1850 Reports of the Commissioner Affairs and Indian Agent Reports

"Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs," pp. 35-175. In U.S. Senate. 31st Congress, 2d Session. Annual Message of the President, 1850 (S.Ex.Doc.1, Pt. 1). Washington: Government Printing Office, 1851. (Serial Set 587).


From: B., Letter of Instructions to Superintendent A. G. Dart, Oregon, pp. 148-151.

. . . A great and important object to be attained, and which must be done mainly by the agents, is the reconciling of all differences among the Indians themselves. The agents should represent to the Indians that their Great Father, the President of the United States, enjoins it upon them to live in peace and harmony, and that they must shake hands and live like brethren together. The best way to accomplish this is by inducing bands hostile to each other to enter into written treaties of peace and amity, stipulating to preserve friendship among themselves and towards the whites, and to refer all their misunderstandings and differences to the umpirage of the proper representatives of the United States government.

Great efforts should also be made among the Indians to induce them to engage in agricultural pursuits, to raise grain, vegetables, and stock of all kinds. It would not be amiss to encourage them by the promise of small premiums, to be awarded to those who raised the greatest quantity of produce, horses, oxen, cows, hogs, &c.—the presents which may be given to them from time to time might be applied to this object.

The agents under your supervision will find among the Indians Christian missionaries of various sects and denominations, differing in some articles of form and faith, but all engaged in the great and good work of extending the blessings of Christianity to an ignorant and idolatrous people, and of civilizing and humanizing the wild and ferocious savage.

The orthodoxy of any of these missionaries is not to be tested by the opinion of the Indian agent, or any other officer of the government—none of these can rightfully be the propagandist of any sect, or the official judge of any article of Christian faith. All, therefore, who are intrusted with the care of our Indian relations in Oregon, are instructed to give the benevolent and self-sacrificing teachers of the Christian religion whom they may find there equal aid, countenance, and encouragement, and that they merit their good will by uniform kindness and concession to all—leaving them free alike to use such means as are in their power to carry out the good work in which they are respectively engaged. The rapid increase of our population, its onward march from the Missouri frontier westward, and from the Pacific east, steadily lessening and closing up the intervening space, renders it certain that there remains to the red man but one alternative—early civilization, or gradual extinction. The efforts of the government will be earnestly directed to his civilization and preservation; and we confidently rely upon their Christian teachers, that, in connexion with their spiritual mission, they will aid in carrying out this policy; that, stationed as they are among the various Indian tribes, they will use all their influence in restraining their wild, roving, and predatory disposition, and in teaching them the arts, and bringing them to the habits of civilized life.

If this can be attained; if they can be taught to subsist, not by the chase merely—a resource which must soon be exhausted—but by the rearing of flocks and herds, and by field cultivation, we may hope that the little remnant of this ill-fated race will not utterly perish from the earth, but have a permanent resting place and home on some part of our broad domain, once the land of their fathers.

It is represented that the missionaries exercise great influence over the Indians of Oregon, and no doubt could be made powerful auxiliaries in carrying out the policy of the United States. To this end, it might not be amiss to let them know, in such manner as the delicate nature of the communication may suggest to you, that the government, whilst affording them every possible facility and protection, expects in return their aid and co-operation in executing its laws. The happiness of the Indian is the common aim of both, and the extension of our laws and regulations over them being for their own welfare, this class of philanthropists could not more effectually advance their own humane intentions than by inculcating obedience on the part of their wards, at the same time instructing them that they are solely dependent on this, and not on the British government, and must adhere to it alone; and that, with a sincere desire to protect and favor those who abide by its laws, it has also the strength and disposition to punish those who infringe them. . . .

From: E., Report of Joseph Lane, Late Superintendent of Indian Affairs, Oregon Territory, pp. 156-168.

…As I am anxious in this report to give a true and reliable statement of facts just as they are, that the government may be placed in possession of a true history of our Indian affairs in Oregon, and as both the sub-agents have submitted lengthy reports, it will not, I hope, be considered improper for me to mention—

First. That Mr. Newell is an old mountaineer, having spent ten years in the mountains, (from 1829 to 1839,) where he followed trapping, by which means he acquired a good knowledge of the tribes and their country. From 1839 to the present time he has resided within the district to which he is assigned to duty, and has become well acquainted with the Indians in the valley of the Willamette—speaks tolerably well the tongues of several of the tribes; and from his knowledge of the Indians and their country, without visiting them or travelling over the country, has made out and submitted his report, from which I make such abstracts as in my opinion are of sufficient importance to entitle them to your consideration: . . .

"The Neepercil Indians inhabit a large portion of country on the Snake, Clearwater, and Salmon rivers. They are an intelligent and good people, and have very numerous herds of horses and cattle. A portion of their country is very good, on which they raise a variety of vegetables, &c. They are kind to our people, and are well armed. There has been a Presbyterian mission among them. The total number of this tribe is estimated at about 1,500; some 400 of whom are warriors, more or less under the influence of the Hudson's Bay Company.