .
. . . I wrote, through Ellis, a long, cordial, and rather sympathizing letter to the chiefs of these tribes, assuring them that I should at once write to the Governor of California, to Captain Suter, and to our great chief, respecting this matter. With a view to divert attention, and promote good feeling, I invited all the chiefs to come down in the fall before the arrival of the immigrants, in company with Dr. Whitman and Mr. Spalding, and confer with me upon this subject; at the same time as they had been so unfortunate, to bring along their ten dollar drafts, and exchange them with me for a cow and calf, each out of my own herds. I likewise wrote them, that on condition they would defer going to California [to revenge the death of Elijah] until the spring of 1847, and each chief assist me to the amount of two beaver skins, to get a good manual labor literary institution established for the English education of their sons and daughters, (a subject they feel the deepest interest in,) I would use every measure to get the unhappy affair adjusted; and, as a token of my regard for them, would, from my private funds, give the chiefs $500, to assist them in purchasing young cows in California. I likewise proffered, as they are so eager for it, to start the English school next fall, by giving them the services of Mr. Lee, my interpreter, for four months, commencing in November next.
Ellis more than properly appreciated my motives and proffers, and said he was of the full belief the chiefs would accede to my proposition; spoke of the importance of the English school, and of the strong and general desire to attain it. he left in high hopes of a continuance of peace and onward prosperity to his people. . . .