1887 Indian Agent Report


Reports of Agents in Washington Territory.  Nisqually and S’kokomish Agency, Washington, August 20, 1887. 

Sir: In complements with general instructions, I have the honor to submit here with my seventeenth annual report of the affairs of this agency and the conditions of the Indians under my charge. Heaven has continued to smile upon us, and to shower down upon a prosperous, contented, and happy people its unmerited blessings.

As stated in my former reports, the Indians living on the Nisqually, Puyallup, and Squakson reservations had received patents for their allotments last year, leaving only the Chehalis and S’kokomish Indians unprotected in the titles to their homes. This has now been done for them also, as far as it can be, so that all the Indians belonging to this agency, with a few individual exceptions, are now living on homes of their own, the titles to which are guarantied the them by the United States Government.

The S’kokomish Indians have received patents for all that portion of the reservation, which was originally given by them by treaty, leaving only 2 small portions, which was afterwards added on by Executive order, unpatented. A descriptive list of the forwarded to the Department, and I presume that soon these Indians will also have their patents issued to them under the Dawes allotment bill. Contributions were made by these Indians to pay for the expense of running out the boundary lines of their allotments and also for recording their patents in the county auditor’s office. This work has all been done for them at their own expense, and they are now secure in the possession of their homes.

The Chehalis reservation not being a treaty reservation, there was no law under which patents could be given to them the same as to the others, but they were allowed to enter their allotments in the land office under the general homestead laws. More than half of them, having already completed their required five years’ residence and cultivation on their places, proved up, and have received their certificates of final proof, which entitles them to receive the patents, which will probably be sent them in a short time. The others made their entries, and will also get their titles when they have performed the conditions required. This now completes the work of securing to all the reservation Indians belonging to this agency the titles to their homes; a work in which I have labored in various ways, and often amid many discouragements and against strong opposition for the last ten or twelve years. This realization of my fondest hopes and strong desires has been the source of sincere gratitude and intense pleasure to me.

Unexpectedly, as soon as this had been done a law was passed making all Indians who has titles to the land on which they live citizens of the United States, with all the rights, privileges, and immunities of such citizens, so that now all the reservation Indians belonging to this agency are no longer wards of the Government, but freeborn sovereigns of their native land. With them the Indian problem has been solved, and they have passed through the different stags of development to full-grown manhood. How they will beat these high honors and privileges and perform their new duties, time will tell. They will still need a fatherly care, and some one who will wisely advise, counsel, and encourage them; but if they can have that, I believe they will not be unworthy if the rights and privileges that have been given them.

The next most important matter connected with their welfare is the education of their children. This work has been continued during the year with gratifying success. The three boarding schools belonging in this agency have been as full as the buildings could accommodate. The progress of the children in their studies and the interest taken by their parents in the schools have been very satisfactory. This work should certainly be continued, as it is their surest safeguard. There are needed more permanent buildings and enlarged quartets for the accommodation of the schools of this agency, and they should be put on a sure and independent basis. New buildings are needed in the Puyallup reservation, as this location has many and superior advantages for a high school. There should be accommodations for 150 scholars, with training shops in which the older boys could learn trades, while the other schools belonging to this agency should be still kept up as feeders to this school, and also on account of the beneficial influence, which they would have on the Indians living on those reservations. Good schools, with homes and proper religious instruction, seem to me to be the most important requisites for making good citizens and successful men. There are good farms connected with all of the boarding schools, which are well supplied with stock, tools, school herds, and all the conveniences needed to carry

(Walter Kassil’s work)

indians have contributed funds to make a good ferryboat, and to purchase wire rope and all the needed conveniences for a ferry, which was badly needed.

At Puyallup the Indians have promised, to raise 81,000, most of which has been paid in, to aid in the construction of a good bridge across the Puyallup River. The arrangement is for the Indians to pay $1,000. The whites in the vicinity have prom­ised to give $500, and the county$ 1,500,to put up a bridge that will be nearly 600 feet long. They have crossed the river for the past twenty years or more on a ferryboat kept by one of their number, but the demands of travel, the larger part of which is their own, in taking their produce to market, has outgrown this way of crossing, and we hope soon to see a good and substantial bridge across the Puyallup flyer.

As this is probably my last annual report, I may perhaps be indulged in making a few suggestions relative to the service and for the good of the Indians. If good, true work is to be done, the most important person connected with the work of benefit­ing the Indians is the agent. He should, therefore, be selected on account of his fit­ness for the place, and not on account of political favoritism. Sufficient salaries should be paid to secure and keep competent and faithful men in these positions. The duties are necessarily arduous and the responsibility great; his privations are many, and the longer he remains the more they are felt. Proper inducement should therefore be offered, so that such men can be obtained and kept; and when a man is found who is adapted to the business, he should be kept as long as possible. It gen­erally takes at least a year for any one to become so well acquainted with his own duties, and for the Indians to become well enough acquainted with him to have that confidence in him which is indispensable to enable him to work efficiently and successfully for their good. The Government having found such a man, and he having learned his business, he should then have as much liberty as possible.

He should be entirely independent of his employees, with the power of appointment and removal, subject to the approval of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs. As he is pecuniary responsible for all the property, be should have the right to select those upon whom he must rely for its management and care. No businessman would ac­cept such a position in private life unless he could protect himself in this way. He is also the one who has the best opportunity to judge, and therefore can the most easily and correctly decide as to the fitness of the employees for their several positions. Give a competent man the power to do what he wants, and the time to do it in, and he can accomplish much; but to appoint a man because be happens to have an in­fluential friend at Washington, who has not the least idea of the duties required of him, and send him out to a reservation, where he finds a heterogeneous collection of employees, all with influential friends to back them and who very likely think they know just as much as he does, and perhaps do, and his hands are tied, even if he wants to do his duty. He finds himself under heavy bonds, and with employees that he has got to manage so as to keep on the right side of them to prevent their being his enemies. Situated in this way he is their slave instead of their master, and, wor­ried and hampered, be soon gets disgusted, and if he is not entirely swamped be soon finds a way to get; relieved In more senses than one by some one else, who goes through the same experience. Under each circumstance it is a wonder that as much is ac­complished as there is.

School employees should also be encouraged to feel that their tenure of office is in proportion to their faithfulness and success. For a teacher to work hard and build up a fine school, and then at the end of the fiscal year to be unceremoniously dropped out to give place to some one else who has more political influence than he has is not the way to get good work done in the schools. Schools are now the moss effective means of benefiting the Indians. There should be system, and the schools should be entirely eliminated from Politics. The generosity of the American people in giving funds for the education of the Indians should be supplemented by corresponding good management in the use of those funds for the benefit of the Indian children. It is mistaken economy, however, to pay meager salaries to teachers in Indian schools. It can only result in getting poor talent, and that is the most expensive. A thorough wide-awake, and energetic teacher wilt do more in two months than a common, dull kind of a person would accomplish in a year. It is, however, very wearing work. Numbers of my teachers have lad to leave the service entirely worn out. Daring the past year two of the most faithful teachers I have had were compelled to resign on account of ill-health, after doing good work for six or seven years.

Faithfulness and earnestness will always be a bright spot in my memory and awaken feelings of gratitude. I also take pleasure in acknowledging the obligations I am under to the officers of the Department for the courtesy and consideration with which I have generally been treated by the Indian Office. I sincerely hope that some good man will be appointed to take up the work where I lay it down, and that the Indians for whom the Government has done so much will continue to improve and prosper and be worthy of the benefits that they have received.

               Very respectfully submitted.

Edwin Eells

U.S.  Indian Agent.


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