C. to Editor, Oregonian
, 22 January 1879, in United States, Office of Indian Affairs, Letters Received by the Office of Indian Affairs, 1824- 1880
, National Archives Microcopy 234, Roll 627, NADP Document D102.
SILETZ INDIAN RESERVATION.
To the Editor of the Oregonian:
A recent visit to this agency impressed me with several fact which, In the interest of the peace policy and of humanity, I am impelled to furnish you for your readers. These Indians, under the administration of the last few years, have made great improvement in various ways. First, a large proportion have attained a desire for permanent homes. As a consequence a large number of comfortable dwelling houses are to be seen. They are built of lumber, mostly about twenty feet square, with good floors, and roofed with shingles or good boards. The work of erecting these houses has been done almost entirely by the Indians themselves, under direction of the government carpenter. About forty buildings, houses and barns, were counted in the immediate vicinity of the agency. Besides there are a considerable number on the upper and lower farms. Quite a number more will be built as soon as the mill can furnish the lumber. In several places piles of new lumber noticed where new dwellings are to be erected.
Second Many of the Indians love farming and laboring.
This is evinced by the appearance of their farms, which are enclosed by as good rail and plank fences as can be found anywhere in the state; their plowing shows careful and honest labor; their horses and cattle are in good condition, showing proper care in their feeding and management. The governmant funds for the purchase of seed grain did not arrive until late last spring, so that there was not as large an acreage sown nor as large a yield per acre as would have been if the seed could have been obtained earlier in the season, yet the aggregate on their several farms amounted to about five thousand bushels for last year. Other Indians who have not yet begun farming for themselves are steady, reliable laborers. One Indian, when asked if he killed much game, expressed the sentiments of many when he answered, "Me no hunt me work." They are employed in cutting saw-logs, in teaming, in chopping, in the mills and in various other ways, the government paying them in blankets, clothing and provisions.
Third They show improvement in their intellectual and moral condition. They are beginning to comprehend and love law and order. To implant a new idea is difficult in proportion to the attainments of the pupil, and at best requires time and patience. But these Indians had very little attention given to their intellectual and moral culture until the last few years. Horse racing, foot racing, shooting, wrestling, fighting, gambling and dancing were, in those times, the regular and only occurences which distinguished Sunday from other days. This statement is made by the Indians as well as by the whites. But during the last few years they have had the full light of the civilizing and Christianizing influence of the peace policy, and it has worked a wonderful transformation in them. They now respect the Sabbath as a day of rest and worship. I never spent a quieter Sunday anywhere. The house was crowded with men, women and children, who observed the utmost order and decorum during the services of worship and Sunday school. They were cleanly dressed and made a respectable appearance. At at the conclusion of the services they immediately dispersed to their several homes.
They are being instructed in the administration of law and justice. One man from each of the seventeen tribes on the reservation is appointed a police officer and instructed to acquaint himself with the government property used by his tribe and to see that it is not sold or taken from the reservation, to report violations to the agency and to arrest offenders. Every Saturday afternoon the agent sits as a magistrate for the trial of all cases presented by the police or others. The Indians take much interest in this method, new to them, and exhibits a true love of justice and fairness in their jury verdicts, and delight in being made conservators of the peace and welfare of the agency.
It is very evident to the unprejudiced observer that the present agent, Wm. Bagley, and the efficient clerk and religious instructor Rev. T. F. Royal, M.A., have apprehended and are acting] upon the true idea of the peace policy; to elevate the Indian by a practical Christianity, teaching him to become a good and industrious citizen. The good order, the spirit of industry and thrift which everywhere prevail speak volumes in praise of their administration. It is their purpose to establish a boarding school. Many of the Indians living on the upper and lower farms several miles from the agency desire to send their children to school, but they can not do so without boarding them from home, and this they are scarely able to do even if suitable places could be found. The boarding school will obviate this difficulty and place an education within reach of all. Besides it will more completely isolate the children from the language and customs of their parents and give the teachers a corresponding increase of influence and opportunity for instruction.
I cannot but commend the earnest efforts made by the agent and employes on the reservation, to the kind sympathy and consideration, and bespeak for them the moral support of the readers of The Oregonian, especially as many articles appear from time to time in the public prints, from persons prejudiced againt the present policy of the government, or from persons who have been disappointed in obtaining positions, or have been discharged from employment on the reservation.