ONEATTA, YAQUINA BAY AGENCY,
October 1, 1871.
SIR: I have the honor of submitting this my eighth and last annual report of the affairs of Siletz agency.
I closed my term of service as agent on the 1st day of May, 1871, at which time, as you are already aware, I turned over the agency to my successor, Hon. Joel Palmer. Since then I have been busily engaged
in making up my final papers. This task, I regret to say, is not yet entirely finished. The delay has been owing to some irregularities, occasioned by a change of employes, and to other causes over which I have had no control. I shall now, however, push the work forward with all possible dispatch, and shall soon have my papers fully completed. I ask, for that purpose, your indulgence, and that of the Department, for a short time.
I presume it will hardly be expected that I should at this time enter into the usual details concerning the affairs of the agency. All the important facts which have not been communicated to the Department by myself heretofore will undoubtedly be embodied in the first annual report of my successor. He will find it convenient, if not necessary, in
introducing himself officially to the Department, to give some sort of a summary of the condition of the affairs of the agency at the time he took charge. I feel therefore that it would be altogether a work of
supererogation for me to go over that ground in detail. As this is my last report, after a somewhat protracted term of service in charge of Siletz agency, I think it not inappropriate that I should present here a few statements
of facts in the history of the dealings of the Government with these Indians, in order to show some of the difficulties with which I have had to struggle. I shall also presume somewhat upon your indulgence by
offering some suggestions, prompted by my own experience, concerning the future management of the Indians over whom I have so long had control.
I have had charge of Siletz agency for eight years, and in that time have had to encounter many stubborn obstacles to the successful management of its concerns. I think, too, that I may say, without vanity, that I have overcome many such obstacles. It is not an easy matter, even under the most favorable circumstances and with all possible helps, to conduct successfully the affairs of an Indian agency. To a race accustomed, as the Indians have been, to the licentious freedom of the savage state, the restraints and dull routine of a reservation are almost intolerably irksome. It is not wonderful, therefore, that they should be often fractious and impatient of control, or that, even when reduced to complete submission to the regulations imposed upon them, they should, in many instances, become sullen and unteachable. To manage such a people in such a condition with any degree of success requires unceasing, anxious labor. Yet this is the duty imposed upon almost every Indian agent in the United States. But in addition to these difficulties, which are incident to Indian management everywhere, there are some which are peculiar to Siletz agency. There are at this agency some fourteen tribes and parts of tribes of Indians, numbering, in the aggregate, at the time I took charge, about 2,500. Separate treaties were made with all of these different tribes in 1855, at the conclusion of what is known as the "Rogue River War," in Southern Oregon. Some of these treaties have been, in part, confirmed and complied with by the United States Government, but most of them have been entirely and persistently disregarded. In expectation, however, of the immediate ratification of all the stipulations entered into, the Indians were all removed from their lands in the Rogue River country to Siletz reservation at the close of the war above referred to. Here they have been kept ever since as prisoners of war, supported by a removal and subsistence fund, appropriations for which, varying from $10,000 to $30,000, have been annually made by Congress. For sixteen years this scant, irregular, and uncertain charity, doled out to them from time to time, has been the only evidence they have received that they were not utterly forgotten by the Government. For sixteen years they have been fed upon promises that were made only to be broken, and their hearts have sickened with "hope deferred." For sixteen years they have seen the white man gathering in annually his golden harvests from the lands which they surrendered; and for all those sixteen long, weary years, they have waited, and waited in vain for the fulfillment of the solemn pledges with which the white man bought those lands. What wonder is it that, suspicious and distrustful as they are by nature, they should, under such tuition, cease to have any faith in the white man's word, or to heed his solemn preachments about education and civilization? Who can blame them if, after such an experience, they come to regard the whole white race, from the Great Father down, as a race of liars and cheats, using their superior knowledge to defraud the poor Indian? And is it amazing that, with such an eminent example before them, they should grow treacherous and deceitful as they grow in knowledge; or, that they should use every possible exertion to escape from the restraints which, as they believe, the white man has imposed upon them only for the purpose of defrauding them? In my judgment, it is safe to
assert that by far the greater part of their restiveness and indocility is justly attributable to this cause. I am fully satisfied that it has more than doubled the difficulty of controlling and managing them for the past eight years. So thoroughly have I appreciated this fact, that I have again and again urged, in my annual reports, the necessity of entering into treaties with the Indians at this agency who are not now parties to any stipulations. Feeling, as I do, that the neglect with which these Indians have been treated in this particular has been most unwise as well as grossly unjust, I cannot permit this last opportunity of expressing myself officially on the subject to pass without again earnestly urging a speedy correction of this grievous error and wrong.
Notwithstanding the many embarrassments with which I have had to contend in the management of the affairs of this agency, I am fully satisfied that no Indians on this coast have made any more rapid advancement than those under my charge, in industry and civilization. When I entered upon the discharge of my duties as agent, eight years ago, I found the Indians in almost a wild state, kept together and controlled by military force. This condition of things rapidly disappeared, and for the past four or five years I have succeeded in keeping the Indians generally upon the reservation, and in controlling them without any other aid than a very small corps of employes. And when I turned over the agency to my successor the state of discipline was far better than it was at any time when the agent had the assistance of a detachment of soldiers to enforce his orders. Besides, the Indians have, many of them, attained a comparatively high degree of proficiency in the useful arts. About all the mechanical work needed on the reservation can now be done by them. Indeed, so great has been the improvement among them in every respect that, in my judgment, many of them are to-day capable of becoming citizens of the United States, and should be admitted to citizenship as soon as circumstances will permit. Knowing as I do the liberality of your views on the subject of the equality of men, I feel confident that you will spare no effort in your power to bring about this state of things at as early a day as possible.
Before closing this report permit me to make one suggestion as to the management of the Indian agencies under the system lately adopted by the Government. I am satisfied that under this system it would be a matter of economy, as well as a benefit to the Indians, to place the whole subject under the immediate control of the superintendent, doing away with agents entirely. Each reservation could be managed by a sub-agent appointed by the superintendent, and subject to his supervision and control. The superintendent should then be held strictly responsible for the management of the reservations or agencies within his jurisdiction, and the various sub-agents and employes should be made accountable to him alone. The disbursements could be made by the superintendent, and the accounts for the whole superintendency could be kept in his office. The advantages of this system would, undoubtedly, be great. It would reduce considerably the machinery of the Indian Department, and would simplify all its processes. Besides, it would render those who had the management of the different reservations amenable for their conduct not to a distant authority, but to one at home. Their acts would thus be judged, and condemned or approved, as the case might require, in every instance by one who would have, to a great extent, a personal acquaintance with all the circumstances. Under the present arrangement the Indian Department is little better than a gigantic circumlocution office, in which everything is done by indirect and circuitous methods. Every agent renders his account, and is respon-
sible (nominally) to the central office at Washington, and not to his immediate superior. In this labyrinth of routine and red-tape official incompetency and dishonesty may often hide securely. On the other hand, wise management and worth frequently escape notice altogether or receive censure instead of commendation. In fact, there are in each superintendency so many different centers of power and influence, each of which must be watched from the head of the department, that the view is distracted and bewildered, and official accountability degenerates into a mere farce. The superintendent, though he has a sort of supervision of the different agencies, is yet really powerless to correct abuses which may come to his notice. His subordinates are not responsible to him, and he can do no more than report their incompetence or misconduct to the common superior of all, and then await the tedious processes of circumlocution. His jurisdiction is, in fact, merely formal, rather than actual, and he is not responsible for the conduct of his subordinates; there is but little motive for him to exercise even the slight power which he has. The only remedy is to give him full authority over all the agents and sub-agents, and to make him personally accountable for their official acts.
I think that the necessity for this change is now more urgent than ever before. As a religious element has been infused into the management of Indian Affairs, and as agents are appointed upon the recommendations of the different churches, there is danger that, in the search for piety in those who aspire to office, certain other very respectable and necessary
qualities may be lost sight of. It is quite as needful that appointees should have some talent for affairs as that they should have the spirit and form of godliness, yet the former does not always accompany the latter. Many very good and pious men are but children in the business of the world. It is also a fact of common experience that if religious bodies are ]eft to select men for responsible positions of any sort, they are apt to choose them more on account of their zeal in the service of God or of some gift of exhortation or prayer, than on account of capability for business. I know that thus far the President has been very fortunate in his selections of men to carry out his new "Indian policy," but depending, as he must, upon the recommendation of church organizations in these matters, he is liable hereafter to make the mistake I have mentioned, and appoint men to office whose piety constitutes their only fitness for the positions they are called upon to fill. It is in view of this danger that I particularly recommend the propriety of making the change suggested above.
With many thanks for the distinguished consideration which I have received at your hands in my official dealings with you, I have the honor to be, your most obedient servant,
Late United States Indian Agent.
Hon. A.B. MEACHAM
Superintendent Indian Affairs in Oregon.