1857 Reports of the Commissioner
Affairs and Indian Agent Reports
"Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs," pp. 554-832. In U.S. House. 34th Congress, 3d Session. Annual Message of the President and Report of the Secretary of the Interior, 1856 (H.Ex.Doc.1, Pt. 1). Washington: Government Printing Office, 1857. (Serial Set 893).
From: No. 145, Report of William Craig, Sub-Agent for the Nez Percés, pp. 641-642.
WALLA-WALLA VALLEY, W.T.,
July 21, 1857.
SIR: In compliance with your circular issued at the office of the superintendent of Indian affairs, at Salem, Oregon Territory, March 19, 1857, to the agents and sub-agents of the different tribes of your superintendency, I have the honor to forward to your office the following report, which I think is correct, viz:
I have in my charge the friendly Cayuses, that live in Washington Territory, and the Nez Percés tribe. The Nez Percés country is bounded west by the Palouse river, which lies north of Snake river, and the Tucannon, which lies south of Snake river; on the north by the range of mountains between Clear Water and the Cur d'Alene; east by the Bitter Root mountains; on the south they are bounded near the line dividing the two Territories.
The face of their country is barren, and very broken; it is well adapted for stock raising.
They number from thirty-one to thirty-five hundred souls. They have quite a large number of horses, and some cattle. They have always professed friendship towards the whites until last summer, when there were about two-thirds of them who got excited, became hostile, and joined the hostile bands; but since that time they have returned to their country and professed to be friendly. They are now working their little gardens, as they were in the habit of doing before the war. I think they have in cultivation some forty or fifty acres; they raise corn, wheat, peas, and potatoes. It is hard to make an estimate of the number of bushels that they raise, as they commence using it before it is ripe.
I think, with the assistance of some farming utensils, they would be able to raise their own subsistence. The last year they were all supplied with subsistence by the government for a short time, and a part of them until this spring, as they had raised nothing during the time of excitement.
As a tribe, I think them more enterprising and industrious than any of the neighboring tribes. They have no mills, shops, or houses, erected in their country for the use of the Indians.
A part of them appear anxious that the treaties should be kept, and a part do not wish it. As soon as they learn the treaties are not sanctioned they will all be at rest.
They are anxious to have their children schooled, and mills built. I would suggest that an appropriation of twenty-five thousand dollars be made, as that sum, in my opinion, would be sufficient for those things and maintain peace and friendly relations with the whites. . . .
From: No. 154, Report of R. H. Lansdale, Agent for the Flat Head District, pp. 663-669.
. . . THE NEZ PERCÉ NATION.
So far as I was able to learn, on my late trip, all the Nez Percé people have returned to that allegiance entered into with the government of their white brethren at Walla-Walla, in May, 1855. The Nez Percés are numerous and powerful; they have many horses and cattle, and a beautiful and desirable country; some of them have considerable wealth, and feel quite independent; some are quite enlightened by former missionary teachings, and by intercourse with the whites, and the friendship of all such may be fully relied upon. Such is the influence of this nation, arising from their numbers, knowledge, wealth, and central position, that not one honorable or wise effort should be neglected in securing and perpetuating their friendship for our government and people. To the undersigned the rejection of the treaty of Walla-Walla would seem a policy both fatal and foolisha measure so just and beneficial to the Indians, so easy to the whites, and necessary to the extension of our settlements; for it must be evident, even to the most stolid, that Americans will extend their settlements, regardless of the interests of Indians; and it is the province of a wise government so to direct, modify and shape inevitable events, that a weak and defenceless people should not be sufferers only by contact with a civilized and powerful race. That treaty, then, with the Nez Percés, at least, should be ratified and executed; or one similar should be negotiated with them, without delay, that their peace and prosperity may be put on a safe and permanent basis, and their good will and friendship for their white brethren and our government be perpetuated.
On the 10th of July last, as the undersigned passed through the Nez Percés country, as directed by your instructions of June 2, he took occasion to learn their state and condition, and their views upon such questions as interest our government and people. I gave them a feast and smoke, in the name of the President, and held a talk with the chiefs and headmen, at which all were present, except two or three, and several were there whose friendly feelings for the whites were more than questionable one year ago. The result of my intercourse with those chiefs leads me to believe that their friendship is very desirable, that it should be secured, and that it might be easily done. . . .