United States. Office of Indian Affairs / Annual report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, for the year 1884
Reports of agents in Dakota, pp. 20-63 PDF (21.1 MB)
54 REPORTS OF AGENTS IN DAKOTA. CIVILIZATION. Indians are proverbially slow to abandon their time-honored customs and supersti- tions or to adopt the white man's civilization, and the Indians of this agency are no exception to the rule. They are, however, making steady progress, which I believe will be lasting, as every step is being made a permanent gain. Three years ago the "tom-tom" (drum) was in constant use, and the sun dance, scalp dance, buffalo dance, kiss dance, and grass dance, together with a number of feast and spirit dances, were practiced in all their barbaric grandeur; but all these are now "things of the past," the grass dance alone excepted, which dance is their simplest amusement and the least objectionable of any, and this is only tolerated on Saturday afternoon of each week. A majority of the Indians have adopted the white man's dress, and in fact all of them would if they could afford it; but a blanket and "breech-cloth" is less expensive and more easily obtained. During the present summer over two hundred of the leading young men came into the agency and had their hair cut, which, from an Indian standpoint, is quite a step towards civilization when they part with their long hair braids. A large majority of the Indians of this agency are really anxious to better their condition. They are not lazy, and only need proper assistance to advance more rap- idly. In this connection I will quote from office circular No. 127, dated May 15, 1884, wherein the honorable Secretary of the Interior says that- "The boy that has seen his father plow, mow, and gather the fruits of the field will do it without special instruction. Not so with an Indian; he must be taught to hold the plow, how to prepare and keep in order his scythe, when to put in and when to harvest his crop, and a thousand things acquired by farmers' sons by observation must be taught specially to an Indian youth.'; This applies directly to every Indian commencing an agricultural life, and to expect him to succeed without such instructions is absurd, and with the inadequate help at the disposal of an agent, and the absolute necessity for such practical'and skilled in- structors, is it any wonder that the work of civilization and advancement of the In- dians is being prolonged? In an interview with the honorable Senate committee, when they visited this agency in August, 1883, I had the honor to set forth my' views as to the best means of advancing the Indians, and also in several subsequent communica- tions on the same subject to prominent Eastern gentlemen who are interested in In- dian civilization, and I will here repeat what I then stated and what I know to be practical; that in order to give the Indians comfortable homes in the shortest possi- ble time, and place them on the sure road to prosperity, the best means is to locate a practical farmer in each Indian settlement, who should have charge of from 50 to 100 families, such instructors to reside in the respective districts, and be with the Indians daily to instruct and direct them; and it is but reasonable to believe that five years of such practical instruction would do more towards the agricultural and pastoral advancenent of the Indians, by bringing about better order and method in their work, than twenty years of the present "hap-hazard" system can possibly effect. The Gov- ernment would thus be the sooner relieved of the burden of taxation, and humanity would be correspondingly benefited. The iadvancement of Indians in agriculture and stock-raising, with their inherent indifference, is a work of such magnitude that the ingrafting and leavening process must necessarily be slow, an d it is therefore essential that they be started on the right road and encouraged by such assistance as will make their labor remunerative. This can only be profitably done, however, by constant surveillance and patient teaching at their respective homes-in their every-day life, and with 1,170 families (nearly 5,000 Indians), scattered over a territory 70 miles in length, as at this agency, and with only sufficient employ6 help to conduct the Government affairs of the agency, so seldom are we enabled to do anything in assist- ing those who are attempting to become agriculturists or stock-raisers, that it results ;in their progress being very slow, and unprofitable to themselves as well as to the Govern- -ment. I am therefore confident that the employment of practical instructors to reside .among the Indians would be the most economical and humane means by which the Indians could be benefited, and, owing to the existing need for such instructors, I would recommend a reduction of the present ration, if necessary, in order to secure them. And furthermore, in order to compel the indolent and indifferent to assist in their own support, I would advise the gradual diminution of the "established ration" intil no more would be required; but where Indians are by treaty stipulations en- titled to certain subsistence I would substitute something more lasting and bene- Acial, by giving the Indians practical instructors, agricultural implements and neces- ,sary tools, and stock cattle as they would learn to use and properly care for them. It may appear as too unqualified what I here state, but I fully believe that with a practical farmer residing in each Indian settlement, together with a sufficient number of schools and school teachers, with education made compulsory, the rising genera- tion would in ten years become producers, instead of remaining consumers, as the present pauperizing system is calculated to perpetuate.
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