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THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR.
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,
SIR: I have the honor to transmit herewith the reports of the chiefs of bureaus of this department and of the superintendents of the institutions under its supervision, showing the operations of the department for the past year. I also submit such recommendations and suggestions touching the administration of the department as I deem necessary aud appropriate.
The Indian question, as it is called, has lost nothing of its interest or importance, and the methods by which it shall be finally settled are not yet fully recognized. All who have studied the question unite in the opinion that the end to be attained is the civilization of the Indians and their final absorption into the mass of our citizens, clothed with all the rights and instructed in and performing all the duties of citizenship. The difficulty lies in devising and executing the means by which this end shall be accomplished.
The difficulties to be overcome are mainly these: The Indians do not speak and do not wish to learn to speak our language; hence all business with them by the government and by individuals has been and must be transacted through the medium of interpreters. Misunderstandings must continue to arise in the future, as they have arisen in the past, between the government and the Indians, under this condition of affairs, and so long as it shall continue, the Indians, unable to carry on in person ordinary business transactions with our citizens generally or even with their agents, are completely isolated, and are compelled to adhere to that tribal relation which so greatly stands in the way of their advancement. It is not probable that much can be done in the way of teaching our language to adult Indians, but much may be done and is being done in the direction of so teaching those of school age, and our efforts to maintain and extend Indian schools should be earnest and
constant. The civilization fund, which has been devoted largely to educational purposes, will be exhausted before the end of this fiscal year if the schools already established shall be continued. The schools at Carlisle and Forest Grove are supported wholly from this fund, and a number of Indian youth of both sexes are maintained at Hampton therefrom. These schools must be abandoned unless Congress shall make provision for their support. The schools at the agencies should be cherished and strengthened. It is idle to expect any material advancement by the Indians in civilization until they have learned to speak and write our language and to labor for their living, and these things to a great extent go hand in hand. Those of middle age and over are I fear beyond our reach. We must depend mainly upon the proper training of the youth. To do this we must teach them, and to teach them will cost money. If we really mean to civilize them we must incur the expense necessary to that end. Our whole Indian policy, in my judgment, has been characterized by a parsimony which has borne the more respectable but undeserved name of economy. We have acted very much as does the man, who, burdened with a heavy debt, contents himself with paying the interest without diminishing the principal. I am satisfied that in the management of our Indian affairs we have found, as many have found in the management of their private affairs, that the policy which, for the time being, seemed the cheapest, in the end has proved the most expensive. When the Indian shall have learned to speak and write our language, to earn his own living by his own labor, to obey the law and aid in making and administering it, the Indian problem will be solved, and not until then. Money wisely applied to these ends will be well spent; money withheld from these ends will be extravagance. Again, all the traditions of our Indians teach them that the only proper occupation for a brave is war or the chase, and hence they regard labor, manual labor, as degrading. We should not be impatient with them on that account, for while it may be curious that it should be so, it is, I fear, true that this opinion of these people standing on the confines of savagery is held by many who believe themselves to have reached the very topmost heights of civilization and refinement. Be that as it may, the fact remains that the Indian does not willingly engage in manual labor. But if he is to make upward progress-to become civilized-he must labor. The game on which he lived is gone, or so nearly gone that he cannot longer rely on it for food, and yet he must have food. The gov ernment, recognizing this situation, has undertaken to and does furnish a large portion of our Indians food and clothing, and at the same time has been endeavoring to teach them to become self-supporting by assigning to them land for cultivation, furnishing them with farming tools, horses and harness, and encouraging them to work. But two difficulties have attended this system, although it has met with considerable success. The first is that adult Indians, thoroughly grounded in the faith that labor is degrading, prefer pauperism to independence; that is, pre
fer to live upon food furnished by the labor of others to earning their food by their own labor-a preference which is perhaps shared with them by some white men. This is not true, however, of all Indians. Many individuals of some of the tribes are willing to work, and are working, under difficulties, but it still remains true that many others are content to be and will remain mere paupers.
The other difficulty in the way of making the Indians self-supporting is that we have not given them a fair chance to become so. The titles of the Indians to most of their reservations, perhaps to all of them except those in the Indian Territory, are not such as the courts are bound to protect. They are compelled to rely largely, if not entirely, upon the executive and legislative departments of the government. The reservations set apart by treaty, or law, or executive order, have been usually many times larger than necessary (if cultivated) for the support of the tribes placed thereon. Our people, in their march westward, have surrounded these reservations, and seeing in them large tracts of fertile land withheld from the purpose for which they believe it was intendedcultivation-have called upon the executive and legislative departments to make new treaties, new laws, and new orders, and these calls have generally been heeded. Now, it is clear that no Indian will with good heart engage in making and improving a farm with the knowledge or the prospect that after he has so done he may at any time be required to leave it and "move on." In the case of the Indian, he may have the privilege of keeping his home if he will sever the ties of kinship and remain behind his tribe; but few do this. I wish to emphasize the point that we are asking too much of the Indian when we ask him to build up a farm in the timber or on the prairie, with the belief that at some future time he will be compelled to choose between abandoning the fruits of his labor, or his kindred and tribe. White men would not do so, and we should not ask Indians to do so.
I therefore earnestly recommend two things, in case the present number of reservations shall be maintained: First, that existing reservations, where entirely out of proportion to the number of Indians thereon, be, with the consent of the Indians, and upon just and fair terms, reduced to proper size; and, second, that the titles to these diminished. reserves be placed by patent as fully under the protection of the courts as are the titles of all others of our people to their land. I would not, in reducing the reservations, so reduce them as to leave to the Indians only an area that would suffice for an equal number of whites. Their attachment to kin and tribe is stronger than among civilized men, and I would so arrange that the Indian father of to-day might have assurance that his children as well as himself could have a home. I would also provide in the patent for the reservations that so long as the title to any portion of the reservation remained in the tribe, adult Indians of the tribe who would locate upon and improve particular parcels of the reservation, should have an absolute title to the parcels so improved by
them; and I would provide against alienation, either by the tribe of the tribal title, or by individuals of their personal title, for a limited time. As an additional inducement for heads of families to take land in severalty and engage in farming, provision should be made to aid such of them as do so in building houses thereon. The sum of $50, carefully expended by a judicious agent, will enable an Indian on many of the reservations, with his own labor, to build a house as comfortable as those occupied by many of our frontier settlers, and much more comfortable than the lodges in which they have been accustomed to live; and when so situated in his own house, on his own land, with a beginning made in the way of farming, a feeling of personal ownership and self-reliance will be developed and produce good results. And in building houses preference should be given to those who have selected land in severalty and made a certain amount of improvement thereon, and the offer of such aid should be held out as an inducement so to do. If a liberal sum was placed in the control of the Indian Office every year to be expended for this purpose exclusively, the effect would be excellent. A wise liberality in this direction would, in my judgment, be true economy.
There are now in the States and Territories west of the Mississippi River 102 reservations, great and small, on which are located, in round numbers, 224,000 Indians. The numbers on the different reservations vary from a few hundred to several thousand. There are attached to these reservations sixty-eight agencies, each with its staff of employés. There are also established near them, for the protection alike of the whites and Indians, thirty-seven military posts, with larger or smaller garrisons. The transportation of supplies to so many and so widely scattered agencies and military posts is very expensive, and our Army is so small that the garrisons at many of the posts are not sufficient either to prevent outbreaks or to suppress them promptly when they occur. It is my duty to say, and I say with great pleasure, that the military authorities have, when called upon by this Department, always responded with promptness and efficiency; but it must be apparent to all who have had occasion to note their operations, that they have been seriously embarrassed in their efforts to concentrate speedily at particular points sufficient force to meet emergencies. The peculiar conditions attending the transaction of public business for some months have prevented me from giving this subject the attention that in my opinion it deserves; but I am strongly inclined to believe that if all the Indians west of the Mississippi were gathered upon four or five reservations, our Indian affairs could be managed with greater economy to the gov ernment and greater benefit to the Indians.
In view of the facts stated as to existing reservations, I recommend that Congress be asked to create a commission of three or four eminent citizens to visit during the next year the reservations west of the Mis sissippi River, for the purpose of recommending to Congress, if they