Boswell to Editor, Corvallis Gazette
, 10 January 1879, in United States, Office of Indian Affairs, Letters Received by the Office of Indian Affairs, 1824-1881
, National Archives Microcopy 234, Roll 627, NADP Document D101.
Siletz U.S. Indian Agency.
Editor Gazette: As it is Christmas time, the season that, perhaps, more than any other, brings to our minds memories of other days and friends most dear; it would seem a fit time for correspondence.
It has been by intention, ever since I came on this reservation, as soon as I was sufficiently acquainted to enable me to give a correct statement, and put a just estimate on the condition of things here, to write an article for your paper; and right here I am admonished, by a correspondent of the Salem Statesman
, "that no reliance whatever can be placed in statements that go out from this reservation," they being such exaggerations. I shall feel somewhat relieved from any fear on this point in writing for your paper, knowing that most of your readers are sufficiently acquainted with me to enable them to make all due allowance for the "exaggeration."
As a general rule, the Indians here are industrious and are trying to make a living for themselves: they no more live in groups, as separate tribes, but have, nearly all of them, or at least the heads of families, taken their land as surveyed, and have built houses on the same and are making none more and none less, improvements. I cannot say just how many houses there are, I counted something over a hundred and twenty, last summer, soon after I came here, and they are constantly building as fast as the mill can supply lumber: Three houses range all the way from twelve to fourteen foot square, up to one eighteen by thirty-five, with a kitchen running back with porch and wood shed. Quite a number of them have good barns, with graineries to hold their crops. Some of them still make their beds on the floor, while perhaps one-half have bedstands and tables, and perhaps one-third of them have their cooking stoves; and, indeed, some of their houses would lose nothing by comparison with many of the whites. As a general rule they go decently dressed, and many of them are extravagant in dress, wearing clothes that are more costly than their circumstances would justify, in this respect they are about like white people.
The school is in a prosperous condition for an Indian school; and average daily attendance of over fifty children, five or six of these are white children, belonging to employes. As for the progress of the children, all things considered, it is all that could be expected. In order to obviate the difficulty arising from the distance that many of the children have to come to school, provision is made to furnish them their dinners, in the shape of a lunch, and they are furnished, to some extent, with clothing, and the little girls are taught to make their own clothes. Steps are being taken to build a boarding house, the material for which is mostly on the ground, and, as I understand, the carpenters, are only waiting for the foundation to be laid, to raise the building; when that is done the school will be converted into a manual labor school, where the girls will be educated in all the arts of housekeeping while the boys will be required to work on the farm, or at trades, and all will be kept at the school and away from the influences of their former Indian habits.
We have a well organized church, under the efficiant and zealous labors of Rev. T. F. Royal, aided and sustainded by most of the employes, in which our excellent agent takes a very deep interest, and is a most effectual worker. I cannot see but the Indians are as orderly in their deportment as the whites, and as sincere in their professions. I know of but one standard by which we can judge of the genuineness of any man's religion, and I did not make that standard. "Judge the tree by itsfruits," is the only rule I know, and tested by this rule, the Indians here lose nothing by comparison with whites. In the application of any rule, we must ever bear in mind "that where little is given little is required." As for the progress in industrial pursuits, it is certainly onward. By a late circular to the agent, each employe is required to take two apprentices, to be instructed in the different departments of labor.
We also have, by instructions from Washington, a police force, whose duty it is to keep order on the reservation, which is divided into districts, and each district is assigned to a policeman, who reports to the Chief of Police; who is a white man and one of the employes. The remainder of the force are Indians. This works admirably. It has had a good effect, so far, in checking crime on the reservation, and we recently had a fine illustration of its beneficial effects on a certain class of white men. Not long since a white man came on the reservation about noon, and stopped at an Indian house, in sights of and within a mile of the agency. The Indian tried to get him to go to the agency, but he refused. So when it was dark the Indian, fearing that this man was after no good, gave notice to the police, whereupon he was arrested, and in the absense of the agent, brought up to head-quarters; and not being able to give a satisfactory reason for his conduct, was, by the writer of this article, as Chief of Police, and ex-office agent in the absence of Mr. Bagley, ordered to be placed in the guard house until morning, when he was taken out, given his breakfast, and sent under the escort of an Indian policeman, off the reservation. While on his way, he confessed to the Indian that his object was to get a squaw for his wife, and live among the Indians; that he had had one squaw wife and wanted another. This is the man that the correspondent at the Salem Statesman
says got "lost and wandered here," and gives a doleful account of our unchristain treatment of a poor wanderer. If these lines should chance to be read by that correspondent, who signs his name "A-meri-cus
," or any other cus
, be it known to him or any such sympathizers with this class of persons that get lost and find their way here, on the same business, that they shall be furnished with the same kind of quarters. Whether the Indians here are making advancement in other respects, or not, they do not propose to furnish any more wives to men that call themselves white, and yet are too low down to get wives among their own people.
Now, I would like to tell you a great deal more, but I have already made this article too long; but next time you visit the Bay, just come up and see us; and we will show you over the reservation, then you can judge for yourself. We cordially invite all candid persons, that desire to know how things are managed here to come and see for themselves. This is the way to get at the truth. Those persons who are writing against the Agency and representing it as a failure, as a rule, will be found to be either employes that have been discharged for cause
, or persons aspiring to places here and have failed to get them. Yours truly.
John Boswell, Agency Physician.
December 26. 1878.