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United States. Office of Indian Affairs / Annual report of the commissioner of Indian affairs, for the year 1892
([1892])

Reports of agents in Washington,   pp. 487-511 PDF (12.8 MB)


Page 510

510              REPORTS OF AGENTS IN WASHINGTON. 
In addition to the days occupied in visiting I have had Indians at my home
on forty-seven 
days. who came for help, counsel, and sympathy, in fact, for whatever they
felt in need. 
it is impossible to tell how many have been induced to adopt civilized practices
in their house- 
holds in my short time of service as field matron, as many have had more
or less instruction 
by others, and but for the preceding eleven months of my work as missionary
I should have 
found it difficult to accomplish anything in many cases. I have been under
the necessity of 
running after women, even into the fields (as they are shy with strangers,
and sometimes 
afraid), but now they welcome m6 wherever I go, simply because they have
become acquainted 
and learned to know me. Old women come to me if they are destitute of food,
or a young wo- 
man comes for help in making a dress for her baby; one comes for me to prepare
broth for a 
sick child (expecting me to furnish material) or to put an alleviator on
a sore tooth or eyes' 
to cut a pattern or dress; to write a note; to hear complaints, or to explain
many things which 
they do not understand. Young women and girls come and I teach sewing or
a bit of fancy 
work, giving them the materials, or the use of patterns in dressmaking-anything
that they 
are willing to learn. Some come just to see me and my house. I am obliged
to do this work 
whenever they come (if I am at home), as the setting apart of a day in the
week does not cause 
them to come on that day. Even when they wish to learn (which is often not
the case) they 
are in no hurry, as, for instance, I went five times to teach one woman to
make biscuit before 
she was ready to learn, though f had given her flour and baking powder. 
I have made the fire at church and rung the bell for service, tolled the
bell for burials, led 
prayer meetings, held funeral service, preached, and one couple came to me
to perform the 
marriage ceremony, which service I had to decline. 
The number of families visited is not commensurate wich the number of visitsmade,
as one visit 
counts for but little, and it is often necessary to make several before any
apparent progress is 
made. A few families have been visited but once, many of them a number of
times, and at one 
home I visited a sick woman twice a day for several successive days, furnishing
and preparing 
all her food and looking after her comfort in various ways. This is possible
in but few cases 
as most of the Indians live at a distance varying from 3 to 40 miles. 
In visiting I frequently find two or more families in one house, sometines
living as one f am- 
ily; in other cases each family providing for itself. For this and other
reasons it is difficult 
to tell the exact number belonging to each family. Many have vague ideas
in regard to de- 
grees of relationship, and seem suspicious of many questions, and yet some
very old women 
have given me the most information onthe subject. The difficulty arising
from different lan- 
guages I have been able to so far overcome that I get along in most cases
without an inter- 
preter. 
While most of our people have houses of some sort, it is also true that nearly
all live outside 
of them all summer. I am myself glad to be camped by the creek, instead of
being shut up in 
the house when the mercury goes up to 110 (as it has done), and not a shower
all summer. 
Consequently there is not the same incentive to the care of houses that there
is in the East. 
The houses are small and very scantily furnished, as most of the Indians
are poor and find it 
hard to get money enough for necessary food and clothing. 
So far as my opportunities for observation go, most of the women cook well
whatever they 
can get to cook, though they sometimes serve the food in "the good old-fashioned
way," i. e., 
by spreading a mat on the ground and using it for a table. They do this even
when there is a 
table in the house ; Indians being so made like white people that they prefer
(oftentimes) the 
old accustomed ways to foreign innovations; and it is only by patient and
persevering, yet 
kind and loving, efforts that they are led to gradually adopt "Boston"I
ways. 
In order to teach " regularity in meals" it would be necessary
to supply food material, to a 
great extent, in many of the homes, as the familiar saying that "with
Indians it is either feast- 
ing or famishing," fits those on this reservation as well as others.
While many are industrious, and in a sense provident (and a few are able
to buy whatever 
they need), many more are very poor, scarcely able to-provide for a day,
begging food from the 
agent or from those who have a little surplus, or going to eat wherever they
know there is 
food. Those who are better off never refuse to feed the poor or the lazy
ones; and if a man 
"kills a beef" or brings a load of salmon from the Columbia, the
probability is that he will 
give away the greater part of it to the numbers who flock to him like chickens
to the corn 
basket. I have eaten with six different families, and have seen the food
from many homes as 
prepared for our Fourth of July dinner, and I think the cooking equal to
the average in the 
country homes. 
Many women keep their scant stock of clothing clean, though, sometimes, I
do not see how 
they do it unless the children go to bed until their clothes are washed.
It is impracticable for 
laundry work to be done systematically, and I am glad to see so many "pieces"
on the line, 
whether it is on regulation Monday or some'other day. 
The same poverty (and nomadic habit) interferes with teaching the "adorning
of homes with 
pictures, curtains, etc." When people find it difficult to get sufficient
food they have nothing 
to spare for adornment, and my stock of supplies is limited. I have, however,
given many 
pictures and other small articles of household or personal adornment, as
friends in the East 
have from time to time kindly sent to me. Indian women make mats of rushes
and of rags; 
baskets of twine and husks, and they are generally industrious. 
Our work with them is, of necessity, slow work; yet not for that reason to
be neglected. I do 
hope the field matrons will not be discouraged at difficulties, but putting
hearts of love into the 
work, and remembering that "our Master" said" Ye have done
it unto me," may they go on 
and help prepare them for the timewhen. instead of Indian tribes, we shall
recognize individu- 
als who are subject to and protected by the same laws as their white brethren;
and instead of 
reservations we shall see not only farms, but villages and cities, wherein
good schools shall 
furnish instruction alike to white and Indian children. 
Wherever water is obtainable they plant trees near the houses ; but in this
country, where it 
never rains, no grass, flowers, or anything else can be grown without irrigation,
except on 
some low lands along the streams and near the river, where a good deal of
hay is produced. 
This, however, gives revenue to but very few individuals. Most of the land
is "sage brush"- 
desert and worthless without water, of which the only source is the small
streams and springs, 
with limited facilities for distributing the small supply. Yet, many manage
to raise vegetables 
and fruit; and if our Indians had thousands of dollars to pay for an irrigating
canal, with the 
business ability to manage such an enterprise, they might have orchards and
grain fields, in- 
stead of desert lands. 
This also renders impracticable the keeping of milch cows to any great extent,
and the stock 
is mostly "on the range," getting its own living. It is impossible
to get milk, except in a few 
instances, where the Indian is so fortunate as to have pasturage near home.
This is one of my 
I 
I 


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