Report of the Commissioners of Indian Affairs
Idaho and Adjacent Territories - 1873


"Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs," pp. 371-756. In U.S. House. 43d Congress, 1st Session. Report of the Secretary of the Interior, 1873 (H.Ex.Doc.1, Pt. 5, Vol. 1). Washington: Government Printing Office, 1874. (Serial Set 1601).


From: H. Report of J. P. C. Shanks, T. W. Bennet, and H. W. Reed, Special Commissioners to Investigate the Conditions of the Indians in Idaho and Adjacent Territories, pp. 525-529.

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH - November 17, 1873.

To the Hon. EDWARD P. SMITH, Commissioner of Indian Affairs:

. . . The Indians complain of the whites because of encroachments on their farming lands, hunting and fishing grounds. Worthless white men associate with bad Indian women, prostituting them, and leaving such women and their children a burden upon the Indians. However, this is seriously condemned by the white people generally, and is not so much practiced as heretofore. It is a source of great complaint among the Colvilles of Washington Territory, and Nez Percéés of Idaho.

The sale to and use of intoxicating liquors by the Indians is bitterly complained of by the chiefs, and has received the severest censure from citizens at every point. The courts have, in Idaho, made it especially dangerous to violate the intercourse laws. There are four persons in the penitentiary of Boise, at this time, on sentence for this offense, and others under arrest on several similar charges. . . . The agents at Fort Hall, Nez Percéés, and Colvilles are also active in preventing this evil. The people are demanding a prohibition of the sale of liquors to Indians. . . .

The people of Idaho have the general dislike to Indians that is felt to some extent all over the West, and of which it is not necessary in this report to trace the causes; yet they have punished promptly those who violate the law against them. There is a man in the penitentiary in Boise, under sentence of death, convicted before a jury of white men at Lewiston, for the murder of a Nez Percéé woman.

There are some white men residing on the Nez Percéés reservation——William Cadwell, who is there under an authority from a former agent, as the ostensible keeper of a stage station; but really is farming largely, cutting hay, timber, &c., on the reservation to sell to other parties. He occupies a place of importance to the Indians, and should be removed. There are some others on the reservation under various pretexts, and are in the way of a proper management of the agency. There is also a man by the name of Finney, who claims to hold [his place] under a treaty provision, made in the interest of his father-in-law, one Craig, long since dead. Congress took action in this case, and the commission recommend the importance of removing this man from the reservation. He, like Cadwell, keeps numbers of men about him, hired hands and others, injurious to the proper management of the interests of the Indians.

One of the most troublesome questions in the way of the Government controlling Indian affairs, is the contest between the Catholic and Protestant churches. The Nez Percéé reservation is in the hands of Protestants; and one Catholic, a Catholic priest who is in charge of the CÉÉur d'Alene mission, has procured an order from the Office of Commissioner of Indian Affairs, authorizing him to construct a church on the Nez Percéé reservation. It is proper to call attention to these matters, and to say this strife between the two religious denominations is a great detriment to the Indians, as they are not well prepared to see that there is no religion in such a contest. If the Catholics are allowed to build a church on the reservation, it will measurably destroy the schools on the reservation, or compel the establishment of other schools than those provided for by treaty, as it is well known that the priests will not permit the children of Catholics to attend Protestant schools. It is well to see whether the Indian Department has authority, to authorize any such church to construct its private buildings on Indian reservations, without the consent of the Indians. To further illustrate the evil effects to the Indians of this persistent and injurious contest between religious denominations, among and concerning the Indians, the commission quote the language of Joseph, chief of the non-treaty Nez Percéé Indians, now located in the Wallowa Valley, Oregon, but who with his people held a council with the commission at the Nez Percéé agency near the Clear water River, Idaho Territory, on the 2d day of August, 1873:

"By the commission:

"Question. Do you want schools and school-houses on the Wallowa reservation?

"Answer by JOSEPH. No; we do not want schools or school-houses on the Wallowa reservation.

"Question. Why do you not want schools?

"Answer. They will teach us to have churches.

"Question. Do you not want churches?

"Answer. No; we do not want churches.

"Question. Why do you not want churches?

"Answer. They will teach us to quarrel about God, as the Catholics and Protestants do on the Nez Percéés reservation, and at other places. We do not want to learn that. We may quarrel with men sometimes about things on this earth, but we never quarrel about God. We do not want to learn that."

One cause of complaint made by the Nez Percéé Indians, is what they understand to be a great fraud practiced on them through their former agent, Sells, in the matter of fencing on the reservation. The commission examined the fences put up under the Sells contract, and state that it can only be characterized as a most scandalous fraud. It is a post-and-board fence. The posts are not well set. Much of the lumber is deficient in width and length. The posts are not dressed, the lumber laps at any joint where it may chance to meet, whether on the posts or between them, and the boards are not jointed on the posts where they meet; they are lapped and fastened generally with one nail, so that they are falling down rapidly. The lumber was cut on the reservation; the contract price of the fence was very high, and the fencing done in places of no value to any one, for the reason that water cannot be had for irrigation. The Government cannot be a party to such frauds on the people who intrust it with their property. These people never raised their hands against the Government, but always defended the whites against other Indians.

The commission recommend that the marital relation of Indians and the marriage or cohabitation of white men with Indian women; the liabilities of Indians for debts contracted by them; the descent of property among them; their admission in court as witnesses, and such other matters as may be necessary to their proper protection and preparation for civilized life, should be the subject for careful legislation by Congress. And the commission especially recommend that criminal law be extended over the Indians, making them liable and punishable as white citizens are for similar offenses. The murders and other crimes and misdemeanors committed by them on their own race are fearfully common, and need prompt punishment from a power that they respect and fear.

And it is further recommended that every white employee on reservations be compelled to have continually in his service one or more Indian apprentices at work in charge on the reservation, to employ only married men upon the reservation as agents, farmers, millers, &c., and to make their employment conditional upon their removing their families to, and remaining with them on the reservation. The presence of white women and white children among the Indians is necessary to the best interests of the whites and Indians. The schools on the reservations to be kept open as continually as possible. The reservation schools should be free to children of agents and their employees.

Every agent should be compelled to report officially the respective violations of the law by Indians under his charge against Indians or whites, and of whites against Indians.

All of which is most respectfully submitted.