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United States. Office of Indian Affairs / Annual report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, for the year 1873
([1873])

[Ponca agency],   pp. 239-243 PDF (2.6 MB)


Page 239

REPORT    OF COMMISSIONER        OF INDIAN    AFFAIRS.        239 
SICKNESS AN) MORTALITY. 
During the summer and fall there has been an unusual degree of sickness among
the 
Yanctons. Early in the spring measles broke out among the people on the lower
end 
of the reservation, and has continued to spread over its entire extent. In
many cases, 
both among the old and young, it has proved fatal, so that, as far as I can
ascertain, 
over one hundred persons have died from its effects. This is owing to the
fact that 
they could not be persuaded to take proper precautions, nor persevere in
using the 
doctor's remedies; impatient if not cured in a day, they would call in their
medicine- 
men, and expose themselves to wet and cold. We were also threatened later
in the 
summer with small-pox, it having broken out on an island only fifteen miles
distant. 
As soon as I heard of it I placed Indian guards between it and the reservation.
As 
the dread disease has now disappeared from the island, I trust we have escaped
this 
fearful calamity. 
In conclusion I would say that, although many of the Yanctons are yet Indian
in 
life and character, yet, if wisely and kindly treated, the time will come
when all efforts 
for them by the Government, philanthropist, and Christian, will be well rewarded
by 
their loyalty, civilization, and Christianity. 
Very respectfully, your obedient servant, 
JOHN G. GASSMANN, 
Hon. E. F. SMITH,                                 United States Indian Agent.
Comrnissioner Indian Affairs, Washington, D. C. 
33. 
PONCA AGENCY, DAKOTA TERRITORY, 
October 18, 1873. 
SIR: I have the honor to forward my first annual report of the eondition
of the 
Ponca Indians at this agency, where I arrived on the 25th day of October,
172, leav- 
ing Omaha, Nebr., immediately after receipt of my instructions from the Department,
but did not meet my predecessor until I returned to the agency with my family
on 
the 9th November, 1873, aird he relinquished his charge to me November 12,
1873. 
I found the Poncas numbering about 750 souls, living in three villages, (one
entirely 
of tents or tepees,) and all within two miles of each other. The villages
were: 
1. Agency Town, occupied altogether by United States employ6s, the saw-mill,
workshops, and warehouses, and an Indian population of one hundred and twenty-
three " half-breed," families or lodges, often two or more in one
house. 
2. Hu-b-than, or Fish Town, occupied by a mixed population of full-blood
Indians 
and half-breeds numbering twenty-four lodges. 
3. Point Village, occupied altogether by full-blood Indians, with a council-house
on 
the north bank of the Niobrara River, a distant settlement, from 6 to 8 miles
from 
Agency Village, according to the route traveled, which is regulated by the
season, or 
by alarms of hostile invasion; and these causes tend also to induce migratory
habits 
in the people, who stay only a portion of the time at their village, and
spend the greater 
part of the season under shelter of the agency guns. Population, fifty-six
lodges at the 
time of my arrival here, living in tents or tepees among the forest-trees,
two miles from 
the agency village. 
The farming operations had not been profitable. A very little wheat and oats
was 
the result, although a large tract of land, amounting to near 200 acres,
had been culti- 
vated. The grasshoppers and hail-storms previous to and in the harvest season
had 
wrought irreparable damages, and I found the Poncas entirely dependent upon
Gov- 
ernment rations for support. A few families had wild bean  dug up by the
women, 
but in very limited quantities; none had corn. At the PoinfVillage I found
about 15 
bushels of potatoes set around the cook-stove, which were frozen and spoiled.
Flour and 
beef were occasionally issued by delivery to the chiefs, who distributed
at their pleas- 
ure to whom they would, regulating quantities of the viands disbursed by
favor or dis- 
favor. In the general appearance and exhibit of the Ponca tribe my first
impressions 
were, as I have always since maintained, that it is possible y firmness and
faithful- 
ness to reach the heart of the untamed, uncivilized Indian, and7to build
therein a moral, 
social, and business capacity.                              k       ii**
My earliest efforts were directed to the disabusing the minds of the Indians
of the 
final power of brute force as pitted against the power of intelligence-which
included 
efforts to amnend-nd a skillful industry which would be labor-saving, and
yield a 
greater percentag. 'of profit for the outlay. A few well-directed strokes
of an ax 
would accomplish more than the manifold random blows of an ill-directed aim
; a house, 
larger than the ordinary, full of light, chinked and plastered, warm and
snug when 


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