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United States. Office of Indian Affairs / Annual report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, for the year 1884
([1884])

Reports of agents in Dakota,   pp. 20-63 PDF (21.1 MB)


Page 54

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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