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SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of this Department during the year. It has been made as concise as possible, to present an intelligent review of the work of the year, and contains, also, such suggestions and recommendations as, in my judgment, will conduce to the more successful administration of the Bureaus of the Department.
It is a source of satisfaction to be able to report substantial reforms and real progress in each and all the Bureaus during the year, and they are now, without exception, in excellent condition. The Indian-Office is working in the most satisfactory manner; the Patent-Office reports important improvements in the details of management; the Land-Office has brought up the large arrears of work which had embarrassed its operations for years; the Pension Office has materially reduced the number of claims on file at the beginning of the year, for the first time since the close of the war; the ninth census is completed in a shorter time and in a more satisfactory manner than ever before; and the Bureau of Education is rapidly increasing its field of usefulness.
Attention is invited to the able and interesting report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, which is more than usually full of information relative to the present numbers, location, and condition of all the tribes under the administrative control of the Indian-Office.
Measured by any true standard, the present Indian policy of the Government has proved a success, inasmuch as for three years it has secured the largest and freest extension and development of our railways and frontier settlements which was possible under the circum-. stances, with far less of loss of life and property than would have been suffered under any other plan of dealing with the hostile and roving tribes beyond the Missouri River. In our intercourse with the Indians it must always be borne in mind that we are the more powerful party, and have uniformly regarded the Indians as the wards of the nation.
We are assuming, and I think with propriety, that our civilization ought to take the place of their barbarous habits. We therefore claim the right to control the soil which they occupy, and we assume that it is our duty to coerce them, if necessary, into the adoption and practice of our habits and customs. In doing this, it seems to me that humanity and justice, as well as honor and dignity, demand that our conduct should be characterized, so far as practicable, by forbearance and uniform kindness of treatment.
It may be true, as the Commissioner remarks, that the only object at which practical statesmanship will aim is to reduce the evil to a minimum in degree; to circumscribe the field of its operations as closely as possible, and to forward the operation of those causes and give scope to those forces which will most speedily put an end to its duration. This much the Indian policy is effecting. The feeding system adopted with the dangerous and hostile tribes has reduced the loss of life and property to a degree which must be termed inconsiderable, when the extent of territory and the exposure of our settlements are fairly taken into account. The reservation system withdraws the great body of the Indians from the direct path of our industrial progress, and allows the work of settlement and the extension of our railways to go forward up to the full limit of the capacities of capital and immigration, with absolutely no check or diminution on account of Indian hostility, actual or apprehended. There is not a mile of railway which has authority of law for its construction, and for which the capital stands ready, which is unbuilt to day by reason of danger from Indian attack. There is not a family at the East, or newly arrived from Europe, which is desirous of a western settlement, but can locate itself in safety on public lands at any point from Omaha to Sacramento. It follows, from these two propositions, that the peaceful progress of settlement and industrial enterprise is only limited by the resources of the country and the expansiveness of our population. The work of circumscribing and confining the evil, of which complaint is made, is, therefore, being carried forward as rapidly and effectively as in the nature of the case is possible; and the three conditions of a successful treatment of the Indian difficulty are shown to be realized in the present policy of the Government toward the hostile and semi-hostile tribes.
While the accomplishment of the objects already referred to may embrace all that practical statesmanship demands, there is still another view of the Indian question to which the Commissioner does not advert in his report, but which enters largely into the new policy, and which has unquestionably commended it to a large class of people who are seldom attracted to the discussion of political questions; or to the active participation in governmental details. I refer to the scheme of civilizing and Christianizing the Indians.
To what extent the success of the conditions above alluded to is due to the workings of the last named, I have no means of determining, and
it is a question which each man will doubtless settle in his own way, from his own stand-point. I have no doubt, however, but that the civilizing portion of the policy has exerted a most wholesome influence upon the entire question, inasmuch as it has brought into the Indian service an entirely new element, the direct effect of which has been the great improvement in the personnel of the service, and, consequently, in the entire treatment of the whole Indian population.
Industrial progress and settlement have been unimpeded, probably as much on account of the more humane treatment of the Indians, as because of their confinement to a smaller area upon restricted reservations; and they have also submitted more quietly to confinement upon smaller reservations, for the same reason. Many, if not a majority, of the causes which, in years past, excited Indian hostilities, have ceased to exist. The Indians are becoming convinced of the entire good faith of the Government in its peaceful overtures, and they manifest a disposition to respond in a similar spirit of peace and good will.
That a semi-hostile condition still exists in some remote localities, as in Arizona and some portions of Texas, for example, is no doubt as property attributable to the non-extension of the policy in its entirety over those sections as to its inefficiency or failure. That it works uniformly well where it has had a thorough trial, even among tribes before regarded as almost incorrigible, is very good evidence that it will work equally well elsewhere, under similar circumstances.
In Arizona, the special commissioner, sent out by the Department, has reported improper or inefficient agents on duty and asked their removal, which is being done as rapidly as suitable persons can be found to replace them. It is but reasonable, therefore, to request the withholding of unfriendly criticism relative to the efficiency of the policy until the Department is prepared to announce that it is thoroughly inaugurated in all its parts over all the tribes under control of the Indian Office.
The military occupancy of posts adjacent to the Indian country has not been withdrawn, and should not be so long as there is the slightest danger of Indian incursions upon the settlements, or attempts to prevent the extension of new settlements in all legitimate directions. A show of strength will be needed for some time to enforce the new policy. The policy of confining the wild tribes to smaller reservations is regarded as of the utmost importance; and carried forward to its full extent, will result in restricting them to an area of sufficient extent to furnish them farms for cultivation, and no more. The rapid disappearance of game from the former hunting-grounds must operate largely in favor of our efforts to confine the Indians to smaller areas, and compel them to abandon their nomadic customs, and establish themselves in permanent homes. So long as the game existed in abundance there was little disposition manifested to abandon the chase, even though Government bounty was dispensed in great abundance, affording them
ample means of support. When the game shall have disappeared, we shall be well forward in the work in hand.
In the country now occupied by the majority of the tribes of the Dacotah nation, bordering on the Missouri River, and by the Rees, Mandans, Gros-Ventres, River Crows, and Assiniboines, near the same river, there is but little land that is available for agriculture, on account of the great dryness of the summers and the intense cold of the winters. Without irrigation nothing can be grown there save in the narrow bottoms skirting the larger water-courses. Some of the tribes there resident are endeavoring to farm, but their efforts have little effect beyond discouraging them from all farming operations. They must have a better location for agricultural pursuits, else but little improvement can be made in their condition.
The Rees, Mandans, and other tribes at Fort Berthold, numbering about 2.500 persons, have been engaged in farming for a number of years. Their efforts have not been attended with encouraging success, for reasons above stated; but they are becoming well convinced that their only hope for the future lies in agriculture, and they are inquiring for a more favorable location for farming. I feel confident that their removal to the Indian Territory south of Kansas can be made with their cheerful assent next year. There their habits of industry, and the knowledge they already possess of agricultural pursuits, will doubtless enable them to make rapid progress in the direction of self-support and civilization.
This leads me to allude once more to the subject of a plan for the proper organization and settlement of the Indian Territory lying south of Kansas. The events of the year have seemed to confirm the opinion expressed in my last annual report, that the interests of both Indians and whites will be subserved by organizing that country under a territorial form of government, apportioning the lands into farms of proper area among the Indians now thereon, and using all proper influences to settle other tribes therein, in the same way.
It is certain that but little progress can be made in the work of civilization while the Indians are suffered to 10am at large over immense reservations, hunting and fishing, and making war upon neighboring tribes. It is only as they are led into habits of industry, and learn the advantages of labor, that anything can be done to elevate them. Indastry is the great civilizer; without it no race can be permanently benefited. Ellorts should all tend in that direction which will most eflectually cultivate those habits. This can best be done by placing them upon farms, and giving them such material aid and practical instruction as will enable them to cultivate their farms profitably. In proportion as they do this will they learn the advantage of our form of life and abandon their present habits. This must be the work of time; but I conndently believe the result will vindicate the wisdom of the policy in
There is but little in the past to encourage the belief that the adult Indian of to-day can be very thoroughly civilized. We can hope for little more than to hold him in restraint, confine him to smaller reservations, and induce him to remain at peace, while we devote the energies of the Department to the improvement of the rising generation.
The policy of reducing the area of present reservations, and consolidating friendly tribes or bands, may be regarded as the first step toward the establishment of the Indians upon farms. We have now under control of the Indian-Office tribes in every stage of civilization, from the partially civilized nations in the Indian Territory, with their schools, churches, and written language, to the hostile tribes of Arizona, which know nothing of the habits of civilization. The former are, no doubt, as well fitted as they will ever become in their present mode of life for settlement upon farms of proper size. The latter can only be brought gradually to that condition, the first step toward which, as has been said, is confining them to smaller reservations than they at present occupy. This subject has been presented to the various delegations which have visited the East, and by the several commissions to the Indian tribes at their homes. It has been received with interest by all, and while the most of them are not yet sufficiently convinced of the advantage and necessity of an agricultural life to appreciate the importance of removal, those who have made some progress in farming have expressed a willingness to adopt the suggestion, if some of their leading chiefs can be allowed to visit the new Territory and examine their proposed new homes. Judicious management will, in a few years, secure the removal of a large portion of the tribes east of the Rocky Mountains to the Indian Territory.
I cannot regard the rapid disappearance of the game from its former haunts as a matter prejudicial to our management of the Indians. On the contrary, as they become convinced that they can no longer rely upon the supply of game for their support, will they turn to the more reliable source of subsistence furnished at the agencies, and endeavor to so live that that supply will be regularly dispensed. A few years of cessation from the chase will tend to unfit them for their former mode of life, and they will be the more readily led into new directions, toward industrial pursuits and peaceful habits.
In the present imperfect system of detailed reports from agents, as to the condition of the tribes in regard to their progress in industry, it is difficult to furnish any statement in figures as to the condition of all the tribes. The following statement, however, will show the progress made by twenty tribes in the southern superintendency, during the past four years, in the work of farming and stock-raising. They do not include the larger and more civilized nations, Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaws, and Chickasaws, occupying the Indian Territory:
In population they have increased..
12 per cent. 350 per cent.