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United States. Office of Indian Affairs / Annual report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, for the year 1874
([1874])

Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs,   pp. [3]-17 PDF (6.6 MB)


Page 7

REPORT OF THE COMMISSIONER OF INDIAN AFFAIRS.          7 
they inhabit is not adapted to their support in a civilized mode of life.
Undoubtedly a much larger number of white people could maintain 
themselves by farming and herding in the vast domain assigned to the 
Sioux, but this is possible only to a people trained to such habits of 
thrift and industry as would enable them to sustain themselves for one 
year, or even two, in event of loss of crops by drought or grasshoppers.
An Indian farmer must be far along in civilization before he will have 
become forehanded enough for such an emergency, and it would be 
scarcely possible for the Sioux to come from barbarism to this condition
in a country where they are liable to such losses two years out of five.
It may be said that the Government can come to their aid and carry 
them over these occasional years of failure; but such help, teaching the
Indian to rely on other resources than his own, would be a constant 
lesson in improvidence, and thus tend to defeat the end in view. The 
larger portion of the Territory is unsuited to herding on account of the
severe winters, which make it necessary to provide hay during several 
months of the year. Proper care of cattle in such circumstances pre- 
supposes a degree of civilization of Indians which would place them 
above all necessity of Government guardianship. The ponies which the 
Indians now raise in large numbers, being more hardy than cattle, sur- 
vive the cold and hunger of a Dakota winter with such support as they 
get from the grass under the snow, and the bark of the cotton-wood 
tree. But these ponies, even if a market was found for them, could not 
be raised in sufficient numbers to furnish a means of support to a peo- 
ple in civilized life. 
The Sioux now upon the Missouri River can possibly find suitable soil 
and wooded country sufficient for as large an experiment of civilization
as they can for some years to come be induced to undertake, though not 
without serious disadvantages. Many of these Indians along the Mis- 
souri, as will be seen by the reports of their respective agents, are al-
ready beginning in earnest to labor for themselves. The stock cattle 
furnished at Cheyenne, Crow Creek, and Yankton agencies one year ago 
have been as well cared for by these Indians as could have been ex- 
pected, and more are now called for by others at these agencies and at 
Red Cloud and Spotted Tail. The experiment in this direction at Grand 
River was not so successful. This process of settling down will gradu- 
ally extend until the bands along the river are brought into a degree of
civilization that will render them no longer hostile or dangerous to 
neighboring settlers; but it is not at all likely that the country will fur-
nish them with-such farms and means of subsistence as to make it un- 
necessary to provide for a certain portion of their support yearly; and 
the furnishing of this support will, in itself, retard and in many ways 
damage the process of civilization. 
For the main portion of the Sioux Nation living in Northern Montana, 
and west of the Missouri River in Dakota, there is not even this degree 
of hopeful prospect, on account of the barrenness of their country. 
THE BLACK HILLS EXPEDITION. 
A military reconnoitering expedition to the country in Southwestern 
Dakota, known as the Black Hills, occasioned great excitement among 
the whole Sioux people during the summer. They regard it as a palpa- 
ble infraction of their treaty stipulations, and were filled with the appre-
hension that it might lead to their exclusion from a country held sacredly
their own, and highly prized as their home and last refuge from the en- 
croachment of settlements. The exaggerated accounts of rich mines 


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