1874 Reports of the Commissioner Affairs and Indian Agent
"Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs," pp. 313-648. In U.S. House. 43d Congress, 2d Session. Report of the Secretary of the Interior, 1874 (H.Ex.Doc.1, Pt. 5, Vol. 1). Washington: Government Printing Office, 1875. (Serial Set 1639).
From: Information With Historical and Statistical Statements Relative to the Different Tribes and Their Agencies, pp. 364-367.
. . . NEZ PERCÉ AGENCY.The Nez Percés, numbering 2,807, have maintained an unbroken peace with the Government. They have two reservations, sixty miles apart, one in Northwest Idaho called the Lapwai reserve, and the other in Northeast Oregon, known as Kamiah. These contain 1,925 square miles, of which only a small portion is suited to agriculture; about 1,550 Nez Percés are located on the reserves; about 350 have small farms of from 3 to 10 acres off the reservation, which they are unwilling to sell, and about 900 are vagrants in the Wallowa Valley and on the Snake and Salmon Rivers, where they have roamed for generations. These latter have never come into any treaty relations with, and will accept nothing from, the Government; are bitterly opposed to the treaty Indians, and are a constant annoyance to settlers, with whom they have frequent quarrels. A portion of those on the reserve are non-treaty Indians, who plant in the spring, but often neglect their farms and roam off to the root grounds, or wherever inclination prompts. The influence of all these "non-treaties" in their continued and often successful attempts to induce the more civilized Indians to abandon their farms for hunting is a very serious obstacle to progress among the Nez Percés. The head chief and his subordinates are elected annually by the treaty Indians, the "non-treaties" refusing to take any part in the matter. The influence of the present chief, elected in July last, is all on the right side.
Eighteen hundred acres have been cultivated this season, an increase of 500 acres in two years, from which will be realized 12,000 bushels of wheat, 2,000 bushels of corn, 5,000 bushels of oats, and 2,500 bushels of potatoes, most of which has been raised at Kamiah. The Lapwai Indians have lost almost their entire crop by drought and crickets. Last year the sale of the surplus wheat raised by the Nez Percés formed quite a large source of revenue to them. They have cut and sold 300 cords wood at $1 in coin per cord, and put 300 saw-logs into the boom. Ten houses have been built, making a total of 43. Five hundred wear citizen's dress; one hundred can read, and quite an interest is shown in education. The two boarding schools and one-day-school have an attendance of ninety pupils. All the Nez Percés raise stock. They own 12,000 horses, 50 mules, 7,000 cattle, (a natural increase of 2,000 in the last year,) and 500 hogs.
The peace and prosperity of this agency have been disturbed for some years past by what is known as the "Langford claim." This is the claim of William G. Langford to 640 acres of land within the Nez Percé Indian reservation in Idaho Territory. Langford makes this claim as assignee of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, a religious corporation established under the laws of the State of Massachusetts, and having its principal office in Boston. . . .
. . . This reservation, as established by the treaty of 1863, is recognized as belonging to these Indians, and is guaranteed to them both by the treaties of 1855 and 1863, and the existence of "Indian title" thereto running back to the first knowledge of the country, is as clear in this case as it can be in any. The missionary board above mentioned sent missionaries to this reserve in 1836, who settled upon the land in question. There is evidence of a continued residence and cultivation of the soil, erection of a mill, school-house, and other buildings, down to 1847, when, on account of an Indian outbreak, the place was abandoned. . . .
. . . On the 25th of October, 1869, district Attorney inclosed a letter from Judge Kelley, stating that . . . inasmuch as the case had been on the docket for three terms without any defense, the motion of the plaintiffs for judgment was granted by the court. The United States district attorney was distinctly instructed to ask a re-opening of the case, to which the Government was fairly entitled, or to take an appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States within the time prescribed by the statutes of Idaho Territory, but it does not appear that any action was taken by this officer in the premises.
The above facts having been submitted, . . . the Secretary of the Interior, under date of January 19, 1870, instructed this Office that, "the land claimed by the mission board being within the diminished reserve of the Nez Percé Indians, and never having been relinquished by said Indians, will be retained for their agency purposes." Acting under these instructions of the Department, this Office has held this tract for agency purposes until recently. And it appears from the books of this Office that the following sums have been appropriated and placed in the hands of the agent of the Nez Percé Indians, since 1860, for improvements on the lands occupied by the agency, and it is presumed have been expended for such purposes, viz: . . . Total . . . $92,100. . . .
It was evidently the intention of Congress to insure permanency to these missionaries, who had gone as pioneers into this country to labor among the Indians and to insure them a title to the lands which they had improved and upon which their buildings were situated; but, unfortunately, this claim was apparently abandoned by the missionaries, and, after large improvements had been made thereon, was conveyed to Mr. Langford, who has procured from the courts what it seems must now be recognized as a valid title.
In view of these facts this Office has disliked to see any recognition given to the claim, but, in view of the facts as above stated, a recommendation for an appropriation by Congress to purchase the tract of Mr. Langford has been made at the last two sessions, and last winter a compromise was agreed upon with Langford, he agreeing to take in full consideration of his claim the sum of $15,000; but Congress failed to make appropriation of this amount and Mr. Langford is now in possession of the tract, which includes all the agency buildings, as is evidenced by a telegram from J. B. Monteith, United States agent for the Nez Percé Indians, dated Lapwai, Idaho, November 16, 1874, in which he states that the sheriff has placed Langford in possession of the agency.
It is now necessary that provision be made to satisfy Langford to relinquish his claim to the United States, as, except by his permission, the United States will be deprived of the use of the agency-buildings, which include mills, school-houses, &c., and many of the Indians will be deprived of the use of their farms; and the agent has written that he anticipated trouble from the Indians, who threatened to burn the buildings if Langford took possession. To the present date no demonstrations of this kind have been reported, and the agent reports that he hopes to keep the Indians quiet. He has been directed to call upon the military to protect the property if necessary, and the General of the Army has given orders to the proper military officer to co-operate with the agent. . .
From: Report of John B. Monteith, United States Indian Agent, Nez Percé Indians, pp. 593-594.
. . . THE TRIBE.
During the year many of the wilder portion of the tribe have tried to induce some of the young men who have commenced living a more civilized life, by turning their attention to agricultural pursuits, to leave the same, and go with them to the buffalo-country, and were in a few cases successful. When I found out the influence being brought to bear upon such members of the tribe was in a measure a success, I gave notice to the effect that all Indians abandoning their farms and going to the buffalo-country would, by so doing, forfeit their right to their farms so abandoned, and upon their return if they found said farm occupied by another Indian, the one in possession would be protected and should hold the same. This notice, together with the influence exerted by Lawyer, head-chief, and the two sub-chiefs, kept many from leaving their farms and going to the buffalo-country. Not until the wilder portion of the tribe are compelled to remain, either in the buffalo-country or at home, will the trouble from this source abate. If severe measures were but once adopted and they compelled to remain home one season, I think the worst would be over. The treaty Indians begged me to force the Indians in question to remain at home this year, saying if they were allowed to go they would return next year worse than ever; and, in my opinion, so long as these Indians are allowed to exercise their will and pleasure, by going when and where their fancy leads them, so much the more are they becoming ungovernable.
Joseph and his band have been in the Wallowa Valley for a month or more. The soldiers stationed there have kept said Indians from committing any depredations.
. . . The Indians at Kamiah, being more isolated and more free from the influences of bad and unprincipled white men, are making more rapid progress in agricultural pursuits and civilized life than those living on the Lapwai. We are so near Lewiston that when an Indian wants money or provisions he has but to catch a horse, take the same to Lewiston, and sell it for ten or fifteen dollars, and buy what he wants instead of working for it. . . .
During the year ten houses have been built for the Indians. The window-sashes, with glass, doors, casings, &c., were all furnished from the carpenter-shops, and the carpenter assisting in building the houses. Three or four will be added to the above number this fall.
. . . I have used my best endeavors since I came here to persuade some of the Indians to learn trades, but to no effect. I have had three young men in the blacksmith-shop. They would stay until they had learned so much that they could handle the tools with some prospect of amounting to something, when, influenced by Indians who consider to work or learn a trade a degradation, and seeing others going off to the root-ground or fishing-resorts, they would break away and leave without notice. I would send and bring them back, but could not keep them. The same can be said of those who were taken into the mill. I think the only way to succeed in this business will be to take boys from the school as soon as they have learned enough of the English language to meet the demands of their position. . . .
That portion of the tribe who remain at home and on the reserve are making good progress in civilized pursuits. As the Indian becomes civilized he should have laws to govern him. In cases of murder, theft, polygamy, adultery, &c., they desire the same to be punished in accordance with our laws, and are constantly asking me why it cannot be done. I would recommend that laws governing such matters be passed by Congress; that all such cases be tried in the United States courts nearest an agency; and also some law compelling white men to care for their half-breed children. A law declaring all whites who are living with Indian women the same as married, and recognizing them as the lawful protectors of said women in all respects, ought to be passed . . .