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United States. Office of Indian Affairs / Annual report of the commissioner of Indian affairs, for the year 1874
([1874])

[Dakota],   pp. 238-259 PDF (10.7 MB)


Page 243

REPORT     OF  THE    COMMISSIONER       OF INDIAN     AFFAIRS.     243 
Ct MPLAINTS, DfFFICULTIES, AND HINDERANCES. 
In disposition these three tribes are, and have been for many years, friendly
toward the 
whites. The military have found them the most brave and reliable of all Indian
scoots. 
But notwithstanding their well-established friendliness, I found them in
an intensely dis- 
satisfied state of mind. They complained that while they had "steadily
kept the straight 
path," the Government had not done so; the whites had lied to them,
cheated them, and 
actually allowed them to starve, instead of feeding them and caring for them
as promised in 
all their treaty-councils. Unfortunately, and to our shame, their declarations
are too true. 
They couldn't understand why this should be so, and they had "determined
to endure it no 
longer." They had clamored for a change of agent, believing it would
bring them some re- 
lief; but, arrivting at the agency at the beginning of winter, and finding:
four-fifths of the 
appropriation for the fiscal year already expended during its first four
months, together with 
over $44,000 to be provided for by a deficiency appropriation, and but very
few supplies fol 
the remaining eight months, I could promise them little improvement until
the opening of 
another fiscal year. The outlock was indeed a discouraging one, both for
myself and for 
the Indians, but we struggled through the winter as best we could, a large
number of the 
Indians dying in consequence of their diseased condition and privations.
With the return of spring the hundreds who had spent the winter away from
the agency, 
depending upon their own efforts for support, came home, poorly clad, hungry,
and consid- 
erably demoralized by the winter's contact with the wilder Indians of the
Upper Missouri. 
Added to the natural disappointment that a change of agent had not brought
the relief they 
expected it would, was the influence of malicious white men, who, -having
lost what they 
considered good positions or prospects, earnestly endeavored to prejudice
the Indians against 
myself and co-laborers, as well as against the present policy of the Government.
Indeed, 
the opposing efforts of ignorant and malicious white persons has been a more
powerful hin- 
derance to our efforts than the natural suspicion and superstition of the
Indian. I found at 
the agency a number of white persons, mostly in the empioy of the agent or
trader, who 
are theoretically and practically "squaw men ;" men who, by living
with the Indians, keep- 
ing their squaws, acquiring their language, and spending all their earnings
to gratify the, 
had gained such an influence that it was almost impossible to steal the current
of their op- 
position. These men are determinedly opposed to the present Indian policy,
and prejudice 
the Indians against all attempts to carry it out. They find little trouble
in convincing most 
of the Indians that the white men who come among them and take wives of their
people, 
either permanently or temporarily, learn their language, and spend all their
earnings upon 
them, are their true sympathizers and friends. They assure them that the
white people who 
come here with families have no interest in them, and cannot "understand
their hearts;" 
that such families come here to make money out of them, not to help them,
and that "they 
will leave when they get money enough."  Such declarations, oft repeated
and accompa- 
nied occasionally with a little sugar, coffee, tobacco, &c., are satisfactory
evidences to tbe 
Indian. It is hardly to be expected that such poor, ignorant, starving people
will compre- 
bend that there may be an exhibition of friendship better than giving them
all the food they 
desire, while allowing them to rest in perfect idleness. 
The effort to induce all able-bodied males to labor, the preference shown
the laborer in the 
distribution of supplies, and the issuing of supplies directly to each family
instead of to the 
chiefs for division by them, are all new ways to these people and give rise
to some dissatis- 
faction, especially on the part of the " big men," who formerly
got the "lion's share." 
Like most other Indian tribes, these have steadily refused to be counted,
believing the 
object to be their gradual and final extinction by means of such diseases
as the whites from 
time to time may desire to introduce; however, by various strategic methods,
I have suc- 
ceeded in getting a pretty accurate census of the three tribes. Unfortunately
the whoop- 
ing-cough has recently appeared among them, and quite a number of their children
have 
already died of it. A few years ago a partially successful attempt to count
them was fol- 
lowed by small-pox which reduced their numbers greatly. They insist that
all these deaths 
are the consequence of being counted; some of them are very angry about it,
and have 
threatened to take the white men's blood in revenge. I do not, however, anticipate
any- 
thing so serious as that, though it will, in conjunction with other circumstances,
retard our 
efforts in their behalf. 
The unfriendliness of this climate is another serious difficulty against
which we must con- 
tend; its long and exceedingly cold winters, its hot, debilitating summers,
its poor water 
and high winds, its dust and droughts, its frosts and floods, its grasshoppers
and worms, 
render agriculture very laborious and uncertain. 
This season the grasshoppers have entirely destroyed our oats and wheat,
(about sixty 
acres of each,) while the drought has kept our potatoes down to half a crop,
and the corn 
to about a third of a full yield. 
The constant danger of attacks from the Sioux is another serious hinderance
to civilizing 
effort. The frequent appearance of war parties of those incarnate devils,
and their occa- 
sional success in carrying away horses and scalps, keep these people in an
absorbing war 
spirit which precludes interest in civilization andI improvement. On the
13th of June last a 
small party of Sioux fired upon our village, and, by retreating, drew these
Indians into 


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