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United States. Office of Indian Affairs / Annual report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, for the year 1874
([1874])

Papers accompanying the report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1874,   pp. [85]-[180] PDF (27.0 MB)


Page 93

REPORT    OF THE    COMMISSIONER      OF INDIAN     AFFAIRS.      93 
the officers accompanying him were favorably impressed with this country,
and ad- 
vised its selection as a suitable location for an agency. Upon our return
to their camp 
Major Howard and myself coincided in their opinion, and thought that here
we had 
found a location which, though not all that could be desired, was yet as
good as we 
could hope to find on the lands belonging to the Sioux. We had previously
agreed, 
while at the South Fork, to recommend the mouth of this same stream, and
had so 
reported to Bishop Hare, the official head of our commission, but this upper
crossing 
was found to he a much better country; and, as the distance from the agency
was the 
same as the other place, we determined to recommend the change. 
THE NORTH AND THE BLACK HILLS. 
From this camp we proceeded northward, to examine further the valley of this
stream 
to its mouth, and, if thought expedient, to look at the country about Buffalo
Gate, tho 
South Pass into the Black Hill range, a country selected by Spotted Tail
as the most 
favorable location for an agency in the Black Hill country. We found the
valley of 
the White Clay toward the mouth not so good as the upper part of the stream.
The 
benches are higher, and there is very little good grass. Timber, however,
is in 
some places quite abundant. We saw near the valley a large hill fenced in
with a 
double hedge of thorn-bush, made by 'he Indians many years ago as a place
to drive 
and entrap deer and antelope, and from the carcasses covering the prairie.
I should think 
they had great success.  Further on we found pits dug by them  for entrapping
eagles. A few Indians have planted along this stream, but their corn is entirely
destroyed by grasshoppers. We encamped at Bute Cache, below the mouth of
the 
Big White Clay, to prepare for our trip northward. We dismissed all unnecessary
wagons and our attendants mostly dismissed themselves, going back on one
pretext 
and another, but really fearing to accompany us. Our guides and teamsters
all left, 
and only three men from the agency agreed to go with us. But Thigh, our Indian
scout, returned, and, though threatened by the Brulds, remained with us to
the end of 
our journey.  At this camp Spotted Tail and Two Strike, Bruld chiefs, visited
us and endeavored to dissuade us from going north. They seemingly thought
the 
journey hazardous and full of difficulty.  I explained to them the desire
of the 
Indian Office to have a full knowledge of all their country, and told them
of the 
exaggerated reports that the whites had heard of its wealth, fertility, &c.,
and the 
good that would be done their people by having its real character known.
Spotted 
Tail then described the country fully, and pointed out our best route, and
consented to 
our making a short tour of observation as we desired. It is but just to him
to say 
that we found his description of the country correct in every particular.
We left our camp near Bute Cache early in the morning, taking a northwesterly
course, and before noon were on the divide between the White River and the
South 
Fork of the Cheyenne. The prairie is of light clayey soil, and is covered
with 
prickly-pear. Here we came in full view of the Black Hills. For sixty miles
east and 
west they lie stretched out before us, rising from the prairie across the
Cheyenne 
like some giant sentinel of the plains, sinking toward the west till they
are almost 
lost in the plain, hut rising toward the east till they are covered with
mountain- 
pine, and finally overtopped by Harney Peak and the cathedral-like Sierras
behind 
it, which, being above the pine-line, are bald and white, and bathed in sunlight.
We 
encamp for the second time on the South Fork of the Cheyenne. The country
is 
more sandy than below and the trees were bushes as compared with their lowland
growth. 
We find large trails of war-parties and of families moving toward Red Cloud
agency. 
We reach the Cheyenne, near the mouth of the Burntwood, a stream coming down
from the hills. It is dry at the mouth, and has only scattering trees and
bushes. We 
determine to ascend this stream .to the hills. We find the country broken
and cut up 
and the hills either bad laud or clay, and many of them are covered with
pebbles and 
gypsum. Occasionally in the bed of the stream there are pools of water. At
night 
we encamp by a rocky basin and pool just outside the hills and in sight of
the pines 
that cover them. We find the grass short and burned, and find hardly any
wood, and 
the country is rough and broken and cut out by wash. The water, though scarce,
is 
pure and cold. There is very little game here. We have crossed the great
Indian 
trail leading around the hills, and we found no recent signs of travelers.
Two of our 
attendants go out to look for a pass into the mountain, and returning after
dark, report 
success. They find this valley passable; but the pines are so thick, that
some must 
be cut away for our road. We go into camp, and continue our march early in
the 
morning. The hills are higher, and some of them are cut by wash or broken
by 
landslides.  They are of clay, and the color is red, almost vermilion, and
under- 
lying them is sandstone of the same color. We soon reach narrow valleys and
running streams. The hills are capped with pines, the valleys have dwarf-elders
and plum-bushes, the grass is green aiid fresh by the springs, and we find
sumec stran go 


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