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

Report of agent in Michigan,   pp. 84-86 ff. PDF (1.5 MB)

Page 85

roofs. The historical "wigwam" is now seldom  if ever seen as a
permanent abode. 
Many more, no doubt, would have built better houses and made larger improvements,
but the uncertainty as to whether they would be allowed to retain the lands
taken as 
homesteads has deterred them from making that effort to secure comfortable
which they would have done under other circumstances. The Indian is not naturally
inclined to close application to the hard, persistent labor necessary to
make "the 
wilderness blossom like the rose ; and when the prospect is that his toil
will not avail 
much, lie cannot be expected to put forth great energies. 
The last year has shown much increase in the cultivation of the soil, and
of crops of all kinds, as the tabular statement herewith appended will show.
The schools, eight in number, have been as well attended as the situation
of affairs 
would warrant, and I am pleased to assure you that the progress has generally
my expectations. There have been instances of children who have not missed
a day 
from school during the term. Their progress has fully equalled that which
have been expected from white children under similar circumstances. I think
if any doubts have heretofore existed as to the practicability of educating
Indian, the results in these schools must dissipate them, and that this,
more than 
any other expedient heretofore tried, will prove the medium of transformation
the roving, half savage gypsy life to that of the staid and peaceful citizen.
The ef- 
fect of the school upon the rising generation is very marked, indeed. In
several in- 
stances I have had applications from boys and their parents for an opportunity
to have 
them placed in other schools at government expense, that they might acquire
a higher 
and better education than the schools we have can afford them; an education
would fit them for the higher or professional pursuits. I know of three or
four girls whose 
only education has been obtained at these Indian schools, that are now employed
teachers in the public schools in their vicinity, and are said to be giving
good satisfac- 
tion as instructors in the primary or fundamental branches. 
I rejoice that in this agency the old system has passed away of calling large
of a scattered tribe of Indians together for a "payment" of a few
dollars to each In- 
dian, which was generally spent with the "licensed trader,' who was
the unfailing 
attendant ofthese "payments," which ended in a scene of drunken
orgies, the Indian 
returning to his home as poor as he left it, and sadly demoralized. This
system, so long 
practiced by our government; was most pernicious in its results, and so long
as ad- 
hered to was one of the most serious obstacles to progress ever placed in
the way of the 
Indian. A tithe of the money thus frittered away, if used as I apprehend
it is now in- 
tended to be, to advance the best interests of the red man, would long ere
this have 
produced astonishing results in enlightening these poor people, and teaching
them a 
better way. 
The habit of subsisting solely by hunting and fishing is being abandoned,
and very 
many of the young and able-bodied men find employment as sailors, as lumbermen,
and wood-choppers, and in the various mills, and in different capacities,
sometimes as 
farniers, although the steady routine of a farmer's life does not seem as
congenial to 
their natures as the more exciting and changing scenes attending other occupations.
The custom of requiring the women to cultivate the land is being discontinued,
woman is assigned her true sphere in the household. 
Thus, one by one, the old habits and ideas are yielding to the forms, manners,
customs of civilization. But the old and long established maxim, that the
vices and 
evil practices of their white neighbors are more easily learned and practiced
than their 
virtues, is as true in the present as in the past. The fondness for intoxicating
seems to be their natural and universal propensity. Although strictly prohibited
both State and United States statutes, the dealers are so crafty and cunning
in their sales, 
to cover their transactions, that it is almost impossible to detect and punish
The Indian who is caught drunk can very rarely be induced to testify of whom
bought his liquor. 
The sanitary condition of the Indians has been generally very good, yet in
localities there has been a prevalence of some of the ordinary epidemic or
diseases, as measles and scarlet fever, and much sutffering and several deaths
for the 
want of prompt and proper medical treatment. At Iroquois Point in particular
measles made their first appearance, and among the adults-it was very severe,
deaths occurring. There is no physician within several miles. The scarlet
fever has 
also been quite prevalent in bhth the upper and lower peninsula, from which
a number 
of deaths have occurred. If something could be done to provide medical assistance
such cases, no doubt much suffering might be averted and many lives saved.
There are several subjects which might properly be mentioned, but, as they
been discussed in former reports, I will not repeat them here. In the matter
of put- 
ting to rest the question in regard to the Indian homesteads in cases where
white men 
have tried to dispossess them, I think no inj ustice would ensue from an
order to restore 
to all Indiaustheir lands upon which they had made improvements prior to
the attempt 
to dispossess them. The most aggravated cases of this kind are not persons
who are 
seeking homes, but are endeavoring to obtain possession for speculative purposes,

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