1884 Reports of the Commissioner Affairs and Indian Agent Reports
"Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs," pp. 3-376. In U.S. House. 48th Congress, 1st Session. Report of the Secretary of the Interior, 1883 (H.Ex.Doc.1, Pt. 5, Vol.2). Washington: Government Printing Office, 1883. (Serial Set 2191).

From: Railroad Operations in Connection With Indian Reservations, pp. 22-28.

. . . Nez Percé Reserve (Idaho, Clear Water and Montana Transportation Company).—In my Annual Report for 1882 I referred to the hostility manifested by the Nez Percé Indians to the building of railroads through their reservation. The Indians, however, having indicated a desire of reconsidering their action, a council was held by the agent in the month of April, 1883, but with the same result, the application of the railroad company for permission to make a preliminary survey being again defeated. There appearing, however, to be a division of opinion, and that the adverse majority were dominated by a clique under the leadership of James Lawyer, a would-be head chief of the Nez Percés, the question was submitted to the Department whether, under the treaty provisions with the Nez Percés, authorizing the construction of roads through the reservation under authority of the United States, the preliminary survey asked for by the company should be permitted, or the company referred to Congress for legislative action on its behalf. Under date of October 5, 1883, the Department decided that, considering the attitude of the Indians, the railway company should be referred to Congress for such legislation on the subject as might be deemed necessary, and the agent for the Indians was so informed.

From: Report of Charles E. Monteith, United States Indian Agent, Nez Percé Agency, pp. 111-113.


. . . Still the agent finds he has sufficient to do to keep the tribe where it is. During a visit from an inspector of Indian affairs he remarked that "the Nez Percés are as far advanced in civilization, as a tribe, as any one of the five civilized tribes in the Indian Territory." If such is the case, they should have power granted them to enact laws for themselves, for use in connection with the "court of Indian offenses." . . .


There is no doubt but that education will rated as the most important factor in making the Indian policy a success. But the instruction given the Indian youth must partake more of a practical character. The Indian, be he young or old, is more of an imitator than a student; hence a practical education is of more benefit to him and more easily attained than a scholastic education. If he can read and write English understandingly, and understands the first four rules of arithmetic, he is sufficiently educated for all practical purposes for generations to come.

There are individual Indians, however, who show a desire to receive a more thorough education than above indicated, and who have discretion and judgment—such I would encourage to go up higher—while there are others who would use knowledge to the detriment of their tribe. Such are only a hindrance to civilization. Both classes are represented at this agency.


This tribe has manifested the usual amount of interest in agricultural matters. Ten Indians have for the first time located upon and are cultivating land this year. The crops are turning out better than was anticipated, exceeding by far the yield of last year.


The court has done a good work during the past year in correcting error and crime. The following is a list of cases passed upon by said court:



of cases.



Fines im-

posed and











Plurality of wives……………………………………………………

Disorderly conduct………………………………………………….

Contempt of court…………………………………………………..


$168 25

25 00

23 00

20 00

10 00

10 00


256 25

Amount of fines imposed and not as yet collected, $30. . . .

Since I have been at this agency I have not found it necessary to call upon the military to aid me in dealing with any breach of the "intercourse laws" on the part of whites. The police force has rendered all necessary aid.

Now that Fort Lapwai is practically abandoned—there being but one lieutenant and ten soldiers left there—my police force should be increased. There is no doubt but that the presence of the military had a restraining influence over reckless whites and Indians, and it may be that the absence of the military might embolden such to commit overt acts that may bring on serious results. With a sufficient police force and power to pursue and arrest offending whites outside the reserve, I can manage the affairs of the agency without the aid of the military, except in cases of open hostilities.


. . . Last fall the Indians hauled all the supplies for this agency from Lewiston, amounting to 46,726 pounds, for which service they were paid $233.62. I purchased from them and paid therefor for the service at this agency, as follows:

103 cords wood……………  $463. 50

22 tons hay…………………  . 330. 00

14,525 pounds oats……        .  264. 55

Total………………………  $1,058. 05

Last fall certain Indians hauled from the Clearwater River to Fort Lapwai 235 cords of wood and should have received in payment therefor[e] $470, but have received only $117.05, and that in merchandise. The balance they will lose, because they are Indians. The following are the circumstances: The party having the contract to furnish wood for the garrison at Fort Lapwai made arrangements with the sutler at said point to have the wood hauled; said sutler engaged some Indians to do the hauling, for which he was to pay them $2 per cord. When the wood was delivered the contractor drew his money and left the country without settling with the sutler for the hauling of the wood, on account of which the sutler refuses to pay the Indians the balance due them, although the sutler stated in a letter to me that they are to look to him for their pay. A copy of said letter was furnished the military authorities, the matter was examined into by certain officers at Fort Lapwai, and a report was made clearing the sutler from all responsibility. At said examination but one interested party was present, and after the results of said examination was made known to said party, as received through the Indian Office by the agent, wherein it was represented that the said interested party made certain statements, he makes oath before me that he was misrepresented. Thus, by the action of certain parties, the Indians in question were defrauded out of over $350. It appears to me that all parties interested, together with their agents, should have been present at the examination, but no invitation was extended.

Renegade Indians from other reserves come in occasionally, also Indians from "White Bird's band of hostiles." Their presence upon the reserve is detrimental in the extreme. The agent is not allowed to exercise discretionary powers in such cases. If such characters are to be allowed to remain upon the reserve they should be obliged to cast off their blankets, wear citizen's dress and have their hair cut. The most severe punishment that can be inflicted upon a wild Indian is to cut his long hair off. In this connection I would state that I have authorized the judges of the "court of Indian offenses" to conclude their decisions with an order to cut the hair off of male prisoners when it is worn long. The result has been very satisfactory.

Power should be given Indian tribes to enact laws regulating offenses against law and order not covered by the "rules governing the court of Indian offenses." Horseracing, which is frequently accompanied by drunkenness and gambling, should be stopped. Most of the seventeen cases of drunkenness reported were brought about by horse-racing. Gambling in various forms is more or less practiced by the wild and reckless characters. Both vices should be met with summary treatment.

The missionary, Rev. G. L. Deffenbaugh, has devoted his whole time to the spiritual welfare of this people, and his labors are deserving of great credit.

The general health of the tribe has been excellent.

Any person who supposes that an Indian agent's pathway is strewn with roses, and his surrounding all that could be wished for, is sadly in error; still, with all the perplexities, compromising circumstances, charges preferred against him, and many other unpleasant occurrences calculated to try one's patience in the extreme, the agent still exists and has abundant reason to feel grateful for the kindnesses and courtesies received at your hands, and desires to return sincere thanks therefor, and through you to the Interior Department generally. . . .

From: Report of Rev. G. L. Deffenbaugh, Missionary, Nez Percé Agency, pp. 113-114.

. . . This is essentially mission ground, as witness yonder white head-stones beneath that clump of locust trees, marking the graves of Revs. McFarland, Monteith, and Spalding. The Rev. H. H. Spalding founded this mission in 1838 and spent thirty odd years of his life in its service. His name is a household word among this and neighboring tribes. During the few years immediately following his death several ministers were connected with the mission for short periods each, and since November, 1878, it has been my privilege to go to and fro over this consecrated ground. My relations with the several agents who have administered affairs of Government here have been of the most pleasant nature, and I acknowledge indebtedness to them for their many kindnesses. Our united policy has been while keeping our work entirely separate, to be mutually helpful in advancing the people under our care in civil and religious life.

The present membership (adult) is 447, divided into three church organizations, the third having been added only a few weeks ago. The original organization was at Kamiah, then the Lapwai church was formed out of a portion of its members, and now a third church has been organized consisting of former members of both the other churches living at the North Fork settlement. At their own expense they built a small frame house in which they worship. Almost to a man these are a church-going people, and in reality the houses of worship have long been inadequate in their seating capacity. It is probable that both houses will soon be enlarged so as to accommodate all who wish to attend services.

There are few cases of discipline except for conjugal infidelity and gambling in horse-racing. On commencing the work here I made Christian marriage a condition to full church membership, and, as was to be expected, for a few years there were a great many offenders; but of late it has been necessary to discipline very few persons for breaking marriage vows. In the meantime all church members and many outsiders, living in conjugal relations, have submitted to the ceremony of Christian marriage. On the other hand, however, cases of discipline for horse-racing are on the increase. Six members were suspended last year, but this year there will probably be fifteen or twenty cases, when all have been considered. The agent has remonstrated against the practice and I have preached against it, but to little purpose so long as there is no law prohibiting wild Indians from engaging in it on the reserve.

There are connected with this mission two churches among the Spokanes and one on the Umatilla reservation, with an aggregate of 211 members. The latter church is supplied by two Nez Percé ministers, formerly pupils under the care of Miss S. L. McBeth. The two sisters, Misses S. L. and K. C. McBeth, one instructing classes of men, the other laboring among the women, have done a good part in helping this and neighboring tribes toward a Christian civilization.

The Presbyterian board of foreign missions expends annually something over $3,000 in conducting this mission, mainly in salaries, and in meeting traveling expenses of native helpers in visiting out-stations and attending the stated meetings of Presbytery. The Kamiah people pay their pastor, Rev. Robert Williams, one hundred dollars in addition to the salary he receives from the board. . . .


The wild Indians have several different modes of gambling. There is the universal game of hands (lohmet), which usually has betting connected with it, and the common game of cards is very generally played for the same purpose. But neither of these games is engaged in by the better class of Indians; gambling in horse-racing seems to be the most tempting, and it is with that practice we have had the most trouble in the church. According to my observation there is nothing more demoralizing to the Indian character excepting, perhaps, drunkenness, with which it is usually accompanied. An Indian knows nothing of horse-racing except as connected with betting or gambling, hence I respectfully recommend that that practice be forbidden on reservations, and that the infraction of the rule be included in the list of offense falling under the jurisdiction of the Indian courts.

By the way, that "court of Indian offenses" idea is exceedingly timely and wise. What you need to secure good service and satisfactory results is the payment of a reasonable salary, with the promise that the term of service shall continue as long as the incumbent proves capable. I believe in granting a premium to experience and in making term of office in all departments of State commensurate with the incumbent's efficient honorable service. Until such is law and such is practice we will not attain to anything like perfection in popular government. Beg pardon for obtruding my humble opinion on this subject.

In this connection, I wish to commend your good judgment in recommending that Indians be allowed to make homestead entries without the payment of the usual fees and commissions prescribed by law. At its last session, I believe Congress did amend the law, so that Indians can now take up homesteads without cost, the most gracious bit of legislation that has been ground out for a long time. To the poor Indian with but a few dollars at most at command, struggling against so many odds to get a start and make a living, it will prove a great boon. And then it was unjust to ask him to pay a certain amount of money to secure what he has always considered his own by the right of prior occupation.


In regard to the return of the remnant of Joseph's bands now in the Indian Territory, I rejoice greatly at the success that has crowned the efforts of my brethren in the East; yet I am humiliated when I remember that their zeal was not all according to knowledge. In recommending the return of all, without distinction, to their mountain home, they refused to recognize the fact that it is difficult for men and women to forgive and to forget such hellish treatment as they were subjected to when their houses were burned, their property destroyed, their husbands and children murdered and their wives ravished. Now by a wise provision of the Department, I believe it is, those who were known to have committed such deeds are not to be allowed to return, and so all trouble will probably be avoided.


As to the question of reopening and enlarging the Kamiah school under church auspices, I regard it as another case of zeal not according to knowledge. For all practical purposes the location is too isolated and the expenditure of the same amount of money in assisting a really needy people would be productive of more satisfactory results and at the same time be more in accordance with the spirit of philanthropy. It is natural, of course, that the Kamiah people should desire a school in their midst for their children, but were the matter properly presented to their minds, they would no doubt gladly consent to do without, if the funds necessary for establishing their school should be used in educating Indian children less favored than their own. . . .

From: Report of John W. Scott, Ponca, Pawnee, Otoe Agency, Indian Territory, pp. 128-134.


These Indians are in some respects superior to those of any other tribe connected with the agency. They are unusually bright and intelligent; nearly one-half of them are consistent members of the Presbyterian Church. They meet regularly for weekly services in the school house, and so far as dress, deportment, and propriety of conduct are concerned they could not be distinguished from an ordinary white congregation. The entire band, with perhaps one or two exceptions, are quiet, peaceable, and orderly people. They receive what is provided for them with apparent thankfulness, ask for nothing more and give no trouble whatever. They are extremely anxious to return to their own country. They regard themselves as exiles. The climate does not seem to agree with them, many of them have died, and there is a tinge of melancholy in their bearing and conversation that is truly pathetic. I think they should be sent back, as it seems clear they will never take root and prosper in this locality.

The longing to return to their old homes and the unsettled feeling it naturally produces have no doubt interfered with their progress in farming and improving their lands. Nevertheless many of them have made very creditable progress, and have provided themselves with cozy and comfortable homes, and all seem inclined to work more or less. They are naturally, I think, more industrious than most Indians. The women, especially, are bright and active and exceedingly ingenious in way of needle work, embroidery, &c. They manufacture a number of useful articles in a beautiful and tasteful manner, from the sale of which they realize a considerable income during the year.

. . . They own 189 horses, 10 mules, and 193 head of cattle. They were unwilling to undertake the labor of putting up hay under the impression that they might leave the place and lose the benefit of it. By making an arrangement with the cattle men in the vicinity to buy their hay in case they had to sell, I have induced them to go to work and they are getting up a good supply.

The day school was successfully conducted during the year. The Nez Percés seem anxious to give their children the advantages of education and the children equally anxious to learn. The school was well attended even in the severest weather of winter, although some of the pupils had to come every day 2 or 3 miles. The building used for school purposes was originally built for a shop. It is a mere shell of native lumber and extremely uncomfortable in cold weather. If these people are to remain here permanently I would strongly recommend the erection of a suitable building for the school, and also that it be changed into a boarding-school at least so far as to allow the children a midday meal.

The sanitary condition of the tribe, I think, is better than formerly. The mortality during the year was less than in years past, and this improvement would probably continue as they become acclimated, and only the more healthy and robust were left.

All the tribes connected with this agency have within the last six or seven months leased their unoccupied lands for grazing purposes, and the lands so leased have been inclosed with substantial wire fence. The income derived from these leases of lands, otherwise entirely unproductive, represents a substantial item in the support of the Indians. The Poncas receive $1,700 a year; the Pawnees, about $3,700; the Otoes, $2,100; and the Nez Percés, $1,000. . . .