1887 Reports of the Commissioner Affairs and Indian Agent Reports
"Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs," pp. 1-755. In U.S. House. 50th Congress, 1st Session. Report of the Secretary of the Interior, 1887 (H.Ex.Doc.1, Pt. 5, Vol.2). Washington: Government Printing Office, 1889. (Serial Set 2542).



The general allotment act, the plan of which was first suggested in the annual report of this office for 1878, became a law on the 8th of February last. I have deemed it a matter of public interest and convenient reference to submit in this report . . . an abstract of its provisions, which are as follows:

The President may, in his discretion, have any Indian reservation or any part thereof surveyed or resurveyed, and the lands of such reservation allotted in severalty to any Indian located thereon.

The size of the allotments shall be: to each head of a family, one-quarter of a section; to each single person over eighteen and each orphan under eighteen years of age, one-eighth of a section; to each other single person born prior to the date of the Presidential order directing an allotment of lands upon the reserve, one-sixteenth of a section. . . .

Selections of allotments shall be made by Indians, heads of families selecting for their minor children, but agents shall select for orphans. The lands selected shall embrace the improvements made thereon by the respective Indians.

If on one legal subdivision of land two or more Indians have made improvements the tract may be divided between them and a further assignment of lands be made to them to complete the amount to which each is entitled.

If within four years after the President shall have directed allotments on a reservation any Indian belonging thereto shall have failed to make his selection, the agent, or if there is none a special agent, may make the selection for such Indian, and the tract so selected shall be allotted to him.

Allotments shall be made by the agents in charge of the respective reservations, and also by special agents appointed by the President for the purpose, according to rules which the Secretary of the Interior may prescribe, and the allotments shall be certified by the agents in duplicate, one copy for the Indian and one for the Land Office files. . . .

When the Secretary of the Interior shall have approved the allotments made, then patents for such lands, recorded in the General Land Office, shall be issued to the respective allottees, declaring that the United States will hold said lands in trust for their sole use and benefit for twenty-five years, and at the end of that time will convey them, without charge, to said allottees or their heirs, in fee and free of all incumbrance; the President, however, may in his discretion extent the period beyond twenty-five years. . . .

After lands have been allotted to all Indians of a tribe (or sooner if the President thinks best), the Secretary of the Interior may negotiate with that tribe for the sale of any of their unallotted lands, such negotiations to be subject to ratification by Congress.

In case lands are thus sold, the purchase money paid therefor by the United States shall be held in the United States Treasury in trust for that tribe, at 3 per cent. interest, which interest shall be subject to appropriation by Congress fort he civilization of said tribe.

Any religious society or other organization now occupying, for religious or educational work among Indians, any lands to which this act applies, may be confirmed by the Secretary of the Interior in the occupation of such lands, in quantity not exceeding 160 acres in any one tract, on such terms as he shall deem just, and so long as the organization occupies the land for the above-named purposes; but this does not alter any right heretofore granted by law to any such organization.

All lands adapted to agriculture released to the United States by Indian tribes shall be disposed of only to bona fide settlers, in tracts not exceeding 160 acres (subject to grants which Congress may make in aid of education), and no patents shall issue to any such settler or his heirs for such lands until after five years' continuous occupancy thereof as a homestead, and any conveyance of or lien on said land prior to the issuance of patent thereto shall be null and void.

After receiving his patent every allottee shall have the benefit of and be subject to the civil and criminal laws of the State or Territory in which he may reside; and no Territory shall deny any Indian equal protection of law; and every Indian born in the United States who has received an allotment under this or any other law or treaty, or who has taken up his residence separate from a tribe and adopted the habits of civilized life, is declared a citizen of the United States, but citizenship shall not impair any rights he may have in tribal property. . . .

The President has wisely ordered that allotments be made only on reservations where the Indians are known to be generally favorable to the idea, and the following have thus far been selected: Papago and Pima (Salt river), Arizona; L'Anse and Vieux de Sert, Michigan; Lac Court d'Oreilles, Bad River, Red Cliff, and Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin; Fond u Lac, Minnesota; Lake Traverse, Devil's Lake, Ponca, and Yankton, Dakota; Nez Percé, Idaho; Crow, Montana; Absentee Shawnee, Pottawatomie, Quapaw, Modoc, Ottawa, Shawnee, Seneca, and Wyandotte, Indian Territory; Winnebago, Nebraska; Siletz, Grande Ronde, and Warm Springs, Oregon; and Muckleshoot, Washington Territory. . . . (pp. 2-5)


. . . Longer and closer consideration of the subject has only deepened my conviction that it is a matter not only of importance, but of necessity that the Indians acquire the English language as rapidly as possible. The Government has entered upon the great work of educating and citizenizing the Indians and establishing them upon homesteads. The adults are expected to assume the role of citizens, and of course the rising generation will be expected and required more nearly to fill the measure of citizenship, and the main purpose of educating them is to enable them to read, write, and speak the English language and to transact business with English-speaking people. When they take upon themselves the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship their vernacular will be of no advantage. Only through the medium of the English tongue can they acquire a knowledge of the Constitution of the country and their rights and duties thereunder.

Every nation is jealous of its own language, and no nation ought to be more so than ours, which approaches nearer than any other nationality to the perfect protection of its people. True Americans all feel that the Constitution, laws, and institutions of the United States, in their adaptation to the wants and requirements of man, are superior to those of any other country; and they should understand that by the spread of the English language will these laws and institutions be more firmly established and widely disseminated. Nothing so surely and perfectly stamps upon an individual a national characteristic as language. So manifest and important is this that nations the world over, in both ancient and modern times, have ever imposed the strictest requirements upon their public schools as to the teaching of the national tongue. Only English has been allowed to be taught in the public schools in the territory acquired by this country from Spain, Mexico, and Russia, although the native populations spoke another tongue. All are familiar with the recent prohibitory order of the German Empire forbidding the teaching of the French language in either public or private schools in Alsace and Lorraine. Although the population is almost universally opposed to German rule, they are firmly held to German political allegiance by the military hand of the Iron Chancellor. If the Indians were in Germany or France or any other civilized country, they should be instructed in the language there used. As they are in an English-speaking country, they must be taught the language which they must use in transacting business with the people of this country. No unity or community of feeling can be established among different peoples unless they are brought to speak the same language, and thus become imbued with like ideas of duty.

Deeming it for the very best interest of the Indian, both as an individual and as an embryo citizen, to have this policy strictly enforced among the various schools on Indian reservations, orders have been issued accordingly to Indian agents. . . .

. . . [V]arious misrepresentations and complaints in regard to [these orders] have been made, and various misunderstandings seem to have arisen. They do not, as has been urged, touch the question of the preaching of the Gospel in the churches nor in any wise hamper or hinder the efforts of missionaries to bring the various tribes to a knowledge of the Christian religion. Preaching of the Gospel to Indians in the vernacular is, of course, not prohibited. In fact, the question of the effect of this policy upon any missionary body was not considered. All the office insists upon is that in the schools established for the rising generation of Indians shall be taught the language of the Republic of which they are to become citizens. . . . (pp. 19-21)

From: Report of George W. Norris, United States Indian Agent, Nez Percé Agency, pp. 152-155.

. . . TRIBES.

The Nez Percés number about 1,200, a majority of whom I have settled upon farms of 20 acres allotted to them under the treaty. These farms were long since surveyed and fenced by the Government. Permanent and valuable improvements have been made on many of them, while others present the appearance of neglect and deterioration. In one section of the reservation visited by me this state of things was especially noticeable, the farms and buildings giving evidence of a former prosperity and thrift now departed. This state of things was not traceable to the wild nor untamed life of the Indian, to any lack of the civilizing influence of the church nor zeal in its service. Indeed they seem more devoted to this than any other good work.

New farms are being taken up and fenced by the young men of the tribe. A few houses of lumber and logs have been built during the year. The support of this tribe is gained by stock raising, farming, root digging, fishing, hunting, and by selling wood and lumber. A ready sale is found for horses and cattle. Their bands and herds appear to be growing smaller from frequent and large sales of late years, coupled with a desire to improve their stock. The grade and value of horses and cattle are being improved by individual purchases of American stallions, mares, and other blooded stock.

No rations have been issued during the year, and no case of destitution nor suffering for want of food has come to my notice. The tribe is as prosperous as it ever can be unless they are brought to a condition of self-reliance, in which they are to receive no valuable thing from the Government without rendering a full and just compensation.


By your direction a census of the tribe was undertaken in the latter part of June, without cost to the Government, no appropriation having been made by Congress for the execution of this requirement of the law. In the performance of this work you were pleased to direct me to use for the purpose, as I could spare them, such employés and other facilities as are provided for the regular work of the agency. Your instructions found the employés with more work upon their hands than they could easily execute, and from which they could not be spared. In order to accomplish the purpose of your instructions, I was obliged to call for volunteers from the employés and others to perform the work on the 4th day of July. To do this under the most favorable circumstances I secured the co-operation of the committee having the arrangements for the celebrations of the day in charge by a promise to issue a beef for a feast. Every effort was made to insure the presence of the largest number possible. With four census takers and four interpreters to assist, we accomplished the work of taking those in camp, numbering about 800, in one day. From the best estimate obtainable, and that I am able to make, two-thirds of the Indians living upon the reservation were taken.

Results of Census

Males above eighteen years


Females above fourteen years


School children, six to sixteen years


Children under six years


Estimated one-third




This is believed to be approximately the number of Indians in my charge.


We should approach and view the work of education of Indians by generations. It is through their education that their progress largely depends. The influence of the work we are doing in the school will affect more largely the next generation and those that come after them. If we look for both immediate and permanent results from our work we shall be disappointed. The education of a single generation does not necessarily make it better or lead it to endure more easily the restraint of civilization. The school at this agency is the subject of my greatest solicitude, and the peculiar condition of the tribe in its transition to civilization make its successful management a work of wisdom, patience, and difficulty.

The children readily learn to read and write; it is more difficult for them to embrace the habits and mode of life of the whites. It is with the greatest difficulty they learn and practice the proper use of things.

Upon my taking charge here September 10, 1886, the agency school was partly removed from its former location at the mouth of the Lapwai creek to Fort Lapwai. Commodious and convenient school buildings were left behind in exchange for the comforts and conveniences of soldiers’ quarters. I entered upon my duties without an office or office furniture for the transaction of agency business, but with garrison buildings sufficient in number though unfit in their adaptation for an agency school. The task of preparation and organization of the school was difficult and perplexing. The attendance was increased from 60 to 123 pupils, and the school was successfully conducted through the winter, during which time we suffered from the disadvantages attending the care of so many children in quarters so widely scattered as the garrison buildings, with the same force of employés allowed for a school of less than half its number in former years. Great credit is due to the employés for their untiring industry and attention to the needs of the school under circumstances so difficult of success.

We have a farm and garden cultivated by the agency and school employés principally. It is estimated that our harvest will bring us—

Hay Tons 70
Oats Bushels 500
Potatoes Do 500
Beets and mangolds Do 300
Onions Do 100
Carrots Do 375
Corn Do 225
Beans Do 35
Peas D0 10
Cabbages Number 750
Squash Tons 4

During the harvest season we are practically without the assistance of the school-boys, whose labor is needed as much as at any other time, yet it seems impracticable here to retain them in school in July, August, and September. This makes the task of providing vegetables for the school and hay and roots for the stock burdensome for the employés.

We have three school-houses upon this reservation, one of which is occupied by the school. It is believed that one good school upon the reservation is better than a greater number, unless a separation of the sexes is made. The conveniences for established separate schools are good. The buildings and farm at Fort Lapwai render it the most suitable place for a boys’ school. The school building at the mouth of the Lapwai creek furnishes quarters for a female school than which few better can be found. The schools would be separate by a distance of about 4 miles, and could be conducted, I believe, under one superintendent with but few additional employés. The advantages of such an arrangement of the schools here would, in my opinion, be the best thing for the education of the tribe that I can recommend.

Teachers employed at the Lapwai Boarding-School.





William Edward Hill Superintendent and principal teacher


Mabel A. Norris Assistant teacher


Eben Mounce Industrial teacher


Thomas Brouche Assistant industrial teacher



The Presbyterian and Catholic Churches are represented, prosecuting their respective causes with efficiency and vigor. We have four Presbyterian and one Catholic Church in a population of 1,200 Indians, with a total membership, as reported to me, of 974, divided as follows: 574 Protestants and 400 Catholics.

There are eight native ordained ministers and five white missionaries. It is difficult to conduct the affairs of this agency to the entire acceptance of its Christian population; but I have done what I could to promote good morals and tolerance of the opinions of others between the churches represented.


This court has commanded the respect of the tribe, and exercises a wholesome restraint upon vicious and untamed Indians. There have been forty criminal cases before the court.


Cases No






Medicine men






Aiding escape of prisoners


Unlawfully cutting wood on the reserve


Contempt of court




Breaking and entering


In addition to this I have referred to the court from time to time for investigation, the facts in civil cases and complaints, some one or more of the judges finding the facts in the case and reporting the same to me for final determination. In such matters the finding of the judges have generally been satisfactory to all parties in interest. By making use of the court for such purposes I find myself able to save time for other duties. . . .

From: Report of Rickard D. Gwydir, United States Indian Agent, Colville Indian Agency, Washington, pp.286-291.

San Puell and Nespilum Indians. — . . . They are under control of Chief Skolaskan, who poses before his people as a prophet, and governs them according to his dreams and revelations. Previous to last July there was a very bitter feeling existing between these people and the tribes under Chief Moses, of the Columbia, and Chief Joseph, of the Nez Percés—Skolaskan’s people refusing to let the Nez Percés locate on the land given them by the Government, claiming it as theirs, and that the Government had no right to give their land to murderers and horse thieves; that they had always been friendly with the whites; that a drop of white man’s blood never stained their hands; . . . and before sending such people on his land Washington should have asked him. I persuaded him to accompany me to Nespilum. . . . When we arrived at Nespilum, on the evening of July—, 1887, I learned that two companies of infantry and one of cavalry . . . were camped 4 miles from Nespilum.

On the morning of July, 18[8]7, while holding a conference with the three chiefs, Skoloskan, Moses, and Joseph, and their people, the troops passed the mill where we were, and camped at the school-house about 1 mile below. There was no further trouble. Skoloskan agreed to everything I proposed, and I do not apprehend any further trouble from that quarter. The next day, July, 1887, Lieutenant Hoffin, of the Second Cavalry and myself located Joseph’s people without molestation.

The Nez Percés.—This tribe, 132 in number—men, women, and children—except 16, are under the immediate charge of Chief Joseph, and are near the Nespilum River, in the immediate vicinity of the Government mill. The remaining 16 are under the charge of Chief Yellow Bull, located near the agency buildings, immediately across the Spokane River from Fort Spokane. Chief Joseph is proving himself an exemplary leader, and by his own industry and work is encouraging his tribe to do likewise. All this tribe have lands assigned them, which they are proceeding to cultivate, with the exception of a few young men who are not the heads of families. The same may be said of that portion of the tribe under the immediate charge of Yellow Bull. The differences and enmities between this tribe and the tribes under Chief Skolaskan have been amicably adjusted, and they are now in harmony. The provisions and implements furnished by the Government for this tribe are being furnished them regularly, and they appear satisfied, and I think are determined to be industrious and improve their condition.

They are anxious for the opening of the school at Nespilum, and when this is done, I am sure they will improve the opportunity of educating their children. . . .