1878 Reports of the Commissioner Affairs and Indian Agent Reports
"Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs," pp. 439-811. In U.S. House. 45th Congress, 3d Session. Report of the Secretary of the Interior, 1878 (H.Ex.Doc.1, Pt. 5, Vol. 1). Washington: Government Printing Office, 1879. (Serial Set 1850)



On the surrender of Joseph and his band of Nez Percés, General Miles recommended that they be kept on the Tongue River until the question of their final disposition could be definitely determined. The Lieutenant-General of the Army strongly objected to this, on account of the expense attendant on furnishing them with supplies, and an order was issued by the War Department, in November, 1877, to send all of the Nez Percé prisoners to the Missouri River, to Fort Lincoln or Fort Riley; on the 20th of the same month another order was issued to have them forwarded to Fort Leavenworth, instead of keeping them at either of the points named. November 27, 1877, the Lieutenant-General notified the Secretary of War of their arrival at the latter fort, and recommended that this bureau be requested to take charge of them at the earliest practicable date. The number of prisoners reported by the War Department, December 4 last, was as follows: 79 men, 178 women, and 174 children, making a total of 431. A few scattered members of the band were subsequently taken by the military and also sent to Fort Leavenworth.

The necessary provision having been made by Congress just before the close of the last session for the settlement of these Indians in the Indian Territory, this office, , on the 9th of July last, recommended that the War Department be requested to cause the necessary orders be issued to the commandant at Fort Leavenworth to deliver the prisoners to an agent who would be designated by this bureau to receive them. Accordingly, on the 21st of the same month they were delivered to United States Indian Inspector McNeil and United States Indian Agent H. W. Jones, who without military escort conducted them to the location selected for them in the Indian Territory. The number reported to have been turned over to the inspector and agent was 410, three of whom—children—died on the route.

Inspector McNeil reported that the camping place selected by the commandant for these Indians, and where he found them, was in the Missouri River bottom, about two miles above the fort, "between a lagoon and the river, the worst possible place that could have been selected; and the sanitary condition of the Indians proved it." The physician in charge said that "one-half could be said to be sick, and all were affected by the poisonous malaria of the camp." After the arrival of Joseph and his band in the Indian Territory, the bad effect of their location at Fort Leavenworth manifested itself in the prostration by sickness at one time of 260 out of the 410, and within a few months they have lost by death more than one-quarter of the entire number. A little care in the selection of a wholesome location near Fort Leavenworth would have saved very much sickness and many lives.

Since the location of these Indians in the Indian Territory, others belonging to the band have been arrested in Idaho, and with the approval of the department, United States Indian Agent Monteith, of the Nez Percé Agency, has recently received instructions to take charge of and conduct them to the Indian Territory.

On the 15th of October last, I visited the Nez Percé Indians at their camp, about three miles from Seneca, Mo., on the Quapaw Reservation. I found the sickness that had prevailed since their arrival in the Territory rapidly abating. Joseph had two causes of dissatisfaction, which he presented to notice in plain, unmistakable terms. He complained that his surrender to General Miles was a conditional surrender, with a distinct promise that he should go back to Idaho in the spring. The other complaint was that the land selected for him on the Quapaw Reservation was not fertile, and that water was exceedingly scarce on it; that two wells had been dug to a depth of 60 to 70 feet without reaching water; and that he did not like the country. He thought it unhealthy, and a very hard place for an Indian to earn his living by tilling the soil. He was pointed to the Modocs, who are his neighbors, and shown that they were actively engaged on their farms, and that they were prospering and getting ahead in the world.

After reflecting on the matter, and with the view of meeting his expectations, if it were possible to do so, with your consent I took him, with his interpreter and chief Husescruyt (Bald-Head), with me about 250 miles. I traveled with him in Kansas and the Indian Territory for nearly a week and found him to be one of the most gentlemanly and well-behaved Indians I ever met. He is bright and intelligent, and is anxious for the welfare of his people. The only location that seemed to please him is situated a few miles west of the Ponca Agency, where the Shaskaskia empties into Salt Creek. The land is fertile and the country is a beautiful one, with sufficient timber for all practical purposes. When he gives up the hope of returning to Idaho, I think he will choose the location I have named.

The Nez Percés are very much superior to the Osages and Pawnees in the Indian Territory; they are even brighter than the Poncas, and care should be taken to place them where they will thrive. The extinction of Joseph’s title to the lands he held in Idaho will be a matter of great gain to the white settlers in that vicinity, and a reasonable compensation should be made to him for their surrender. It will be borne in mind that Joseph has never made a treaty with the United States, and that he has never surrendered to the government the lands he claimed to own in Idaho. On that account he should be liberally treated upon his final settlement in the Indian Territory. Sooner or later the remnant of the tribe that went to Canada will return, and it will be proper and expedient to place them with Joseph’s band.

The present unhappy condition of these Indians appeals to the sympathy of a very large portion of the American people. I had occasion in my last annual report to say that "Joseph and his followers have shown themselves to be brave men and skillful soldiers, who, with on exception, have observed the rules of civilized warfare, and have not mutilated their dead enemies." These Indians were encroached upon by white settlers on soil they believed to be their own, and when these encroachments became intolerable they were compelled, in their own estimation, to take up arms. Joseph now says that the greatest want of the Indians is a system of law by which controversies between Indians, and between Indians and white men, can be settled without appealing to physical force. He says that the want of law is the great source of disorder among Indians. They understand the operation of laws, and if there were any statutes the Indians would be perfectly content to place themselves in the hands of a proper tribunal, and would not take the righting of their wrongs into their own hands, or retaliate, as they now do, without the law. In dealing with such people it is the duty, and I think it will be the pleasure, of the department to see that the fostering hand of the government is extended toward them, and that it gives them not only lands on which to live and implements of agriculture, but also wholesome laws for their government. (pp. 464-467)

From: Report of John B. Monteith, United States Indian Agent, Nez Percé Indians, pp. 548-550.

. . . During the past year the reservation Indians have been unusually quiet, as also industrious. The departure of the non-treaty element from this section of the country resulted in good to the treaty portion of the tribe, who are endeavoring to live a civilized life, and their attempt so to do is no failure. A few restless Indians still remain, but seldom come on the reserve to create trouble.


A number of Indians at Kamiah lost their crops, fences, and some of their farming implements and harness last year by fires started by hostile Indians. To such I furnished a new supply of such things as they actually needed.

In my "statistical report" it will be seen that, under the head of agricultural products, my figures as to amount of wheat raised is less than that of last year. Also the amounts of cultivated acreage, which is explained as follows: Last year, in making my annual reports, I embraced all Nez Percé Indians, those living outside the reserve as well as those living on the reserve, in said reports, and the result of their labors formed a part of said reports, while this year I confine myself to reservation Indians and the reserve. I estimate the number of Nez Percés—men, women, and children—living outside the reserve at 500. This does not include any of Joseph’s or White Bird’s bands. According to the census of this tribe, there are living on the reserve, viz: men, 348; women, 427; boys, 188; girls, 193; total, 1,156. The amount of cultivated acreage is estimated at 3,022 acres, same cultivated by Indians. . . .

The crops this year are not as heavy as was expected, on account of dry weather; still we can not complain. The Indians will have enough for themselves, and a handsome surplus to dispose of. The funds received from sales of their surplus is generally judiciously expended, many purchasing their winter’s supply of groceries, clothing, &c. There are many who think these Indians are in a measure subsisted by the government. On the contrary, since I have been here they have never received any rations from the government, but have always subsisted themselves; and in comparing my eighth "statistical report" herewith with my first one, I have cause to feel encouraged, so far as pertains to my efforts to elevate and advance this people in civilized pursuits. For the benefit of those who would like to see the result of such comparison, I copy, viz:

From my first report, 1871:

Cultivated acreage 1,055
Bushels wheat raised 7,500
Bushels corn raised 1,500
Bushels oats raised 3,400

From my eighth report, 1878

Cultivated acreage 3,022
Bushels wheat raised 20,000
Bushels corn raised 3,500
Bushels oats raised 6,500

There are about 3,000 fruit trees now growing, that were set out by the Indians on their respective farms, and in the course of two or three years they will have an abundance of apples, pears, peaches, plums, &c. In addiction to the above number of fruit trees, many Indians have quite a number of young trees. One Indian tells me he has a young nursery of about 2,000 trees.


During the year there has been an average attendance at the boarding and lodging schools of 48; the largest attendance during any one month being 52. We have endeavored to give the scholars a practical education, as well as that in books. The progress has been slow. The boys have been instructed in agricultural pursuits in addition to the instruction received in the school-room. Their teachers are practical farmers, and in the proper seasons have had the boys planting and taking care of the agency farms and school-gardens, and when the time comes to gather in the vegetables, &c., they will be engaged in such work. The matrons direct the girls in general housework, making and repairing their own, also boys’ clothing, and cooking. There is not the interest manifested, generally, that I would like to see. The progress made in book-learning, outside of reading and writing, is slow. Some of the larger boys have learned to make shingles and milk cows.

A day-school, under the direction of Miss S. L. McBeth, was opened last October. She has had in attendance from 4 to 12 young men, who are preparing to be teachers and ministers. She is doing a good work. She is an appointee of the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions, and by said board maintained.


I am sorry to say that the missionary work on this reserve has been very limited. There has been no minister located here as missionary for over two years, but we have received frequent visits from ministers, who have, from time to time, received into the church such as desired to join. . . .


The disposition on the part of these Indians to increase their cultivated acreage, and show more industry, is quite marked. They have cut nearly 400 saw-logs, which will be sawed into lumber for houses, fences, &c., as soon as I can obtain a suitable man to run the mill. I am cramped somewhat in the way of funds, and the figures at which mechanics in this section of the country hold their services is greatly underrated by the Interior Department.

Indians can command higher wages by from 100 to 200 per cent more than the department is willing to allow them as day-laborers in this section. The department is willing to pay only 50 cents per day for Indian labor, and the Indian must board himself. Such as are capable of performing work in the harvest-field, assist in logging or cutting wood, can command from $1 to $2 per day. Yet the department expects me to encourage the Indians in industry by offering them 50 cents per day, and board themselves, whenever Indian labor can be made a substitute for white labor in the force of employés. Such encouragement only gives the Indian an opportunity to ridicule the government.


During last May these Indians received from the War Department something over $4,000 in payment for horses and supplies furnished General Howard’s command during last year’s hostilities. They have also received from wood sold (individually about $1,500, nearly all of which was received by the better class of Indians, who made good use of it.

There is little or no gambling done on the reserve, at least none coming under my observation. Very little drunkenness reported compared with former years. Such cases as have come to my notice have been summarily dealt with. My mode of punishment has been to confine the guilty party in the guard-house at Fort Lapwai for thirty days, with a request that he be kept at hard labor during that time, and take one horse to pay for his board. The horse is sold and proceeds paid into the hands of the commanding officer of the company which furnishes the rations. This mode has proven to be a success. The loss of the horse is the heaviest part of the punishment.

The general health of the tribe is good. . . .

From: Report of H. W. Jones, United States Indian Agent, Quapaw Agency, Indian Territory, pp. 561-564.

. . . On the 14th of July I was instructed to go to Fort Leavenworth and receive the Nez Percé prisoners there. On the 15th, in company with Inspector McNeil, I proceeded to that post and made arrangements for the transfer of the Indians, and their transportation to this place. On the 21st we placed them on the cars and brought them to Baxter Springs, Kansas, reaching that point late in the evening. On the morning of the 22d we moved them by wagon to this point and encamped them on the Modoc Reservation. On the 14th of August, in company with General Clinton B. Fisk, and Hon. William Stickney, I met the chiefs and headmen of the Confederated Peoria and Miami Indians in council, and purchased of them about 7,000 acres of their reserve for a future home for Joseph and his band. The tract thus secured is admirably adapted for the purpose, being a combination of good farming and grazing land, embracing both timber and prairie, and supplied with good water in abundance.

Joseph expresses himself as very much opposed to making this country his future home, dwelling particularly on what he claims were the terms of surrender agreed upon between himself and General Miles at Bear Paw Mountain, according to which he argues he was to be returned to his old home. With this object in view he has persistently refused to commit himself to the acceptance of the purchase above referred to. I believe, however, that with patience and care I shall succeed in getting him and his band moved on to the land and permanently located within a short time. I have engaged the services of a competent carpenter, an Indian, and with his assistance I shall endeavor to get them to work at building houses as soon as the weather and their health will admit of it. I also wish to have a day-school opened on their reservation as soon as possible, and to get their children into school as fast as it can be done.

Owing to the location of their camp immediately on the bank of the Missouri River, at Fort Leavenworth, and the excessively hot summer, they were filled with malarial poison, and, as a consequence, nearly every one in the camp has been sick since their arrival here, and several deaths have occurred. This has had a very discouraging effect on the Indians, as they cannot see that their impaired health is not attributable to this country, but that they brought their diseases with them.

Our supply of medicines for this year has not yet been received, and we have found it very difficult to procure suitable remedies, and when we add to this the reluctance with which many of them take the "white man's medicine," some idea of the difficulties attending the checking of their diseases may be formed; but I am now glad to be able to say that their sickness is abating, and I believe the worst is over. They now number 86 men, 168 women, and 137 children. . . .