1891 Reports of the Commissioner Affairs and Indian Agent Reports
"Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs," pp. 3-1097. In U.S. House. 52d Congress, 1st Session. Report of the Secretary of the Interior, 1891 (H.Ex.Doc.1, Pt. 5, Vol.2). Washington: Government Printing Office, 1892. (Serial Set 2934)

From: Railroads Over Reservations, pp. 94-100

Nez Percés Reservation, Idaho.—The maps of the definite location of the Spokane and Palouse Railway through this reserve were approved by the Department April 2, 1891, after which they were transmitted to the agent by this office, with instructions to convene the Indians in council for the purpose of having them agree upon the amount of compensation to be paid them in their tribal capacity for the right of way, and also the amount to be paid to such individual members as would sustain damages in construction of the road.

From: Report of Warren D. Robbins, United States Indian Agent, Nez Percé Agency, pp. 232-234.

Agriculture.—The hot winds with which this section of country is so often visited during the summer months completely devastated the crops last season, although they were well planted in the springtime and got an early rise. Notwithstanding this failure the Indians have been quite successful in saving their horses and cattle through the winter as it proved quite mild. With those who have not large bands of horses or cattle it has become a fixed habit to take up and feed them through the long winter months, consequently the successive years of failure in raising crops have quite disheartened them. Their conversation in regard to the crops and how they should be raised shows that they take a much greater interest in them than heretofore, and but for the drawback mentioned above they would, I am sure, farm their land in a greater quantity.

Court of Indian offenses.—The three judges are picked men from the tribe and are elected because of their honesty, integrity, and intelligence, and can generally be relied upon to administer justice without partiality or prejudice. In each and every offense committed during the past year due and just punishment has been administered to the deserving criminal. This court convenes once a week, and the business that comes up is dispatched in a very dignified manner. There have been 30 cases, which come under the jurisdiction of this court, tried during the year for crimes as follows: Two cases of fighting, 7 of drunkenness, 6 of adultery, 10 of gambling, 2 of polygamy, 2 of wife-beating, and 1 of jail-breaking.

. . . Stock on reservation.—It seems that it is impossible to keep the stock off of this reservation. The only way I have is to await reports from the Indians and then send the policemen, with orders to remove the animals at once if they are not so removed by those white men who own them. But the loose stock, which have no herder, are the great nuisance, and it would take at least 50 men to act as herders to keep this loose stock off.

Railroads.—The questions pertaining to the right of way across this reservation by the Spokane and Palouse Railroad Company have nearly all been settled. The Indians held a council May 1 last, at which an agreement was entered into, between them and the railroad company wherein damages were affixed by them in crossing the tribal lands of this Nez Percé tribe, but it is not known whether the company will build through this reservation this year or not.

Buildings.—There are two or three buildings now occupied by employés which are unfit for habitation and should be condemned, as they have proven a detriment to the good health of the occupants. The building commonly called the office, which is only one story high, is occupied by one family and two single employés, besides being used for the office of the agent and clerk. Another, known as the guardhouse, is occupied by two employés and their families, is small, and is also used as a jail for Indian prisoners, which makes it quite disagreeable for the families living therein. I would respectfully ask that the honorable Commissioner take some steps in regard to this matter, as it is highly essential to the health and comfort of the employés. I base the foregoing upon the judgment of the agency physician as to the sanitary condition of this agency.

Sanitary.—These Indians as a tribe have inherited for years back, owing to the gypsy life they have led, the diseases so common among the Indians as a race. The principal disease is scrofula, and it seems almost impossible to cleanse their blood of this malady. Aside from this their health, as a tribe, has been very good.

Crimes.—No crime of a very serious nature has been committed during the year. An Indian, becoming intoxicated from the effects of whisky, mounted his horse and because it would not go fast enough for him drew a knife and plunged it into the side of the animal so often that it sank down and died. He was duly punished for this display of inhumanity.

Farming.—Through the vigilance and instructions of the agency farmer the Indians are becoming more and more acquainted with this industry, and have arrived at that point where they see that it is essential to learn it well. They are therefore dropping that careless don’t-care way that has heretofore existed among them, and some have become so well acquainted with the different farming implements that they run them with great accuracy. There have been 2,024 acres broken this year.

Fencing.—There have been 6,750 acres fenced during the year; but the fencing can not be called substantial, owing to the fact that the shipment of barbed wire received last fall was of such an inferior quality, in fact was so rotten, that in stretching it as it should be stretched it in a great many instances snapped.

. . . Advancement.—The advancement made by the Indians in civilized pursuits has been considerable, and quite a number who have never taken any interest in the agricultural industry have been this year induced to farm. Through the skillful management of the school employés the pupils, since the opening of the school, have made advancements which were far beyond my expectations. When they were taken into the school their ideas of the English language were vague, in fact only 9 or 10 out of the 60 could speak a word of English, but upon their leaving they had advanced so far that they could read, write, and speak the language so that they could be easily understood. For this great advancement credit is due to the patience, perseverance, and industry of all the school employés.

Needs.—In making the summary of the needs of this agency I do so for the honorable Commissioner’s consideration. It is highly essential that a ferry be constructed, as the only means the Indians have for crossing the Clearwater at this point is by canoe, and when the railroad is constructed through here and a station built they will need a means of transporting their produce across the river for shipment. The ferry at Kamiah also needs repairing very much, but I would respectfully recommend that a new one be built, as the old one is dangerous in its present condition and I hardly think if repaired could actually be called safe. Owing to the great distance of Kamiah from this agency and the great amount of work that has to be done there in the miller and sawyer, blacksmith and farmer line, also on account of the amount of sickness in that immediate neighborhood, I would recommend the employment of persons to fill those positions at that place. Those employed in those positions at this agency are not able to do all the work in both places, as they are kept constantly busy here, and therefore can not do justice to those Indians living at Kamiah. I would further recommend that stallions to the number of seven or eight be placed on this reservation to improve the breeding of the Indian horses, as the majority of them are scrubby cayuses.

Conclusion.—In closing I would respectfully state that in making the foregoing summary and reviewing the progress made I think I have done remarkably well in promoting the general interest of the Indians, and would also respectfully state that perfect harmony has existed among all concerned throughout the past year. . .

From: Report of Ed McConville, Superintendent and Special Disbursing Agent, Fort Lapwai School, Idaho, pp. 561-563.

. . . The Fort Lapwai buildings were erected by the War Department in the years 1861 and 1862, and in 1885 all the property belonging to the War Department was transferred to the Interior Department under an act of Congress in the year 1882.

The military reserve proper contains 669.66 acres and the old military hay reserve, 655.64 acres, which cornered with the military reserve, and could be reached only by going 1 ½ miles. This inconvenience has recently been overcome by an exchange (made under authority of July 2, 1891) of this hay reservation for 652.55 acres of land joining the school farm on the west, making the school land in a compact body of 1,322.21 acres. As the hay reservation lay it was of little value to the school, being so far away, and being in an irregular shape it affected the shape of Indian farms adjoining, so that the exchange was an advantage to the Indians as well as this school, for which I am indebted to Special Allot[t]ing Agent A. C. Fletcher for her kindness in assisting in having the exchange made.

Buildings.—Upon assuming charge of the school I found the buildings in a dilapidated condition, many of them already fallen and others unfit for use; no walks of any kind connected the buildings, so that the girls had to pass a distance of one quarter of a mile in going from their quarters to the schoolroom, through snow, rain, mud, etc. The girls’ dormitory, a building which had previously been a military hospital, was the only building on the grounds which had not been condemned, and it was not large enough to comfortably accommodate more than 30 girls, although 60 have been obliged to occupy it.

The building used as boys’ dormitory is one of the oldest on the place, and during the winter months, when the snow lay on the roof, we were obliged to put up props to prevent its falling, and it is now unsafe, so that the boys will occupy the old school building until new quarters can be erected. This old dormitory and the building used as kitchen and dining room are the old company quarters and will scarcely stand another winter, having been built about thirty years.

Since January 1, an addition 30 by 60 feet, two stories high, has been built to the girls’ dormitory, making it possible to accommodate 80 or 90 girls, the lower floor being used as a sitting and reading room and wash and bath rooms, while the upper floor is a sleeping room. We have also about completed a new schoolhouse of four rooms and a large assembly hall, which will be a vast improvement over the old arrangement and will give much more room. Authority has been granted for the erection of a large building for the boys, the plans for which I am daily expecting from the Indian Office, and in hopes of having the building completed before the severe cold weather, so that the boys may be as comfortably situated as the girls.

A sidewalk has been built from the girls’ dormitory to the kitchen and dining room, so that they may go to and from their meals without having their feet wet and muddy.

The buildings are in a better condition and the pupils will be more comfortably situated than ever before, with the exception of the kitchen and dining room, which I hope to be able another year to replace with a new and more commodious one, also a new hospital building, which is very much needed.

School.—The school filled up very rapidly and the parents brought their children in willingly. I think the indifference heretofore manifested by the parents in the education of their children is fast giving way to an earnest desire to see them prepared to take their place along with white people.

They show a great pride in the progress their children have made this year, and especially are they proud of our brass band, which was organized last November, under the leadership of Mr. George W. King. They have furnished some very fine music for all our school gatherings and the closing exercises on the Fourth of July. They have been several times to the agency to play for an assembly of the prominent men of the tribe, and have had two or three invitations to play for celebrations at neighboring towns, and although they have never accepted an invitation of that kind, it was a source of gratification to them to feel that they were appreciated and desired.

The school was graded the first of the session and consisted of four departments, with 150 pupils. The attendance has been greater than ever before known and the progress made in the schoolroom work reflects great credit on both teachers and scholars. Owing to the great amount of sickness in the school last spring, the schoolroom work was much hindered, there being over one hundred cases of la grippe at one time. The health of the pupils, with the exception of this attack of la grippe, has been very good. I can not speak too highly of the valuable assistance rendered by all the employés, who have assisted me in every way.

Our school session closed on the 4th of July, with a literary and musical entertainment given by the children, which was witnessed by several hundred Indians (among whom were the parents of the school children), who were assembled to celebrate the Fourth of July. They all seemed well pleased with the exercises and with the progress the children had made, and signified their appreciation of our efforts to please them. The exercises closed with the fireworks in the evening, which pleased the children and the parents alike. Their feelings were expressed by cheers loud and long. The higher the rockets the louder the cheers.

Shops.—The carpenter, blacksmith, and shoe and harness shops have been under the charge of Indian employés, who learned their trades at Chemawa Training School. These departments have not been such a success as I had hoped for on account of lack of material to work with, although a great deal of repairing has been done by each. I feel confident that I shall be able to render a more satisfactory report the coming year.

Sewing room.—Work in the sewing room has been kept up the entire year, there being a detail of 8 girls each half day during school. The number of articles fabricated during the year is about 800, such as dresses, aprons, undergarments, sheets, pillowcases, and boys’ underwear, as well as the repairing and darning for the entire school; the work of this department has been very satisfactory indeed, and we expect to improve with the aid of the new sewing rooms and new machines. The kindness of the Indian Office has allowed us the assistance of a tailoress, of which we were greatly in need.

Laundry.—The laundry work has been conducted by an Indian girl assisted by the school girls. The work has been well done considering the fact that all the water had to be hauled or carried to the laundry. We have had the advantage of three washing machines, which lightens the work very much. Authority has been granted to put in a system of water works, which will also greatly lessen the labor.

Kitchen and bakery.—The inconvenience of a small kitchen and a small range very materially affect the success of instruction in this industry. Considering these disadvantages the work has been very successfully managed. The girls have been taught industry, and economy as well as to prepare good palatable food, care for the dining room, set and clear tables and wash dishes. Four girls are detailed each day to the kitchen and four to the dining room. The boys do the work in the bakery and are taught to make bread and yeast, and to cook pies and cake, all of the baking being done in the bakery on account of the kitchen being so small. We hope to have a new and more commodious kitchen this winter where the girls can learn more in the line of bakery.

Farm and garden.—The school farm land consists of 80 acres, 72 of which were sown to wheat for hay, but owing to the extreme dry weather and grasshoppers the crop did not yield as in former years, though we put up about 75 tons of hay. The yield was: Potatoes, 60 bushels; carrots, 30; turnips, 5; onions, 20; cabbage, 400 pounds.

The old fence, which was in a very dilapidated condition, has all been repaired, and 160 acres of land fenced with barbed wire, and the campus with picket fence, which has been whitewashed. I intend to fence all the school land, taking in the new pasture, and much will be cultivated. I have posts all ready for the fencing, and will begin work as soon as the rains come and the ground is in a condition to be worked. Also the road out of the valley, which has been recently surveyed, will be worked as soon as possible. This will give us a shorter and better road than we have had before.

Stock.—The school stock consists of six horses, ten new milch cows, and a bull. We are greatly in need of another team, as one of the teams we have is old and can only be used to do work around the school ground, and such as hauling wood and water, and light work.

I am well pleased with the work in all the departments, and can see no reason why we should not make greater progress than ever before, and I believe that with the improvements in the buildings and the water supply we will make a record that will be a credit to the Indian service. . . .

From: Report of Hal. J. Cole, United States Indian Agent, Colville Indian Agency, Washington, pp. 440-446.

Census for 1891
Joseph’s Band

Males above eighteen years


Females above fourteen years


Children between six and sixteen years


Persons not other-wise enumerated




. . . Joseph’s band of Nez Percés live near neighbors to Moses and his people. Some of his people were sufferers on account of the crickets. Yellow Bull, a Nez Percé subchief, and his family moved to the Nez Percé Reservation in Idaho during the month of last May. He went there to have lands allotted to him and make that his permanent home. Yellow Bull was one of the few members of the Nez Percé tribe whom I regretted to see leave this agency. He was honest, upright, and industrious. I notified the other members of the tribe that if they desired they could return to the Nez Percé Reservation and receive their allotments. I do not know how many will take advantage of the opportunity offered, but feel that they would be benefited by the change as well as the Government.

The majority of Joseph’s band would, I think, when it comes to receiving their lands in severalty, oppose the scheme, and would be entirely willing to content themselves by having the Government furnish clothing and rations for them. I think it poor policy to issue clothing and rations to these Indians much longer, and thereby encourage them in pauperism. I do not look upon them as being any better because they went on the war path a few years ago, nor even half so good as many friendly Indians who have been the friends of the whites all their lives, and have received nothing in return. After the Nez Percés have been given food, clothing, and the necessary farming implements, with the instruction of the farmer they should be taught how to farm, and then let them depend upon their own resources, as all other Indians do who reside on this reservation. . . .