1876 Reports of the Commissioner Affairs and Indian Agent
"Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs," pp. 505-879. In U.S. House. 44th Congress, 1st Session. Report of the Secretary of the Interior, 1875 (H.Ex.Doc.1, Pt. 5, Vol. 1). Washington: Government Printing Office, 1876. (Serial Set 1680).
. . . THE POLICY TO BE PURSUED.
. . . Within a few years the Government has undertaken somewhat systematically to bring [Indians] into civilized life. The "peace policy" has sought to throw around them healthful associations; to place at the several agencies agents and employés of good moral and Christian character and of active sympathies; and an earnest effort has been made to teach Indians to labor and to read. It is too soon, perhaps, to assert that this effort has proved a success, but the accompanying reports of agents abundantly show that, notwithstanding all surrounding difficulties, much has been accomplished toward establishing and maintaining peace, toward protecting Indians from evil influences, and toward awakening in them the desire for a better mode of life. . . .
In considering whether modifications of existing methods may not be desirable, I have arrived at the conviction that the welfare and progress of the Indians require the adoption of three principles of policy:
First. Concentration of all Indians on a few reservations.
Second. Allotment to them of lands in severalty.
Third. Extension over them of United States law and the jurisdiction of United States courts. (pp. 384-385)
. . . LAW FOR INDIANS.
My predecessors have frequently called attention to the startling fact that we have within our midst 275,000 people, the least intelligent portion of our population, for whom we provide no law, either for their protection or for the punishment of crime committed among themselves. Civilization even among white men could not long exist without the guarantees which law alone affords; yet our Indians are remitted by a great civilized government to the control, if control it can be called, of the rude regulations of petty, ignorant tribes. Year after year we expend millions of dollars for these people in the faint hope that, without law, we can civilize them. That hope has been, to a great degree, a long disappointment; and year after year we repeat the folly of the past. That the benevolent efforts and purposes of the Government have proved so largely fruitless, is, in my judgment, due more to our laws than to any other cause, or to all other causes combined.
I believe it to be the duty of Congress at once to extend over Indian reservations the jurisdiction of United States courts, and to declare that each Indian in the United States shall occupy the same relation to law that a white man does. An Indian should be given to understand that no ancient custom, no tribal regulation, will shield him from just punishment for crime; and also that he will be effectually protected, by the authority and power of the Government, in his life, liberty, property, and character, as certainly as if he were a white man. There can be no doubt of the power of Congress to do this, and surely the intelligent Committees on Indian Affairs of the Senate and House can readily propose legislation which will accomplish this most desirable result. I regard this suggestion as by far the most important which I have to make in this report. . . .
I appeal to the statesmen of the country to give to this subject their earnest attention; the sooner it is settled on some wise and comprehensive principle the better for all concerned. We have despoiled the Indians of their rich hunting-grounds, thereby depriving them of their ancient means of support. Ought we not and shall we not give them at least a secure home, and the cheap but priceless benefit of just and equitable laws? (pp. 387-389)
. . . NEZ PERCÉ COMMISSION.
A commission consisting of D. H. Jerome, esq., of Michigan; Brig. Gen. O. O. Howard, U. S. A.; Maj. H. Clay Wood, A. A. G., U. S. A.; William Stickney, esq., of Washington, and A. C. Barstow, esq., of Rhode Island, has been appointed during the present month by the Secretary of the Interior, to inquire into the status and claims of the so-called non-treaty Nez Percés, and to effect a settlement on a permanent basis of the difficulties existing between them and settlers. These difficulties have arisen mainly from intrusion by settlers upon the Wallowa Valley, Oregon, which the Nez Percé chief, Joseph, claims as unceded Indian territory, and have been aggravated by the recent murder by white men of one of Joseph's band.
The commission is also authorized to visit roving bands in Idaho and Washington Territories, with a view to placing them upon reservations; and have been requested to take into careful consideration the subject of reducing by consolidation the number of reservations in Idaho and Washington Territories and Oregon. (pp. 394)
From: Report of John B. Monteith, United States Indian Agent, Nez Percé Indians, pp. 449-450.
OFFICE INDIAN AGENT NEZ PERCÉ INDIANS,
Lapwai, Idaho, August 31, 1876.
SIR: In compliance with the requirements of the Department I respectfully submit the following as my annual report for the year ending August 31, 1876.
During the year the Indians connected with this reserve have been unusually quiet. Those residing upon the reserve and engaged in agricultural pursuits have devoted more time to such work than ever before. This increase in industry has diminished by at least one-third the number who have heretofore gone to the root-grounds for the purpose of gathering roots as an article of food. The crops of wheat, oats, corn, and all kinds of vegetables among the Indians are the finest they have ever had, and the yield is very encouraging to them. With the assistance of the carpenters many have built for themselves houses, generally 16 by 24 feet, the same being large enough for a small family.
Very few Nez Percés went to the buffalo-country this season, and those who did go are better away than to be among those who are disposed to lead a civilized life. The influence of these wild Indians over such as have but just entered upon an industrious life and have turned their attention to agricultural pursuits is bad in the extreme.
Joseph's band of Nez Percé Indians still persist in putting forth their claim to the Wallowa Valley, and make their regular visits to the valley. In July last an Indian belonging to Joseph's band was killed by a settler in said valley, (the same was duly reported,) and Joseph insists that the only way the matter can be amicably settled is by the Government giving said valley to him and his band and removing all the settlers. The Indian witnesses refuse to appear in court against the murderer.
In the schools encouraging progress has been made. The monthly reports, regularly forwarded, have kept the Department advised of such progress as has been made from month to month. After the death of Rev. D. F. McFarland, his widow took charge of the school at Lapwai, and carried on the work, assisted by James Reuben, a full-blooded Indian, who is now able to instruct the younger scholars. The vacation commenced July 1; still I have kept some of the scholars, both boys and girls, at the boarding-house, the girls being engaged in general house-work and the boys working on the farm. As soon as the Indians commenced going to the root-grounds the school boys and girls became very restless and wanted to leave and go with them. Some few cases occurred where they ran away. I brought them back, however, and after two or three unsuccessful attempts they gave it up. It is a hard matter to get the scholars to speak the English language, although they can understand nearly all you say in conversing with them. In nine cases out of ten they will make answer in their own language. This diffidence may be overcome when they have grown older.
The boys in the shops and mills have made commendable progress, especially the full-blooded Indian in the blacksmith-shop here at Lapwai. He does a great deal of work for the Indians, such as ironing single and double trees, making hooks and staples for gates, gate and door fastenings, and numerous other like things. He possesses more application and ingenuity and learns faster than the half-breeds.
The health of the tribe has been usually good.
At present I have a full force of employés in but one of the boarding-schools, and have been retarded in obtaining the necessary employés for the other, not knowing what provision Congress has made with regard to the funds necessary to pay the salaries of the required employés. I have received letters in answer to those addressed to parties offering them positions at salaries heretofore paidprovided Congress made the necessary provision for paying the samerefusing to accept the compensation stated, giving as a reason that the amount was insufficient to support them and their families. Were I allowed to pay at the present time what I was allowed during the first four years of my administration here, I could make the educational matters on this reserve a complete success; but I am seriously crippled by the small salaries I am forced to pay. . . .
I am sorry that I am unable to make a more full report in regard to religious matters, as per statistical blanks, and am equally sorry to state that these Indians have been without a regular missionary for over a year. My father, Rev. W. J. Monteith, voluntarily labored the year, at the expiration of which time his health failed him, and on the 29th of August, 1876, he departed this life and entered upon his reward.
JNO. B. MONTEITH,
United States Indian Agent.