1860 Reports of the Commissioner Affairs and Indian Agent Reports
"Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs," pp. 235-466. In U.S. House. 36th Congress, 2d Session. Annual Message of the President and Report of the Secretary of the Interior, 1860 (H.Ex.Doc.1, Vol. 1). Washington: Government Printing Office, 1861. (Serial Set 1078).

History    

From: No. 77, Report of E. R. Geary, Superintendent, pp. 395-410

. . . The reservation provided for the Nez PercÚs is an immense tract, extending from the Palouse on the north to the crest of the Salmon River mountains on the south, over 100 miles, and has an average width of sixty miles from east to west. The chief rivers are the Snake or Lewis river and its tributaries, the Clear Water, and Salmon rivers. The Snake river to the mouth of the Clear Water, and the latter for fifty miles up, are navigable for battteaux and probably small steamers, and are quite eligible for rafting purposes. A finely-timbered country is found on the Clear Water, consisting of pine, cedar, and larch; of which the country for hundreds of miles south and west is almost destitute. The lumbering business might, therefore, under judicious management be made a source of large permanent income to this tribe. About one half of the country on the east is made up of rugged mountains; the remaining portion is an elevated plain, often divided by deep chasms. It is untimbered, and abounds in grass. The principal streams flow through ravines and narrow valleys at an immense depth below the general surface. They are usually walled in by massive rocks of columnar basalt.

Within these rock-bound limits the margins of the streams seldom expand to any considerable extent, and only at wide intervals are a few acres found of fertile soil.

A few wider valleys are found having a fertile soil, but the destitution of timber renders their occupancy to a great extent impracticable.

The largest tract of agricultural land west of the mountains is on the Lap[wai], a small tributary of the Clear Water. On this creek was located the prosperous mission of Rev. Mr. Spalding. The Weipe valley, about sixty miles east of the Lap[wai], has a fertile soil, but the elevation subjects it to summer frosts.

As a whole this reservation has great natural resources, the timber of its mountains can be floated to a certain market on its rivers, its extensive pastures are adequate to sustain numerous flocks and herds; game and fish are abundant, and its valleys, though limited and widely separated, are fertile and productive, and capable of supplying the agricultural wants of the tribe.

This people received their first lessons in civilization from the Rev. Mr. Spalding. A considerable number profess Christianity, and are exemplary in their conduct; this is a remarkable fact, proving the depth of the impression made by the teaching of the missionary, as they have been now for thirteen years without a white religious teacher. Their small fields are cultivated with considerable skill, and irrigation is often resorted to for the maturing of their crops.

They have large herds of horses, and begin to give attention to improving the breed. A few of them also own cattle. Many of their young men annually hunt the buffalo on the waters of the Missouri. A few can read and write their own language, which is said to be copious, flexible, and expressive.

The Nez PercÚs are characterized by mental vigor, energy, bravery, and docility, and are larger and more muscular than most of the surrounding tribes. The loathsome diseases, common among the coast Indians are almost unknown.

It is to be regretted that since the extension of our settlements into the interior, the degrading vice of intemperance has extended among them, and unless arrested, it will produce the same disastrous consequences so often witnessed among the Indian race.

The main pass into the Nez PercÚs country is by the Elpowwa, and I have instructed the agent to place a suitable person at that point to examine all packs brought in, hoping thus, in a great measure, to break up this traffic, and avert the destructive evil.

The expression of a determination on the part of an armed company to enter their country in search of gold, created a great excitement among the Indians, and would certainly have been resisted by them, had it been attempted. The judicious measures of the agent, with the concurrence of the military authorities, has happily averted a disastrous collision, which at one time seemed imminent.

A faction in the tribe, who appear to have never cordially approved the cession of their lands, has at various times evinced a spirit of insubordination and sullen opposition to the wishes of the agent, and made vigorous efforts to spread disaffection through the tribe, on account of the long delay attending the ratification of the treaty, but the friendly party has remained firm, and continues to command a controlling influence.

As remarked before, these Indians have large bands of horses, which they sell to the traders, or drive to Walla-Walla and the Dalles, and exchange for blankets, clothing, and groceries. They have generally adopted the American costume, and evince their progress in civilization by attaching comparatively little value to the gewgaws and trinkets that so commonly captivate the savage. This reservation has the advantage of an isolated position, and there is but one eligible pass into their country in the direction of the settlements, that is, by the Elpowwa. . . .

From No. 85, Report of A. J. Cain, Agent for the Cayuse, Walla-Walla, Palouse, Nez PercÚ, and Spokane Indians, pp. 432-435.

. . . NEZ PERC╔.

This is the most powerful and influential tribe of Indians this side of the Rocky Mountains. They have always, as a tribe, maintained peaceful relations with the government, and have, and do yet, exercise a salutary influence over their neighboring tribes by their example. They are disposed to be industrious, and with proper encouragement the younger portion of the tribe may attain to that degree of civilization contemplated by the Indian policy of the government heretofore inaugurated. They own a great many horses and cattle, and have been in the habit for years of cultivating the soil to a small extent. Last spring I assisted them in their farming operations, to the extent of my abilities, as an earnest of the fulfillment of treaty stipulations, and the results have been very satisfactory indeed. Besides raising all kinds of vegetables, they have secured for winter use about two thousand five hundred bushels of wheat and between three and four thousand bushels of corn.

This tribe numbers about four thousand souls, and are on the increase rather than decrease, as is the case with all the other tribes in this country, as their wealth and standing induce many of the better disposed of other tribes to come and live and claim their homes with them.

They have always been divided into two parties—the treaty or peace party and the anti-treaty or war party. The latter, however, have never been directly concerned in hostilities, but have given encouragement to other tribes so engaged. As I have before reported, last year, I succeeded with much difficulty in satisfying the minds of this party in regard to the treaty, at the time I met them in council to announce its confirmation. Since that time, I have succeeded in gaining their confidence, and, by promises that government would not neglect them, have succeeded in controlling them peaceably. This tribe is scattered in small bands over the large extent of country embraced in their reservation, and each individual, or head of a family, has his own garden, which he cultivates himself. I have encouraged this condition, as it is the most important initiative step in learning them to labor for their own maintenance. These Indians are decidedly an agricultural people. They want farms and shops, and but a portion of the money appropriated for them will be required to secure this much desired end. By promises to this effect, made these Indians, I have induced all who reside off the reserve to move on to it, with their own accord, as soon as their crops are secured, without any additional expense to the government. To secure permanent peaceful relations with these Indians they must be made to feel that they have homes and interests to protect, which would insure their hearty co÷peration in protecting the peace of the country. The anti-treaty party have been opposed to this policy, as they have been in the habit for years of going to the buffalo country to winter, where they take their stock, and this roaming propensity cannot be broken up except by locating them on permanent farms. It is for that reason that I refused to make a requisition, and stated that the policy of contracting for cattle for them before they were located was prejudicial to the interests of the Indians as well as to the government. They are much dissatisfied with the delay in fulfilling their treaty stipulations, and my entire attention is now directed to satisfying them in regard to their disappointments. They hold the balance of power with the other Indians of this interior country, and it is a matter of paramount importance that they should not feel neglected or wronged. . . .

 

Census.

Tribes.

No. of souls.

No horses.

No of cattle.

Cayuse 400 1,000 300
Walla-Walla 800 500 None.
Palouse 400 300 50
Nez PercÚ 4,000 10,000 2,000
CourD'Alene 600 1,000 100