1885 Reports of the Commissioner Affairs and Indian Agent Reports
"Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs," pp. 3-872. In U.S. House. 49th Congress, 1st Session. Report of the Secretary of the Interior, 1885 (H.Ex.Doc.1, Pt. 5, Vol.2). Washington: Government Printing Office, 1885. (Serial Set 2379).



Under the appropriations made available in the act of March 3d last, for the removal of the Nez Percé Indians in the Indian Territory to some other location, and in accordance with your authority of May 17 last, one hundred and fifty of said Indians, including men, women, and children, have been removed to and located at the Colville Agency in Washington Territory; and the remainder, one hundred and eighteen in all, are now located with their friends and relatives at the Nez Percé Agency in Idaho.

The reason for sending these Indians to two separate agencies was partly on account of their own desire in the matter, but principally on account of indictments said to be pending in Idaho against Chief Joseph and some of his immediate followers, for murders committed by them before their removal to the Indian Territory in 1878, and numerous threats that were made that, in the event of their return to Idaho, extreme measures would be taken by the citizens to avenge the wrongs alleged to have been perpetrated by these people over eight years ago.

As a precautionary measure to secure safety and protection for the Indians en route to Idaho and Washington Territory, the honorable Secretary of War issued the requested orders for a sufficient force of troops to be in readiness to meet any emergencies that might grow out of the movement, and under the immediate supervision of Dr. W. H. Faulkner, the special agent appointed for the purpose, the removal to the two agencies aforesaid was accomplished without difficulty, and the Indians were received at both agencies with kindness and cordiality. The removal was entirely satisfactory, and all parties concerned appear to be contented with their new homes. The total cost to the Government in connection with the removal, including transportation, subsistence, and pay and expenses of the special agent, amounts to $11,354.01.

I will add that in the spring of 1883 thirty-three Nez Percés, mostly destitute widows and orphans, were removed, under the supervision of James Reubens, from the Indian Territory to the Nez Percé Agency in Idaho. The authority for this removal was granted with the understanding that it would be no expense to the Government, but it appears that in the act approved July 4, 1884, Congress made an appropriation of $1,625 to reimburse Mr. Reubens for expenses incurred in connection with this removal, which amount has been paid in full. (pp. 57)

From: Report of Charles E. Monteith, United States Indian Agent, Nez Percé Agency, pp. 296-298.

. . . THE TRIBE.

I cannot say that there has been a marked advancement towards civilization during the past year, yet I can see an improvement in several respects, which will be mentioned in detail under other heads. The first step to be taken to lead the Indians in this direction is, in my opinion, to provide for the taking of lands in severalty by the Indians, With the exception of the few agricultural implements furnished, also subsistence for about forty destitute widows, children, and old men for about three months during the year, this tribe is self-supporting.

As to cultivated acreage, there is an increase of about 235 acres over last year. This is occasioned by twenty new farms having been taken up by Indians, and by others increasing the size of their patches.

To become successful stock raisers the Indians have come to realize the importance of making more extensive preparations in the way of providing hay for the more severe portion of the winter; hence the increase of 800 tons of hay having been put up this season over the 700 tons put up last year. The yield per acre of cereals this season is greater than that of last, being and increase of about 8,000 bushels of oats and 5,000 bushels of wheat. Their gardens are not as good as usual, owing, I think, to the scarcity of rain during the months of April and May.

But little stock was sold by the Indians during the year. I think 250 head of cattle and 150 head of horses will cover such sales. . . .


Six frame and five log houses have been added to the number of Indian dwellings on this reserve. Lumber has been sawed for several houses, which will be erected by the Indians during this fall and winter and next spring. Lumber has been sawed covering a bill for a new church edifice, 32 feet by 60 feet, which will be erected this fall. For said building 45,000 feet logs were delivered at the mill by the Indians and, in addition to the same, they have subscribed $800 in cash, most of which has been paid in. The above remarks pertaining to the new church edifice applies to the Protestants of the west end of the reserve. The amount of logs delivered at the saw-mills by Indians, to be made into lumber, approximates 385,000 feet.

Last fall the Indians hauled 46,130 pounds of freight from Lewiston to the agency, for which they received $230.61. I have purchased from the Indians and paid therefor as follows; 24˝ tons hay, $343; 130 cords wood, $650; 14,597 pounds oats, $256.44; total, , $1,480.05.


The average attendance at school has been forty-seven. The capacity of the building is sixty. I could not obtain enough suitable and healthy children to fill the school. Scrofula to a greater or lesser degree prevails throughout the children of the tribe. The good food furnished the scholars at the boarding school is calculated to develop said disease rather than exterminate it. An Indian's stomach is analogous to the average white man's purse—draw on it and you touch a very tender spot. Any attempt to diet the children would result in a light attendance. There are twenty-six children of school age who came with the returned Nez Percés of Joseph's band. I shall select from the said twenty-six, also from those who attended school last term, enough to fill the school next term, and take the healthiest and brightest.

The progress made last term by the scholars in their studies is very encouraging, owing in a great measure to an assistant teacher having been allowed for the school room. More time was given to the younger children than heretofore. The advancement made by the girls in cooking, sewing, and general house-work is marked and very satisfactory. The same can be said of the boys as regards industrial pursuits.


I resume it will be futile for me to say anything regarding the parsimonious support given these branches of the service on part of Congress. If said body wishes to fit the Indians for the "white man's law," why is it that the members thereof are so short-sighted and penurious as to refuse to give adequate support to a measure so calculated to educate the Indian to become a law-abiding citizen and fit him for civilization? Congress refuses to appropriate the small amount of $10 per month as pay for judges, but expects competent Indians to act and be content with the honor attached to the position.

Again, the idea of expecting an Indian to devote his whole time to police duties for the pittance of $8 per month! With this small amount (about 26 cents a day) he is expected to support himself and family. No rations are allowed. A policeman must necessarily take sufficient time to cultivate enough land from which to harvest grain and vegetables in quantities to subsist his family. This is an injury to the police service.

Yet in the face of such discouraging barriers I am able to state that the "court" and police force have worked wonders among this tribe. Friends and foes alike of the Indians in this vicinity acknowledge the same. It has been through strenuous efforts on part of the agent that the service of the court and the police force is what it is on this reserve. He has exercised discretionary powers, and has upheld and aided the same when severely tried and put to the test as to moral courage in deciding cases where former chiefs were to be tried; also in compelling arrests to be made. The following is the result of the labors of said court from July 1, 1884 to August 1, 1885:


No of





Plurality of Wives






Disorderly Conduct






Contempt of Court








It does appear to me that Congress should encourage these branches of the service by granting reasonable support. The judges should be paid $20 per month, and the police should receive $10 per month and a ration for themselves and each member of their families.


One hundred and eighteen Nez Percés of Joseph's band reached this agency June 1, 1885, were kindly received, and have gone out among the tribe. After an absence of eight years they return very much broken in spirit. The lesson is a good one and furnishes profitable study for the more restless of the tribe who are not disposed to settle down and enter upon civilized pursuits. They seem inclined to profit by experience. Some have already taken up lands and are fencing the same, while others will follow next spring. . . .

Having been instructed to secure the return to Chief Joseph of horses left by him at Kamiah, when his war party left this country on their way to Montana, I have adopted the same as my criterion in the settlement of similar claims made by other members of the returned band, and think I will be able to settle all disputes without difficulty.

About fifteen of "White Bird's band" have come in and are scattered over the reserve. As fast as they appear at the agency I instruct the police to cut off their long hair and then instruct them as to what I shall require of them, namely, that they must make a selection of a piece of land, settle down, and go to work. To a very great extent it is the fear of law that causes people to respect the same; so with the Indians, to make him fear you, is to make him respect you. this course will make an agent unpopular with many, but ultimately such feelings will disappear. I have endeavored to make this tribe understand that my word is law, at the same time taking great care not to require anything of them that is not covered by one or more of the many regulations adopted by the Department.


I have been instructed at two different times to make a census of this tribe. Congress passed a law requiring a census to be made of each tribe, and made no provision covering the necessary expense connected with such work. What wisdom this? Do members of Congress expect agents to bear such expense? I speak for myself. It would take me about twenty-five days to make a proper census of this tribe. I would have to travel over about 260 miles of trails. This would necessitate pack animals, a packer, and interpreter; also subsistence for the party. In this country everything of this kind requires cash. In candor, I must say I do not feel called upon to draw from my small salary of $1,600 per annum to pay such expense. I could sit in my office and approximate a census, but what would it amount to when completed? If Congress wishes to secure a true census of the tribe, let it exercise judgment and ordinary intelligence by providing the necessary means with which to secure the same.

My time is fully taken up in attending to my duties at the agency. I am the only agent this tribe has ever had who has not had a clerk, while at the same time the amount of work required by an agent now is at least 50 per cent. greater than was required of any preceding agent. I know whereof I speak, having been clerk at this agency for nearly eight years, during late Agent John B. Monteith's administration. The honorable Secretary of the Interior has granted me a leave of absence for thirty days, but my duties are such as prevents my taking the benefit of the same. The work requires my personal supervision and the responsibility is something more than ordinary. I consider that there is no person at the agency competent to assume my duties.


Owing to the workings of the court and vigilance of the police, the morals of the tribe are improved.

A resurvey of the north and south boundaries of the reserve is being made. This is very much needed, and will be the means of settling disputes as to encroachments by white settlers upon the reserve.

The religious work carried on by Rev. G. L. Deffenbaugh is very satisfactory and is entitled to the approbation of all who feel an interest in the cause. I take pleasure in inclosing a report covering the religious work on this reserve, prepared by Mr. Deffenbaugh.

The general health of the tribe is good, no epidemic having appeared among the tribe to carry off its members. . . .

From: Report of G. L. Deffenbaugh, Missionary, Nez Percé Agency, pp. 298-299.

. . . Public services, prayer meetings, and Sabbath schools have been well sustained during the year. The native ministers have labored with commendable earnestness and with much satisfaction to the people. For carrying on the work of the mission the sum of $3,600 has been expended by the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions. Nothing of unusual interest is to be noted in regard to results, though the effect on the people of a year's quiet, steady work on the part of all concerned is very satisfactory.

The most important religious gathering of the year was a camp meeting that held over the 4th of July. The number of people in attendance from this and adjacent tribes was somewhere between 800 and 1,000. In the midst of the week's meetings they suspended their usual daily services to celebrate the natal day of our country and theirs, and I suppose that the day was not any more patriotically observed anywhere by the citizens of the nation. There were processions, speeches, dinner, plays, and in the evening fireworks; and with it all the best of order and the most hearty good-will.

This leads me to note the absence of the usual drunkenness and horse-racing at that season of the year. In the report I had the honor of sending to the Commissioner last year I took occasion to refer to the growing evil of gambling in horse-racing and the great trouble it was causing in the church. This year I am happy to report that the agent, through his police force and court of Indian offenses, has succeeded in entirely stopping horse-racing on the reserve; consequently, we have not had a single case of discipline for an offense of that kind. The young men of the church have been shielded from the temptation to indulge in what seems to strongly fascinate them, and the officers of the church have been spared the mortification and trouble of disciplining them for yielding to the temptation to gamble, a condition of affairs for which we are devoutly thankful. (And just here I would like to introduce a word, parenthetically, in commendation of Agent Monteith's fidelity and zeal in devising and executing plans looking to the advancement of the people in true civilization. I would respectfully express the hope that he may be retained in his present position, which he is in so many respects qualified to fill successfully and satisfactorily to all parties concerned.)

It is with pleasure I take note of a long step forward in our church work taken last spring, when Presbytery assigned each church to the care and control of a Nez Percé minister. By this arrangement each church has its own pastor, whom it supports in connection with the Board of Foreign Missions. It is contemplated that these churches will each year advance towards self-support and in time be able to pay their pastors' salaries without assistance from the Board.

The people here at Lapwai have done nobly in raising funds and getting lumber to build a new house of worship. The building used for that purpose now is inadequate and the people are rejoicing in the hope of having a neat and more commodious house in which to worship in the early winter.

With a brief reference to the returned Nez Percés I will close. They arrived on the reservation June 1, and were immediately taken to the hearts and homes of their friends here. On the first Sabbath in July we received 80 of them to the membership of the reservation churches. They have acted in a very becoming manner so far as my observation has extended, and have gained the sympathy and good-will of all with whom they have had to do. It was certainly very proper for the Department to consent to and order their return to Idaho; and it was likewise a very proper thing to make a distinction between the subdued and unsubdued, and send the latter to a point remote from the scenes of their dastardly deeds and wanton depredations. . . .

From: Report of Sidney D. Waters, United States Indian agent, Colville Indain Agency, pp. 411-412.


Last June a remnant of Joseph's band was brought from the Indian Territory, numbering 150, and placed upon this reserve—taken from a country where they had already become acclimated, where they had their well-fenced fields, their bands of cattle and horses, their children in school, and in fact progressing finely, rationed by the Government as well, and on account of the sickly sentiment expressed in the East towards them removed to Idaho and Washington Territories, against the wishes of the people of these Territories, whose relatives were slain by this band, whose outrages and atrocities will last in the minds of these settlers as long as they have being. It is said that they have been removed back to this country by the Government at their own request, and that in a great measure they will be expected to care for themselves on account of lack of sufficient appropriations. What can they do for the next year until they can harvest a crop? Joseph says: "We have nothing. My people cannot and will not starve, and if we are not fed we will go and find it." Why was this not thought of before they came here? My estimates for food for them were cut down and they were placed on short rations until they appealed to the military, and have since been fed. I earnestly recommend that Congress provide sufficiently for their wants early in the session. . .