1851 Reports of the Commissioner Affairs and Indian Agent
"Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs," pp. 265-582. In U.S. Senate. 32d Congress, 1st Session. Annual Message of the President, 1851 (S.Ex.Doc.1, Pt. 3). Washington: Government Printing Office, 1851. (Serial Set 613).
From: No. 68, Report of Anson Dart, Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Oregon Territory, pp. 472-483.
. . . The Sahaptin or Nez Perce tribe own a large tract of country north and east of the Cayuses and Walla Wallas, and are the most numerous and powerful tribe in Oregon, possessing immense wealth in cattle and horses. They are divided into fifteen bands, which number, in all, one thousand eight hundred and eighty souls. . . .
Recapitulation of tribes east of the Cascade mountains.
Wascopans, two bands at the Dalles, 129 men, 206 women, 147 children
Deschutes band, 95 men, 115 women, 90 children 300
Walla Wallas, 52 men, 49 women, 38 children 130
Waulatpas or Cayuses, 38 men, 48 women, 40 children 126
Sahaptins or Nez Perces, 698 men, 1,182 women and children 1,880
Palooses, 60 men, 62 women, 59 children 181
Spokans or Flat Heads
Sinhumanish band, 71 men, 85 women, 38 boys and 38 girls 232
Mission band, 70 men, 60 women, 40 boys, and 40 girls 210
Upper Pond Orrilles, 480 Lower do., Couer d'Alienes, 200 1,200
Rock Island, 300; Collville, 320; Okonagon, 250 870
Yackimas (estimated) 1,000
. . .
[June] 21st. In the morning I visited the saw mill belonging to the Whitman station, which is rather a rude affair. . . . After it had been sufficiently examined we travelled on towards the country of the Nez Perce Indians, and encamped at night on a small stream twenty miles from the Walla Walla.
23d. Our route this day was over a rolling prairie country, where all the streams run through deep ravines which were difficult to pass. It is a fine region for raising sheep, cattle, horses, &c., and good crops of wheat could probably be raised here. Encamped at night on a small creek called Elpaha.
24th. Started early in the morning, passing down the Elpaha to its entrance into the south branch, or Snake river, where we came to the residence of Red Wolf, a chief. Here we saw corn in the tassel, and many thrifty apple trees, some of which were loaded with fruit. One of the apples measured six and a half inches in circumference. In the vicinity were ten lodges, one of which contained fifty-three persons. The women were engaged in pounding cammas root, of which they make a kind of bread, which is dried in the sun, packed in skins, and stowed away under ground for winter use. Some of these Nez Perces own large droves of horses; one of them I was informed owned over a thousand. It is very common to see from one to three hundred in a group feeding upon the prairies. Encamped at night upon the Clear Water river, three miles above the mission station formerly occupied by H. H. Spalding. . . .
26th. At our encampment on the Clear Water, we were to meet the chiefs of the Nez Perces tribe; accordingly in the afternoon of this day they began to arrive. They were all mounted on fine horses, which, as well as themselves, were decorated in the highest style of Indian art, and came riding into our camp with a great flourish of trumpets, beating drums, and firing their guns into the air. In a short time the whole valley seemed filled with Indians, galloping their horses, shouting and going through a variety of evolutions, before they came up to the camp. After dismounting, and going through the ceremony of shaking hands, their dances commenced, and were kept up until late at night.
27th. In the afternoon a grand council was held, at which there were probably over five hundred Indians present. We had a very friendly talk with them, and they seemed pleased and perfectly satisfied with our kind intentions towards them. The chiefs said they were highly delighted with our visit, which they assured us would be productive of much good. It was admitted on all hands that such a gathering had never been seen before in Oregon. Three beeves were killed to supply the Indians while at the council, the cost of which was nearly three hundred dollars. They made but two good meals for them. We ascertained the whole number of the tribe to be one thousand eight hundred and eighty. . . .