1859 Reports of the Commissioner Affairs and Indian Agent Reports
"Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs," pp. 373-820. In U.S. Senate. 36th Congress, 1st Session. Annual Message of the President and Report of the Secretary of the Interior, 1859 (S.Ex.Doc.2, Vol. 1). Washington: Government Printing Office, 1860. (Serial Set 1023).


From: No. 189, Report of A. J. Cain, Agent For the Cayuse, Walla-Walla, Palouse, Nez Percés and Spokane Indians, pp. 781-785.


This tribe, who have been the friends of the whites since the visit of Lewis and Clarke to the country, having protected and saved the lives of Governor Stevens and his party, in 1855, organized a party who served with Colonel Wright during his campaign against the hostiles last year; and during every exigency where the whites have needed friends, they have been their firm allies, and entitled to great consideration on the part of government.

I have within a few days returned from "Weipe," (in the Bitter Root mountain,) where nearly all the tribe assemble yearly to dig "camas," where I remained eight days encamped, with about three thousand of the tribe.

Previous to my departure, rumors had reached me that a portion of the tribe were much disaffected, and opposed to the confirmation of their treaty. Upon arriving at their camp, I devoted six days in conversing and explaining to the chiefs and head men supposed to be disaffected. I found there had been great dissatisfaction—not in regard to the treaty—but from the circulation of false rumors amongst them by renegades from other tribes, to the effect that they were being deluded with the idea that their "treaty" was good, and would be carried out until the whites and soldiers were strong enough to take their lands by force; that the soldiers would visit them this summer, and hang some of their chiefs; and that I was to come amongst them accompanied with an escort of three hundred soldiers, to coerce submission to unreasonable demands I would make of them. I had but little trouble in refuting these rumors, with all but one chief, (Eagle from the Light,) who claimed, to the last, that they had not been treated properly by the whites; he said my talk was good, but he did not know whether I was telling the truth, or was afraid and wanted to scare them. He has always been opposed to the "treaty," but has few followers, and no influence with the tribe, with whom he lives but seldom, spending most of his time in the buffalo country with the Blackfeet.

All the chiefs but "Eagle from the Light" came into council, and the result was highly satisfactory.

Accompanying this report, are the proceedings of the council.

Thomas Hughes, local agent, and James W. Craig, interpreter, rendered me very important service, which it is due to them to acknowledge.

The principal chiefs of the "Nez Percés tribe," are "Lawyer," head chief; "Looking Glass," who claims to be the hereditary war chief; "Joseph," Uts-sa-mal-ican, Quil-quil-sne-ne, Spotted Eagle, Billy, We-as-ka-sit, Timothy, White Bird, Three Feathers, and "Eagle from the Light," all of whom, with their bands, reside in different parts of the country originally claimed by them, where they have their separated gardens and farms. Most of the tribe are now living upon the reservation.

They raise wheat, corn, and potatoes, and, in the aggregate, have about six hundred and forty acres under fence and in cultivation. With the encouragement to be given these Indians by the government by the confirmation of the treaty, they will be able to attain a high degree of success in agricultural and mechanical pursuits.

I observed that an enterprising young man, "Reuben," who had frequently visited the white settlements, had built himself a comfortable cabin, and by the sale of horses had been enabled to buy a two-horse wagon and harness. This spirit off enterprise on the part of "Reuben," has stimulated many others, who are desirous of following his example.

The tribe possesses a great many horses, and quite a number of cattle, and they evince a great desire to improve their stock with American breeds, as well as to cultivate fruit trees, having acquired a taste for the latter from observing a few bearing trees belonging to one of the chiefs, "Timothy." Although their reservation embraces a large extent of country, there is but little tillable land, and not more than enough to produce what they will require for their own consumption. Their principal resource will be as it is now, in raising stock, which their country is well adapted for.

No attempt should be made to concentrate any large number of these Indians at any one point upon the reservation, as they would not be able to subsist their stock except at a distance: besides, the harmony of their social relations would be much disturbed by such policy; and any attempt to cultivate their lands upon the common stock principle, would not only destroy all spirit of enterprise amongst the Indians, but would result in the government having to employ all the labor expended in producing crops. Each head of a family should be encouraged to make his own garden or farm, with no other assistance than can be given from their mills and shops, and the supervisory care of the employés provided for in the "treaty."

With proper management, this reservation can not only be made a self-sustaining one, with the appropriation provided for in the treaty; but the tribe will, in a few years, be a comparatively wealthy one.

The Nez Percés tribe is not only the largest, but most influential and important tribe in Washington Territory. They hold the balance of power; and as long as they remain friendly, the smaller tribes can effect no formidable combination to make war. Some few of their reckless young men, actuated by a filibustering feeling, have been engaged in hostilities against the whites, for which the tribe should not be held responsible. All of them are now desirous of having their treaty carried into effect, and nothing but the failure of the government to perform its part of the compact will ever drive them to war.

I will most earnestly urge the necessity of an appropriation to carry this treaty into effect, not only as an act of justice to these Indians, but as a matter of economy on the part of the government. Past experience has shown that the subjugation of even a small tribe of hostile Indians entails a heavy expenditure of money. . . .








Nez Percés