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United States. Office of Indian Affairs / Annual report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, for the year 1865
([1865])

Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs,   pp. [1]-57 PDF (27.2 MB)


Page 2

2      REPORT OF THE COMMISSIONER OF INDIAN AFFAIRS. 
To the subject of traders' licenses, circumstances have caused me to pay
special attention, and I have come to the conclusion that a radical change
in 
either principle or practice, perhaps both, is necessary. I suppose that
I am 
not making a remark which will startle the department by its novelty, when
I 
suggest that there is reason to believe that agents are too often in some
manner 
interested with or for the traders. Certainly there can be no doubt that
if such 
combination of interests should exist, it can only exist to the injury of
the interests 
of the Indians, and consequently of the government. It is not uncommon to
hear 
the apparent rapidly increasing wealth of employ'" of, or officers subordinate
to, 
this office, spoken of as a reproach to the service. I have no idea of undertak-
ing a Quixotic attempt to correct the manners or morals of public officera;
but 
in this particular matter I have been led to believe that an improvement
can be 
effected, partly by the adoption and enforcement of new and stringent rules
by 
the department, and partly by the aid of congressional enactments. I presume
that the presence of traders upon most of the reservations, under proper
guards 
and restrictions, is a benefit to the Indians, enabling them to obtain, in
exchange 
for their furs and other articles furnished by them, such things as they
need for 
their comfort, and I propose to continue to grant licenses to traders as
hereto- 
fore; but, with your concurrence, to annex such conditions to the approval
as 
will compel them to an exchange with the Indians at fair prices, to be estab-
lished from time to time, according to circumstances. This has already been
done in several cases by your direction, and I propose to make the rule a
gene- 
ral one. I have also issued an order or circular-requiring hereafter the
agent or 
superintendent who approves a license (in analogy to the law requiring such
certificate on al contracts made by them) to make the following afdavit on
every license which they may approve, to wit : 
"I, (name of agent,) United States Indian agent for the (name of tribe)
In- 
dians, do solemnly swear (or affirm) (or where there are no magistrates accessi-
ble, certify on honor) that the license hereto annexed and granted by me
has 
been granted without any agreement or understanding with the party so licensed,
or any other person or persons on behalf of the party so licensed, for any
bene- 
fit or advantage to myself, directly or indirectly, present or future, nor
to any 
person or persons on my behalf, in any manner whatever; and that no arrange-
ment for such benefit to myself or other person on my behalf is in contempla-
tion in case this license shall be approved." 
With a view to the correction of such wrongs as may exist, and the preven-
tion of 9thers in future, in relation to a combination of interests between
agents 
and traders or contractors, I suggest an applicatitn to Congress for the
passage 
of a law which shall make it a penal offence for any agent or other officer
in the 
Indian service to be in any manner, directly or indirectly, interested in
the 
profits of the business of any trader, or in any contract for the purchase
of 
goods, or in any trade with the Indians, at their own or any other agency;
the. 
same penalties to apply to the licensing of any relative to trade, or to
purchas- 
ing goods or provisions for the use of the Indians of any firm in which they
or 
any relative may be partners or in any way interested. I do not desire to
push 
legislation to a point where it cannot be enforced, but I think that in this
mat- 
ter the most stringent measures are necessary. 
In connexion with this subject, I feel called upon to suggest that, in order
to 
obtain the services of a class of men who may be expected to keep aloof from
the reprehensible conduct which appears to call for such legislation as is
above 
suggested, there should be an increase of salary provided for the agents.
Fif- 
teen hundred dollars per annum 'is now the established rate of pay, whatever
may be their duties or responsibilities, the amount of their bonds varying
with 
the amount of money annually placed in their hands. The fact that innumera-
ble applicants stand ready to take any places which are vacated is not, in
my 
judgment, an argument against an increase of pay; it is simply a proof of
the 


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