1865 Reports of the Commissioner Affairs and Indian Agent Reports
"Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs," pp. 169-772 . In U.S. House. 39th Congress, 1st Session. Annual Report of the Secretary of the Interior, 1865 (H.Ex.Doc.1, Vol. 2). Washington: Government Printing Office, 1866. (Serial Set 1248).

History                          

This office has been without authentic intelligence in regard to Indian affairs in this new Territory for many months, sundry reports forwarded by Governor Lyon, ex officio superintendent, having failed to come to hand. But one agent has been on duty in the Territory, Mr. O'Neill, in charge of the Nez PercÚs, a large and friendly tribe, numbering 2,830 by a late census, and located in various bands within seventy-five miles of the agency. Through failure of the mails, Mr. O'Neill's bond, which had been forwarded by Governor Lyon, did not reach this office, and no funds could be forwarded to him for the necessary expenditures under the treaty with those Indians. Much dissatisfaction was the necessary result; but through the influence of Lawyer, the faithful head chief, the efforts of those anxious to commence hostilities have been defeated, and no outbreak had occurred at the latest dates. The causes of dissatisfaction have certainly been great. The first treaty made with these Indians, which was satisfactory to them, had been superseded by another, made by Superintendent Hale, of Oregon, of which Idaho was formerly a part, and this has not yet been ratified by the Senate. Meantime the promised payments under the first treaty were delayed, and disloyal persons were not wanting to persuade the Indians that the government was acting in bad faith towards them. However, as stated above, the efforts of the head chief, Lawyer, and others, with those of the agent, were successful in preventing any outbreak, and funds have recently been forwarded to make the deferred payments. Agent O'Neill's report sets forth the condition of things among these Indians very clearly. The rapid increase of the white population, now numbering, by Governor Lyon's estimate, nearly fifty thousand in the Territory, and the influx of a mining population, extending their prospecting tours in every direction, has still further tended to render it difficult to preserve peace.

Advantage has been taken of Governor Lyon's recent visit to this city to obtain much valuable information in regard to the Indians of Idaho, and he has returned with funds to pay the sums past due under treaty stipulations with the Nez PercÚs, and with authority to conclude a new treaty with that tribe, which, it is hoped, will reach this city in time to be ratified by the Senate instead of the one now before that body. . . . (pp. 197-198)

From: No. 77, Report of Governor Caleb Lyon, ex-officio Superintendent, pp. 415-419.

. . . A treaty had been negotiated by Superintendent Hale, which still remains unconfirmed by our government—the white settlers insisting on the terms of the new treaty, and the Indians still clinging to the old; and it was difficult to convince these simple children of nature why a government so strong and powerful as they were taught to believe ours to be would allow the rights of its red children to be disregarded by the whites, unless the government had been destroyed. In the negotiation of the Hale treaty the Nez PercÚs became divided. The opposition, known as the Heathen party, headed by Big Thunder, Red Horn, White Bird, and Eagle-against-the-Light, were in favor of joining the Blackfeet and Crows, from the eastern slope of the Rocky mountain, in a raid against the overland mail route, and to secure for themselves wives for their warriors and skins for their lodges. The nation, being possessed of a large number of horses, and incited by a natural ardor for active life, and by what they regarded as oppressive inroads upon their rights by the white men, the opposition gained strength and power and influence with the nation; the military stations were feebly garrisoned; our people felt insecure and unsafe, and daily applications were made and transmitted to the capital for protection from the threatening aspect of the times.

Affairs stood in this attitude when the undersigned was intrusted with the superintendency of the Territory. Measures to reassure our people, and to allay the turbulent spirit of the strong opposition in the ranks of the Nez PercÚs, became of the first importance. To this end, frequent interviews were had with the leaders of the Heathen as well as the Christian party, the chief recognized by the United States being A-sha-lote, known to the whites as "Lawyer," and Captain John, and Utse Melican, the two subordinate chiefs. The grievances of the Nez PercÚs nation were set forth by a speech from Lawyer, which was reported by the undersigned to the department. In my answer to his complaints I pleaded the good faith of the government to all its treaty stipulations, which the Indians claimed (and not without cause) had been repeatedly and continually violated. I urged upon them the necessity of loyalty to the government and forbearance to the whites, no matter what their provocations were, and assured them that their grievances should be redressed and their wrongs righted.

Their condition was, indeed, anomalous. Appropriations had not been made to carry out the old treaty stipulations, and the new one had not been confirmed on our part, and only by the most strenuous exertion and the most solemn assurance could they be induced to break off their league with the Crows and Blackfeet. Thus far they have kept the compact in good faith, and no doubt will continue to do so so long as they are fairly dealt with.

The depredations of the whites upon their reservation are a continual source of annoyance and irritation. The difficulty of enforcing the non-intercourse act in portions of the reservation, and the destruction of their timber, without the authority of law, have been such as to induce them to urge a new council to make a new treaty and place their affairs on a more permanent foundation, in consonance with things as they now exist, made necessary by the rapid settlement of the Territory. Having no special authority to meet them in council, the undersigned could only assure them of the good intentions of our government, and that their wishes should not be neglected. It is important that some treaty should exist between the parties, and when entered into, if faithfully observed, it is the safest guarantee for peaceful relations between them and the whites.

Progress in the peaceful pursuits of life, and the relinquishment of their nomadic habits, seem to be slowly, but surely gaining ground. This is evidenced by the quantity of flour which has been manufactured at the government mill at Lapwaii from wheat grown by themselves, which, during the past season, amounted to twenty thousand (20,000) bushels. The implements of husbandry with which the munificence of the government has supplied them are usually employed and appreciated, and the kind and enlightening missionary’s labor is witnessed in the semi-daily devotion of the Christian portion of the nation, in a simplicity and earnestness of worship that would reflect credit upon the most refined civilization. . . .

The number of Nez PercÚs is variously estimated at from three to six thousand, but their nomadic life, and the wide range of their hunting grounds, make it difficult to determine without a precise enumeration. . . .

It is recommended that a new treaty be made with the Nez PercÚs, by which the rights of the Indians may be preserved, and those portions of the reservation upon which the whites have settled be turned over to the general government as public domain.

From: No. 79, Annual Report of J. O’Neil, Nez PercÚs Agency, pp. 420-423.

. . . Since my last report I am happy to say, that as regards the respect and friendship which have always been shown to the whites by the chiefs and headmen of this people there has been no change, although they have many things to complain of, the first of which is the failure of the government to comply with the treaty stipulation in regard to the payment of their annuities, the last payments made them being in November, 1862, $6,396, and at the time of the treaty council in June, 1863, $3,600. They do not grumble so much on account of their absolute want of their goods, although many of their old people are in a suffering condition, but it is with the desire of doing away with the reports that are continually being circulated by the Big Thunder or non-treaty side of these Indians. From the day the treaty was first made by Governor Stevens and General Palmer, in 1855, up to the present time, this non-treaty side have told the others that their lands would be stolen from them, and that they would never receive anything in return. The payments in 1861 and 1862 silenced that side for a time, and was working a beneficial influence through the nation.

However, since that time the non-arrival of further supplies and the great influx of miners throughout the whole reservation gives the non-treaty side another chance to throw up the matter to the treaty side. The chiefs, however, remain firm and unwavering in their devotion to the government and to the laws. They are intelligent—their head chief, Lawyer, particularly so—and tell their people to still wait patiently; that we have a war on our hands that requires the attention of the government more than their wants; that they will yet receive their annuities, and all that has been promised them; but the greatest difficulty with them is this: they know that the government will keep faith with them, but the arguments used by the other side are powerful enough to induce many, very many, of their young men to go over, and the opposite side is becoming formidable. That grieves them more than the want of their annuities.

I trust that the matter may be so represented to the department that there will be no further delay in their payments.

Another cause of complaint with them is the tardiness shown in the payment for the horses furnished and services rendered government in the Indian war of 1856. In the treaty council of June, 1863, the matter was brought before Commissioners Hale, Howe, and Hutchins; and article seventh of said treaty provides as follows:

"The United States further agree that the claims of certain members of the Nez PercÚs tribe against the government for services rendered and horses furnished by them to the Oregon mounted volunteers, as appears by certificates issued by W. H. Fauntleroy, acting regimental quartermaster, and commanding Oregon volunteers, on the 6th of March, 1856, at Camp Cornelius, and amounting to $4,665, shall be paid to them in full in gold coin."

In addition to the above, many of their warriors served with the volunteers through the war, for which they have never received nor asked a dollar.

Still another cause of complaint is the pay due their people for work done on the church last fall, amounting to $1,185.50. At one time during the winter the thing was becoming serious; some of the laborers (those from [Asotin]) said they had been promised their pay upon the completion of the walls. The walls were now up, and as they did not receive their pay they should tear them down again. They, however, took a sober second thought and gave the matter up.

Our complaints are, the usual attendants upon a reservation placed as this is, with more whites upon it than there are Indians, all the mining camps and towns having some wretches whose only means of support are the few bottles of whiskey sold the Indians; daily collisions between whites and Indians in regard to stock or their little farms; a reservation with the capitol of the Territory located upon it, where laws are made every winter in direct violation of the United States intercourse laws governing the Indian country, and the agreement made with these Indians in the treaty, and these same laws approved and signed by the governor, who is ex-officio superintendent of Indian affairs, causing a doubt in the minds of the Indians as to whether their superintendent has come on to look after them, or whether he is assisting the whites in getting the balance of their country. There is hardly a week passes by but what complaints of some sort are made, the result of laws passed by the legislature, or made by county commissioners.

In all of my operations since the new year I have felt the want of funds, and many necessary things have suffered on that account. . . . The head chief, Lawyer, who ought never to be allowed to wait one day after the expiration of the quarter for his pay, has now due him as follows: 4th quarter 1863, 1st and 2d quarters 1864, and 1st and 2d quarters 1865—in all, $625. Lawyer’s duties, as head chief, compel him to live here at the agency; his family consists of himself, wife, son’s wife and two children, and daughter and one child, with other Indians coming and going constantly. I know that within the last six months he has actually suffered for the common necessaries of life, and had to dispose of his vouchers for 50 cents on the dollar to purchase such necessaries. It is a shame to treat him so; when his chiefs and his people are complaining to him of the want of their annuities, he always has some excuse to make them for our shortcomings. . . .

In the report of Mr. Spaulding, superintendent of teaching, there are many things worthy of consideration. We cannot expect the school to prosper, nor scholars to attend from a distance, unless some place is provided for them. The department has a wrong idea of this reservation. It is not like most of the reservations of this coast, with all the Indians congregated near the agency buildings. There are but three bands, and they the smallest of the nation, (the children numbering probably fifteen or twenty that could attend school,) that could conveniently send their young children every day; the rest are located at from three miles to seventy-five or eighty from the agency.

From: No. 80, Annual Report of J. O’Neil, Nez PercÚs Agency, pp. 423-424.

SIR: I have the honor to transmit the following information which I have just received from Metat Uchras, or Three Feathers, one of the leading chiefs of this (Nez PercÚ) nation.

Three Feathers left here last August for the Flathead country. Upon his arrival there, some of the Flatheads had just come in with two of their people, wounded in an engagement with the Snakes. He found the Flatheads had quite a number of horses that had been stolen from the whites. He remained there but a short time, and left for Stinking Water; from thence to the Vermillion ground, where he was to meet Eagle-from-the-Light, and his band of Nez PercÚs. While there, eight white men came up and accused the Nez PercÚs of stealing ten horses from them; they denied it, but told them where they might find them among the Flatheads. The whites then left, but returned again the next morning and killed one of the Nez PercÚs, a Lapwai Indian, brother of Te-a-po-o-hike. Soon after the Nez PercÚs broke camp, and while on their journey met some of the young men (Nez PercÚs) with twelve horses that they had stolen from the Crows. Three Feathers tried to get them to take them back, but they would not until he asked the assistance of some of the Flatheads with them, when they took three of the best ones and returned to the Crows, so that the Crows would have no excuse for stealing horses from them. . . .

Many of the young people of the Crows were dying off. A few days before the Nez PercÚs joined the Crows, a train of four wagons had halted to get their dinner, and two young Crow men came up to them, and while hanging around the camp one of them picked up a piece of bread and ate it, when the whites shot them both. As soon as the news came to the main camp of the Crows they started for the scene, but the whites had left and abandoned everything, (provisions, oxen, and wagons.) The Crows took what loose stuff there was left, refusing to kill the oxen, although requested to by the Nez PercÚs, as they were out of meat. . . .

. . . Three Feathers returned to his home last week, having been among the different bands above named about eleven months, and I think his statement can be relied on. . . .