University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The History Collection

Page View

United States. Office of Indian Affairs / Annual report of the commissioner of Indian affairs, for the year 1879

Report of the commissioner of Indian affairs,   pp. [unnumbered]-XLIX PDF (19.0 MB)

Page X

Indians with their four-pony teams to remove nearly 4,000,000 pounds 
of fireight an average distance of nearly 150 miles. Even the boldest 
and most progressive agents pronounced the undertaking a novel and 
doubtful experiment and others declared it to be impossible, expressing 
the opinion that Indian ponies were too weak and unreliable to be 
depended upon for business of such serious importance. To add to the 
difficulties of the situation malicious white men burned the grass be- 
tween the agency and the Missouri River for a space 40 by 60 miles in 
Under difficulties like these the task of teaching wild Indians to haul 
supplies with their unbroken ponies began October 11, 1878, and before 
January 1, 1879, their ability to perform the work had been successfully
demonstrated, and 13,000 Indians were comfortably fed and clothed 
on supplies and annuity goods hauled by themselves without loss or 
In past years, when wagon transportion was performed by white con- 
tractors, the loss and waste were very considerable. Employ6s and 
teamsters lived on the flour, sugar, bacon, and coffee transported by them.
The Indians, however, invariably carry their freight through intact. 
They have become expert drivers of four-pony teams, and now manage 
them with the skill of an experienced stage-driver. 
The result of the experiment 'with the Sioux Indians has led to the 
purchase of enough transportation materidl to enable all our Indians, 
except the tribes in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona, to haul their 
own supplies. One thousand three hundred and sixty-nine wagons and 
two thousand five hundred sets of double harness are now employed 
in the service witlr excellent results in all cases. 
The influence of this industry upon the tribes in which it has been in- 
troduced has been marvelous. In the past all drudgery and much of 
the real work devolved upon the Indian women, while they laughed at 
and ridiculed any man who was disposed to labor,. Now, however, the 
women are glad to have the men do the hauling, and even other work, 
and go so far as to ride in the wagons with their husbands on the jour- 
neys between the agencies and the base of supplies. The prosecution 
of this industry compels the men to wear citizens' clothing, and in that
particular rapid advance in civilization has been made. Another ad- 
vantage, and perhaps the greatest one, is the opportunity thus afforded 
Indians to earn money honestly, and by constant application, in consid- 
erable amounts. Hauling is far more profitable than hunting ever was, 
even when game was abundant. Then the traders, in the purchase of pel- 
tries, for which they made payment in tokens, took the lion's share of 
all the Indians could earn; now their wages are paid in cash, and the 
Indians are rapidly learning to make a good use of their money. What 
is not expended for necessaries and Comforts is given to the women to 
keep for future wants. 
It is now the settled policy of the government to give all wagon trans- 

Go up to Top of Page