1866 Reports of the Commissioner Affairs and Indian Agent Reports
"Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs," pp. 1-362 . In U.S. House. 39th Congress, 2d Session. Annual Report of the Secretary of the Interior, 1866 (H.Ex.Doc.1, Vol. 2). Washington: Government Printing Office, 1867. (Serial Set 1284).

History                          

We make but slow progress in obtaining accurate information relative to Indian affairs in Idaho, although something has been gained. After the verbal statements made by the late governor, Caleb Lyon, in the fall of 1865, and the instructions given to him, it was thought that we should speedily be in a condition to know more, and thus be better enabled to do what should be necessary; but great disappointment has been the result. Shortly after his return to Idaho, the governor appears to have become involved in quarrels, political or otherwise, to an extent which resulted in his leaving the territory last spring, having accomplished little, if anything, to the advantage of the Indian service; and, on the contrary, failing to account for the large amount of government funds placed in his hands, causing great embarrassment to the office. Measures have been taken to cause a proper accounting to be made; but meantime, the long distance of the Territory from this city, and length of time occupied in communicating with Mr. Lyon’s successor, has necessarily delayed the placing in his hands the funds for carrying out properly the duties pertaining to the Indians. . . .

The Nez PercÚs, numbering by the last census 2,830, may well be called a long-suffering people. Since the conclusion of a treaty with them in 1863, by which, upon their yielding all claim to a very large tract of land lying in Oregon and in the Territories of Washington and Idaho, a reservation of great extent was set apart for them, and ample arrangements provided for their improvement, they have been crowded upon by the white settlers, acting with full knowledge that that treaty had not been ratified, until towns of considerable extent have grown up even within the limits of the proposed reservation, Lewiston, the first capital of Idaho, being one of these towns; and their country has been "prospected" in every direction by the enterprising miners.

Meantime the Indian chiefs who were opposed to the treaty, seeing the promised payments withheld, have gained influence, and caused some trouble in the tribe; and but for the efforts of "Lawyer," the head chief, who has been thoroughly faithful to the government, the difficulty would have been serious. During the late session of Congress, the Senate, on a full consideration of Indian matters in that region, advised the ratification of the treaty of 1863, and Congress made the necessary appropriations under it. These are large, and contemplate expenditures for houses, mills, schools, and various improvements, and helps to civilization, which, if judiciously made, will, in some measure, atone to this peaceable and well-disposed tribe for much neglect.

These people listened with attention to the appeals of the first missionaries who visited their country, and have always since paid great attention to religious worship; but the influence of the numerous whiskey shops in every direction around them seriously opposes their progress. It will be impossible to control this evil so long as the reservation of the tribe is so extensive as at present, and the earliest possible measures should be taken to reduce it for their good.

The annual report of their agent, Mr. O'Neill, indicates some progress in agricultural pursuits, on the part of a few. He mentions one chief as owning 500 head of cattle. The people are stated to have had last year under cultivation 2,680 acres of land, upon which they raised about 24,000 bushels of grain, and 18,000 bushels of vegetables; and their stock is returned at about 12,000 head. With all this, the "wealth of the tribe in individual property" is returned at only $15,000, which is evidently far too small a figure, and not doing justice to the Indians. The work of improvements at the agency has gone on slowly during the past year, on account of the want of funds, and the schools, for that and other reasons, have been closed. Under the treaty, as now ratified, ample provisions are made for educational purposes. . . . (pp. 37-39)

From: No. 73, Annual Report of Governor Ballard, Superintendent ex officio, pp. 190-192.

. . . The immense wealth of the Pacific coast has had the effect to people our shores with a vast population in advance of the extinguishment of what is called "the Indian title." Idaho is not an exception to other States and Territories west of the Rocky mountains, and all the unhappy consequences resulting from a promiscuous intermingling of whites with the Indians have been painfully experienced in our Territory. The mountains of Idaho, abounding as they do in many rich deposits of precious metals, some of them, perhaps, the richest known to the world, will still continue to invite an increasing population to our Territory. These deposits of mineral wealth not being confined to any particular locality, but abounding in both northern and southern Idaho, some of them almost fabulous in richness, will continue to present in the future, as now, the most profitable fields of labor for the active and industrious miner and tradesman, and as profitable investments for the capitalist as can be found in any other part of our Union. Hence, we may reasonably calculate the already unhappy condition of affairs will but increase in an equal ratio with the increase of the white population until all the Indians of our Territory are separated from the whites and taken under the fostering care of the government. . . .

Prominent among the tribes of northern Idaho stand the Nez-PercÚs, a majority of whom boast that they have ever been the faithful friend of the white man. But few over half of the entire tribes of the Nez-PercÚs are under treaty. The fidelity of those under treaty, even under the most discouraging circumstances, must commend itself to the favorable consideration of the department. The influx of the white population into their country has subjected them to all the evils arising from an association with bad white men, and as might well be expected, the effect upon the Indians has been most unhappy. The non-payment of their annuities has had its natural effect upon the minds of some of those under treaty; but their confiding head chief (Lawyer) remains unmoved, and on all occasions is found the faithful apologist for any failure of the government. Could this tribe have been kept aloof from the contaminating vices of bad white men, and had it been in the power of the government promptly to comply with the stipulations of the treaty of 1855, there can be no doubt but that their condition at this time would have been a most prosperous one, and that the whole of the Nez-PercÚs nation would by this time have been willing to come under treaty and settle on the reservation with those already there. Our remote distance from Washington, the great length of time required for the passage of communications to and from the department, in connection with the unsettled condition of the country, are doubtless good reasons why the payment of their annuities has been delayed. But could the annuities now due them be promptly paid, and the new treaty stipulations be promptly met, it would have a fine effect, not only upon those under treaty, but also upon those who are still opposed to a settlement on the reservation. . . .

From: No. 75, Agent O’Neill’s Annual Report, Nez PercÚs Agency, pp. 193-195.

SIR: I have the honor herewith to transmit my annual report for the year ending June 30, 1866. Since my last report I can confidently say there has been a vast improvement in the farms and farming operations of these Indians; their farms have been enlarged and more attention is paid to fencing than formerly. Throughout the nation there has been an increase of about seven hundred acres more put in cultivation, with a corresponding increase in crops. Last year some few of the Indians had considerable flour to sell, which they disposed of in mining towns. This season there will probably be twenty thousand pounds of flour sold by them. Their sale of potatoes, green corn, squashes, melons, tomatoes, &c., in the different mining camps, in the course of the season, amounts to a large sum. Their crops of wheat will be fully one-third larger this season than ever before.

Some few of them who have cows sell milk to miners and others. Ha-harts-tuesta, or Captain Billy, the chief on Salmon river, being the largest owner of cattle, having some five hundred head, during the winter season supplies the miners in his neighborhood with beef, killing regularly once a week and disposing of it at the rate of five pounds for a dollar; but with all these improvements in farms and farming I am sorry to say the young men of the nation have but little to do with it; the chiefs, as a general thing work pretty well, the women however doing the most of the farming work; the young men thinking it a disgrace to work, and their chiefs not telling them to the contrary.

The increase of whiskey drinking and drunkenness among the young men is alarming. To try to punish the miserable whiskey sellers is a farce. We have no United States commissioners upon the reservation, nor have we had for over a year, and no United States district judge nearer than Walla Walla, Washington Territory, ninety-five miles distant from the agency. For the last year we have had stationed at Fort Lapwai a company of infantry with no riding animals or saddles. It has been useless to undertake to arrest the whiskey sellers who were any distance from the agency or fort. . . .

The order for the mustering out of all volunteers leaves the post vacant. I fear trouble; not from the Indians if sober, but from the sale of whiskey to them. The presence of soldiers upon the reservation had a good effect, and until the post is again re-garrisoned deviltry of all sorts will go on unrestrained. . . .

Complaint was made to me last week of the robbing of a pack train, on Cammas prairie, of three ten gallon kegs of whiskey by Indians, and, again, near Pearce City, of some four or five Indians entering a miner's cabin, and with pistols drawn compelling the occupants to furnish them whiskey.

It is a common occurrence for some of the worst of the young men to stop Chinamen wherever they meet them, and compel them to give them gold dust, clothing, &c. In the towns of Lewiston, Oro Fino, and Pearce City, the inhabitants are becoming alarmed and public meetings have been held. By request of the citizens I attended one of their meetings in Lewiston last week, and told them that if they would try and stop the selling of whiskey to suspicious whites and take care of them I would try to look out for the Indians. . . .

With the three of four thousand whites and Chinamen mining within the bounds of the reservation, and the same number of Indians, who consider these miners as interlopers, who are taking their farms and their gold from them, unless we have soldiers there is bound to be collision between them.

Last November Red Heart, Eagle from the Light, and White Bird, came in on the reservation from Montana Territory, where they have been since the treaty council of 1863. They are the leading chiefs on the nontreaty side. In March last Eagle from the Light made a visit to this office, the first ever made by him. He came asking for assistance to remove some whiskey sellers in his country, eighty miles distant from the agency. I felt anxious to grant him assistance, as up to this time they had never acknowledged an agent here; but owing to the fact of there being no riding animals or saddles at the fort was unable to do so. Somewhat later in the spring I heard that these same people again contemplated returning to Montana. I sent them word that they must not leave their homes; that they were Nez PercÚs, and this was their country; that if they went there again their young men might get mixed up with the raids of the Blackfeet and would bring their chiefs in trouble. In June I had a visit from Red Heart, with some fifty of his warriors. Red Heart is the acknowledged head chief of the non-treaty bands represented by the sub-chiefs Eagle from the Light, White Bird, Quil-Quil-she-ne-ne, Joseph Big-Thunder, Te-cool-cool-hoot-soot, and some smaller chiefs; they number altogether about one thousand souls.

It was the first visit ever made to the agency, since it was established, by Red Heart. At the time of the treaty council, in 1863, he was, with his people, with the Crows. They made a beautiful display as they came towards the agency. Red Heart and his wife riding ahead, after them one of their medicine men—the one who acted as leader—a captain, followed by the warriors riding some ten or twelve abreast, with drums beating, muskets firing, and singing. Their horses were beautifully caparisoned; that of Red Heart having the skin of the head of a buffalo, with horns attached, fitting very nicely the head of his horse. . . .

. . . In about a week they returned; Red Heart, and some four or five of his leading men only, stopping at the agency for a talk; he said he had seen us for the first time and it might be for the last, as he was getting old and might never see us again; he was much pleased with his reception; that in the early spring, when they were talking of again going to Montana, it was not with any evil intent; he did not want the whites to think him unfriendly, but that it was on account of the trouble and distraction among their own people; they, the chiefs, did not all think alike. I told him I did not think it right for him, Eagle from the Light, and White Bird to be living in the mountains; their reservation was large enough to give them all farms and grazing for their animals; that he ought to tell his young men to go to farming, to put in crops, and live like the rest of their own people; that probably soon you would, if you had time, see all of their people and tell them what was for their good, and show them how to get along with each other. I think his visit will be productive of good among his people.

One great cause of the disagreement and split among this people is the non-payment of their annuities. The non-treaty side throw it up to the other side that now they have sold their country and have got nothing but promises which are being received from year to year, that their annuities will never be here. They use it too with such good effect that every day their side is increasing in strength. Many of the young men, and some of the old ones of the Lawyer side, say it is true, and that they had rather be with the non-treaty side and not expect anything than to remain with the Lawyer side and have, every few days, these promises repeated to them. Too much praise cannot be awarded Lawyer, the head chief of the nation, for his endeavors to keep peace between his people and the whites, and to account to them for the want of good faith on the part of the government. They have due them, since the Indian war of 1855 and 1856, $4,665 for horses furnished the government. Many of the warriors in that war gave our troops their personal services without charge. There is also due some of their people $1,185.50 for work done on the stone church. They were promised their pay as soon as the walls were completed. There are four instalments of $10,000 each of annuities due them.

Lawyer's salary as head chief is not paid promptly. . . . [Y]et, with all these things staring him in the face, his faith in the government is as strong as ever, and not him alone, but such chiefs as Ute-sin-male-e cum, Spotted Eagle, Captain John, Three Feathers, We-as-cus, Whis-tas-ket, Wep-ta-ta-mand and others. It is up-hill work for an agent to manage his Indians well when he refers them to certain treaty stipulations reserved as their part, when they can retort by saying that but few of the stipulations on the part of the government are kept. In March last Governor Lyon sent word to this people that he would be here in June to hold a council with them, and would at the same time have a payment of annuities made them. The non-arrival of the goods has disappointed many of them. . . .