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
([1879])

Reports of agents in Montana,   pp. 89-100 PDF (5.6 MB)


Page 92

92                REPORTS OF AGENTS IN MONTANA. 
customs, modes of living, and disposition are identical. The Mountain Crows
number. 
2,150 souls and the River Crows about 1,150, and together they are able to
put into 
the field about 900 warriors. They are wild tribes without acknowledged leaders.
Two qualifications are indispensable to chieftainship, viz, force of character
and the 
ability to dispense hospitality around the wigwam fire; any one may therefore
be a 
chief who can meet these requirements and secure a following. Hence the whole
tribe 
are broken up into bands-of from ten to thirty lodges. But little authority
is exer- 
cised or possessed by any chief over his followers. They are mercurial and
nomadic 
and very rarely remain long in any one camp. During the period that they
were en- 
camped at the agency last winter (four months), they changed camp three times.
HABITS. 
When grass begins to grow in the spring they all sigh for the excitement
of the 
chase, strike their tents, and, like a grand army, move out upon the broad
prairies to en- 
gage in their summer hunt, which they keep up until mid-summer, when they
return 
to the agency, dress their hides, make their lodge, and remain until fall,
when robes are 
good, when-they go out to kill the buffalo and secure the robes and dry the
meat, 
which constitute their stock in trade. So soon as this hunt is concluded,
which usu- 
ally runs to the middle of January. they return to the agency, tan their
robes, draw 
their annuities, and enjoy themselves singing and dancing with a hilarity
unkn 
to any other people on the continent. 
Whatever may be said to the contrary, they are the devoted friends of the
white race, 
and have been our allies in all the Indian wars of this section. They are
comparative- 
ly easy to control, and were it not for the meddlesome interference of the
designing 
white men with whom they come into contact, the task would not be nearly
so ardu- 
ous. They look upon the white race as being superior, and naturally listen
to them; 
hence the importance of excluding from the reservation the indolent, vicious,
corrupt 
vagabonds who infest their camps to demoralize them and consume their rations.
THEIR GRIEVANCES, 
as developed in council, several of which were held in the winter and spring,
were 
the trespasses on their lands by hunters, trappers, prospectors, ranchmen,
timber- 
thieves, travelers, and drovers. They say that the Great Father (the President)
agreed 
to keep white men off of it, and that the white men cut their timber, destroy
the grass, 
and frighten the game away. I at once gave notice to all trespassers that
these irreg- 
ularities must cease, and am gratified to say that they have almost entirely
disap- 
peared. Some complaint was made against the order of December 23, 1878, issued
from the honorable Commissioner's Office, forbidding the Indians going beyond
the 
limits of the reservation, but not a single lodge has since been pitched
beyond the 
Yellowstone. 
THEIR PROPERTY, 
aside from robes and camp equipage, consists almost exclusively of horses
and mules, 
of which they have about 12,000 head. Have urged them to convert a portion
of this 
stock into cattle, and have shown them that in a few years they might become
inde- 
pendent by growing cattle. In order to further stimulate them, I have asked
the au- 
thority to issue to each one a few heifers with which to start a herd, provided
that 
they should first locate themselves upon ranches. They know nothing of constructing
houses, and I would recommend that a portion of the present appropriation
be ex- 
pended in building cheap but comfortable houses for such as would occupy
them and 
settle upon the land. 
THE RESERVATION 
is about 300 miles long and extends from the Yellowstone River on the north
to Wy- 
oming Territory on the south, and covers an area which aggregates something
over 
10,000,000 acres, most of which is rough, rugged, and mountainous, although
along the 
Yellowstone River and the streams flowing into it from the south there is
some farm- 
ing-land, but it is limited, and requires. irrigation. The broken country
from the val- 
ley to the mountains is covered with as fine, rich, and nutritious bunch-grass
as can be 
found on the globe, and our agency herd of about 1,000 cattle wintered the
entire sea- 
son upon this food without other care than the herder to look after them.
The numer- 
ous streams which flow from the mountain furnish an abundant supply of pure,
fresh, 
cool water at all seasons of the year; the snows are comparatively light,
which the 
strong winds carry off from the hillsides, so that stock can always graze
there; the 
streams are all lined with a heavy, dense growth of aspen, cottonwood, and
willow, 


Go up to Top of Page