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United States. Office of Indian Affairs / Annual report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, for the year 1884
([1884])

Reports of agents in Dakota,   pp. 20-63 PDF (21.1 MB)


Page 60

60                 REPORTS OF AGENTS IN         DAKOTA. 
to lands, perhaps, too prominent in this report, but hope to be excused on
the ground 
that these are the leading subjects in the minds of the thinking Indians
of this reser- 
vation. 
CITIZENSHIP. 
It becomes a serious question as to what qualifications, if any, should be
attached 
before the Indian should be invested with the right of citizenship. Many
of the 
Yanktons, and of full blood, are to-day better qualified to exercise this
prerogative 
than scores of white men who enjoy the right. Here there is no intemperance,
and if 
the Indians were allowed to vote, the ballot would not be polluted by that
worst of 
all evils, drunkenness. Certainly the egis of law should be extended over
the reser- 
vation, and the Indians should come under the protection of the local government.
Criminals should be punished; and if so, it seems but right that the Indians
should 
have a voice in electing the men who frame the laws for their protection.
In 1867, as 
special Indian commissioner appointed by the President to visit the Indians
in the 
neighborhood of Fort Phil Kearney, and to counsel with them under instructions.
from the Secretary of the Interior, in the rep6rt I had the honor to submit,
I used 
the following language in speaking of the hostile Indians who were then at
war with 
us: 
When these are humbled and subdued, let the terms of peace be based upon
the condition that they 
go upon a reservation, where, until they become self-sustaining, a liberal
support should be provided;. 
in addition, the Government should furnish them with teachers, farmers, and
mechanics, whose duty 
it should be to instruct them in Christianity, husbandry, andtrade. When
sufficiently civilized, con- 
fer upon them ail the privileges of citizenb.hip. 
Seventeen years have passed since this then startling recommendation was
made, 
but they have been years of amelioration and progress, with a steady approach
to a 
higher plane, a better destiny for the "red man." With seventeen
years more of like 
progress he will become our brother in religion, our equal in political enjoyments.
THE AGENCY INDIANS. 
In person the men of my agency are of good physique, rather tall in stature,
and 
well formed. As a nation they are renowned in history for their deeds of
valor in 
their numerous wars with other tribes, but boast that they never shed the
blood of 
the white man. They are peaceable among themselves, seldom have disputes
with 
each other, and most of them readily conform to the rules prescribed for
their govern- 
ment. As among white men, all are not good, but I unhesitatingly say, based
upon 
close observation and daily contact with them, that there are less idle,
worthless 
men among them than are found in one of our villages of equal population.
Some of 
my Indian farmers have inspired me with great respect. In personal dress
and ap- 
pearance, as also in good sense and pleasant manners, they are the equal
of some of' 
our prominent Western white farmers. 
The example of these men is doing much towards abolishing former custom6
and 
bringing their neighbors up to a higher standard. There are a few who still
cling to 
the blanket, disguise their faces with paint, and adorn their heads with
feathers; but 
these men are the leaders and advocates of the Indian dance. My predecessor
says 
he found Indian dancing a common recreation on the reservation, and, in order
to cur- 
tail it, allowed them to meet every Saturday night in a house near the agency,
where 
they regularly hold their weekly orgies. Here, in feathers and paint, with
the jing- 
ling of bells and beating of drums, the men dance, recounting their deeds
of valor in 
speech and song. At last, carried away by frenzied excitement, they at times
give 
away their property, and occasionally their wives. While the dance is in
progress 
the squaws are busily engaged outside in preparing the dog feast, which towards
morning is eaten with much relish, being considered the most toothsome delicacy
that 
can be set before the uncivilized Indians. These dances are not only opposed
to, but 
stand in the way of progress. There are comparatively but few who indulge
in this 
old custom. In my opinion strong measures, if necessary, should be adopted
to break 
up a custom which is so entirely at variance with progressive industry and
civiliza- 
tion. 
TRIBAL RELATIONS. 
These are fast disappearing. Fealty to chiefs no longer exists among the
Yankton 
Indians of this reservation. While they are divided into bands with nominal
heads 
or chiefs, but little attention is paid to their quasi authority. These divisions
ought 
not to exist, and, if wiped out, another step would be gained for civilization.
Farm- 
ing is fast individualizing the Indians. Some of the older men of the tribe
who have 
been prominent chiefs yield a reluctant obedience to the results of agricultural
in- 
dustry. In proportion as Indians cultivate the soil, gather property, they
learn to 
think and act for themselves. Their former chiefs, however valuable in war,
have 
neither the disposition nor knowledge to aid them in farming. Each man must
de- 
pend upon his own efforts in planting and raising his crop, and this self-reliance
changes 
AL                   [I 


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