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

[Montana],   pp. 259-270 PDF (6.0 MB)


Page 260

260     REPORT    OF THE     COMMISSIONER      OF INDIAN     AFFAIRS. 
in defense of his father's life ; this occurred at or near Badger Creek,
and I hold the killing 
under any code of laws to have been entirely justifiable.  Near the mouth
of Sun River, in 
March last, a white man was killed; this was a clear case of unprovoked murder,
and was 
done by a war party consisting of thirteen Northern Blackfeet. Notice of
the murder was 
soon communicated to the military authorities at Fort Shaw, and they seemed
as powerless 
to arrest and punish the murderers as were the friendly Piegans and their
agent to prevent it. 
The law approved April 15, 1874, No. 37, entitled "An act to establish
a reservation for 
certain Indians in the Territory of Montana," is an act of gross injustice
to the Indians, 
and ought to be so amended as to make the south bank of the Teton River the
southern 
boundary-line of the reservation, and the powerful influence of the Christian
and humane 
organizations of the United States should be enlisted in behalf of such an
amendment. To 
take from peaceable, friendly Indians a very large portion of their best
hunting and pasture 
land without consultation or remuneration, is a violation of the wise and
Christian policy of 
the Government. 
Farming this year has been discouraging, and an almost total failure. Nearly
40 acres 
were seeded to oats and planted in potatoes, roots, and other products of
the garden. 
Nearly everything was destroyed by grasshoppers that were hatched upon the
farm in the 
early season. Two old Indians tried the experiment of cultivating each an
acre in potatoes 
and other vegetables, but the grasshoppers have left them little or nothing
to stimulate to 
another effort.  The present generation of the tribes of this reservation
will never take much 
interest in agricultural pursuits. The hunt is too attractive and game too
plentiful. 
There is a school here which had an average daily attendance, during the
quarter ending 
June 30, 1874, of twenty-six children. The teacher, B. W. Sanders, must have
the entire 
credit of organizing this school, and in view of the exceedingly crude material
with which 
he had to work, he has cause to congratulate himself upon his success. Many
of the Pie- 
gan parents are willing and anxious to have their children taught ; still
no great progress 
can ever be made in educating their children unless a home can be provided
for them. They 
must be removed from life in the lodge. Children living in lodges are compelled
to go to the 
hunt when their parents do, and, as a consequence, nearly all those enrolled
as scholars are 
fuily half of the year roaming over the prairie. I respectfully ask for an
appropriation, in 
addition to the $1,500 per year already allowed for teachers, of $3,500 to
erect and furnish 
suitable buildings for maintaining a boarding-school, with the capacity for
furnishing a 
home and educational facilities for twenty-five to thirty children. 
The great enemy of the Indians is whisky. The only possible way of putting
an end to 
this traffic is for the Indians to commence warfare upon the traders by destroying
all the 
whisky that is brought among them, and sending these trafficking fiends away
on foot. I 
have advised them to this course, but they hesitate to adopt it, for fear
they might have to 
kill the traders. 
May 1 I accompanied the chiefs and head-men of the Piegans, to the number
of 36, to 
Fort Benton, where I met Special Agent William H. Fanton, who was accompanied
by the 
leading men of the Gros Ventres and Assinaboines. A separate treaty of peace
was entered 
into between each of those tribes and the Piegans, and so far all concerned
are faithfully 
carrying out their treaty stipulations. Since assuming the duties of agent
here I have made 
many efforts to ascertain the number of souls composing the three tribes.
As to the Black- 
feet and Bloods. I have no reliable information. I am led to believe, however,
that they do 
not number over fifteen hundred each, though some accounts place the numbers
much higher. 
Certain it is, that during the past four or five years they have fearfully
diminished in num- 
bers, and have become very poor. The unrestricted intercourse they have enjoyed,
on British 
soil, with the worst and most reckless class of white men on earth, has brought
its attendant 
evils-whisky, powder and ball, disease and death. I have arrived at a more
accurate 
knowledge of the numbers and population of the Piegan lodges; they number
about as fol- 
lows: 
No. of lodges. .No. of Indians. 
Piegrins.         ...--------------------------------------------- 350  
 2,450 
Blackleet-............................................. 225             
1,500 
Bloods-................................................  225            
 1,500 
Total-..........................................  800              5,450
Other estimates place the number of each tribe higher, but I am of the impression
the 
above is high enough. 
On August 1 I commenced taking the census of the Indians-at least of all
entitled to 
draw rations-with the intention of forwarding the same to your office when
completed, but 
find it slow and tedious. Many of the Indians are averse to giving their
names, and in 
many cases they have not named their younger children. To meet this difficulty
I avail 
myself of the ingenuity of the interpreter, H. Robave, in assisting the parents
in naming 
them. To complete this census it will probably take four to six months' time.
R. F. MAY, 
Uaited States Indian Agent for Blackfeet and others. 
Hon. EDWARD P. SMITH, 
Commissioner of indian Affairs, Washington, D. C. 


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