1882 – Indian Agent Report

Puyallup, Nisqually, &c., Agency,
Olympia, Wash., Sept. 1, 1882

Sir: In accordance with the requirements of your circular letter of July 15, 1882, I have to submit the following as my seventh annual report as United States agent of the Indians of this agency, this being my tenth year in the Indian service in this Territory:

There are four reservations and seven outside bands belonging to this agency, all fully describe in my last annual report, giving location, area, and description of each of said reservations, with the number belonging to each, and the number of Indians belonging to each of said bands, &c. (See report commissioner Indian Affairs for 1881, pp. 163 to 168.)

Conditions, Habits, and Disposition

The condition of the Indians of this agency is semi-civilized. The blanket as an article of dress and the breech-cloth have for many years been wholly discarded, and all dress like whites. They all se coffee, tea, sugar, flour, &c., are all constructed after the manner of whites. Their habits, as a general rule, are thriftless. The idea of becoming wealthy seems never to enter their heads. The supply of their present necessary wants is all they ever aspire to. Many of them do a vast amount of hard, rough work for the whites in the way of clearing up, ditching, and fencing lands, harvesting, logging, &c., but they almost universally spend their wages as fast as earned. Their disposition, except when intoxicated but the white man’s whisky, is always peaceable, quiet, and harmless.

Character and Extent of Progress

Their character among the whites for truth and veracity, for the payment of debts, punctuality, &c., is not good. The extent of progress among adults during the year, like the growth of forest trees, is but little observable, except in Christianity, which is spreading among them and is creating an improvement in their mortal deportment. Progress among the pupils of the two industrial boarding-schools at the Puyallup and Chehalis reservations has been marked and gratifying.

History of the Year’s Work

Said history from beginning to the end is of like unremitting labor, mostly in the office, occasioned by the complicated, cumulative, redundant, circumlocutory system of accounts required of an Indian agent from which he is seldom able to determine when he is or will get through with accounting for and explaining any item of government funds or property that has passed through his hands it appears to me that the most vitally important duties of an Indian agent are among the Indians of his charge, urging them on by every means possible to that degree of civilization that they may be safely citizenized and melted into the body politics of our nation. But standing between the government, his sureties, and the penitentiary, he has but little time to devote to said important duties under the system of accounts.

A commodious and much needed addition to the Puyallup boarding-school buildings, 60 by 28 feet and two stories high, was constructed during the past year, and so far completed as to be in use. Said buildings are now capable of comfortably accommodating 80 boarding pupils. A like needed addition was recently constructed to the boarding-school buildings are the Chehalis Reservation, 20 by 50 feet and two stories high, and so far completed as to be in use.

Both of the school farms have been improved and made more productive during the past year. The statistics of the Puyallup, Nesqually, Chehalis, and Squaxin reservations herewith inclosed show a gratifying increase of acreage under cultivation, amount of agricultural products, and in the number of live stock upon the first thee named reservations, but upon the Squaxin Reservation a decrease in acreage under cultivation and in amount of agricultural products. Nearly all the Indians of the Squaxin reservation were engaged during the year oystering, which has been profitable, hence they have been absent from and neglected their homes on the reservation,

United States Indian Police

Have from the first proved themselves prompt, obedient, and reliable, and are an efficient power in educating Indians in the observance of law and order. But their pay—only five dollars per month—is too small where they receive no rations in addition, as is the case in this agency. Where a policeman is required to do duty, subsist himself and family, and furnish his own horse, as is often the case, five dollars compensates but for a very few days at the lowest daily wages.


Too much importants cannot be attached to industrial boarding-schools for Indians, as they are the only means by which Indians can be brought up to a sufficient degree of civilization as to be safely and beneficially enfranchised with all the rights and privileges of citizens; and the further such schools are removed from Indian reservations and contact with the parents and tribes of the pupils the better, as then the manners, customs, industries, &c., of the surrounding whites are soonest absorbed, and the native Indian languages—the greatest barriers to their civilization—are soonest supplanted by the English, the only medium through which they can acquire civilization in our country. Schools on reservations, properly conducted, are next in importance to those outside. Attendance upon such schools should be made compulsory, and the system so perfected that no Indian child in the limits of the Untied sates could be allowed to grow up without passing through some one of these civilizing mills. The annual report of Prof. T. R. Wilson and of Prof. G. W. Bell, principals of the two industrial boarding-schools belonging to the agency, are herewith sent, and commended to careful perusual, as they show the status and efficiency of said schools.


Having labored unremittingly among the Indians of this agency in different capacities for the last ten years, and become personally acquainted with all the members of the different tribes and bands, and having acquired the confidence of all, and the most earnest good will of the better disposed among them, it is with some feelings of sadness that I leave them, from not having been able to do more for their elevation than I have. But having faithfully and conscientiously discharged my duty towards them to the best of my ability, and not having in that time bettered myself one dollar in wordly wealth, it is a matter of much satisfaction to me to know that I have laid up some treasure where it will be available to my credit in eternity.

Very respectfully,
R. H. Milroy
The Commissioner of Indian Affairs.

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