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 1855

[Minnesota superintendency],   pp. 48-68 PDF (8.7 MB)

Page 52

the dress of the whites as a whole, while a still larger number have 
in part. This, to me, is one of the most interesting features in their 
advancement towards civilization that has been made since my resi- 
dence among them, and it appears to me to be one which should be 
fostered and encouraged by the officers of the government to the 
extent of their ability; my theory is, that no Indian (or a white man 
either) can ever labor to advantage, so long as one arm is required to 
hold on to his blanket; discarding the blanket, the arms and body 
are free, then only is the will required; with such examples as their 
head chief has given them, the " Iwill" will not long be wanting.
As an encouragement to discard their own dress, care should be had 
in selecting their goods for annuity payments; to purchase such arti- 
cles only as will be useful and attractive; select their calico of pleasing
patterns and fast colors, to encourage the wearing of frocks and wash- 
ing; give them linseys, flannel and stockings, rather than leggins 
and strouding. Give me a sufficiency of linsey, calico and stockings, 
and I will guarantee that in two years every woman in the tribe will 
discard the stroud and leggins; shawls will then take the place of 
blankets, and the habits of civilized life will rapidly follow the change
of dress. The men do not so readily adopt the custom of the whites, 
but all to whom coats were given wear them, and appear to be proud 
of them. Many of the Indians are in the habit of making coats of 
their blankets. Were they furnished with the right kind of coats 
they would be of daily use, and would soon take the place of tho 
blanket; pants would follow, of course, and the revolution in dress 
be complete. To insure the purchase of such kind of goods, particu- 
larly in calico and linseys, as would be most pleasing to the Indian, 
they should be purchased in open market. The traders pay less for 
goods and generally get a better article than is furnished the Indians 
'by the contract system. 
About a year since, as an inducement to the Indians to refrain from 
their wandering life, I promised to all who would build themselves 
houses and live in them, that I would give them cooking-stoves; sev- 
eral families have embraced my offer, and have very comfortable 
houses. I believe it my duty, as an agent of the government, to em- 
brace every opportunity and offer all reasonable inducements to these 
untutored creatures to advance them in civilization, to give up their 
wandering habits, settle permanently somewhere, adopt the custom 
and habits of some of their whitle neighbors, and to cultivate the soil.
Very many of the goods paid to the Indians at the late payment 
were in a damaged condition. Upon investigation, I became satisfied 
that the goods were damaged before they reached St. Paul. As the 
business is conducted, I am expected to receive or receipt for the goods
at St. Paul, 150 miles distant from my residence, the agency. An 
agent cannot always be present (I never have been) when the goods 
are landed at St. Paul. Again: when landed the outside of the boxes, 
bales, &c., may look in good order, when the fact is, as in this case,
they had been soaked; the outside dry, but in the inside the goods 
mildewed, rusty, spoiled, as was the case with some of the calico-we 
presumed it was calico, as the packing list called for calico, but the 
figures were all soaked out. I had no resource but to give it to the 

Go up to Top of Page