1888 Reports of the Commissioner Affairs and Indian Agent Reports
"Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs," pp. I-910. In U.S. House. 50th Congress, 2d Session. Report of the Secretary of the Interior, 1888 (H.Ex.Doc.1, Pt. 5, Vol.2). Washington: Government Printing Office, 1889. (Serial Set 2637). 

From: Railroads, pp. XLVI-LII

Nez Percé Reserve, Idaho Territory. An act granting to the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company the right of way through this reservation became a law without the approval of the President July 24, 1888 (25 Stat., 349 . . . ). The right of way granted is for the extension of the railroad of the above company from a point on the western boundary of the reservation on the Clear Water River, in an easterly direction, following the valley of said river and the south fork thereof, and thence in a generally southerly and easterly direction to the eastern boundary of the reservation; also from a point on the northern boundary of the reservation, on Potlack Creek, in Sec. 16, T. 37 N., R. 3 W., by way of Potlack Creek to the Clear Water River.

No rights are to accrue to the company before the consent of the Indians for the construction of the road is obtained in such manner as the Secretary of the Interior shall prescribe. Authority has been granted the company to make preliminary surveys. . . .

From: Report of George W. Norris, United States Indian Agent, Nez Percé Agency, pp. 85-89.


This reservation is bounded on the north, west, south, and east by a wide and almost boundless extent of rich, productive agricultural land, nearly all of which, except upon the east, has been taken up by settlers, that bordering on the reservation being in the possession of those whose principal pursuit is stock-raising. Their flocks and herds naturally seek pasturage upon the reservation, where grass and water is both good and abundant. I find those thus engaged very sonorous and tenacious of their self-assumed right to exclude Indians from the enjoyment of any privileges upon the public domain whenever objection is made to their encroachment upon the reservation; and their right to hold cattle here is strenuously insisted upon, because, as they say, the Indians do not fence their reservation. White settlers and speculators are thus profiting while the Indians are losing the benefit derivable from the use of their rich grazing lands, no adequate provision having yet been made for managing it to their advantage.

It is impracticable with a force of but five policemen to protect from encroachment a reservation the exterior lines of which measure about 150 miles, and properly attend to other police duties, while the public sentiment of the country surrounding it ignores such treaty obligations of the Government as interfere with the appropriation of Indian rights by white settlers.

It is urged by some that the Indians have more pasturage than they can make use of; that it would be utterly lost unless occupied by them; that no harm is done by their cattle taking the benefit of what the Indians suffer to waste. Authority to receive cattle for pasturage, and employ Indian herders only in the care of the same, would enable me to convert to the use of my Indians a source of revenue that would, besides furnishing employment to many, do much towards settling them upon their allotments and otherwise materially improve their condition with less direct aid from Congress.


The eighth article of the treaty of June 9, 1863, provides that "all timber within the bounds of the reservation is exclusively the property of the tribe," etc., while the amendatory treaty, concluded August 30, 1868, provides that "none shall be cut or removed without the consent of the head chief of the tribe, together with the consent of the agent and superintendent of Indian affairs first given in writing."

The Indians have heretofore been allowed to cut timber and wood and raft it to a market outside the reservation; also, to convert it into lumber, at the agency mill, for the construction of fences and buildings. Applications now reach me from whites for leave to purchase and cut timber, dealing directly with the Indians, to which I am unable to consent. The standing timber upon the reservation is valuable, and the income derivable, wisely expended, would go far to establish the Indians upon their allotments.


The Indians during the year have manifested an increased interest in farming; an increase in acreage and crops has been realized. The additional amount of labor called for to properly take care of the increase is realized by them, and while some feel discouraged by the great amount of work, all manifest a disposition to take care of the products of their labor. Unusual preparations for doing so have been made; buildings for the storage of grain are increasing, and sheds for covering hay have been erected during the season.

This is essentially a small-grain country, it being too cold, warm, and dry to successfully raise corn without irrigation, and even then its tendency to sucker is a serious drawback. Vegetables can not be successfully raised without irrigation. The Indians utilize their springs and creeks for irrigating purposes, and the result as shown by their gardens is of the most encouraging and creditable character.

They have built during the year eighteen houses of logs and lumber.

The population is stated the same as last year, 1,192, because of my inability to take a census of the tribe without unauthorized expense.

The Indians quite generally leave the reservation in the latter part of August, as soon as harvesting is done, and spend two months hunting and fishing. The meat and fish thus secured are dried for winter use. They go in small parties, a portion of them to the Wallowa, or what is known as Chief Joseph’s country, in Oregon; some to the valley and mountains of Salmon River and the Little Salmon, and others into the Bitter Root Mountains, where fish and game are abundant. A member of one party last year killed twenty-seven deer; another, in the same party, thirty; this was near the head of the Little Salmon.

Complaints through your office were made of Indian depredations in the last-named locality. They have also been made to me by citizens living in the Wallowa, but I have been unable to discover any just cause of complaint. The right of the Indians to hunt and fish in the country adjacent to their reservation seems the real question at issue. This right was reserved and is secured to them by their treaty. If the people of Oregon or elsewhere wish to enjoy the exclusive right of hunting and taking fish in the localities named it is a proper subject for negotiation, purchase, and sale. It is certainly not their privilege to exclude the Indians from the enjoyment of their treaty rights, nor to abridge them.

The Indians are advised, and recognizing the utility of the State and the Territorial game laws, they wish to observe them. When going out from the reservation passes are issued to them, showing the purpose and period of absence authorized. They serve also to identify the person. These passes should be an assurance to whites, among whom the Indians go, of the peaceful character of their mission.

In the observance of religious duty the tribe is as constant as whites.

They are ambitious to observe national holidays in a becoming manner. A short time before the 4th of July last year several of the Indians called upon me, stating their wish to "have 4th of July like white man." Whereupon I interested myself in the matter, appointed committees, and assisted them in their arrangements for the occasion. A programme was adopted and carried out in an orderly and highly satisfactory manner. They were encamped near the agency for four days. The exercises consisted of camp-meeting, foot-races, and other games for the entertainment of the youth, a feast, horse-racing, and a war parade, in which about fifty Indians in paint, feathers, war dress, and undress paraded, singing their war song. This parade was a most striking and thrilling exhibition. On the morning of the 4th I explained to the Indians the origin and significance of this national holiday.

This year the observance of the occasion was more general than before; Indians and whites came from long distances to witness the exercises. In addition to the programme of last year, a procession was formed in which about 600 Indians, men and women, joined on horseback; they marched four abreast from Fort Lapwai, where encamped, to the old agency, about 4 miles distant, and returned, singing on their way Gospel hymns in their peculiar an inimitable manner, so wild and weird; the bright and glowing colors worn heightening interest in their performance.


The Indians have become anxious about the matter of allotments under the act of February 8, 1887, and seem troubled by the cloud of uncertainty with which the subject is enveloped. They understand that a survey of the reservation for the purpose of allotment was authorized in July, 1887, and no visible steps having been taken, nor the survey entered upon, those ready for allotment, and wishing to take their land according to the regret any unnecessary delay that might discourage those who are in the line of progress.surveys, are embarrassed by the delay. I trust it will not be long postponed. I should


The mill at Lapwai has been in operation during the whole year with but little interruption. . . . The mill has sawed 100,000 feet of lumber, and ground into flour upwards of 200,000 pounds of wheat and 5,000 pounds of corn for the Indians. Many of them purchase flour at the mills in Lewiston, at Mount Idaho, and at the trader's store.

The mill at Kamiah has been in actual operation but a small part of the year. Much less wheat and logs are brought to the mill than at Lapwai. A considerable portion of the flour used there is purchased from outside mills and traders; the quality, doubtless, has something to do with their preference, the new processes for manufacturing being much superior to that in use in our mills. Notwithstanding the lack of employment for the mill, every inspector and special agent who visits this agency are importuned by the Indians for a full set of mill employés to be constantly kept there, "as the Indians have at Lapwai." It seems difficult for them to understand how it is that employment for the mill enters into the question. . . .


The easterly line of the reservation was resurveyed last autumn by Joseph A. Clark. The line located by him is further west, and inside the line established by the original survey, thus taking from the reservation a considerable strip of land. The effect upon the Indians is great dissatisfaction. The original survey for many years appears to have received the sanction of the Government for all practicable purposes. Settlers have taken their land, accepting the original line as their boundary on the west, and the Indians have been assured by twenty years’ occupancy, without any suggestion of mistake in survey, that the survey and plans, as originally made, were correct.

The northerly line of the reservation is without those visible monuments necessary to the assurance of an undisputed right of possession to settlers and Indians alike. The line should be retraced and permanent monuments erected, that frequent disputes between Indians and white settles along the border may be avoided. The exterior lines of the reservation should be retraced and monuments renewed as often as once in every five years, for the security and peace of all concerned.

The Oregon Railway and Navigation Company placed upon the reservation a surveying party last summer to make preliminary survey for a railroad. Upon instructions from your office, the work was stopped and the party removed. Since that time Congress has granted a right of way to this company through the reservation, and they have now been allowed to engage in their preliminary work under instructions from you.


The administration of justice in the Indian country, where the court and other auxiliaries must be self-sustaining to exist, is a problem that civilized communities are not called upon to solve. We have judges and they must be paid, prisoners and they must be fed, and held upon the hope that at some time the revenues will be equal to the expenditure. The operations of the court have well nigh come to a stand still for lack of funds, the judges are more than six months in arrears of pay, and I am without means for boarding prisoners. I am satisfied that to be self-sustained the administration of justice here must be conducted upon more selfish principles than has hitherto obtained under my administration. I have in the past boarded prisoners, trusting to future receipts for payment, but finding the amount due the judges for salaries unpaid increasing, in anticipation of dissatisfaction and difficulty in the application of the insufficient revenues of the court, I deemed it wise to discontinue the practice. If the appropriation lately made by Congress proves sufficient for salaries, it will in some degree relieve the present cause of embarrassment.

The court has determined a considerable number of civil cases, but view the additional labor without pay a hardship. No costs have ever been taxed in cases, civil or criminal. It is my opinion that costs and fees should be taxed and allowed in all cases. A clerk is necessary to keep the records and files, and were fees allowed blanks could be procured and used, so that complete and permanent record of the transactions of the court could be kept.

The criminal business of the court during the year has been as follows:

Cases No
Assault and battery 3
Assault on officers 1
Adultery 6
Breaking and entering 2
Fornication 3
Killing cattle of another 1
Total 16


With eight native regularly ordained ministers, a portion of whom are annually sent to other reservations to perform missionary work by the church associations to which they belong, the call for missionary workers is less urgent than formerly. TheAmerican Board has transferred Rev. G. L. Deffenbaugh, the principal missionary here for some eight years past, so that Miss Kate C. McBeth is now the only Protestant missionary upon the reserve. The Catholics are represented by their missionaries.


The successful administration of affairs at an agency does not depend alone upon the character, intelligence, and business qualities of the agent—the existence of harmonious relations between him and the employés, their mutual confidence and respect are equally essential. Employés will be of little service to the Government or to the Indians, by whomsoever appointed, until they are made subject to the agent, who is held to the strictest responsibility for their acts. Insubordination must be discouraged, or no successful administration can be had. The right of removal in the hands of those responsible has long been justly contended for by the Democratic party as essential to good government. Evils and abuses in the service will be corrected by prompt and efficient action, not by tardy justice. The right of an Indian agent to dismiss from the service his subordinates, for whose conduct he is under the gravest responsibility, ought not to be infringed, and I venture to hope that it will be respected.


The schools have maintained a fair average attendance. The additional accommodations secured by the dedication of the Garrison buildings at Fort Lapwai to school purposes induced the establishment of two schools and the separation of the sexes. The girls' school was organized in the school building at the old agency, while that for the boys was located at Fort Lapwai, where greater advantages exist for their instruction and employment. The health of the pupils has been fairly good; better sanitary conditions are among the advantages derived from the separation of the sexes. The evil of overcrowding school buildings with children, so susceptible to disease, can not be too carefully guarded against. The promiscuous character of intercourse between the sexes gave rise to the necessity for their separation. The schools are 4 miles distant. The advantage thus derived in the inculcation of lessons of morality and virtue is obvious, and should be maintained.

A circular-saw has been mounted for sawing wood, a boon to the boys, that goes far to content them with their home at the school; that which was before an irksome task has become a pleasure.

The product of the school farm and garden was—

Barley Bushels





Potatoes (estimated)







From: Report of Rickard D. Gwyder, Colville Indian Agency, Washington Territory, pp. 221-224.

. . . Joseph's Nez Percés occupy the land in the vicinity of the Nespilum Mills. They are not doing as well or working as industriously as they should, refusing to give assistance at the mills sawing or grinding their own material. Last year they made better efforts than they have done the present year. With the assistance the Government has given them they should have a much greater quantity of land under cultivation than they now have. The chief, Joseph, has the idea that the Government is bound to support him in idleness. Interference on the part of irresponsible parties is partly the cause of this, and also the fact that very few civilized whites would worry themselves about work if they know they could get all their needs supplied simply by asking. It is expecting too much from a naturally indolent savage to be industrious when he gets all he wants without any exertion on his part. My idea would be to start them as you would a white man; give them separate houses, abolish their tepees, furnish them with necessary farming implements, and compel them to earn their own living. Let the farmer for each band show them how, instead of doing the work for them. The influence of these idlers is bad on the other tribes, who receive nothing from the Government. . . .