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United States. Office of Indian Affairs / Annual report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, for the year 1856

[Central superintendency],   pp. 65-131 PDF (28.8 MB)

Page 66

The country inhabited by the various Indian tribes of this superin- 
tendency may be characterized as unsuited to agricultural purposes, 
with the exception of a narrow belt, beginning at the southern ex- 
tremity of Kansas Territory, and bordering upon the Missouri State 
line and the Missouri river, extending northwestwardly to the valley of 
the l'Eau qui court, and a tract of country on the east side of the 
Missouri, which extends from the Big Sioux northwardly about eighty- 
five miles to Dorion's Bluff. This region is fertile, but scantily sup- 
plied with wood and coal. The residue of the country, bounded on 
the north by the 49th parallel of latitude, on the south by the Ar- 
kansas river, and on the west by the Rocky mountains, is, for the 
most part, badly supplied with water and timber, but produces buffalo 
grass luxuriantly, which retains much of its nutritious quality during 
the winter, and may perhaps eventually prove valuable for grazing 
I am gratified in being able to report that the Blackfeet, Flathead, 
Nez Perces, and other Indian tribes, parties to the treaty of the Judith,
residing on or near the headwaters of the Missouri river, have been 
at peace since the negotiation of that treaty, and have refused all par-
ticipation in the hostilities of the tribes of Oregon and Washington 
The establishment of a common hunting ground has produced bene- 
ficial results, and the exchange of horses, peltry, and other articles 
of barbarous commerce, has succeeded to the conflicts of war and ra- 
pine. The treaty amply provides for the instruction of the Blackfeet 
in the arts of civilization; and they may hereafter attain the same 
advancement in Christianization, and in the peaceful arts, as their 
neighbors, the Flatheads, Nez Perc's, and others, who have been so 
long fostered and instructed by the self-sacrificing Jesuits on the wes-
tern slope of the-mountains. The Blackfeet, though absolutely bar- 
barous, are yet intelligent, and, to a great degree, tractable. The 
Blackfeet country abounds with buffalo, elk, deer, and other game, 
and though fit for grazing, it partakes of the general sterility before 
adverted to. It contains, however, a few districts, limited in extent, 
but adapted to cultivation, and supplied with some timber and water. 
The Missouri river is navigable for boats drawing thirty-four inches 
from a point twenty-five miles below its falls to its mouth, a distance 
of more than twenty-nine hundred miles. Thirty-five miles below 
the Judith begins the first of the three inconsiderable rapids, none of 
which present any important obstacle to navigation. When the char- 
acter of the navigation of the river becomes more generally known, it 
will be the thoroughfare to Utah, Oregon, and Washington Territo- 
ries. In ascending this river beyond Fort Benton, the first fall is 
eighty-nine feet in perpendicular height. The upper fall, seven miles 
beyond this, is thirty-five feet in height. The intermediate space pre- 
sents minor falls and a succession of rapids. Above the falls there is 
uninterrupted navigation for small boats for three hundred miles, in 
a southerly direction. 
The country lying between the Yellowstone and the Missouri rivers 
is peculiarly sterile and destitute of both wood and water. The 
nivigation of the Yellowstone extends six hundred miles from its 

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