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 1874
([1874])

[Montana],   pp. 259-270 PDF (6.0 MB)


Page 266

266     REPORT    OF THE    COMMISSIONER       OF INDIAN     AFFAIRS. 
souri River, between Forts Buford and Benton, and extends north to the forty-ninth
paral- 
lel of latitude. 
Excepting a few localities, the soil and climate of this entire belt of country
are very poorly 
adapted to the cultivation and maturity of crops. The soil generally being
of an alkaline 
nature, is soft and spongy in the spring of the year, and during the summer
either becomes 
dry and loose, possessing the characteristics of what are termed "bad
lands," or bakes, so as 
to be unfit for cultivation. 
The growing-season, owing to the late and early frosts, is very short, and
also extremely 
liable to drought, hail-storms, and grasshopper visitations. However, as
an Indian reserva- 
tion it undoubtedly possesses this advantage, that during the present generation
it is not 
liable to be overrun or encroached upon by white communities seeking good
agricultural 
localities. If in the future the Indians demonstrate that they can sustain
themselves here by 
agriculture or other civilized pursuits, they will do it in a region where,
it is now thought, 
white industry cannot thrive. 
The number of Indians really subsisting at this agency I have not as yet
been able., by actual 
count, to ascertain; such a reliable census has never been taken. A portion
of the Indians 
have strongly opposed the ticket-system, or any attempt on my part to obtain
a correct census. 
During last fall and wcinter an extraordinary number of Indians was subsisted
here. 
Many of our own Indians were then coming and going; others from Grand River,
Totten, 
Berthold, and other agencies were temporarily here on a visit or hunt, and
considering all 
the circumstances I deemed it impracticable to insist on making an exact
enrollment at that 
time. In many instances I have been under the necessity of taking their own
count, even 
when I questioned its correctness. The following list, the lowest and most
reliable one yet 
obtained, exhibits the number of Indians receiving supplies at this agency,
viz: 
Persons. 
Assinaboines-.......    ----..--..................-------------------.1,998
Santee and Sisseton Sioux..  ....------------------------------------   1,
065 
Yanctonnai Sioux.       .       .         .       ..---------------------------------------------------
. 2,266 
Uncpapa Sioux---------------.--------------------------------------------1,420
Uncpatina Sioux -..............................-------------------     460
Mixed-bloods--------------  ------------------------------------------- 
  98 
Total number...........-------------------------------------------------7,307
The above estimate will not vary much from an actual enrollment. I am unable
to state 
as to the number of males and females. 
Belonging to this agency are no less than three distinct classes or grades
of Indians as re- 
spects their progress toward civilization. In the first class may be embraced
the Assinaboine 
and Santee Sioux. These Indians, owing, perhaps, to their weakness as compared
to other 
branches of the great Sioux Nation, and their long acquaintance and association
with the 
whites, are docile, friendly, and peaceable. They appear to comprehend their
situation and 
inevitable destiny to a much greater degree than any other uncivilized Indians
living on or 
near the Upper Missouri ; and were it riot for buffalo and other game, an
irresistible attrac- 
tion to the Indian, still found in the north and west, the Assinaboine and
Santee Sioux would 
be ready at once to adopt habits of industry and conform to the modes of
civilized life. 
In frequent councils .with these Indians, their chiefs and headmen, prominent
among 
whom is Red Stone, the Assinaboine chief, have often expressed to me a willingness
to engage 
in pastoral and agricultural pursuits, provided I could give them such assistance
and encour- 
agement as they needed in their present impoverished condition. Therefore,
in accordance 
with my advice and their request, I made a requisition in February last for
twenty yoke of 
work-oxen, some plows, harrows, seeds, &c., which was referred to Hon.
Secretary of the 
Interior, approved, and authority given me to advertise for proposals and
enter into contract 
for the same. This consumed much time, and caused such delay that the articles
could not 
be purchased, delivered, and made available for the present season. However,
they are now 
being delivered at this agency, and will be ready for use early next spring.
I am fully aware that the expenditure of money for farming-purposes in this
locality may 
be regarded as a very uncertain experiment, for many similar ones have been
made with 
other Indians and failed. I also know that there are many obstacles and discourage-
ments to encounter-such as the extreme aversion of Indian men to labor, their
inborn rest- 
lessness and nomadic habits, their great impatience and want of persevering
effort, their 
utter lack of fortitude in disappointment-and I realize that they are wholly
unaccustomed 
to Wait for the remuneration of labor, which agriculture necessitates, and
the great uncertainty 
of success consequent upon the extreme liability of this latitude to untimely
frosts, excessive 
droughts, destructive hail-storms, and grasshopper-visitations. Yet, notwithstanding
all 
these apparent hinderances, I am still ofthe opinion the experiment is worth
making; for 
if successful it will not only greatly assist and encourage these Indians,
but it will also be a 
very important step toward their ultimate civilization; and if unsuccessful,
it may evince to 
Congress and the American people that the "Star of Empire" has
pushed these unfortunate 
beings from every fertile spot of their former heritage, and driven them
out upon a tract of conn- 
try valueless alike both to whites and Indians, and left them where, without
assistance fr'om the 
Government, they must perish by starvation or steal. 


Go up to Top of Page