Letters: Concerns About the Condemnation of the Nisqually Reservation
Introduction: The condemnation of the Pierce County section of the Nisqually Reservation for the establishment of Camp Lewis initiated decades of controversy. Here are some of the early issues described in letters from the local agent to his superiors in Washington.
Cushman Indian School,
Dec. 17, 1917.
Commissioner of Indian Affairs,
Washington D. C.
General Burr, in command of the 166th Division, Field Artillery, took up with me that question of leasing upland of Nisqually Reservation for target range and practice.
An investigation of the grounds in company with General Burr, showed that the safety of the Indians during the hours of target practice would require the removal of the Indians from both the upland and the river bottom, to avoid ricocheting shells; that is, the entire reservation would have to be abandoned during those hours.
The General was advised as to the question of leasing the lands through the regular channel, which he has probably done.
The military requirements will undoubtedly force the War Department to make a demand for the permanent acquisition of the entire reservation. This as you are aware, will cause violent apposition on the part of the Indians, and, in view of the treaty relations it will be impossible for them to entertain the idea unless adequate homes are provided for the Indians elsewhere, which should be down, if the lands are condemned, for military purposes.
A fair appraisement of the upland on the reservation would be $15.00 per acre, plus the improvements. The bottom land is worth at least $50.00 per acre. All this land is allotted to thirty (30) individual Indians. The number of Indians on the reservation is eighty-three (83).
K – F
Tacoma, Wash. Feb. 4, 1918
To: Indian Office,
County Condemnation Board requests copy of Nisqually heirs with view to instituting condemnation proceedings of Nisqually allotments in county court immediately. See my letter January eleventh with enclosure. Wire instructions as per Department Circular August first, nineteen fifteen.
Cushman Indian School
February 12, 1918
The Commanding officer,
Camp Lewis, Washington.
I beg to invite your attention to the attached letter which was in answer to a protest from the Indians.
The Nisqually reservation is not public domain and until the question of transfer of this reservation to the War Department has been decided definitely by the Secretaries of War and the Interior, the presence of soldiers on the reservation constitutes a trespass.
The Indians advise me that warnings have been posted against their remaining on the reservation; That soldiers are maneuvering on the prairie land, burning rail fencing, and pasturing their mules on private pasture lots. All rails belonging to Paul Leshi have been burned as fuel. During one of the maneuvers a 200-dollar horse belonging to James Nimrod, was stampeded into a barbed wire fence and badly cut.
The soldiers do not confine themselves to the prairie land but large companies march across pastures and down to the farming lands in the bottom. Company C. machine gun brigade turned their mules loose in Fred Sam’s pastures and destroyed his pasture on which he was depending for his own stock.
Until this question of transfer has been decided by the two Departments, it is requested that trespassing on the Indian Reservation be stopped in order to avoid claims for damages.
Very truly yours,
(signed) E. H. Hammond
To: Indian Office,
Referring Secretary’s telegram March twenty-fifth concerning condemnation Nisqually land. Will appear before Court Monday morning with District Attorney to determine County’s jurisdiction and request withdrawal condemnation proceedings. District Attorney requests immediately citation of authority under which the War Department agrees purchases Nisqually land, also under what appropriation act are funds available. He advises County’s jurisdiction unassailable. No hope voluntary withdrawal of suits. Wire information requested.
To: Indian Office,
District Attorney recommends strongly compromise between Army and Bureau appraised valuation on Nisqually Indian lands on seventy-five thousand eight hundred forty dollars. County refuses any other compromise and insists on approval before nine Thursday forenoon. Court refuses continuance later than Thursday at ten. If case goes to trial preceding condemnation suits show Indians stand to lose at least five thousand possibly eighteen thousand dollars less than offered in compromise. Wire immediately authority approve this compromise.
To: Indian Office,
Court today ordered proceeds Nisqually Indian lands paid to Cushman Indian Agent to be held and disbursed by said agent for benefit Nisqually Indians or heirs according to laws and regulations upon furnishing proper bond in sum eighty thousand dollars payable United States as trustee of Nisqually Indian allottees and to said allottees. Bond to be approved by Court. Advise if other procedure is desired.
Cushman Indian School
May 14, 1918.
Commissioner of Indian Affairs
Washington, D. C.
I have the honor to report that the judge of the Superior Court for the County of Pierce, in a judgment rendered the 6th day of May, decreed that the sum of $75,840.00 be paid the Secretary if the United States Treasury, without bond, to be held and disbursed by the said Secretary of the Treasury, or through his proper agents of the United States, for the
benefit of the Nisqually Indians, or their heirs thereto entitled, according to the laws and regulations there under, or any other law applicable thereto. This step was recommended by the District Attorney to avoid litigation that might arise if the monies were retained in the county court, awaiting the issue of the requisite bond for the Superintendent of the Cushman Agency.
Acting on the request of the Judge Advocate, the Nisqually Indians were removed from that part of the reservation which was condemned, within the two week limit set by the Judge Advocate.
The majority of the Indians preferred to move to the left bank of the Nisqually river, but five of the twelve families preferred homes elsewhere.
Farms have been tentatively selected for the following Indians: Johny Longfred and George Bobb at Oakville, near the Chehalis reservation and Mrs. Moxley on the reservation at Chehalis.
A farm for James Nimrod has been selected on the Skokomish reservation and one for Mrs. Iyall has been selected on the Muckleshoot reservation; but no definite agreement has been made with any of the owners, except that the purchase of the respective farms would be recommended by me.
In the cases of Mrs. Johnny Lonfred, Mr. George Bobb, Mr. James Nimrod and Mrs. Iyall, in separate communications, I shall recommend that they be declared competent in the sums necessary to purchase their future homes, as I believe they are fully capable of managing their own affairs.
I have personally inspected and appraised the farms which have been elected for Mrs. Moxley and Mrs. Longfred near the Chehalis reservation; and the Skokomish Farmer has appraised the farm selected on the Skokomish reservation for Mr. And Mrs. James Nimrod. I believe that the appraisement of these three farms are just and I have recommended that they be purchased for the Indians. Two other farms are to be inspected and appraised in the near future for Mrs. Iyall and Mr. George Bobb.
As the Commissioner is undoubtedly aware, the majority of these Indians have not accumulated much ready money and it is imperative that their homes be purchased for them without delay in order to permit them to put in the crops what are possible at this late date and thereby avoid re real want during the coming year and the unnecessary expenditure of their money for subsistence.