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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 244

244     REPORT    OF THE     COMMISSIONER       OF INDIAN     AFFAIRS. 
ambuscade, where several hundred concealed Sioux attacked them, killing and
horribly 
mutilating five Rees and one Mandan. This calamity threw these people into
such a state 
of gloomy and sullen anger that it Was almost impossible to keep them from
taking the war- 
path. The determination to revenge themselves has not yet died out of some
of them. 
Every few days it becomes necessary to interfere and stop small parties who
attempt to steal 
away to sections frequented by the Sioux, for the purpose of finding some
stragglers or 
small hunting parties who may be made to "pay back in scalps."
Surrounded by such retarding circumstances, and influenced as I have indicated,
it can 
hardly be expected that great civilizing progress be made in one year. But
something has 
been done-enough to convince me that, could desirable conditions be furnished,
within five 
years these tibes could be made self-supporting, even on a plane of living
much more 
elevated and comfortable than that which they now occupy. 
SCHOOLS. 
A day-school was opened on the 1st of December last and has proved quite
a success. 
During the winter there was an average attendance of twenty-fii'e boys and
twenty girls. 
Duinug the summer the attendance has been more irregular, and has averaged
but little more 
than half the winter attendance. This falling off is dije to the greater
attractions the boys 
find in out.of-door sports during the warm months, and to the demands for
labor made upon 
the girls. Doubtless winter will fill the school-room again, and I hope for
more marked 
progress during the next year. At the present time about forty read readily
in the primary 
reader used here, and about twenty-five others are in their alphabet, or
words of two or three 
letters. Twelve can write a little, and at least twenty are making considerable
progress in 
arithmetic. 'I he assistant teacher has added to the attendance and interest
by meeting the 
school-girls, and sometimes their mothers, for instruction in cutting and
making dresses and 
underclothing, which becomes the property of the maker so soon as completed.
By this 
means a maiked improvement has been made in the appearance of those who attend
the 
school, but there is a vast work yet to be done in this directien. Evidently
a boarding- 
school is better adapted to the needs of this class of people, but, owing
to our excited and 
unsettled state, it seems impracticable to establish one here at present.
Should the Ameri- 
can Missionary Association send us a missionary the present season, which
seems probable, 
and the agency be moved a short distance from the village, which is essential,
I trust a 
niission and boarding school may then be organized very soon. 
LABOR. 
The attitude of these Indians as to manual labor is hopeful and steadily
improving. While 
a majority of them still "stand shivering on the brink, and fear to
launch away," we have 
made during the year at least forty earnest and industrious converts to the
"gospel of labor." 
About that number are now working steadily either for themselves or the agency,
and would 
feel it a punishment to be discharged. All of them keep an accurate account
of their time, 
(.some by cutting notches in a stick, others by marks in a pass-book obtained
for the pur 
pose,) and draw their pay from the agency-supplies every Saturday evening.
It is an interesting 
and encouraging sight on these pay-nights, to see them sitting beside their
squaws consulting 
as to the needs of the family in flour, pork, beef, sugar, coffee, candles,
blankets, dresses, &c. 
Already a squaw's'dress is a pretty sure indication of the industry of the
huisband. Besides the 
day-laborers there are quite a number who undertake work on their own responsibility,
and all 
of that class feel encouraged by their experience. Last winter a few of them
chopped and 
put up over one hundred and fifty cords of ash-wood, which had to be culled
in small quan- 
tities ihere and there, at distances ranging from three to seven miles from
the agency; for 
this they received four and five dollars per cord in agency-supplies. Four
or five enterprising 
fellows opened wood yards last spring at various points along the Missouri
River, and suc- 
ceeded so well that they want to undertake to furnish all the steamboat-wood
needed on 
their reservation, Believing they will do it, I have discontinued to white
men all permits 
to cut wood on their lands. Several parties of Indians are already arranging
to commence 
operations, and I have no doubt that spring will see on the river-bank all
the wood that will 
be needed by steamboats during the season. During the past two months they
have cut 
and cured in good shape at least one hundred tons of hay, about three-fourths
of which they 
have sold to theagency at $8 per ton. They would have cut more had it been
within their 
reach. What they procured had to be "picked up" in small quantities
from the small coo- 
lies and sloughs, at distances varying from three to twelve miles from the
agency; from 
which fact it will be seen that one hundred tons of hay in this country represents
a great 
deal of labor;-and as this is the first season they have undertaken such
a task, the results 
are highly encouraging. Their next undertaking is to be the putting in of
seventy-five tons 
of coal, which they will dig at a point eight miles away, and haul in with
their ponies and 
the agency oxen. They very much need more wagons and harness, which I trust
may be 
supplied this fall. 
IMPROVED PHYSICAL COMFORTS. 
During the year, with the help of the carpenter, there has been a decided
improvement in 
the character of their dwellings. The dirt lodges are gradually giving place
to log houses, 


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