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SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR
OPERATIONS OF THE DEPARTMENT
YEAR ENDED JUNE 30, 1876.
GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE.
THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR.
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,
Washington, D. C., October 31, 1876.
SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of this Department during the past year, with such suggestions and recommendations as in my judgment would promote the efficiency of the public service:
I beg to call your attention to the accompanying report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, which, together with the reports of the superintendent and agents, shows progress and steady improvement, giving most satisfactory evidence of the gradual advancement of the Indian in the habits of industry and development of agricultural ability and disposition. Each year adds greatly to the total number of acres cultivated by Indian labor and most gratifying results in the increasing number of laborers and amount of products. Personal industry, with its practical lessons of the benefits and increased comforts it secures, and a growing taste and desire for education, must be relied upon as the great elements in working out the problem of Indian civilization.
The evidence conveyed by a careful perusal of the reports of the dif ferent agents is most gratifying, as showing what steady advancement is being made in this direction.
Relying upon the sincerity of purpose and integrity of the officers in charge of the agencies, I think that it is a matter for congratulation that, in view of the sacrifice of home comforts and advantages which the agents must make, enduring the hardships and surroundings of a frontier-life for the very inadequate salaries allowed, so intelligent and capable men have been secured. For this result we are indebted to the various Christian organizations of the country, upon whose recommendation of fitness the appointments have been made.
The self-sacrificing spirit of the missionary has to be united to practical business ability, and, when secured in the slow and often disheartening task of Indian education, should be properly acknowledged and compensated. The Commissioner makes some earnest recommendations upon this subject which I most heartily commend; especially,
that an appropriation be made, to be distributed as additional compensation to those having in charge the most important and difficult agencies.
No matter what particular policy may be pursued in regard to the Indian, I believe that the one feature of educating him and making him self-supporting, or as nearly so as possible, must always be steadify adhered to. The alternative cannot fail to be gradual extinction of the race. If he is to be taught, the success must depend upon the teacher, and the best material attainable should be secured, and paid accordingly. The sooner he is taught to provide for his own support, the earlier the Government will be relieved therefrom.
With the exception of the troubles in Dakota, with the hostile Sioux, we may say that, practically, all of the Indians are upon reservations entirely under the control of the Department, and making commendable improvement. It is believed that by spring the trouble in Dakota will be ended and all liability of Indian wars in the future removed.
Trouble with the non-treaty Indians, consisting principally of renegades from various tribes under the leadership of Sitting Bull, had been foreseen for a long time, and the services of the Army were finally invoked to put a stop to the pillaging and outrages perpetrated by them upon the white settlers and friendly Indians in their vicinity.
Reports had been received showing that 60 white men had been killed and half a million dollars' worth of property destroyed by them, and their depredations had become simply unbearable.
The unchecked course of this band was one of the greatest drawbacks to the success of our agents among the remaining Sioux and other bands in Dakota and Montana, and it became necessary to turn them over to the War Department to be brought in upon the reservations. This is being rapidly done, and, but for the disastrous and sad fate of General Custer and his brave command, would have been consummated, in all probability, with slight loss to our forces. The similar trouble with bands in the Southwest, a few years since, was successfully removed, and to-day the Kiowas, Comanches, and Apaches are fully under control, and realize their better condition sufficiently to make it entirely improbable that any future difficulty will arise which cannot readily be disposed of by our civil officers.
To what extent the difficulties in the North were increased by the tardy passage by Congress of the annual appropriations, and the consequent dissatisfaction and suspicion of many of those Indians, before friendly, inducing them to join the hostiles, it would be difficult to determine, but that the effect was to materially strengthen Sitting Bull's band is undoubtedly true.
The Indian Bureau deserves great credit for its efforts to prevent dissatisfaction and discontent among the Indians at the reservations, and did all that could be done to prevent the recent troubles. It may be hoped that the results of the visit of the present commission to the Red
Cloud and Spotted Tail agencies and the agencies on the Missouri River will aid most materially in solving the Sioux problem. They have certainly secured the removal of the Sioux in Northern Nebraska to either the Indian Territory or the Missouri River, with full relinquishment of any claims to the Black Hills or rights in Montana, and the establishment of roads across the reduced reservation from the Missouri River to the Black Hills. The northern line of the reservation is to be changed from the forty-sixth parallel, which is a boundary-line unintelligible to the Indian, to the natural boundary of the South Fork of and main Cannon Ball River. The commission will not complete its labor and make a report for some time to come; but when their report is received, it will be transmitted to you, with such further views upon the Sioux question as may be suggested thereby.
I desire to express my warm appreciation of the hearty co-operation of the War Department and its aid and assistance at the various Sioux and other agencies in Dakota, at all of which quiet and order have been maintained.
For the general government of the Indians the Commissioner recommends three principles of policy, which he supports by able and convincing arguments and in which I most heartily concur: The concentration of all the Indians upon a few reservations, acceptance by them of lands in severalty, and the extension over them of the United States law and jurisdiction of United States courts, and consequent dissolution of tribal organization.
For several years the number of agencies has been decreased, as it has been found that their occupants could be removed and consolidated with other tribes upon one reserve or could be settled in the Indian Territory. Within the last four years one superintendency and twenty-two agencies have been abolished, with a corresponding reduction of agents and employés, and an annual saving in salaries and wages amounting to over $60,000.
As a matter of economy, the greatest saving could be made by uniting all the Indians upon a few reservations; the fewer the better. A much less number of employés would be required at correspondingly less expense, but a greater saving would result from the reduction of transportation. Many of the agencies are almost inaccessible during certain months of the year for the purpose of reaching them with provisions, and it can only be done at very great expense. To reach some few of them the transportation equals, if not exceeds, the first cost of the provisions.
Were there but five or six large reservations, easy of access, the annual saving in transportation alone would be over $100,000.
The good example of those successfully started in agricultural pursuits stimulates the desire of the more ignorant who may be brought upon the same reserve. Teaching is rendered far easier and more successful. Good results have invariably attended the