1892 Reports of the Commissioner Affairs and Indian Agent Reports
"Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs," pp. 5-1268. In U.S. House. 52d Congress, 2d Session. Report of the Secretary of the Interior, 1892 (H.Ex.Doc.1, Pt. 5, Vol.2). Washington: Government Printing Office, 1892. (Serial Set 3088)


From: Indian Lands Occupied by Benevolent Societies, pp. 63-64.

Following its usual custom, the office during the past year has set apart, with the consent of the Indians, specified tracts of land upon Indian reservations for the use of religious denominations and benevolent societies so long as such tracts may be needed by them for religious and educational purposes among the Indians. . .

Nez Percés Reservation, Idaho, not exceeding 20 acres to the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church. . . .

From: Railroads Across Reservations: Other Indian Reservations, pp. 111-113.

. . . Nez Percés Reservation, Idaho.—Under date of August 21, 1891, Agent Robbins submitted his report of the council proceedings with the Indians of the above reservation for right of way of the Spokane and Palouse Railway through the same. He also submitted a list of the names of individual Indians who sustained damages by reason of said right of way, and stated that the company had paid all the individual claims for damages, amounting to $3,876.06, and had deposited with him the amount agreed upon as tribal damages—$1,414 for land taken and $195 for the destruction of a log stable and some fruit trees belonging to the agency. On January 29, 1892, this office instructed Agent Robbins to notify the company that they could proceed with the construction of the road. On April 25, 1892, Mr. Dubois introduced in the Senate (Senate bill 2999) a bill extending the time for the completion of the road through the reservation. The bill was reported on favorably by this office in office letter of May 7, 1892, and is still pending.

From: Report of Warren D. Robbins, United States Indian Agent, Nez Percé Agency, pp. 235-237.

. . . Agriculture.—Owing to the many years of successive failure in raising crops the Indians have become heartily discouraged, and the progress or advancement made by them in this industry has been very slow. Nothing more could be expected of them when from year to year they have been compelled to contend with the many failures in raising their crops. This year is included with the preceding years of failure.

The hay yield this year would not average more than a half ton to the acre, and the yield of wheat and oats averaged not more than 7 or 8 bushels to the acre. This small amount of hay, wheat, and oats raised they were compelled to feed to their stock during the cold and severe moths of last winter. They were compelled to buy the seed oats, and wheat which they planted this spring. From a tract of land of about 10 acres, which I sowed to hay for the purposes of subsistence for the agency horses, I was able to cut the insignificant amount of about 1 ton. These successive years of failure in raising crops is due to the hot scorching winds with which this section of the country is invariably visited each summer.

While the Indians have made no great showing in the way of advancement of progress in this great industry, nevertheless it can be noticed, in some instances, that many steps forward have been taken by them. Consideration must be given the fact that they do not till or farm any large tract of land, but confine themselves mostly to the valleys and low lands, where only small tracts can be found that are tillable. When they have each received their allotment and have placed such improvements as will enable them to live upon and cultivate the same, then, and not till then, will rapid and progressive strides be made by them in this industry, their chief revenue of support.

Court of Indian offenses.—This court convenes once a week, and is presided over by three judges (Indian), who are chosen among the members of the tribe.

The court has not had during this year any serious offenses to deal with, and only such have arisen as the judges of the court could equitably dispense with without my aid. The offenses or misdemeanors brought before this court during the past year are thirty-five in number, and are classified as follows: Thirty cases of gambling and drinking, one of child stealing, two of adultery, and two of fighting.

The offenses principally committed, it seems, are gambling and drinking. These offenses have been committed principally by young men, who in part constitute the renegade element of the tribe. They, in order to carry on these wrongdoings, seek out some secluded spot or retreat and there indulge in same. The judges of court, however, are ever vigilant and on the alert, and have been successful in entrapping and bringing these wrongdoers to justice, through the valuable aid rendered them in this respect by the Indian police.

Crimes.—Only in one instance has a crime been perpetrated by a member of this tribe of such a nature as to be brought before the civil courts. That instance was in the case of a young man who was taken before the civil courts upon a charge of larceny, to which he pleaded guilty, and received a sentence of nine months in the county jail of Ada County, Idaho. Other crimes, however, have been committed, and of such a nature as to render the Indians who have been connected with the perpetration of the same nonpunishable (that is, as far as the civil courts are concerned), but who in a measure are greatly to blame for the same.

Of this class of crimes whisky-selling by white men is the most serious. I was able during the past year to convict two white men of this crime, each of whom received a thirteen months’ sentence in the penitentiary. There are two other cases of this crime: one of the offenders is now under bonds to appear before the United States grand jury at Boise City, Idaho. The other case has long stood under suspicion, while convicting evidence has been slowly accumulating against him, and as soon as sufficient he will also receive his deserts.

Schools.—Two Government schools have been in operation upon this reservation during the past year. The Fort Lapwai industrial school, under a bonded superintendent, Mr. Edward McConville, is located about 4 miles south of this agency, upon one of the most desirable spots within the bounds of this reservation. Under the management of Superintendent McConville this school has been made a decided success in every particular. . . .

The Nez Percé Agency boarding school has been in operation and under my charge for the two years last past, and in relation to it I can truthfully say that its success has been unquestionable. Its success has been due principally to the efficiency of the employé force. The capacity of the school is 60 scholars, and it is of primary grade. The average attendance during the past ten months was 53 scholars. The sanitary condition of the school has been very good, and this also has been a characteristic feature in aiding the success of the school. In the two years that this school has been in operation only four deaths have occurred; three from natural causes and one from accidental drowning.

Mr. Robert Larimer, who has been superintendent of this agency boarding school for the past ten months, has prepared a report upon the minor affairs of the school, and the same I transmit herewith, and ask that it be published as part of this report.

While Superintendent Larimer has ably set forth in his report the location of the school, its buildings, and the efficiency of each employé connected with the respective departments of the school, he has failed to bear upon one of the most essential features that makes a school of this kind a success. This essential feature is harmony. To state that harmony has not existed in this school is an easy matter, howsoever disagreeable it might be to do so.

Through late orders received from you this agency boarding school will be made a department of the Fort Lapwai industrial school, in the near future.

Allotments.—This is now the middle of the fourth year that the work of allotting lands in severalty to the Indians of this tribe has been going on. The whole number of allotments made up to date is 1,900. The Indians have come forward and taken their allotment cheerfully and without hesitancy, with but one exception.

Needs.—The Indians are in great need of a portable sawmill, to go from place to place among them to saw the lumber that they, in a great many instances, are now compelled to haul many miles in order to place the slightest improvement upon their allotted lands. There are two stationary sawmills on this reservation, one located at this agency and the other at Kamiah, a settlement of the Indians some 65 miles distant from the agency. These mills lend but little aid to those Indians who live upward of 40 miles from either place in putting such improvements as dwelling houses, good barns, etc., upon their lands. Until a portable sawmill is furnished this reservation the Indians who live so far away will be very slow in improving their land. As this portable sawmill will be of great benefit and aid to these Indians, I respectfully urge and recommend the furnishing of the same.

Improvements.—Two new ferryboats have been built upon this reservation this year. One of them, which is at this agency, was constructed by the Government, while the other, which is in the North Fork section of this reservation, was constructed by the Indians living in that section, and the bulk of the expense in building same was shouldered by them. For such a display of enterprise and thrift the Indians of the North Fork are to be highly commended. These ferryboats have been a long-felt want, and as they are now constructed and in operation the Indians will be materially aided in bringing their produce to market. . . .

Made soldiers.—Fifteen Indians of this tribe, consisting mostly of young men, were mustered into the regular Army during the past year. They enlisted as cavalrymen, and as they are all good horsemen it has proven a great help to them in mastering the difficult tactics exacted in the cavalry service. The reports received about these Indian soldiers have been satisfactory and in some instances quite complimentary. The strong military discipline which they have to undergo they have willingly acceded to, which is quite surprising, as they have heretofore always lived a free and roving life. The older members of the tribe did not take very kindly to making soldiers out of the younger members and some brought what influence they had to strongly bear against it. Several other young men of the tribe would have enlisted if physical disability had not prevented them from doing so.

Census.—The census recently completed shows the population of this tribe to be 1,828, of which there are: Males, 879, females, 949; number of children of school age, 307; males 158, females 149.

Conclusion.—The harmony, good will, and peace that has existed between the Indians and myself since assuming the duties of Indian agent, still remain unshaken, notwithstanding the fact that some Christian white people have done everything in their power to create a breach in the same. These Indians have reached such a standard in Christianity that they know right from wrong. They are alive to the fact, and their verdict is that I have left nothing undone which would materially aid or benefit them. Placed here as I am to use my own judgment in promoting the general welfare and advancement of the Indians, and as it is their verdict that I have done so, I do feel and can say that I have done my duty and am satisfied. . . .

While some parts of this report may show that there has been a breach in harmony, heretofore existing, I must say in reporting thus, I have followed your instructions "to make a clear and concise statement of the affairs of this Agency, whether good or bad." . . .

From: Report of Robert Latimer, Superintendent of Nez Percé Agency Boarding School, pp. 238-239.

. . . Location.—The Nez Percé Agency boarding school property is situated on Lapwai Creek, near its confluence with the Clearwater River, adjacent to and south of the agency. At the time of my taking charge, September 1, 1891, it consisted of about 8 acres of inclosed ground, a school building, laundry, meat house, storehouse, ice house, root cellar, shop, chicken house, woodshed, barn and other outhouses. . . .

Improvements.—The improvements made during the year are: Repairs of the school building, laundry, and ice house, a hospital, meat house, conduit, and pasture. The repairs of the school building consisted of mending the porches, floors, and plastering, painting the entire outside, painting and varnishing the woodwork inside, calcimining and papering the rooms occupied by the employés. Brick for the construction of two additional flues have been purchased and delivered. Also, a force pump was purchased and placed in position for extinguishing fires and for other purposes. It is supplied with 150 feet of hose. The laundry was painted on the outside. The ice house was relined, floored, and filled with ice. The hospital is a reconstruction of an old building formerly used as a laundry. It contains five small rooms, ceiled throughout. The old meat house was removed and a new one built in its stead.. . .

The pasture comprises about 300 acres of hill land. . . . The pasturage furnished is more than sufficient for the stock now on hand. The school stock consists of ten milch cows and eight calves. . . . The entire property is estimated to be worth $30,000.

Enrollment.—Thirty-six pupils were enrolled during the month of September, but the school did not reach its full capacity until December. The highest number enrolled during the year was 63. There were four deaths during the year, three from la grippe and one by drowning.

The school was organized into two grades: each grade into three classes. The usual day and evening sessions were held, and outdoor drill a part of the time; also a Sunday service or Sabbath school, and when the weather permitted the children attended the Indian church. From the beginning to the end of the school the pupils made rapid progress in their studies and a marked improvement in general deportment. The discipline was of the best. The teachers of the respective grades worked industriously for the advancement of their pupils, and were highly praised by all visitors for their work. The distinguished visitors during the year were Special Agents Parker, Miller, and Leonard, Supervisor Leeke, Superintendent McConville, and the chief of the Crows. . .

By order of the Indian Office this school is transferred to and henceforth made a department of the Lapwai training school. As the present force of employés at that school is sufficient to carry without strain the added burden, those belonging to this school are rendered supernumerary, and excepting those transferred to other schools, will be relieved from service, not because of incompetency or misconduct on their part, but because the department has no further need of their services. As superintendent of the school I surrender my charge with the best grace possible, and with a consciousness of having performed my duty to the best of my ability and as well as my inexperience would allow. . . .

From: Report of Ed. McConville, Superintendent of School at Fort Lapwai, Idaho, pp. 662-664.

. . . The pupils seem content and happy, many of them remaining during the vacation months. Such a thing has never before been known here, as pupils volunteering to stay at the school in the summer when their schoolmates were starting for their homes. We have had from 10 to 15 through the vacation, and sometimes more.

School.—School opened September 1 with 35 pupils, and others soon came in, so that by November 1 the attendance was 148.

The progress of schoolroom work was somewhat hindered by changes in the corps of teachers at the beginning of the term. The school was without a principal teacher for nearly three months, and the position of primary teacher was temporarily filled by advanced Indian pupils for two months. Since January 1 here has been no interruption in this department, and the children have made rapid progress in their studies. . . .

Two singing clubs, one of Indian employés and larger pupils, and one of young boys were organized and instructed by the principal teacher with the assistance of an organist; they practiced twice each week and furnished some excellent music for our entertainment and social gatherings. . . .

Band.—The brass band under the leadership of Silas Whitman (an Indian graduate of Chemawa, Oregon) has been a source of great pleasure to the pupils and a benefit to the school in keeping them content and happy. It is also a means of attracting children to the schools who have never before taken interest in schools or education.

Fourth of July.—The entire school was invited to spend the 4th of July in Lewiston, Idaho, and to assist in the exercises of the day, while the band furnished the music for the occasion. The band, followed by the school boys in uniform marching, and the girls riding, and carrying banners of the different States of the Union, made a display of which I was very proud. They received compliments and praise on all sides and merited the good will and respect of the public, by their gentlemanly and lady-like conduct. Dinner and supper were given them by the citizens of Lewiston, and most of the prizes for the "sports for boys" in the afternoon were awarded to the light-footed little red boys.

I think many of the people of the surrounding country were astonished to find that there was an Indian school in their midst worthy of their notice, and a kindly feeling of interest never before manifested is now shown the school by them.

The shoe shop has a detail of 4 boys in the morning and 3 in the afternoon under the instruction of a graduate of Chemawa, Oregon. The work has all been in the line of repairing owing to the lack of material for making shoes. Some of the boys show great aptness for the work and do quite creditable work. They have done the repairing for the entire school.

The carpenter shop has been in the charge of an Indian carpenter. The work has been done by him with the aid of 4 boys regularly detailed for the purpose. They have built outhouses, fences, a washhouse, meathouse, and repaired the laundry, sidewalks, porches, doors, windows, and roofs of buildings, made hayracks, wood boxes, tables, benches, and stands, put shelving in the warehouse and performed various other labor.

Blacksmith shop.—Four boys have been employed in this shop, and the work has been mostly repairing, putting up stoves, riveting stovepipe, shoeing horses, and general job work. The work has been very creditably performed considering that it was under the supervision of an Indian boy who learned the trade on the reservation.

Tailor shop.—Much work has been accomplished in the tailor shop, about 625 articles having been manufactured, such as boys’ and men’s shirts, girls’ jackets and cloaks, heavy aprons for kitchen work, and uniform suits for boys, in addition to the repairing of boys’ clothing.

Assistance in this department has been limited, owing to the small number of large girls and the demand upon them from other departments.

Sewing room.—The report of the sewing room is very creditable, showing over 900 articles fabricated, besides the usual weekly darning and mending of girls’ clothing. The girls in this department have also been taught to do many kinds of fancy work, such as making rugs, shelf lambrequins, quilt pieces, crocheting, and tissue-paper flowers.

Kitchen and dining room.—The detail in the kitchen has been two in the morning and two in the afternoon, and as we are still confined to a kitchen 12 by 14 feet, with an old broken range 3 by 8 feet, and a sink the entire length of the kitchen for washing dishes, the amount of work in this department is more than would reasonably be expected. Meals are served from the kitchen three times daily, and the food is excellent, even under the existing condition of things, and I wish to give great credit to the cook, who has faithfully and patiently performed her duties under all these disadvantages; like the rest of us she is living in the hope of something better.

The dining room has been in the charge of an Indian girl, and the neatness and cleanliness of this department reflects credit upon her management. One male and two female white employés are present in the dining room at each meal, so that the table manners of pupils are carefully watched, and all are cared for alike.

The bakery is in charge of a Chemawa graduate, and with the help of four boys, two in the forenoon and two in the afternoon, all the bread for the school is made by him. They keep the bakery clean and neat, and the bread is excellent.

The laundry work is performed by an Indian laundress with the assistance of four female pupils each half day. The work has been greatly delayed by having to haul all the water, and has also delayed that of other departments by causing them to wait for the clothes for repairing.

The new system of waterworks recently put in will entirely do away with this difficulty as it is carried directly into the laundry by iron pipes. This latter is a convenience of which we have long felt the need, as the services of one team of horses have been constantly required to supply the school with water.

The farm and garden have been the source of great benefit to the school, and have furnished a large supply of all vegetables and cereals both for summer and winter use. The entire work of the garden is done by the boys under the direction of the farmer. The season has been unusually favorable and considering the damage done by grasshoppers the yield has been very good, that from farm and garden about as follows:

Hay Tons


Wheat Bushels


Potatose Do


Turnips Do


Onions Bushels


Beans, string Do


Other vegetables DO


About 300 rods of fencing have been built and 40 acres of land broken, 1,300 fruit trees planted and the pipe laid for irrigating orchard and school inclosure.

Stock.—We have increased the school stock by the purchase of a span of horses suitable for hack driving, making the total number 8. The cattle consist of 10 shorthorn Durham milch cows, 10 calves, and 1 [thorough]-bred bull.

Needs.—I would respectfully urge the necessity of having more and better buildings, for with those buildings erected which would comfortably accommodate those now in attendance in the matter of kitchen and dining room and boys’ dormitory, the school could easily accommodate 300 pupils.

Authority to let the contract for buildings to be used as kitchen and dining room and as boys’ dormitory has been granted, but the plans have been delayed. The necessity for these buildings will be seen when I state that in the boys’ present sleeping rooms, one 30 by 35 feet contains 20 double beds and one 30 by 30 contains 18 beds, while these rooms must also be used as sitting rooms for the boys.

We are also greatly in need of the proper drainage system to properly attend to the sanitary condition of the school; but this waits also upon the new buildings, for from them should the permanent drainage be laid instead of those now in use temporarily. . . .

From: Report of Hal. J. Cole, United States Indian Agent, Colville Indian Agency, Washington, pp. 487-492.

Josephs’s Band

Males over 18 years


Females above 14


Children between 6 and 16 years


Persons not otherwise enumerated




. . . There are only a limited number of Indians living on the different reservations who do not live in houses, and nearly all dress in citizen’s dress.

Joseph’s band of Nez Percés are about the only exception to this rule. They appear to be particularly fond of gathering in the Indian village and living in their tepees the greater portion of the year. Although many of them have comfortable houses, but few occupy them. A number of these Indians wear blankets, notwithstanding the fact that the Government furnishes them full suits and an excellent supply of clothing. They are very fond of gambling, playing cards being the principal game. I have talked to them quite often relative to this matter, and they promise they will quit; but when I am absent they will commence again. . . .

From: Report of E. H. Latham, Physician at Colville Indian Agency, Washington, pp. 492-494.

. . . Joseph’s Band of Nez Percés reside in the Nespelim valley, and with very few exceptions live in tents the year through. They are not industrious. Their moral and sanitary condition is not good. They profess no religion. Scrofula and constitutional syphilis is very prevalent yet I think there has been a decided improvement during the last year, as a number of them have brought logs to the mill, which have been sawed into lumber, with which they wish to build houses; and I firmly believe they would be in a better condition if the Government would stop issuing them rations. . . .