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United States. Office of Indian Affairs / Annual report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, for the year 1879
([1879])

Reports of agents in Dakota,   pp. 19-52 PDF (15.7 MB)


Page 23

REPORTS OF AGENTS IN DAKOTA. 
23 
appears to be in a flourishing condition. Mr. Swift makes the following report
in re- 
gard to the progress of his missionary work: 
"6The church gains steadily in strength and intelligence of its members.
The In- 
dians have &-one a great deal, considering their means, in helping on
the work among 
their people by their offerings. The services are well attended, and characterized
by 
great heartiness and devotion. Higher notions concerning marriage are entertained
among them, though we badly need some legitimate powers for regulating them
in 
their marriage relations. A desperate effort is being made against new ideas
of prog- 
ress and reform by the dancing fraternities, especially by the organization
known as the 
' grass dance.' There is and will be a constant impediment in the way of
moral and 
material improvement as long as these and similar institutions continue.
It is easier, 
however, to recognize the evil than to know how to overcome it." 
INDIAN POLICE AND INDIAN CRIMES. 
On the 5th of November last a squad of nine policemen was organized at this
agency 
under the authority conferred by the Indian appropriation bill for the fiscal
year 1878- 
'79. I confess' that at frst I was not favorably impressed with the organization.
The 
smallness of the force and of the members' pay, the want of arms and other
articles 
requisite for a proper equipment, rendered its efficiency extremely doubtful
to my mind. 
Since then, arms and uniforms have been furnished the force originally organized,
which 
has lately been increased by eleven members, who are as yet not armed or
uniformed. 
It gives me pleasure now, after nine months' experience with these men, to
give it as 
my opinion that, if well equipped and properly handled and disciplined, an
Indian 
police force can be made a very effective instrument for good. 
There is little doubt that the want of physical power to enforce obedience
and to 
punish refractory and criminal Indians is one of the greatest disadvantages
under 
which agents can labor, and that  often greatly impairs, if it does not totally
destroy, 
their usefulness. An agent may order parents to send their children to school,
he may 
admonish men and women to abstain from practicing the sun dance or other
cruel or 
barbarous ceremonies, he may inveigh against polygamy, he may refuse to grant
leaves 
of absence or order renegades from other agencies to return, but being without
phys- 
ical backing, his authority is ever liable to be openly and successfully
defied and set at 
naught. A more potent stimulus than moral suasion is frequently needed and
used to 
bring white men to their senses, and it is therefore not surprising that
coercion and 
punishment are sometimes indispensable in the management of a people who
only a 
few years ago were savages. The Indian respects and readily yields to physical
force, 
but is sometimes hard to move by arguments, however cogent, or advice, however
well 
meant. 
This want of power is in a measure supplied by the police. A detachment of
the 
force, consisting of the captain and five privates, is held ready for service
atthe agency, 
near the office of which a cell has been built in which Indians arrested
by the police 
are confined, if the offense, after due investigation by the agent, warrants
it, the cell 
being guarded by policemen while occupied by prisoners. The other members
of the 
force are stationed at the various camps, but all are assembled at the agency
once a 
week for inspection and instruction. So far 43 arrests have been made, of
which num- 
ber 13 were punished by short terms of imp)risonment,, not exceeding 3 days
in any 
one case, in the cell referred to. As a rule, the policemen have proved efficient
in the 
discharge of their duties and obedient, and the agency interpreter (Mr. Fielder),
a 
very intelligent and valuable man, has made an excellent chief of police.
AFFAIRS AT THE AGENCY PROPER. 
Although a number of white employds were replaced by Indians, and notwithstand-
ing the adoption of a new style of voucher which makes it incumbent upon
every In- 
dian receiving supplies to make his mark thereon-a proceeding which consumes
con- 
siderable time-work has been so systematized at the agency within the past
year that 
the issues are now made in one-fourth of the time that was formerly occupied
for that 
purpose. This arrangement materially reduces the length of the Indians' absence
from 
their camps and work; it also enables the employes to devote more time to
the per- 
formance of necessary work about the agency, besides enabling the white employ6s
to 
visit the villages more frequently for the purpose of instructing or overlooking
In- 
dians in their work. 
A substantial two-story frame building, affording comfortable quarters for
two mar- 
ried employ's, was erected last fall by the labor of the regular employds.
All of the 
public buildings have been kept in good repair and are well adapted for the
purpose 
for which they are designed. 
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant, 
THEO. SCHWAN, 
Captain Eleventh Infantry, 
Acting United States Indian Agent, 
The COMISSIONER OF INDIAN AFFAIRS. 


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