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Palmer to Meacham, 9 September 1871, in United States, Office of Indian Affairs, Annual Report to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1872), 318-24, NADP Document D155.
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No. 18.

OFFICE SILETZ AGENCY,
September 9, 1841. [1871]

      SIR: I have the honor to submit the following as my first annual report of the affairs of this agency. In making this, my first report, I


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may not be able to set forth all the facts that ought to be known in order to induce the proper kind of legislation to secure the wants of the Indians upon this reservation, and that kind to which they are justly entitled.
      If we take the Indians of this agency as a criterion by which to judge of the merits of the civilizing progress for the last sixteen years, there is but little to encourage us, for while a little improvement may have been made among a portion in regard to apparel and ordinary work in the field, it is difficult conceiving of a people who have sunk lower in the scale of morals and all the vices to which civilized or savage people can reach, than is found among these Indians. If there be an honest or virtuous male or female among them, it is an exception rather than a rule. The child is educated from its infancy to steal. The women are bought and sold like cattle, and, as a general rule, the number of wives owned by the man is limited by his means to purchase, the price ranging from ten strings of aroquois shells of ten each, to five horses. The daughters are loaned, hired, or sold at from twelve to sixteen years of age, as inducements are offered, sometimes for one night, one month, a year, or a bona fide sale, the purchaser casting her off at pleasure, and when so cast off or divorced, the property originally paid must be refunded. The feelings of the girl or woman are seldom consulted. If they have no parents, the nearest of kin, or, if no relations, the heads of the family or tribe to which they belong, make the sale and receive the purchase-price; and it is often the case, after a woman has been thus disposed of and matters settled, that another relative or tribal claimant makes a demand upon the purchaser, and an additional amount must be paid. This plurality of wife system, and the recognized right of the man to cast off the bands, is a fruitful source of contention, for it is often that the woman is returned for the purpose alone of securing a return of the property or gifts originally paid; and one of the worst features of this degrading system is, that it extends to the whites, who have been their teachers in many of these debasing vices.
      Considerable progress has been made in the surveys, but the dense growth of fern, brush, and weeds, and the circuitous course of streams, with precipitous cliffs and mountain ranges, renders it a slow and tedious task. I have had detailed one and sometimes two persons to accompany the surveyors, to aid in marking lines and designating corners; yet with even this precaution, I fear it will be dificult tracing lines another season, as fires have been raging through the uncultivated portions of the agency, and in many localities have obliterated every trace of surveys.
      Much interest is manifested among the Indians in relation to the allotment of land, but we cannot hope to amicably adjust the conflicting interests involved until a saw-mill is erected, so as to obtain lumber to build them houses, in lieu of those to be vacated when land is assigned them in severalty. At the central or home farm, the greatest number of the Indians are residing upon the land best adapted to the use of a manual-labor school and for agency purposes. The Government buildings are located upon this tract, as are also about sixty Indian families; and even if this were alloted to Indians, the greater number of them would be compelled to rebuild, as they are now huddled together in small villages of from ten to fifteen families. The character of the buildings belonging to Government is not such as can be conveniently removed, and in fact many of them are too much dilapidated to be longer fit for habitation; and the site now occupied is probably the best


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location on the agency for such purposes, being nearly central between the upper and lower farms, the extremes being about twelve miles; besides, this is the largest body of land suitable for cultivation. The system of farming heretofore adopted has been to generally have large fields, bordered on one side by the river, and these fields cultivated by from ten to fifteen different families, each having their separate tracts designated by stakes or strips of uncultivated land; but when the allotment of land is made, it will involve the necessity of much additional fencing; in fact nearly all the fence upon the reservation must be rebuilt, for in addition to the fact that changes are to be made, nearly all the fencing is so old and so much decayed, that but little remains sufficiently sound to make into new fence. Had we provisions with which to subsist them, the Indians might be induced to make rails the coming winter for new fence, and a portion might also be employed in clearing off brush-land, which, when assigned to Indians, would place them upon an equal footing with those who obtain prairie and lands already improved.
      The absence of teams among the Indians is a constant source of trouble and embarrassment, it being very difficult, with the limited number of agency teams, to distribute them so as to even partially meet the requirements of the Indians. The work-animals belonging to this agency, both horses and cattle, with but few exceptions, are entirely worn out and unfit for service; many of the oxen are so old they cannot masticate dry food, some of them partially and a few totally blind, and I fear quite a number will perish the coming winter from sheer old age. The horses are, many of them, quite old and badly stiffened by hard and constant usage.
      All the feed, harness, wagons, plows, harrows, &c., in fact all agricultural implements, and the expense connected with keeping them in a condition to use, has been borne by the Government, and in the event an Indian produces more than he requires to subsist upon, he disposes of the overplus to whomsoever will pay most, thus losing the lesson of self-reliance; for when he desires his ground plowed, his grain hauled, or any other team-work performed, he calls upon the agent; so, also, if he has use for any agricultural implements of any description, he calls upon the agent, and seldom returns any tools so obtained unless specially required to do so. We greatly need some thirty or forty span of horses, with wagons, harness, plows, &c., yet these implements might be manufactured in the shops upon the agency, so as to teach some of the young Indians in each of these branches of industry, or, perhaps, a more effective method would be to apprentice them to mechanics off the reservation and away from the superstitious influences of their people. With the foul condition of the cultivated portions of the agency, at least ten additional plow-teams should be started this fall, and by this effort to assist the Indians we would remove great doubt from their minds and encourage them to put forth new efforts in agricultural pursuits.
      The present has been a very disastrous season for farming operations upon this agency. The continued rains until the l0th of June so retarded the putting in of crops, that nearly every variety is too late to fully mature; besides, several severe frosts about the first of the present month destroyed the greater portion of the potato crop, and, in fact, all varieties of vines, and much injured the corn and beans. The hay crop was good, but the quantity of meadow is entirely inadequate to the requirements of the agency. The early sown oats yielded a pretty fair crop, but little, however, was sown for Government use until after my arrival, and I fear that sown after the date of my assuming charge will


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but partially mature. For further information upon this subject, I will respectfully refer you to the statistical return of farming herewith submitted.
      No successful effort seems to have been made to induce these Indians to obtain domestic animals. With the exception of George Harney, a young Rogue River chief, who has nine head of stock cattle, not a single head of the cow kind is owned by any of these tribes, and, with but few exceptions, no horses are owned by them suitable to work.
      It was contemplated, at the time of selecting this coast reservation, to purchase, for the benefit of the Indians to be located here, herds of cattle and sheep, believing then, as I do now, that these Indians could be more easily induced to become a pastoral or stock-raising people than as exclusive cultivators of the soil. Quite extensive tracts of tide-lands are situated upon this reservation, along the shores of the Siletz, Nestucca, and Salmon Rivers, and rolling sand-hills, coated with nutritious grasses, abound along that portion of the sea-coast, and the adjacent mountain slopes and valleys all afford the best of grazing for cattle, sheep, and goats. If one-fourth the amount that has been thrown away in the purchase of trinkets and useless farming implements, and in unprofitable experiments, now visible at every turn, had been expended in the purchase of that kind of stock, even ten years ago, if properly directed, would have made this a wealthy and prosperous people, and with the additional advantage of the allotment of land in severalty, as originally contemplated, furnishing each family with one or two cows, would have given them an individual interest in their homes that would have made a strong contrast to the roving, thriftless people they now are. It is not yet too late to attempt this policy among them, although much more difficult to accomplish at this late date, as the same number of cattle or other stock could have been purchased then for one-half the sum now demanded. Still, if Congress could be induced to make an appropriation of four or five thousand dollars for the purchase of stock for these Indians, it would, in the end, be great economy to do so.
      The early construction of the upon this agency is a matter of the greatest importance. The Government buildings as well as those of the Indians are generally very much dilapidated, and many so far decayed that the expense of repairing would almost be equal to that of rebuilding; besides, the changes of residence, in consequence of the allotment of land, will require the erection of many new buildings, and little interest exhibited in the style and manner of erecting these buildings will do much toward making the homes of the Indians attractive, and aid materially in reforming and changing their reckless habits. I therefore earnestly desire and hope that an appropriation for this purpose may be secured. Under the circumstances, it is my opinion that a portable steam-mill would be preferable to any other, and would cost, with the addition of transportation, about three or four thousand dollars. There is an old excuse of a mill at the upper farm, six miles distant, but it is hardly worth repairing, though, if repaired, it may be made to saw a sufficient quantity of lumber to supply the demands of that station.
      The only means we now have of obtaining lumber is to purchase of the Oneatta mills, situated on the Yaquina Bay, boating it up the bay seven or eight miles to the mouth of Depot Slough, thence up the slough three miles, to Premier mill, and from that point hauling over a mountainous road, fording the Siletz River, to the agency, a slow, tedious, and


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expensive method of obtaining lumber; besides, during a portion of the winter season, it is impossible to cross the river with wagons. We will also require a fouring-mill, as the one reported as such, recently built, is useless for any purpose; the building, with proper improvements, may be made a dwelling, but it is difficult to imagine any useful purpose to which the mill could be applied upon this agency. The horse-power may be made useful to propel a lathe or some such purpose. The samples of wheat grown here the present season warrants us in believing that it can be produced in sufficient quantities to meet all the requirements of the agency. At present, all the flour consumed upon the reservation is hauled from King's Valley, a distance by nearest wagon-road of not less than fifty miles. For a time the steam-power of the saw-mill, if one is obtained, might be applied to propel the grist-mill; still, it would be better to have them separate, and in that event it would probably require an appropriation of from $3,500 to $4,000. There are several streams upon the reservation suited to mill-power, but none applicable convenient to the home or central farm. It appears that an effort was made by Agent Metcalf to erect a mill upon a stream emptying into Siletz River, about one mile distant from the agency buildings, and quite an expenditure of Government funds seems to have been made, but it was found that the back-water from the river destroyed the power at the only times when the stream afforded a column of water sufficient to run the mill, and the enterprise failed, and the entire expense, whatever it was, was lost to both the Government and Indians. The burrs are still there, exposed to the elements, and the dam partially washed away.
      I have recently been examining the Siletz River as to the feasibility of the construction of a dam across that stream about one and a quarter miles above the agency buildings, and the opening of a race to intersect the river again about one-fourth of a mile below, the entire distance of the race being, perhaps, a little more than a mile and a half, while the circuitous course of the river between these two points is not less than seven miles, with a continued succession of rapids. We have no instruments with which to take levels, but it is believed that a fall of at least thirty feet could be obtained by thus damming. The dam need not exceed 10 feet in height nor more than 200 in length, and the banks are very favorable for the construction of a dam at this point. The ground over which the race will pass presents a sag almost the entire distance, decidedly favorable, the exception being a gravel bench of perhaps near one-fourth of a mile, where it would require a cut of 10 or 12 feet in depth. Could these suggestions be realized, it would make one of the most valuable water-powers in the State, and would be sufficient to propel all the machinery required on the agency. I regard this as a matter of great importance, and would ask that a survey and estimate of expenses might be had of the premises by practical engineers.
      The sanitary condition of those people, I regret to say, is by no means flattering, for many reasons. They have but few comfortable dwellings, mostly living in huts and lodges, destitute of floors, windows, chimneys, or any conveniences suited to health and comfort, and, in fact, many of their houses are but little if any better than the ones occupied by them in their old mountain haunts, previous to their removal to this agency. Their diet is of an unhealthy character, subsisting upon fish, potatoes and oats often for months at a time, and not unfrequently without a sufficient supply of even these articles. The distance to their fishing-ground, by the nearest available route, is some twenty miles. The superstitious notions of the Indians in regard to their doctors or


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"medicine-men" are very difficult to overcome. They, with but few exceptions, believe that their "medicine-men" can "will" their death, and they must inevitably die. Another great drawback to the treatment of diseases among these Indians is the presence of syphilitic affections among at least four-fifths of all the Indians belonging to this agency; in fact, this disease is so prevalent among them that its effects are becoming apparent among the reckless portions of whites to an alarming extent. The erection of a hospital, where the old, helpless, and crippled Indians could receive attention and subsistence, and be under the im-mediate supervision of the resident physician, would aid us materially in this great and important work, as it is impossible for a physician to administer to the wants of the sick in their present scattered condition, many of them living a distance of six or seven miles from the physician's residence, and his presence required at different points at the same time; some must be neglected. I would, therefore, respectfully ask for an appropriation for the erection and maintenance of a suitable hospital at this agency. When I assumed charge of the agency, (May 1, 1871,) many of the Indians being without provisions, I was compelled to give passes to quite a number to go out to the valley and work, or permit them to suffer, as I had no means to purchase subsistence. Some of those leaving were industrious, and purchased clothes, provisions, and, in a few cases, work horses; while many others idled their time about the towns, drinking and selling out their women to profligate whites, and greatly annoying the citizens, and have since returned to the agency, many of them sick, as they were imprudent in their diet as well as habits, ague and fevers prevailing among them, as also bowel complaints. The fatality, however, thus far has not been very great.
      The schools upon the reservation have evidently been greatly neglected, and the policy adopted in regard to them very obnoxious to the Indian, for upon my arrival among them the mention of establishing schools was received with disfavor. There is no building upon the agency suitable for school-rooms nor any seats or desks. The building heretofore used for that purpose is attached to a dwelling, and is old and dilapidated, and unfit for use.
      I much doubt whether there are to exceed six children among the tribes, under the age of sixteen years, who can call off the alphabet. The constant repetition of the great importance of acquiring an education is making a favorable impression among them, and it is my opinion that, as soon as we can erect buildings, we can gather together a sufficient number to maintain a good school. Owing to the scattered condition of the settlements, we will require at least three day and one manual-labor schools. As a general rule, the teachers in the day schools should be females, as they can be had at less figures, and would be received among the Indians with more favor than male teachers, and could, by example and counsel among the mothers of the children, exert a great influence in this work of reform and it is among the female portion of the Indian race that we must look for the greatest results in accomplishing this work.
      Much of my time has been consumed in adjusting difficulties between Indians. In the absence of head chief or prominent men, or the existence of any code of laws for their government, the settlement of these cases often involves an unpleasant and difficult task. We have in contemplation the calling of a council for the purpose of electing a number of Indians to act as a jury or court, before whom all minor cases may be adjusted. If this can be done successfully it will, in my opinion, give


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more general satisfaction, and consume less of the time of the person in charge.
      I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

JOEL PALMER,
United States Indian Agent.

Hon. A.B. MEACHAM,
Superintendent Indian Affairs, Salem, Oregon.