1882 Reports of the Commissioner Affairs and Indian Agent Reports
"Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs," pp. 1-432. In U.S. House. 47th Congress, 2d Session. Report of the Secretary of the Interior, 1882 (H.Ex.Doc.1, Pt. 5, Vol.2). Washington: Government Printing Office, 1883. (Serial Set 2100).



One very important auxiliary in transforming men from savage to civilized life is the influence brought to bear upon them through the labors of Christian men and women as educators and missionaries. This I think has been forcibly illustrated and clearly demonstrated among the different Indian tribes by the missionary labors of the various religious societies in the last few years. Civilization is a plant of exceeding slow growth, unless supplemented by Christian teaching and influences. I am decidedly of the opinion that a liberal encouragement by the government to all religious denominations to extend their educational and missionary operations among the Indians would be of immense benefit. I find that during the year there has been expended in cash by the different religious societies for regular educational and missionary purposes among the Indians the sum of $216,680, and doubtless much more which was not reported through the regular channels. This is just so much money saved to the government, which is an item of some importance, but insignificant in comparison with the healthy influences created by the men and women who have gone among the Indians, not for personal pecuniary benefit, but for the higher and nobler purpose of helping these untutored and uncivilized people to a higher plane of existence. In no other manner and by no other means, in my judgment, can our Indian population be so speedily and permanently reclaimed from barbarism, idolatry, and savage life, as by the educational and missionary operations of the Christian people of our country. This kind of teaching will educate them to be sober, industrious, self-reliant, and to respect the rights of others; and my deliberate opinion is, that it is not only the interest but the duty of the government to aid and encourage these efforts in the most liberal manner. No money spent for the civilization of the Indian will return a better dividend than that spent in this way. In urging this point I do not wish to be understood as claiming that all the good people are inside the churches and all the bad ones outside; but a little observation, I think, will convince any one that a very large proportion of those who sacrifice time and money for the good of others is found inside of some Christian organization. If we expect to stop sun dances, snake worship, and other debasing forms of superstition and idolatry among Indians, we must teach them some better way. This, with liberal appropriations by the government for the establishment of industrial schools, where the thousands of Indian children now roaming wild shall be taught to speak the English language and earn their own living, will accomplish what is so much desired, to wit, the conversion of the wild, roving Indian into an industrious, peaceable, and law-abiding citizen. (pp. 3-4)


. . . Idaho, Clear Water and Montana Transportation Company—Nez Percé Reserve, Idaho.—On the 27th January last, Agent Warner, in charge of the Nez Percé Indians, transmitted to this office a petition of the Idaho, Clear Water and Montana Transportation Company (a corporation of the Territory of Idaho, engaged in the construction of railroads from Lewiston east into Montana), for a right of way along the Clear Water River and through the Nez Percé Reservation, established by treaty of June 9, 1863 (14 Stat. 651), which treaty provides for the establishment of roads upon that reservation under authority of the United States. In transmitting the application the agent stated that the Indians appeared to favor the building of the road, as it would open up a good market for their farm produce, and that it would also greatly facilitate the delivery of supplies to the agency. He therefore earnestly recommended the granting of the petition, subject to the consent of the Indians.

In pursuance of department instructions of the 8th May last, Agent Warner was directed to convene a council of the Indians for the purpose of laying the matter before them and obtaining their consent to a peaceful preliminary survey in order to determine the definite location of the road upon the reservation, with the understanding that before any construction of the road could be commenced the consent of three-fourths of the adult male Indians upon the reservation would be necessary, and that reasonable compensation, subject to the approval of the department, would be required from the company for the right of way and lands taken. On the 10th June last, Agent Warner reported to this office that he had submitted the proposition to the Indians in council assembled, and that greatly to his surprise they had almost unanimously voted against it. Subsequent advices from the agent seem, however, to indicate that the Indians acted under a misapprehension, and that they will reconsider their determination this fall. (pp. 18-19)


The third article of the Nez Percé treaty of June 9, 1863 (14 Stat., p. 648), stipulates that—

The President shall, immediately after the ratification of this treaty, cause the boundary lines to be surveyed and properly marked and established; after which, so much of the lands hereby reserved as may be suitable for cultivation shall be surveyed into lots of twenty acres each, and every male person of the tribe who shall have attained the age of twenty-one years, or is the head of a family, shall have the privilege of locating upon one lot as a permanent home for such person.

A portion of this reservation has been surveyed into twenty-acre tracts, and the Indians have taken steps to establish permanent homes on the reservation, but in larger tracts than the treaty provides. The Lapwai Reservation, whose outboundaries have been surveyed, contains 746,651 acres, upon which there is a population of 1,236 persons. To limit allotments to twenty acres, as provided in said treaty, when there is a superabundance of land for an allotment of much larger size to every Indian residing thereon, seems a great hardship and looks like a palpable wrong to those desiring to make a permanent home. Recommendation is therefore made that Congress be asked to adopt such legislation as will authorize them to take an ample quantity of land for their home and residence. (pp. 42)


The question as to the final settlement and permanent location of the Nez Percé Indians who surrendered under Chief Joseph to General Miles, in the year 1877, has been a subject of much concern and annoyance both to the department and the Indians themselves. The facts in connection with their surrender and subsequent location in the Indian Territory, are matters of public notoriety, and have been alluded to in former annual reports. At the time of the surrender it was stated, and the information before this office corroborated the statement, that such cruel and unprovoked murders had been committed by Joseph and his band in Idaho as to create an almost insuperable barrier against their return to their old home, and to banish all expectation of peace or safety for Joseph and his followers on that reservation, or in its vicinity, at least until the resentment awakened by these offenses should be somewhat modified by the lapse of time. With a desire to solve the problem in such a way as to maintain and enforce a proper and due regard for the laws and authority of the government, and at the same time avoid doing any injustice to a brave but misguided captive, this office and the department acquiesced in the various recommendations of the distinguished military officials who had been actively engaged in accomplishing the surrender, and who had also taken a very prominent part in endeavoring to secure an amicable settlement of the difficulties, and consented to the removal of Joseph and his band to Indian Territory.

By the Indian appropriation act of May 27, 1878 (20 Stat., p. 74), an appropriation was made to enable the Secretary of the Interior to remove these Nez Percés, then held prisoners of war at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to a suitable location in the Indian Territory, and for their settlement thereon. On the 21st of July, 1878, these Indians were turned over to Inspector McNeil and Agent Jones, and placed upon the Quapaw Reservation. On the 15th of October, 1878, Commissioner Hayt visited them, and took chiefs Young Joseph and Husescruyt (Bald-Head) to the west of the Arkansas River for the purpose of selecting a permanent home for the band. They selected a tract a few miles west of the Ponca Reserve, where the Sha-kaskia empties into Salt Creek, viz, townships 25 and 26 N., ranges 1 and 2 west, containing 98,710.89 acres.

On the 31st of January, 1879, Young Joseph and Yellow Bull, first and second chiefs, acting for the band, made an agreement whereby they proposed to relinquish all claim to their lands in Idaho or elsewhere and settle permanently in the Indian Territory upon four townships of land to be selected and purchased by the government for their use and occupancy, which agreement was submitted to the department February 1, 1879, for ratification by Congress, and was accompanied by a draft of bill for that purpose. The bill did not become a law, yet the Indians have been located on the four townships above named, and Congress for three years has made annual appropriations for their maintenance and support thereon.

It has been hoped that the advantages of the location selected for this band of Nez Percés in the Indian Territory would be such as to engender in them a spirit of enterprise and emulation, which after a few years would make them comparatively contented with their new home. This hope, however, has not been realized, and although, since the time of their surrender, these people have exhibited a quiet and unmurmuring submission to the inevitable, and have manifested a conscientious desire to obey all laws and regulations provided for their government, yet as each year passes numerous petitions and urgent requests come from them praying to be returned to their old home and relatives. Their quiet and peaceable conduct since the surrender, and their efforts to be law-abiding and self–supporting are commendable, and under the circumstances remarkable.

The larger proportion of the Nez Percé tribe are located on the reservation in Idaho, and as a rule this tribe has been a strict observer of all treaty covenants with the government. They were active in their efforts to subdue the outbreak of Chief Joseph and his band, and in the battle with their kindred some of them were killed and others wounded. Joseph and his band appear to be the only ones of the tribe who have ever engaged in hostility against the whites. Not in the least excusing or attempting to palliate the crimes alleged to have been committed by them, it is but fair to say that their warfare was conducted with a noticeable absence of savage barbarity on their part, and that they persistently claim that when they surrendered to General Miles it was with the express stipulation that they should be sent back to Idaho. Whether this alleged stipulation be true or not, it is a fact that their unfortunate location near Fort Leavenworth, when in charge of the military, and the influences of the climate where they are now located in the Indian Territory, have caused much sickness among them; their ranks have been sadly depleted, and it is claimed that if they are much longer compelled to remain in their present situation, the entire band will become virtually extinct.

It is now about five years since the surrender, and a sufficient time has probably elapsed to justify the belief that no concerted effort will be taken to avenge wrongs alleged to have been perpetrated by these people so many years ago. The band now numbers only about 322 souls, and the reservation in Idaho is ample to accommodate them comfortably, in addition to those who are already there, who are substantially self-supporting and who have enough to spare a portion for their less fortunate brethren, and, as I understand, are willing to give them such aid.

The deep-rooted love for the "old home," which is so conspicuous among them, and their longing desire to leave the warm debilitating climate of the Indian Territory for the more healthy and invigorating air of the Idaho Mountains, can never be eradicated, and any longer delay, with the hope of a final contentment on their part with their present situation, is, in my judgment, futile and unnecessary. In view of all the facts, I am constrained to believe that the remnant of this tribe should be returned to Idaho, if possible, early next spring, and I respectfully suggest that this matter be submitted to Congress at its next session, with a recommendation that an appropriation be made sufficient to meet the necessary expenses of removal thither. But if Congress should decide that the best interests of all concerned will be best subserved by retaining these Indians where they now are, it will be necessary to have such legislation as will perfect the title to the lands which have been selected for them and upon which they now reside. (pp. 51-52)

From: Report of Charles E. Mont[ei]th,, United States Indian Agent, Nez Percé Agency, pp. 112-114.

SIR: I have the honor to submit this my first annual report. I relieved Ex-Agent Charles D. Warner June 30, 1882, and entered upon the duties of office July 1, 1882. Having assumed charge so late in the year, I am not able to render a correct representation of affairs on this reserve, on account of not having been able, as yet, to make a personal inspection of the various settlements within the bounds of the reservation. As regards statistical reports my information was received from, viz: Dr. W. V. Coffin as to sanitary matters, Rev. G. L. Deffenbaugh as to religion, and personal application and ex-agent Warner’s report of last year for the balance. . . .


The amount of land upon which wheat, oats, and barley can be raised has heretofore been greatly underrated, and should be changed in the statistical report to at least 300,000 acres. I do not pretend to say that vegetables can be raised on all of said lands, as probably nine-tenths of the same is too high for vegetable growing. From what I can gather, the cultivated acreage is in excess of that of last year, but on account of the severe drought the crops are much lighter, necessitating many to go to the fishing grounds to catch salmon for winter use. . . .


During the year a fine, large boarding-school building has been erected at this agency, as also a new saw and grist mill. The same were very much needed, and will be of vast benefit to the Indians living in this vicinity.


Under authority from the department, I have taken the preliminary steps to repair the grist and saw mills at Kamiah sub-agency on this reserve. . . . This will be one of the most advantageous expenditures that could be made, as the mills as they stood were of but little service to any one. A small hotel-range will be put in place in the boarding-school at Kamiah this fall, to the delight of all concerned.


The boarding and lodging industrial school building at Kamiah needs a renovating throughout. Underpinning in that section of the country seems to decay very rapidly, on account of which the floors are sunken and very uneven. A stone foundation all around the building is much needed, as also stone piers at various points under the building. Wooden blocks could be used again, which will have to be the case this season. The dormitories should be supplied with iron bedsteads, same as at Lapwai. Thus vermin are prevented finding lodgment in the beds occupied by the scholars. The number needed is fifteen; the cost would be about ten dollars each if made of one and one half-inch gas pipe, and that is the best material and makes the best bedsteads. The rooms should receive new lining an paper, and the building should be painted, inside and out. . . .


I am stripped of employés outside of the schools and mills, and a physician, on account of Congress having made no provision for blacksmiths, carpenters, engineers, and farmers, at least, so far as this agency is concerned. The shops are now closed, which is a sad mistake. Indians would like assistance in building houses, but on account of scarcity of funds they must defer such improvement this year. Young Indians are anxious to enter the shops as apprentices, but there being none to teach they are debarred cultivating that desire. Some means should be devised whereby a blacksmith for both Lapwai and Kamiah can be furnished, to commence work not later than March 1, 1883, that the Indians may have their agricultural implements repaired, to go into the spring work not fettered by a lack of such repairs. Unless such funds are furnished the report from this reserve, under the head of agriculture, next year will show a decrease, I fear. . . .


I am not prepared to judge, personally, as to the advancement made during the year past in educational matters, but from the reports of the teachers the improvement is marked. The schools were closed for vacation July 1, and will open at such time as the necessary supplies are received from New York and San Francisco; when this will be is hard to tell. The department took from this agency the purchasing power—which has not been the case during the past twelve years—and proposes to furnish all supplies under its own contracts. Supplies coming from New York will probably reach this agency from November 10 to 20.

The school employés are and will continue to be engaged in repairing and manufacturing clothing for the scholars, harvesting the school gardens, cleaning up and getting in readiness for the new term of school, when the time arrives for its convening.


Rev. G. L. Deffenbaugh seems to be devoting his whole energy to the christianization of this people, and God speed him in his noble work. The same can be truly said of Misses Sue and Kate McBeth.


Under this head, I believe, suggestions are in order. I think the department made a mistake in purchasing all the supplies in New York and San Francisco. Said action would probably work well as to dry goods, but as to groceries and hardware it will not. I have received invoices from San Francisco covering only the purchase of nails, beans, bacon, and soap. On the four items named I could have saved $330.99 by going into the open market at Lewiston and purchasing the supplies invoiced as above stated. The department pays freight from San Francisco to Lewiston at the rate of four and a half cents per pound. I can purchase beans in Lewiston for less than the freight which the department pays on those purchased in San Francisco. I can get beans in Lewiston for 4 cents, and can purchase bacon at 6 cents per pound less than the department delivers it at Lewiston; soap 4 cents per pound less, and nails at $1.80 per keg less. The department also pays four and one-half cents per pound freight on 827 pounds tare. In other words, I can purchase the supplies above named in Lewiston, and in open market, for 31 per cent. less than the department delivers them at Lewiston. All other supplies under the head of "groceries" and "hardware," will present a similar result; hence I trust that in the future the purchasing power will remain with the agent, so far as this agency is concerned. . . .

From: Report of Thomas J. Jordan, United States Indian Agent, Ponca Agency, Indian Territory, pp. 134-137.


of Joseph’s band, also under my charge, are situated at Oakland Agency, 15 miles in a northwesterly direction from this agency. They exhibit by far the most mind of any Indians with whom I have come in contact. They are brave, energetic, exemplary, and faithful. Their history, from the earliest times of which we have any record, is one of wonderful interest. Never large in numbers, the natural enemy of the Sioux, the Blackfeet, the Flatheads, and the Crows, they maintained their position amidst a host of surrounding enemies, and drove from their soil all intruders. Filled with a love of country—almost worshipping the high mountains, bright flashing streams, and rich fertile valleys of Idaho—they have inherited and transmitted to their children a name for bravery, for truthfulness, and honor of which they may indeed be proud. The unfortunate war into which they were driven in 1877 with the United States is far from being a blot on their escutcheon, and all brave, high-minded people the world over will honor them for their gallant defense of their homes, their families, and their hunting-ground. When they surrendered to superior force they did it in the most solemn manner and under the most solemn promises of protection and a return to their own country. That that promise has not been kept is an historical fact, and never has been explained. Might never made right, and the power to punish can never excuse its exercise wrongfully. As the years go by the eyes of this people are turned to the northwest, and their yearning hearts pulsate naught but Idaho. . . . Through battles and blood, through long marches and weary camp fires, through the booming of cannon and the rattling of small-arms, they have been led to the foot of the Cross, and to-day they worship the God of the Bible with an unction and zeal the counterpart of their unflinching courage in battle.

They labor with a will to make themselves self-supporting, and have harvested and threshed over 800 bushels of wheat the present season. Though without the necessary horses to pull their plows, they have broken more than 150 acres of prairie, and have a good stand of corn upon every acre broken in time for planting. Could they procure a proper amount of wheat for seed, they would plant the present fall more than 100 acres. Their gardens present all the vegetables of the season, and their melons are as fine as I ever saw, and in great abundance.

During last fall and winter I had nineteen new houses erected for them, each upon his own claim, which they at once occupied, and the sickness consequent on tent life has greatly decreased. Had the department been able to furnish the funds required every Nez Percé would now be enjoying the comforts of a good house. . . .

The school under the charge of James Reubens has flourished in an uncommon manner, and every seat has been filled during the past year. The new school-house has progressed only so far as building the foundation, and the purchasing and delivery upon the ground of the lumber necessary for completion.

The Presbyterian Church, organized by the presbytery of Kansas, and under charge of Rev. Archie Lawyer, has also had a large increase of membership and the services are well attended by a large part of the tribe. . . .