1890 Reports of the Commissioner Affairs and Indian Agent Reports
"Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs," pp. III-778. In U.S. House. 51st Congress, 2d Session. Report of the Secretary of the Interior, 1890 (H.Ex.Doc.1, Pt. 5, Vol.2). Washington: Government Printing Office, 1891. (Serial Set 2841)


. . Special Agent Fletcher resumed work on the Nez Percé Reservation, Idaho, in April last. The number of Indians on this reservation entitled to allotments is probably about two thousand, but no accurate and reliable census has ever been taken. The work is extremely difficult and slow, owing to the mountainous and broken character of the reservation. She appears to be executing the difficult task with energy and determination; but it is hardly possible that the work will be completed during the present season. (pp. XLVI)

From: Grants Since Last Annual Report, pp. LXIV-LXXI


Spokane and Palouse Railway.—The act of May 8, 1890 [26 Stat., 102, . . . ], grants right of way for the extension of this road from a point on the northern boundary of the reservation on the Potlatch Creek to the Clearwater River, thence following the valley of the river in a southeasterly direction to the western boundary. It provides that no rights thereunder shall accrue until the consent of the Indians to the right of way, and the compensation to be made to them by the company, has been obtained. This remains to be done. . . .


. . . The great purpose which the Government has in view in providing an ample system of common school education for all Indian youth of school age, is the preparation of them for American citizenship. The Indians are destined to become absorbed into the national life, not as Indians, but as Americans. They are to share with their fellow-citizens in all the rights and privileges and are likewise to be called upon to bear fully their share of all the duties and responsibilities involved in American citizenship.

It is the highest degree important, therefore, that special attention should be paid, particularly in the higher grades of the schools, to the instruction of Indian youth in the elements of American history, acquainting them especially with the leading facts in the lives of the most notable and worthy historical characters. While in such study the wrongs of their ancestors can not be ignored, the injustice which their race has suffered can be contrasted with the larger future open to them, and their duties and opportunities rather than their wrongs will most profitably engage their attention. . . .

Patriotic songs should be taught to the pupils, and they should sing them frequently until they acquire complete familiarity with them. Patriotic selections should be committed and recited publicly, and should constitute a portion of the reading exercises.

National holidays—Washington's birthday, Decoration Day, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas—should be observed with appropriate exercises in all the Indian schools. It will also be well to observe the anniversary of the day upon which the "Dawes bill" for giving to Indians allotments of land in severalty became a law, viz, February 8, 1887, and to use that occasion to impress upon Indian youth the enlarged scope and opportunity given them by this law and the new obligations which it imposes.

In all proper way, teachers in Indian schools should endeavor to appeal to the highest element of manhood and womanhood in their pupils, exciting in them an ambition after excellence in character and dignity of surroundings, and they should carefully avoid any unnecessary references to the fact that they are Indians. . . . (pp. CLXVII)

From: Report of Warren D. Robbins, United States Indian Agent, Nez Percé Agency, pp. 80-82.

. . . I assumed charge of this agency January 1, last, relieving Special Agent George W. Gordon. In the twelve months prior to my taking charge of the agency, five different persons had been in charge; each was here for a short time only. About all that the person in charge could do was to keep the agency property together, ready to turn over to his successor. The affairs of the agency were necessarily, in a great measure, at a standstill; steps looking to the advancement of the tribe and the improvement of the agency could not be given the attention they should.


Last year the season was dry, and there was a partial failure of crops; the usual quantity of grain and hay was not raised. This was followed by an unusually severe and prolonged winter; the Indians exhausted all their feed, and fed grain reserved for seed to their stock. After the opening of the late spring the Indians had to wait for their horses to recuperate on the native bunch-grass before planting operations were commenced. In their extremity for seed-grain the Government came to the relief of the Indians, and furnished 1,000 bushels of seed-wheat, which was issued to the Indians. That the money expended for seed was put to a good purpose is evidenced, I think, by the abundant harvest.

. . . I have succeeded in getting some Indians to commence farming, by breaking and sowing a small area, who have heretofore made no effort in that direction. The item of barb-wire for fencing is an important one. The Government, by its liberal allowance for the same, has enabled me to have beginnings made on allotments, which I should otherwise not have been able to do. On the whole the Indians have made fairly good progress in agriculture during the past year.


With reference to the court of Indian offenses, pay for the Indian judges was authorized for only eight months of the year, and their services were discontinued February 28 last, two months after my assuming charge. I have had one case of gambling, one of attempted rape, and one of drunkenness, which were punished by fine and imprisonment. It is hoped that the services of the Indian judges will be continued through the current year, as they seem to dispose of these minor offenses in a satisfactory manner.


The Catholics have a church with two missionaries in charge of the missionary work. The Presbyterians have one missionary and three congregations. The Indians have two church buildings, one is owned by the Government; the preaching is done by Indian ministers.


The work of allotment, in charge of Special Agent Alice C. Fletcher, is progressing. About 1,000 allotments have been made, and Miss Fletcher hopes to finish the work this year. There is no serious opposition to the work this summer. So many have taken their allotments that the opposition of those who would be disposed to oppose it (if there is any such) is not felt. The work is slow and tedious, as the Indian, while he will take his allotment, in many instances does not see the necessity of being in a hurry about it.


The health of the tribe has been very good; there has been nothing of an epidemic character among them, nor any unusual sickness. During the school session many of the children were afflicted for a time with sore eyes, but they were successfully treated by the agency physician. The Indians seem to have a growing confidence in the skill of the physician. While the medicine man is not extinct, he is gradually losing caste among the Indians of this tribe.


There have been no Indians punished for crimes committed against State Laws. One white man has been convicted of selling whisky to an Indian. There have been no other convictions of whites for crimes committed against Indians. As a rule the Indians are not turbulent or disposed to conduct themselves disorderly.


The stock question is one of the most perplexing questions connected with the administration of agency affairs. The reservation is virtually surrounded by settlements of whites. There is a great area of the public domain unoccupied upon which the stock of the whites range. They cross the imaginary line dividing the reservation from the land of the settlers. Their presence on the reservation is a source of constant annoyance. Sometimes they break into the inclosures of the Indians and damage growing crops. There are no great herds, but they are found here and there among the Indian stock. It is impossible to keep the reservation clear with the police, owing to the extent of the boundary line. Thus far I have not been able to reach any satisfactory way of dealing with the matter.


The small remnant of Joseph’s band of Nez Percés located on this reservation are doing very well in learning the white man’s ways. There are 150 or more of them, and with few exceptions they wear citizen dress and have their hair cut short. They have not much personal property, but their homes show evidences of industry and thrift, and generally they manifest a willingness to send their children to school.


Under authority from the honorable Secretary of the Interior the Spokane and Palouse Railway Company have surveyed a route through the reservation, but nothing further has been done. The Indians, I think, will not oppose the building of the road if fairly dealt with in the matter of compensation for "right of way," etc.


The agency, a short time before I assumed charge of agency affairs, was segregated from the school and removed from Fort Lapwai to the present location. The buildings provided for agency use are totally inadequate to meet the demands of the service; this applies to dwellings for employés. The fences are old and posts rotten; they should be rebuilt. The buildings and fences do not make a creditable appearance, and the agent can not remedy the existing state of affairs unless furnished with material to make the necessary repairs.


The school is under a separate management and is designated as the "Fort Lapwai Boarding-School." There is a superintendent and 15 employés, of whom 10 are white and 5 are Indian. It is located 3 miles south of the agency; school was maintained eight months during the year. The average attendance was 76, and the highest average for any one month was 115. The expenditures for the year were, for salaries of teachers, $6,722.95; for all other expenses, $8,874.98. The scope of the school work will be extended for the ensuing year; a school will also be opened by the agent in the agency school building, which will make the school facilities of the reservation ample.


Owing to the fact that no person was in charge permanently last year, the discipline became very lax. No earnest effort was made to suppress the vices of gambling and drinking. These vices are not prevalent among the tribe as a tribe, but to a comparative small number. It has been a difficult matter to reach them, as the whisky is procured off the reservation in another State; however, I am endeavoring to break up the nefarious traffic.


. . . The population is placed at 1,715, of which 300 is estimated; the number of actual names obtained is 1,415. The Indians are making progress in civilization; still the blanket Indian is more numerous than he should be. I found many more "blanket" Indians here than I anticipated on coming to assume charge of the agency. . .

From: Report of Hal. J. Cole, United States Indian Agent, Colville Indian Agency, Washington, pp. 216-222.

Census for 1890
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 are more or less unsettled and a restless character; they appear to be greatly dissatisfied at times with their location. In my opinion the causes of their dissatisfaction are just. Owing to many of their friends and relatives living on the Nez Percé reservation in the State of Idaho, an effort should be made to remove them from their present location at Nespilem to the Nez Percé Agency, Idaho, where they claim land would be allotted to them, as is being done with their friends and relatives of that reservation. I have taken particular notice of the fact that when they receive letters from their relatives living on the Nez Percé reservation they appear to have the "blues" and at once express a strong desire to return to their old home. I am thoroughly satisfied they will never be content to remain on this reservation, no matter how well they may be treated by the Government. They do not appear to think they should put forth an effort and thereby bec[o]me self-supporting and independent of the help of the Government. My idea is, the more the Government will give them the more they will expect. They claim, if they were permitted to go on the Nez Percé reservation, their old home, and receive their allotments, they would be willing to try to do something. . . .


The Presbyterian Board of Home Missions have two churches on the Spokane Reservation under the auspices of Rev. A. B. Lawyer and Silas Whitman, two Indian ministers of the Nez Percé Reservation, Idaho. They are both hard workers and have certainly done much good for these Indians; both churches are well attended every Sunday. . . .