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United States. Office of Indian Affairs / Annual report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, for the year 1883
([1883])

Reports of agents in Nebraska,   pp. 105-110 PDF (3.3 MB)


Page 105

REPORTS OF AGENTS IN NEBRASKA 
105 
OMAHA AND WLNNEBAGO AGENCY, NEBR., 
August 27, 1883. 
Sir: I have the honor to submit this my annual report. This is a consolidated
agency, 
composed of the Omahas and Winnebagoes, two separate tribes, speaking languages
entirely distinct and dissimilar, and with habits, temperament, and aims
of life totally 
at variance. 
The Omahas are a staid people, attached to their land and desirous of making
homes 
for themselves. They enjoy the peculiar privilege of never having been removed,
and having lived for the past two hundred years or more where their present
reser- 
vation is situated. As in most Indian tribes at the present time, the Omahas
are 
divided into two parties; one progressive, desiring education, law, and looking
toward citizenship; the other, conservative, clinging to old customs, and
strongly 
opposed to changes. The progressive party, while not in the numerical majority,
have in their ranks men of strong mind and firm purpose, and to the efforts
of these 
men is very largely due the present peculiar and promising condition of the
people 
When making the treaty of 1866 the Omahas caused an article to be inserted
pro- 
viding for the dividing up of the reserve into individual farms. Already
a number 
of families had broken away from the central village and begun to build log
cabins 
and work on farms, and about ten years ago a scattering very nearly general
was 
effected, and some three hundred and fifty certificates of allotment were
issued to 
heads of families and single persons. This move was followed by increased
pros- 
perity. Wagons and farming utensils became the sole issue, and each year
new land 
was broken and the farms increased in size, until this year the Omahas have
about 
6,000 acres under cultivation, raising 15,000 bushels of wheat and the promise
of a 
large crop of corn, not to mention vegetables. In the breaking up of the
old village 
the people still clung to the timber, and made their farms in the little
valleys that 
border the streams, and few of those who took out certificates for 160 acres
found all 
those acres arable land. This hindered the development of larger farms, while
the 
distance from market reduced the profit on corn, wheat, potatoes, beans,
&c., which 
had to be hauled from fifteen to thirty miles to meet the railroad. 
Another cause operated to check the courage of the Omahas. During the forcible
removal of the Poncas, a few years since, many of the Omahas visited their
relatives 
in the camp of the Poncas, and learned how unstable is the hold of the Indian
upon 
his land. This led to an examination of their certificates of allotment,
which were 
taken to white lawyers, and the Omahas, who had cherished those certificates
as 
patents, suffered a great disappointment in finding them legally worthless.
The ter- 
ror of the Indian Territory was constantly in their minds and they knew no
peace. 
Two years since it chanced that a student of ethnology, Miss A. C. Fletcher,
of 
Peabody Ethnological Institute, Cambridge, Mass., came to live and study
among 
the Omahas, and becoming interested in the welfare of the people, and sympathizing
with their love of home and land, and their distress that they were not secure
in 
the midst of their own fields, determined to help them. Gathering careful
statistics 
of the labor of the people, a petition to Congress was framed, based on the
idea that 
these Indians had practically homesteaded their lands, having worked from
five to 
fifteen years on their farms. Growing out of this effort was the passage
of a bill, 
approved by the President August 7, 1882, and published in the last report
of the 
honorable Commissioner. During the past three months the work of carrying
out 
the provisions of the bill has been placed in the hands of Miss Fletcher,
who labored 
to secure the land, and the progressive courage manifested by the people
is surprising. 
Realizing that nearness to the railroad and its market will enhance their
profits, 
and that the rolling prairie of the valley of the Logan is the place to make
farms which 
will yield handsomely, a large proportion of the Indians, including nearly
all those 
of the progressive spirit, have selected in this locality, some already having
broken 
land preparatory to crops and setting out cottonwood trees, and the starting
of a new 
home far away from the scenes of the old village life. A few have crossed
the rail- 
road, the line of demarkation between the new limits of the reserve and the
land to 
be sold, and have cast their lot directly among the white people. 
The outlook for the Omaha tribe is propitious. Education and labor will solve
their difficulties. The-close proximity of the white settlements will give
to those 
going out on the Logan the invaluable object lesson of seeing how work should
be 
done, an advantage absolutely necessary to assured success, and impossible
to obtain 
in the seclusion of a reserve. The conservative class are gradually accepting
the 
situation, and it is believed that before the work of allotment is completed
still greater 
numbers will be added to the industrial element in the tribe. The influence
of the 
children at Carlisle, and of the married couple at Hampton, is to make the
people 
prize more highly the opportunities offered on the reserve for sending children
to school. 
SCHOOLS. 
The schools for the Omahas for the past year have been quite successful.
The 
children have advanced rapidly in the knowledge of books and the more important


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