1862 Reports of the Commissioner Affairs and Indian Agent
"Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs," pp. 169-576. In U.S. House. 37th Congress, 3d Session. Report of the Secretary of the Interior, 1862 (H.Ex.Doc.1, Pt. 2). Washington: Government Printing Office, 1862. (Serial Set 1157).
(Washington Territory East of the Cascade Mtns. Showing Topography of the Mines Region Map)
From: No. 61, Report of B. F. Kendall, Late Superintendent, pp. 444-452.
. . .NEZ PERCÉS
Of the condition of the Nez Percés and their reservation I cannot speak with any degree of satisfaction. Not far from sixty thousand dollars have been expended by the agent heretofore in charge of this tribe, and I regret to say that the visible results of this liberal expenditure are meagre indeed.
The buildings erected by Mr. Cain for the agency and employés were mere shells, hardly fit for human habitations, and the want of comfort displayed can only be accounted for on the ground that the agent did not make the reservation his headquarters, and consequently felt little, if any, interest in the matter.
The erection of saw and flouring mills had been contracted for and were in the course of construction, and I am glad to say they promise to be creditable specimens of workmanship, and I trust will fully subserve the ends proposed by the government.
These Indians have about one thousand acres of land fenced into small fields at different points on the reserve, which they have cultivated without any aid from the government, as they had done previous to any agent being placed over them.
Though it appears by his accounts, rendered for the 3d and 4th quarters of 1860, and the 1st quarter of 1861, that Mr. Cain had all the treaty employés under pay, and some ten laborers during the last half year employed under the provisions of the treaty providing for breaking up and fencing farms, I sought in vain to find the first foot of land fenced or broken by him or his employés; and the only product of the agricultural department that I could discover consisted of some three tons of oats in the straw, piled up within a rude, uncovered enclosure of rails, to raise which must have cost the government more than seven thousand dollars. Even this property was barely saved by the present agent from the hands of the departing employés, who claimed it as the result of their private labor.
As I witnessed the withdrawal from this meagre pile of the rations for my horse, I could hardly fail to sigh to think that every movement of his jaws devoured at least a dollars worth of governmental bounty.
The chiefs whom I met in council complained that the employés heretofore sent to instruct them under the provisions of the treaty had taken their women to live with, and had done little else; and they seemed desirous to know if that was the method proposed by the government to carry out the stipulations of the treaty.
Several of these discharged employés were lounging around the agency waiting for their female Indian companions to receive their proportion of the annuity goods.
These Indians, with few exceptions, are strongly inclined to cultivate friendly relations with the whites, as they have abundantly shown in their forbearance while their stipulated rights have been disregarded by the whites travelling through and settling on their reservation; and unless some steps shall soon be taken to anticipate the irresistible current of events the authority of the government will be completely disregarded. . . .
To attempt to restrain miners would be, to my mind, like attempting to restrain the whirlwind. The history of California, Australia, Frazer river and even of the country of which I am now writing, furnishes abundant evidence of the attractive power of even only reported gold discoveries.
The mines on Salmon river have become a fixed fact, and are equalled in richness by few recorded discoveries. Seeing the utter impossibility of preventing miners from going to the mines, I have refrained from taking any steps which, by a certain want of success, would tend to weaken the force of the law. At the same time I as carefully avoided giving any consent to unauthorized settlement, and verbally instructed the agent in charge that, while he might not be able to enforce the laws for want of means, he must give no consent to any attempt to lay out a town at the juncture of Snake and Clearwater rivers, as he had expressed a desire of doing.
I think these Indians are comfortably prepared for the winter, as well at least as usual; and there is good reason to hope that as much may done towards civilizing these Indians as with any other tribe west of the Rocky mountains.
From: G 1, Report of C. H. Hale, Superintendent of Indian Affairs in Washington Territory, pp. 528-545.
. . .NEZ PERCÉS
This is one of the most interesting of the Indian tribes to be found on the Pacific slope. They possess in an eminent degree a native power of intellect, and a remarkable adaptation to many of the modes and habits of civilized life, which would seem only to need a proper and genial culture to develop.
From the earliest acquaintance with this brave people, when Lewis and Clark first set foot upon the banks of the Kooskooskie, or what is now known as the Clearwater river, to the present time, they have been the true and abiding friends of the American people and government. Their friendship has been unwavering in its character, as it has been positive in its manifestations. At the commencement of, and during the Indian hostilities of 1855 and 1856, they were not simply neutral, but by their unequivocal action brought down upon them the reproach and hate of their hostile neighbors. How has this faithfulness been requited on our part? Has any suitable recognition been made by the government for the protection which these Nez Percés afforded Governor Stevens and his little band in the winter of 1855, when returning from the Blackfoot country? Their claims for horses supplied to the Oregon volunteers, unable to proceed in their expedition against the hostile Indians, are as yet unsatisfied.
In our treaty stipulations we have done no better. The appropriation made to provide for removal, breaking up, fencing farms, building houses, supplying them with provisions and a suitable outfit, has, in good part, either been squandered or withheld. Their annuities have not been paid fully and promptly, and much of that which has been received in the way of clothing, &c., not adapted to their wants, some of it worthless trash, bought at exorbitant prices. The shops and agency buildings are but partially completed; the mills are unfinished; no house has been erected for the head chief; no land ploughed or fenced for him; neither has his salary been paid according to agreement.
Whilst we were thus failing to execute our part of the contract, gold is discovered within the bounds of their reservation; application is made for privilege to mine on their land. In their simplicity, and with full faith in the justice of the government, their consent is obtained to make a steamboat landing and erect a warehouse at the mouth of the Clearwater; to a right of way across the reserve to the gold fields, and to the privilege of working the mines. This was done without any remuneration being asked on their part for the concessions thus made. It was, however, expressly provided that no settlements should be made by the whites, and that their root grounds and agricultural tracts should be preserved for the exclusive use and benefit of the Indians. To preserve the quiet of the country, and to protect their lands from trespass, it was furthermore agreed, on the part of the United States, that a sufficient military force should be placed on the reservation.(See the copy of articles of agreement of April 10, 1861, herewith forwarded.)
No sooner were these privileges granted than the landing and warehouse became a town, now known as Lewiston; their reservation was overrun; their enclosed lands taken from them; stock turned into their grain fields and gardens; their fences taken and used by persons to enclose the lands to which they laid claim, or torn down, burned, or otherwise destroyed. The accompanying report of Agent Hutchins gives much information on many of these points up to the date at which it was written, and the tribute of praise rendered by him to [L]awyer, the head chief is as deserved as it is true. The greater part of his time he is engaged in visiting his people, and using all his influence to keep them peaceable and preserve their faith with the government, and was so employed at the time of my recent visit.
I have thus given a plain statement of the facts. Would they were otherwise, as they are only calculated to make us blush with shame. I should, however, be recreant to my trust if I attempted to conceal them. My object in making them known is to lead to the providing of a remedy while yet there may be time, and avert the retribution that the continuation of such wrong must sooner or later produce.
Notwithstanding the difficulties that surround them, they have cultivated this season, on small farms through the valleys, an aggregate of from 1,500 to 2,000 acres, which have yielded fine crops of corn, wheat, vegetables, and melons. All of this has been done without any assistance from the employés. With a little instruction, and suitable aid and encouragement, many of them would become good farmers.
The agency farm consists of twenty-five acres, has been well cultivated, and produced an excellent crop of wheat, potatoes, corn, beans, melons, and other vegetables.
For want of lumber no houses have been erected for the Indians, and they still depend upon the lodge poles and buffalo hides for their dwellings.
The agency is at the mouth of the Lapwai, where it empties into the Clearwater. But few buildings are yet erected, and those few are of logs or poles, by reason of the delay in finishing the mills. Now, however, the saw-mill is engaged in the cutting of lumber, but the grist-mill is still unfinished. This delay has been caused by the want of means to meet the expenses of transportation. To secure the delivery of the machinery at all has required heavy liabilities to be incurred, much of which might have been saved if the agent had been furnished with the funds for that purpose.
The agency is situated upon land claimed as a mission station by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. I do not accord with some of the views expressed in the agent's report on this subject, and cannot impute to that board or its representatives motives of cupidity in their endeavor to establish the character of their former claim. Either they have or have not a right. This is a matter to be investigated, and I shall await the instructions of the department before taking any action in the matter, which would either admit or deny their right.
Whatever action may be taken, whether the Indians remain upon a part of their present reservation, or be removed elsewhere, the estimates proposed for removal and subsistence will be needed, as well as those for the building of shops, dwellings, repair of mills, purchase of tools, ploughing and fencing of land for the head chief, and the procuring of saw logs. . . .
. . . It is, on many accounts, greatly to be regretted that the suggestions of the Hon. J. W. Nesmith and W. H. Wallace had not been acted upon, to notify the commissioners by telegraph in July last, so as to have enabled them to make such preliminary arrangements as were required. The lateness of the notice, the delay of instructions, and the still greater delay in depositing the treaty funds with the assistant treasurer United States, New York, of which I was not fully advised until the present date, and the difficulty, if not impossibility, of disposing of drafts on such terms as would be satisfactory, will, in connexion with the approach of winter, render it impracticable, if not absolutely impossible, to secure arrangements for a treaty before next spring. It is unfortunate, both for the whites and the Indians, as well as for the government, that a treaty could not have been made this fall. The failure to do so may cost both life and treasure, but the responsibility cannot attach either to the commissioners, the agent, or superintendent, as they have not, nor has either of them, in any respect, up to the present moment, been placed in a condition to operate, either as to the past, the present, or the future.
The instructions received contain nothing in reference to the restrictions of the law as it regards the making of a new treaty. From a copy of the act making the appropriation, which has come into my possession, I find that no engagements are to be made for the payment of money to the Indians, but for specific articles of clothing, &c. This, in my opinion, is tantamount to saying that no treaty can be made. They have had so much of this sort of thing, and of such a character, as will not be very likely to lead them to agree to relinquish any part of their lands for payments of that kind, especially when they see the wealth that is taken weekly from the mines in their midst. The condition of things there is such that I am well satisfied it will not be easy to effect the proposed treaty upon any terms. Their dissatisfaction is increasing under the wrongs they are suffering, and difficulties have already commenced. Four white men have been killed, since my return, by some of the disaffected portion of the tribe, and both the Indians and settlers are becoming excited. The military force will have to be strengthened and retained there. Fully one-third of the Nez Percés have never been satisfied with the treaty; claim the right to take back their lands, for which they have never received anything, having steadily refused to take any share of the annuities, considering them in the light of a gross imposition, if not a palpable fraud. These constitute the most warlike portion of the tribe. They are bold, proud, independent, rich in bands of horses and money. Our policy should have been to conciliate these, and it might easily have been done, if, as a government, we had pursued the right, been prompt in fulfilling the treaty stipulations, and have paid the annuities in such things as were really beneficial. Now, the enemies of the country, of whom there are many, the avowed sympathizers with the rebellion, are poisoning their minds, and kindling a flame which may at any moment burst with fury, involving the innocent as well as the guilty. That portion of the tribe, constituting the remaining two-thirds, who do not wish to violate the treaty, are willing to abide by it, and wait a little longer for the redemption of the promises which were made, will hesitate, if not decline, to enter into a new treaty on such terms as the law indicates.
The Nez Percés, as a body, know the value of money, understand its uses, and can manage their own business affairs with as much shrewdness as the majority of white men, and I am well satisfied that any proposition to pay them, even partially, in clothing will be rejected with disdain. They will require money, or its equivalent in stock, or valuable permanent improvements upon the lands to which they may be removed. This the United States can well afford to do, when it is considered that about ten millions of gold will be taken from the mines within the bounds of this reserve before the winter compels the miners to suspend their operations. The prospects are that another year this amount will be doubled, especially if the mining population continues to increase. It is estimated that not less than thirty thousand personsminers, traders, and othershave been employed the past season, in one way or other, either directly or directly connected with mining operations. . . .
The question of a new location is also attended with much difficulty, as to where they can be placed with any prospect of not being again disturbed by gold-seekers, or speedily overwhelmed by the surging waves of civilization. North, east, and south of the present reservation is gold found, and further examinations may develop it to the west; where, then, can we place them so as not to render it necessary, in a year or two at most, to remove them again? The question in reference, not only to these Indians, but the Flatheads and confederate tribes, the Spokanes and others, forces itself upon us, and we had as well meet it at once. They are residing in a gold-bearing country, and before another year rolls around provision will have to be made for treating with these, or ere we are aware an Indian war of gigantic proportions will be on our hands. The elements to produce it are now at work, in a greater or less degree, amongst all the tribes residing in the Bitter Root, Columbia, and Snake River valleys, and it will be well for us if it can be stayed until the approaching spring.
The appropriation for the holding of this treaty is limited indeed, when it is considered that there are five thousand or more Indians concerned, most of whom are expected to be at the council ground, and will have to be fed during the whole time, which will inevitably last for many days. With the utmost economy it will not cost less than fifty cents per head each day to feed them, and most probably more, depending altogether upon the price of provisions at the time. After deducting this, but little is left for presents and other necessary expenses. These Indians are not to be tickled with gewgaws, or the present of some article worth only the trifling sum of one or two dollars, and if nothing of intrinsic value can be given it would be best to give nothing at all. It was a great mistake to reduce the amount below what was first proposed, and was unquestionably the result of a want of information as to these Indians, the value of their reservations, and the difficulties connected with the whole subject, notwithstanding the information furnished by Senator Nesmith at the time of considering the appropriation. His knowledge of Indian affairs in connexion with Oregon and Washington is of a practical character, and is entitled to the fullest credit. It is, indeed, too true, as declared by him, that " a combination of circumstances exist there such as never existed anywhere else without bringing on war, and when it does bring on a war it will be a very bloody one, it will be an exterminating war." Shall we thus repay the most faithful of our Indian allies, who have so earnestly desired that the United States government should exercise over them its paternal regard, and instruct them in the arts of civilized life, with faithlessness and neglect, which will inevitably work their utter extinction? . . .
From: G 10, Report of C. Hutchins, Agent, pp. 566-572
OFFICE NEZ PERCÉ INDIAN AGENCY,
Lapwai, W. T., June 30, 1862
SIR: I have the honor to submit my annual report for the fiscal year ending this day.
On the 1st September, 1861, I relieved Agent Cain of the charge of the Nez Percé Indians, and under date of the 16th September, I apprised your office of the condition of the public property turned over to me, and of the general condition of affairs at that time on this reservation.
At this time the Nez Percés are generally friendly disposed towards the whites, but the rush of citizens to the new gold fields within their country has repeatedly given occasion to sorely try their patience, and has also produced a complication that is thoroughly disastrous to elevating them to civilization. The entire eastern side of this reserve, from Salmon river on the south to the North fork of the Clearwater river, has been demonstrated to be an auriferous region. In some sections of that region gold fields have proven richer than the known discoveries of any previous age, and from the observation of many well-informed persons who have had practical experience in the several mining localities, I deem it beyond question that the mines, for many years, will amply remunerate the gold-seekers. I think that at the present time the number of white people that are dispersed through the several mining camps will closely approach the number of 15,000, and the throng of new arrivals is steadily unabated. The travelled roads through the reservation to all of the mining localities pass by some one or more of the Indian villages, which brings the Indians in hourly contact with the whites. Such unrestrained intercourse is, of course, constantly abused by unprincipled white men, and drunkenness and licentiousness are alarmingly on the increase. There is no local force here of any avail to compel even the semblance of observance of the humane laws for the preservation and security of the Indian. My repeated requisitions for troops, made on the military commanders of the adjoining post at Walla-Walla have not been supplied, and my representation of the necessity of troops being permanently quartered here, made to the several alternate commanders of this district, at Vancouver, Washington Territory, during the past year, has likewise been of no avail. Besides, to most effectually prevent any action on my part to bring offenders to justice, the funds appropriated for the maintenance of this agency, due on the expiring year, have been withheld, thus leaving this district without military force to compel obedience to the laws, and the agent with no means to employ special police to arrest and commit the most miscreant and infamous violators of the public peace.
Your predecessor, Mr. Geary, and Agent Cain, in April, 1861, after the existence of the gold mines about "Oro Fino" was made known, made an agreement with the Nez Percés, permitting our citizens to mine in that section, and opened a route of travel for them on the north side of the Clearwater river. Before that agreement could go practically into effect, richer gold fields were found to the south of that limit, and headlong thitherward rushed the miners and soon discovered the chief "El Dorado," the Salmon river mines. These united discoveries establishing the mines to course on the whole western foothills of the Bitter Root mountains, no regard was paid to the restriction against travelling on the south side of the Clearwater river; so the whole reservation was overrun in every possible direction to all the mines. During last season but little injury was really suffered by the Indians in consequence, for a general regard was entertained to respect their rights, which feeling was in no little assisted by the presence of Captain A. J. Smith, with a detachment of United States dragoons, who remained here till the mining season was nearly closed and the miners and travellers commenced to seek their own winter quarters.
In the month of October, of last year, a town site was laid off on the reservation on Snake river, at the confluence of the Clearwater, which is now known as "Lewiston;" and despite my calling public attention to the laws forbidding it, a small but active town has rapidly sprung up, numbering, perhaps, two hundred tenements of various descriptions, with a population approximating 1,200 white persons.
Along all the roads on the reservation to all the mines, at the crossing of every stream or fresh-water spring, and near the principal Indian villages, an inn or "shebang" is established, ostensibly for the entertainment of travellers, but almost universally used as a den for supplying liquor to Indians. The class of men that pursue this infamous traffic are, as might be expected, the most abandoned wretches of society, and they could be readily dispersed or brought to justice if our military chieftains could risk a portion of their ample forces away from their well-appointed quarters wherein they are so securely protected by dense cordons of settlements. It is but justice to state that the rigid enforcement of law against the scoundrels who sell whiskey to the Indians would meet the approbation, encouragement, and aid of the great majority of citizens now here prosecuting useful and honorable avocations.
By the treaty of June 11, 1855, with the Nez Percés, the tribe ceded and relinquished to the United States all their interest to that tract of country between the summit of the Bitter Root mountains and the spurs of said mountains; and in the second article of said treaty this tract is not included in the lands of the reservation, but the eastern line of the reserve is established to run along those spurs. No line or boundary can be more superlatively indefinite with the topographic features such as this country presents as a line "by the spurs of the Butter Root mountains to the place of beginning." This country might be described as a vast sheet of table-lands, broken occasionally by deep cañons, where flow the streams, which, rising from the banks of Snake river, extend eastward, gradually reaching mountain altitudes. The rise from the table-lands to the mountains proper is so uniformly gradual as to cause expert judges to be at a loss to determine any natural points on the course of the line as marking the eastern boundary. The vast interest that has attracted citizens to the reserve is centred in the tract that lies between what is unmistakably mountain and the true base of the mountains constituting the foot-hills. This is the gold region, and it is my opinion that if this line was "surveyed and marked out" under authority, as required by the second article of the treaty, that the mines would be found to be entirely without the reservation. But, as the Indians claim the mining lands to be within their country, I have deemed it best, in absence of any surveys heretofore, to officially view the mines within the reservation until the contrary is legally established. I would therefore recommend that such survey immediately be made, unless congressional action the current session directs the institution of proceedings to obtain from the Nez Percés a relinquishment of their right to use and occupy this reserve, for another home to be provided for them, where they will be secure from the contaminating effect of unrestrained contact with white men.
Among the other inconveniences that this agency has suffered to the prejudice of the public service and our relation with this Indian people during the past year, one of the most embarrassing, and I might add humiliating, has been from the non-receipt of funds appropriated for its maintenance. Fifteen months has now expired since a dollar was received applicable during that period. This agency was largely in debt before the commencement of my administration as agent to a degree almost annihilating its credit, but the prospect that remittances for the future would arrive promptly under the change of administration induced some citizens to extend to the service a credit, though inadequately sufficient to discharge the treaty obligations of this tribe. The non-arrival of funds, however, for that period has finally discouraged those who were most disposed to aid this branch of the government, and in consequence matters now are pretty near a stand-still; and were it not that a few citizens, who take more pride in their country than their pecuniary interests in this instance would prompt them to, have furnished supplies for this agency, all the treaty employés would be starved into resigning their places, and the agency of necessity abandoned. To procure the most competent and proper persons to fill the several stations on the reservation provided for by the treaty, to economize the appropriations for the maintenance of this agency, and to make the administration of its affairs thoroughly effective, so as to accomplish to objects of the government in its reservation system, it is absolutely essential and imperative that the money appropriated should be placed in the hands of the agent quarterly, and it would be better if the quarterly amount were paid over at the commencement of each quarter.
I received from your office, under date of the 15th April, a letter instructing me "to make out and transmit to your office a list of the dry goods, wearing apparel, farming implements and utensils of all kinds, and the quantity of each required for the Indians within this agency."
The letter did not state for what purpose these articles, if furnished, were to be applied, but I presume intended in payment of fourth of five instalments of $10,000 each for stipulations under treaty, to be expended under the direction of the president for beneficial objects for this tribe. The department is much in error if it holds that any, or rather most of these classes of articles are needed by these Indians for their actual necessities, or are required from the government to aid them in their progress to civilization, as I will endeavor to show. The Nez Percés are measurably rich in horses, the increase and surplus of which they sell for money, and obtain therewith dry goods, clothing, and groceries to the extent of their means. This resource enables them to procure any of the articles of attire in use among the whites; and the sales from the increase of their large bands of horses which range over their immense grazing lands would, if they fully appreciated the economy of their wants and property, be sufficient to obtain all the articles called for in the list above stated. To shape the economy of their resources and direct the operations of their industrybeing the intent of the government in the cultivation of the Indians under its paternal careit is requisite that the small stipend guaranteed to this people should be applied in a manner to be productive of the greatest good.
This opens the question as to what constitutes their substantial wants. I believe it to be a conceded rule, that it is primarily essential, in elevating these children of nature, that they should acquire habits of systematic industry; having acquired that, they commence to ascend the paths of civilization. The only feasible way that my experience and observation suggests for accomplishing this, is to expend all the aid that the government stipulated to pay them for beneficial objects, in facilities for cultivating the soil and objects that are directly connected therewith. The Nez Percés are normally an agricultural people, at least to a degree not found I believe in any other tribe of Indians on the Pacific slope. The cultivation of the soil being the basis of their native predilections for systematic and productive industry, it should be fostered and directed by the pecuniary hand of the government intelligently directed to that end.
At the present time they cultivate a very considerable amount of land, at an approximate calculation of 1,000 acres, on which they produce wheat, oats, corn, potatoes, and peas, as their staples, and to some extent garden vegetables. Subsistence thus obtained, together with a limited amount of beef-cattle and sheep that they possess, with the "camas" root, (their native substitute for bread,) that they prudently gather for their winter's supply, enables them to comfortably sustain themselves in the first necessities of life.
If this principle for their improvement be accepted, I would recommend that the moneys appropriated for their annuities be expended wholly in assisting them to build farms and farmhouses, fences, iron, nails, seeds, fruit trees, teams, and stock. By the treaty between the United States and this tribe it is required that the "proper officer shall each year inform the President of the wishes of the Indians" in relation to what beneficial objects their annuity money shall be expended in. At a council I held with the chiefs of the nation in November last I made due explanation of this clause of the treaty to them, and after due deliberation and conference among themselves on the subject, they unanimously asked that their annuities should be expended as above recommended. There are other strong reasons why a change in the manner of applying this "beneficial fund" should be made. If you supply and Indian with articles that he can otherwise procure by the product of his own labor, you do him a positive injury, for it induces him to lean on the government for support rather than on himself. By supplying him annually with a blanket, when by his personal exertions he could earn money for its purchase, you encourage him in his native laziness to that extent for his natural improvidence, and his living but for the day impedes the realization of the principle that by systematic labor can he be elevated in his social position. The utter inadequacy of applying their annuity fund by furnishing them with dry goods and wearing apparel for purposes of their substantial wants, is apparent by reference to the last shipment of annuities from the east for the year now closing. This invoice costing in New York and Baltimore $6,396, (out of the $10,000 appropriation,) is to be distributed among 2,800 Nez Percés, being an average of $2 28 for each individual, or $11 42 for each family of five persons. It is comprised of twenty-six kinds of articles, and there is not one single article that can be shared equally among the members of the tribe, while at the same time their wants and requirements are equal. For instance, 247 pairs of blankets gives but half a pair to less than one in every six persons; 4,393 yards of calico is less than two yards to every person, and so on through the list in a ridiculously less proportion.
It is with these people as with more advanced nations, there are some that are enterprising and some that are heedless; some that are disposed to labor and acquire the comforts and advantages of civilization, and others that are lazy and indifferent to everything but the passing hour; and if the government is serious in its desire to elevate this people, it is my opinion that the annual fund for beneficial objects, guaranteed by the treaty, would be best dispensed if placed wholly at the control of the agent, to be directed and expended upon those of the tribe who would derive substantial aid therefrom.
On the 2d June, ultimo, I was visited at the agency by the Rev. Cushing Eells, who, on behalf of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, laid claim to six hundred and forty acres of land upon which the agency is located. He based the claim of said board upon provisions of an act of Congress approved August 14, 1848, donating a section of land for missionary purposes, and claimed this tract as having been taken and occupied by their missionaries for that purpose for eleven years.
It appears that he has recently filed a notification for the claim at a land office in Washington Territory, and his especial business here at that time was to establish by survey the metes and bounds of the claim, and he asked of me, in writing, the privilege of performing this work.
This is the first time that this office has been notified that this land was claimed for any purpose other than the purpose of its present use, and as it is currently understood by those who were in the country at the time that the missionaries voluntarily abandoned the claim on the 4th December, 1847before the passage of the act under which they claimand as the treaty with the Nez Percés, concluded June 11, 1855, does not reserve any claims of this kind on the reservation, I was constrained to deny the request for privilege to survey the land, referring the subject to the Indian bureau. Whereupon Mr. Eells, as attorney for the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, gave notice to the "Indian department" forbidding them to make further improvement on the lands claimed by them. . . . [I] desire instructions from the department thereon. It might be proper for me to make one observation relative to this claim. The missionaries allege that they were forced to flee from this country by the hostile temper of the surrounding tribes, after the massacre of the Rev. Dr. Whitman, in 1847; and perhaps they acted with salutary discretion in retiring to the protection of the settlements in the Willamette valley, although they were assured by the Nez Percés that they would protect them in their persons and property if they would remain. But, as they have made no demonstration of returning from that time till the present, and have been engaged in other pursuits during the intermediate period, and as the original necessity (if any) of their leaving this claim has for many years been quieted, and notwithstanding this land has been wholly unoccupied during the whole time till within two years as an agency, it is suggestive, at least, that they would not have realized the force of their claim for some time yet to come, except from the value attached to the spot by the Indian department improvements, and the intrinsic value that the little fertile lands on this reservation enjoy by their proximity to the new gold discoveries. . . .
Owing to the insufficiency of quarters for accommodation of employés, I have not filled all the positions demanded by the treaty. This want is more particularly felt in the school department, as there are no buildings for any purposes connected therewith. Hence
but little has been done towards effecting the organization of this department.
Another unavoidable inconvenience that this agency has experienced, from its proximity to the gold mines, is the demoralizing influence on the employés, incident to the fabulous current reports of the vast wealth of the mines. It is not natural that men should remain contented in secluded and monotonous positions with the prospect of sudden riches in their imaginations almost within their grasp. For this reason, most of the employés that I originally selected have been allured away by the prevailing excitements arising from the gold fields. This fact will necessarily abridge the reports of the subordinates of the reserve to a degree rendering them more incomplete in details that the Indian bureau desires. . . .
In restraining these Indians repeatedly during the past year from acts of recrimination and vengeance for aggravated outrages perpetrated on them by worthless white men, much of the credit is due to their head chief, "Lawyer," who has exerted the most salutary and effective efforts in preventing his people from resorting to personal redress. This venerable chief stands as a monument of unwavering loyalty to his treaty pledges; and the many timely instances of his good offices to the whites, as well as his guardian care of his own nation, entitle him to the generosity and esteem of our government.
E.: Report of D. H. Dillingham, Superintendent of Teaching, pp. 573-574.
NEZ PERCÉ INDIAN RESERVATION, June 30, 1862.
SIR: In accordance with a regulation of this department, I have the honor to submit herewith my report of the existing condition and progress of education among the Nez Percé Indians and facilities for their acquiring the same. I regret very much being obliged to report said facilities in a very meagre and insufficient state. There is not a building of any description erected for such purpose on this reservation, nor is there any for the accommodation of teachers. Another difficulty suggests itself very forciblyit is that of school attendance. It would be a matter of impossibility for a large majority of the children belonging to the different bands to attend a school, owing to the distance they reside from this point, unless provision should be made by the United States government for their maintenance. They live at from ten to sixty miles, in various directions, from the agency, and their parents are unable to provide for their support, should they be concentrated at one or two schools. As you are aware, this fact calls forth the first action, and unless our government extends its aid to them in the way of lodging, clothing, and subsistence, its humane intent would be frustrated, owing to the impossibility of parents to administer to their childrens' necessities at so great a distance from their villages. My position as superintendent of teaching on this reservation was assumed by me on the 26th ultimo, and I find, in my intercourse with the different tribes of the Nez Percé Indians, that, with very few exceptions, they express not only a willingness but an earnest desire to acquire knowledge. This nation are not of the totally ignorant and debased order of savages, but possess a large share of intelligence and self-respect. With the keen p[er]ception of the Indian, they combine some of the more refined impulses of the white man, and the task of instructing them will be rendered thereby a comparatively easy one, provided, however, that our government will extend its aid. But in the absence of school-houses, books, and other requisites connected with this branch, the Indians are gradually giving up their anticipations in that line, and are becoming more and more careless as to their moral necessities. Such is the existing state of affairs, and I sincerely trust that at an early day appropriations for educational purposes may be made, thereby enabling a more favorable future report to be rendered.
Respectfully your obedient servant,
D. H. DILLINGHAM,
Superintendent of teaching, Nez Percé Reservation.
G 12, Letter of Hon. Gilmer Hays to Superintendent Hale, pp. 575-76.
OLYMPIA, W.T., October 30, 1862.
SIR: In your letter of several days ago, you ask me for information on various subjects connected with the Nez Percé reservation.
First. You desire to know whether, in my opinion, a treaty can be made with the Nez Percé tribe for their reserve.
My impression is that a treaty may be made with them for their reservation. In conversation with some of the leading men of the tribe, I learned substantially from them this: that they had heard that money had been appropriated to have a talk with them to see if they would sell out; that they were disposed to accommodate and let us have the country on some terms, but said they were at a loss to know where they could go; they preferred to remain where they were if they could be permitted to do so in peace and safety, but they had their fears that the vast numbers of white men who were coming to their country would overrun them and seize not only their gold lands, but would also take from them their agricultural and grazing lands. They seem to have lost confidence in our government as a treaty-making power. They say we talk much and promise much, but that we are very slow in making good our promises. They complain and say we have not complied with existing treaty stipulations; that we ought to pay up what we now owe them before we ask them to treat again. I have said that I believed a treaty could be made with them for their reservation. If the Indian department have the means to make good all former treaty obligations to date, and present them something tangible, in the shape of money or stock, I believe they can be treated with for their country on terms advantageous to both themselves and the United States.
The Nez Percé Indians are far above other tribes on this coast for intelligence and virtue. They know the value of money, property, and merchandise. They know just what blankets and other articles of clothing costs them when paid in annuities. They know equally well that if the amount of annuity was paid them in money that with it they could buy better and cheaper goods from any merchant or trading post in the country.
Secondly. You ask me the probable amount of gold taken from the Nez Percé gold fields this season.
This is a question very difficult to answer. The Portland dailies make the sum between six and seven millions. These papers, I think, have rather underrated than overrated the amount. I should think between seven and ten millions would be a fair estimate.
Third. You want to know my opinion relative to the next year's yield.
My impression is that it will be greater than that of the present year. The country is better known; roads have been made, claims found and opened; miners will get to work earlier in the season, and they will understand the mining arts better than heretofore.
Fourth. You inquire as to the amount of the agricultural land on the Nez Percé reserve.
It would be impossible for me to approximate the number of acres suited for agriculture. I will say this, that if the lands suited for cultivation were thrown open to the production of wheat, barley, oats, potatoes, and vegetables, that the yield would be ample to sustain a mining population of twenty thousand souls.
You are aware that the transportation of supplies at the great distance they are now transported is the heaviest drawback to the mining interests. The cost of living is so great that a miner has to make from eight to ten dollars per day to follow his vocation. Open the Nez Percé country to cultivation, and supplies are raised in the vicinity of the mines, transportation measurably dispensed with, and millions will be added annually to the moneyed wealth of the country.
Respectfully yours, G. HAYS.