Siletz Agency, June 30, 1903
The honorable the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Washington, D. C.
Sir: I most respectfully submit the following report of Siletz Agency and School for the fiscal year 1903.
School. I will not attempt to make an exhaustive report, as I have been in charge from the 9th of March only, a period too short to justify it. I found the buildings in good repair and every department in a creditable condition.
The school is very pleasantly situated upon a high mesa overlooking a beautiful level valley, in which lies the school farm. The farm is well fenced and in a good state of cultivation. The school farm is encircled by the beautiful Siletz River, whose waters are cool, and filled with an abundance of fish, and is framed in by mountains on all sides, covered with a luxurient growth of shrubs, fir, alder, spruce, and hemlock, whose varied shades of green harmoniously blended forms a setting well worthy of such a scene.
Equipment. The children's quarters, both boys and girls', are comfortably furnished and in good condition. They are superior to those of most schools and fully adequate to the needs of the pupils. The employees have a sitting room well furnished, but their individual rooms are very small, unsuitable, and uncomfortable.
The agent's building could be moved and placed upon the school grounds at a light expense. This would furnish suitable quarters for the superintendent and several other employees. An estimate for this purpose will be forwarded soon, which I hope will meet with your early and favorable action.
Literary department. The schoolroom work has been very satisfactory. Mr. C. I. Gates's untiring energy and devotion to his duty has met a well-merited success. All pupils have finished the year's work with good grades and have received promotions.
The school closed with a nice programme, consisting of field-day exercises Thursday and a literary entertainment Friday evening. The field-day exercises were very good, considering the facts that they were the first ever attempted here; that the boys had received no training until this spring, and all pupils but very young ones had been transferred to larger schools quite recently. The literary programme, of unusual merit, was also well executed. Both were highly pleasing to the parents of the pupils as well as others, and created much interest and enthusiasm in the school work.
The attendance has been good. It has been very much reduced by transfers, made as directed by your office. However, a number of pupils are at their homes on the reservation, who are of school age. I have materially increased the enrollment during the present quarter, and the prospects are that the next year's enrollment will be much larger than the present.
Health. The health of the school has been very good.
Employees. The employees have all been faithful, energetic, and harmonious. The Indian matron, Miss Kruger, deserves especial mention on account of her executive ability, untiring devotion to her work, and her faithful care of the girls, being a true mother as well as a vigilant matron. I regret exceedingly that her salary was reduced, as she well deserved an increase instead of a reduction.
Industrial departments. The stock has been well cared for and is in good and thriving condition.
The dairy is very satisfactory. It produces all the milk, cream, and butter needed for the pupils, also much for cooking and seasoning purposes; besides, the employees' mess purchases of this department all the butter needed for its use.
A good garden has been planted. Many seeds were lost on account of the late, cold spring being followed by a short spell of very dry and hot weather. However, the staple vegetables, potatoes, cabbage, rutabagas, and peas, give promise of an abundance for the school during the entire year. Twenty-eight acres of oats have been sown upon the school farm. They are looking well and will soon be ready for harvest. The hay meadow gives promise of an abundance of hay for the stock, but it will be necessary to purchase chop, bran, and shorts for the milch cows and hogs, as in former years.
The work in the sewing room has been excellent. The seamstress, in addition to the school sewing, has taught a class in art needlework, which has made very commendable progress.
The laundry is very poorly equipped. The work, however, has been well done.
Owing to repeated changes in the position of cook, the kitchen and dining room were in a very unsatisfactory condition. The present incumbent, Mrs. Lizzie Fernard, keeps everything clean and neat, cooks excellent meals, and keeps a model dairy. The present management is highly satisfactory.
Agency. As has been reported by my predecessor, the payment of the Siletz general fund has been a cause of much retrogression in this agency. Happily most of the money has been paid and it has been spent speedily by the Indians. Indians, and many whites, will not work unless they are compelled by hunger. They gamble, drink, and neglect their homes as long as they have plenty of money.
While drinking and gambling are still too frequent, an improvement is discernible. Much more grain has been sown this spring than was sown in the last. Many of the indian homes show neat and well-kept gardens. New fences are being built and old ones repaired. A few new houses have been constructed. Lace curtains and flowers are found in the windows of many of the homes, which add to their neatness and attractiveness. Citizenship to many of these Indians is a very questionable blessing. Their ideals are in a crude or undeveloped condition. Liberty to them means freedom to drink and gamble and indulge the baser passions.
Several prosecutions have been begun by my predecessor for violation of the liquor laws. They were brought to trial at Portland and all aquitted with the exception of one case, in which the defendent pleaded guilty. Two other prosecutions of whites who sold liquor to the Indians are still pending. Could convictions be secured it would stop much drunkenness and retrogression in this agency. I have very little hope of securing convictions, owing to the local feeling, the position of the whites before whom these cases must be tried, and the conflicting testimony for the prosecution, as these Indians may be truthfully classed as the most willing and cheerful of all liars. They have no regard for the sacredness of an oath. I am very sure that they will never be reformed by prosecutions, and that every failure to secure convictions makes the case worse.
I doubt the expediency of conferring upon them the right of suffrage, as politicians wishing to secure the Indian vote defer to them and give the Indian citizen too exalted an opinion of himself an opinion not justified by his state of development, and not good for him to entertain.
Missionary work. The Catholic and Methodist Episcopal churches still maintain missions here. The Methodist Episcopal society proposes to erect a church building this year. Both work together harmoniously. The ministers are gentlemen of high standing, kind, courteous, and wield a great influence for good.
Physician. With due deference to the opinion of my predecessor as embodied in his report of last year, I sincerely believe that the present arrangement of hiring a contract physician who agrees to care for the school, employees, and indigent Indians only, is really an inhumane policy, and the cause of great misery and suffering among the Indians. While it may seem true that all able-bodied Indians who own farms should support their families in sickness and health, stern justice should be tempered with mercy, and we should remember that these Indians are still unused to civilized ways, that money is scarce here, even among the whites, and that it will take time for these Indians to become provident; that the charges of the white physicians are very high, and far above the ability of the Indian to pay. The result is that many Indians are neglected in sickness, many suffer and die who might be saved under good medical care. I earnestly recommend that this position be changed to a regular one and that the physician be required to treat all Indians of the agency until the time arrives when the Indian is better fitted to meet the requirments of his new position and responsibilities.
Sale of inherited Indian land. Many pieces of this land have been advertised and offered for sale. Few bids have been received. The rules for sale require that the money, or entire purchase price, for the land must be deposited when the deed is executed. The approval of these deeds is sometimes long delayed from various reasons. During all this time the purchaser must wait, his money tied up, and the action of the Department uncertain. Could some other method of securing the purchase money be devised, such as requiring it to be placed in the hands of the agent prior to the delivery of the approved deed, these sales could be made more easily and the lands closed out with little delay.
Conclusion. While there are discouraging features at this agency, much drinking and gambling, yet it is no worse among the Indians than others. It is chiefly introduced by the whites. This is a new country and these things will adjust themselves as it grows older.
The Indians are in a higher state of civilization than any I have worked among. Their homes are neater, they use the English language almost exclusively, and dress in civilized garb, many in good taste.
A Fourth of July celebration lasting three days has just ended. The Indians were assigned parts. They did their best and succeeded well. Athletic sports were made a feature of the programme. The Indians, old and young, were the chief contestants, and enjoyed the sports as much as whites. A baby show for Indian babies was a pleasant feature. The dusky mothers exhibited their precious darlings with as much
pride and maternal blindness as white ones. Cash prizes were awarded and received with much pleasure. During the nights of the 3d and 4th civilized dances were held at Indian homes. Several of my employees and myself attended and participated. Everything from beginning to end, was conducted in a refined and agreeable manner. The Indians thanked us for our presence and in many ways showed their appreciation of the courtesy. They went home after giving greateful expressions of pleasure, saying it was the best Fourth they ever had. The Rev. John Adams, a full-blood Indian delivered an address on the Fourth in Indian tongue. I was told by the whites who understood that it was good, patriotic, and full of acknowledgments of the benefits of the school. His gestures were graceful and his carriage commanding.
Not all of these Indians are idle and vicious; many are men of worth. I look forward to a change for the better when they have become accustomed to their new state and position.
Very respectfully submitted.
Jno. J. McKoin,
Special Disbursing Agent.
The Commissioner of Indian Affairs.