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Friends of the Indian,
Annual Conference of
Indian Commissioners and Missionaries.


Annual Conference of Indian Commis-
sioners and Missionaries.


Many Sharp Comments on Government
Management of the Indians--Alleged
Degrading Influences of the Soldiers--
Cold Water Thrown on the Convention.

    The annual conference of the board of Indian commissioners of the United States, with representatives of the various religious bodies interested in the Indians, was begun in the parlors of the Riggs House at 10 o'clock yesterday morning. The board of Indian commissioners is composed of ten men distinguished for their intelligence and high character, who serve the Government without compensation. It was provided for by law under Gen. Grant's administration. The board is at present composed of President Merrill E. Gates, president of Amherst College; Gen. E. Whittlesey, secretary, District of Columbia; William McMichael, New York; Joseph T. Jacobs, Michigan; Hon. Philip C. Garrett, Philadelphia; A. K. Smiley, of New York; W. H. Lyon, of New York: John Charlton, of Viola, N. Y., and Bishop W. D. Walker, of Fargo, N. D. All except the last four are attending the meeting.
    One might have guessed the character of the gathering yesterday from merely looking at those present. Many were women, most of the men were past middle life, and comprised a considerable number who had the unmistakable ministerial air, while there were some of the broadbrimmed tile hats and peculiar coats that indicated Quakers. On the faces of nearly all there was that expression of dignity and benevolence so noticeable among people engaged in unselfish work of this kind. Their speech betrayed education, refinement, and intellectual ability. The meeting was called to order by President Gates, of Amherst College. Among those present were the following:
    Ex-Commissioner of Indian Affairs Hiram Price, of this city; Capt. R. H. Pratt, superintendent of the Carlisle, Pa., Indian school; Senator Dawes, Hon. and Mrs. M. B. Cutcheon, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, and Mrs. Morgan, Dr. Rush R. Shippen, Miss Grace Howard, of Brooklyn, missionary to the Crow Creek agency, South Dakota; Miss Emily S. Cook, Miss Kate Foote, president Washington branch Women's National Indian Association; Mrs. R. S. Quinton, Rev. Charles H. Small, Rev. B. N. Seymour, T. G. Butler, chaplain, United States Navy; Miss Josephine M. Chester, financial secretary Indian mission of the American Missionary Association, Birmingham, Conn.; Joshua W. Davis, vice president Boston Indian citizenship committee; Herbert Welsh, corresponding secretary Indian Rights Association, Philadelphia; C. C. Painter, agent of Indian Rights Association; J. W. Chickering, Rev. Geo. H. Corey, Rev. Dr. Hamlin, Rev. Dr. Bartlett, Jos. J. Janney, chairman committee on Indian affairs, Baltimore yearly meeting Society of Friends; William Wood, Levi K. Brown, Mr. T. W. Blackburn, chief of education division, Indian Office, and Mrs. Blackburn; Rev. S. M. Newman, Mrs. J. C. Kinney, president Connecticut Indian Association; Miss Alice C. Fletcher, agent Indian Bureau; Rev. T. S. Wynkoop, Dr. and Mrs. Craighead, Miss Craighead, and Rev. C. C. McCabe, secretary M. E. Missionary Society, New York.
    Senator Dawes, of Massachusetts, was the first speaker, and opposed the proposition to transfer the control of the Indians from the Interior Department to the War Department. Representative M. B. Cutcheon indicted the system of Indian schools, including Hampton and Carlisle, and thought the Indians should be brought in contact with civilization as much as possible.
    President Gates next spoke, and referred to the "recent lamentable conflict at Wounded Knee," telling of one Indian who was picked up on the battle-field with a bullet in his heart. The ball had gone through a tract in the warrior's pocket entitled "the kingdom of God has come nigh thee." The secret of successfully dealing with the Indians was to bring Christianity to them.
    Hon. Philip C. Garrett, Dr. Striebly, Miss Kate Foote, Dr. Sheldon Jackson, and Hon. Joshua W. Davis were appointed a committee on business and resolutions. Dr. Henry Kimball, of the Presbyterian Home Mission board, asked more Government aid for the three kinds of Indian work, viz.: Church work, day schools, and boarding-schools.
    Dr. Sheldon Jackson, of the Presbyterian Board of Mission, who has been at work among the Indians of Alaska, told of the work in that country. He urged that the Indians of Alaska be taught to raise reindeer, like the Siberians, and thus support themselves. Rev. Francis Tiffany, of the Unitarian Association, gave an account of the work done by the school supported by his denomination among the Crow Indians, and brief addresses were made by Rev. C. C. McCabe, of the M. E. Missionary Society; Mrs. Quinton, and Joseph J. Janney.
    At the afternoon session the parlors were well filled. Gen. Armstrong, superintendent of the Indian school at Hampton, Va., was among the arrivals. Rev. Charles W. Shelton, financial secretary of the Indian mission of the American Missionary Association, spoke hopefully of the Indian outlook.
    The report of the committee on order of business was then presented and adopted. It provided that the conference should take up first the subject of education, the discussion of which should be opened by Commissioner of Indian Affairs Morgan; second, the question of how to aid in promoting the settlement of lands in severalty, the discussion to be opened by Miss Alice C. Fletcher, and third, the Dakota trouble, the discussion to be opened by Mr. Herbert Welsh.
    Gen. T. J. Morgan, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, spoke at some length upon the general subject of Indian education. He said that anyone present at the meeting looking into the faces of those present would see that they felt that the time was not only a crisis, but that it was a time of great public calamity, when soldiers and Indians alike were being killed on the field of battle. People were inclined to exaggerate the importance of this Sioux trouble. These Indians who were unfriendly were only about 3,000 out of 250,000.
    The Government boarding school at Pine Ridge was going right along with but little interruption. The mission schools were but slightly interfered with. The chief cause of the outbreak was the inevitable revolution of the Sioux against the civilization around them. It was the same spirit that led to the hostility of some of the Sioux against their fellows for signing the agreement by which their lands were ceded to the Government. A minority of the Sioux had sought for and secured notoriety just as a minority in the House or Senate often did. They had not asserted themselves to any greater extent than the minority party in some other places had done. Then came the short crops and the Messiah craze, and "that unfortunate affair at Wounded Knee and the killing of women and children."
    But there was a hopeful outlook. The shock of arms had shown that there was a conscience in America and that in this broad land men were thinking as never before and asking grave questions as never before. Gen. Morgan then went on to show that out of 243,000 Indians in the United States and Territories 185,000 never received aid from the Government, and those that received aid generally received only partial support, the Round Valley Indians getting only $2 each per year, the Hoopa Valley Indians only $7 each, and others amounts almost as low.
    The speaker had been in Arizona, and had seen the Moquis plant peach trees, and build walls around them to protect them, and had seen the same Indians getting a living out of sand; had talked with White Mountain Apaches, and had been impressed with the dignity and manhood of the chiefs. Those chiefs had said to him that they didn't want rations, didn't want to visit the agencies to be kicked around and cussed by soldiers, but would like to have a few more wagons, a blacksmith, a good mill, and above all, would like to be free from being charged with the iniquities committed by white men. [Applause.] The Indians were now certainly further along than the white men were 1,000 years ago, and in the last ten years, the progress made by the Indians was greater than was ever made by any people from the same plane as that they occupied. [Applause.]
    Capt. R. H. Pratt, superintendent of the Indian Industrial School at Carlisle, Pa., was introduced by President Gates as one who was not only captain in the Army, but one who had long ago been breveted by the friends of the Indians as a "general" in their work. Capt. Pratt prefaced his paper by some remarks to the effect that he was a little afraid to appear, for the reason that some might say he ought to be in South Dakota. He was ready to go there, however, whenever he should be ordered to do so. If he should go he could take 350 young men from the Carlisle school whom he could lead and with whom he could accomplish as much as with any equal number of soldiers in the United States Army. In his paper, Capt. Pratt argued that savagery was a habit, that civilization was a habit, and that both were largely the result of environment.
    He told of a white girl who, when a child, had been captured and brought up by the Comanche Indians, who learned their language and adopted their customs, and who, when afterwards recaptured by her family, made her way back to the Comanches, preferring them and their mode of life. An Indian who, as a boy, had danced around the scalp of a soldier, but who afterwards was educated in the Carlisle School and was now occupying a position in the employ of a responsible business man in a Pennsylvania town, had a family and was a respected member of the community. Other illustrations were cited. The Indian, he thought, should not only be educated, but should be taught to work and support himself. He should be brought into competion [sic] and contact with the whites.
    Miss Grace Howard, of Brooklyn, who has been acting as a missionary to the Crow Creek Indians, related many of her experiences and observations. The people about the Crow Creek agency, in South Dakota, were largely composed of immigrants from Europe, whom Miss Howard regarded as inferior to the Indians. "I would hate to see my Indians look like them," said she. One Indian there had hired four white women to cut and stack his hay. Indians could get credit at the stores, while the whites could not. An Indian agent was needed there who was willing to stand against the white men and oppose their oppressions and encroachments.
    Prof. C. C. Painter, of the Indian Rights Association, spoke briefly, referring to the reservation system as "an infernal system." It undid the working of the schools and threw back the Indians that had been educated out of their old habits. He wanted to see a prominent and responsible head for the Indian Bureau.
    "How can we aid in promoting the settlement of lands in severalty?" was the next question introduced, and Miss Alice C. Fletcher, who has been employed by the Indian Bureau as a special agent for allotting lands to the Omaha, Winnebago, and Nez Perce Indians, was the first speaker. She thought the matter of the settlement of lands upon the Indians was the real Indian question.
    "The problem of the Indian lands related not merely to the quantity but to the quality of the lands. The bill for the readjustment of the quantity of land to Indian men, women, and children, now pending in Congress, should be passed. Under the present law women were left out, and persons under eighteen years of age received only forty acres of land. All should receive the same amount of land. To begin life on alloted land meant for an Indian a second era of pioneering. On going back to the Nez Perces, recently, the speaker had found two-thirds of the allotments thrown up, the result of the pressure of white settlers and by rings inside the reservation. She was all summer getting them back again. The whites who own cattle and the whites, who, for other reasons object to the allotment of lands in severalty were in collusion with Indians who are against such allotment.
    Agency supplies were issued in larger quantities to these ill-disposed and non-progressive Indians in collusion with the whites. Those Indians who were trying to defeat the allotment scheme had a fashion of driving needles into the heads of the best horses owned by the more progressive Indians, and thus killing them, and of tying little tight hairs about the tails of horses till they couldn't eat, and as a result would die. There were other coercive practices hinted at by the speaker of which she did not wish to speak more plainly.
    The help given to Indians to cultivate their farms, said Miss Fletcher, should not be delayed till they receive their patents, which is three or four years after allotment, but should be given at once, so they can fence out the white man's cattle and go to work.
    Senator Dawes then spoke briefly, and Commissioner Morgan told a little story to the effect that a Moqui chief, who had visited Washington, and complained of the wrongs of the Navajoes, went back home and said to his people: "When I went East, saw white people, all rich, all prosperous, all happy. No white man imposes upon another." [Laughter.]
    Miss Kate Foote, president of the Washington branch of the Woman's National Indians' Association, told about her recent visit to the Mission Indians of Southern California, and said the white people of that country were beginning to show a little respect for the "Eastern sentimentalist" on the Indian question.
    Ex-Commissioner of Indian Affairs Hiram Price, of this city, cast a wet blanket over the congregation. He said he was not in the mission field, nor yet in the Indian service.
    When he had been appointed Commissioner of Indian Affairs, under President Arthur, he had had no idea of the duties. The man who filled that office was like the man who went to a tan yard to get work. The employer told him to go in and sit down on a stool and sit there. He asked if that was all that was expected of him. "Yes," was the answer. "I want you to sit there and let them break bark over your head." [Laughter.]
    It would be flattery to call that man a fool who conducted his affairs as the Government conducted its Indian affairs. A man once broke his plough out West, on an Indian reservation. He couldn't get it fixed without the consent of the Secretary of the Interior. The man asked the Indian agent, the Indian agent asked the Commissioner, the Commissioner had to ask the Secretary of Interior, who is an officer with already four times too much to do, and by the time the order was back at the reservation for fixing the plough, the ground was frozen up for the winter.
    If an Indian agent died--and, they did die sometimes--somebody wrote to the Commissioner, the Commissioner wrote to the Secretary of the Interior, that officer wrote to the President, the President nominated a successor, the Senate approved or rejected him. It took the speaker once seven months to get an Indian agent appointed. A single business man could perform all this business better than the 400 who were now at it. Congress should have made the Indian appropriation proposed at this session during last April at the very latest.
    Here a delegate arose and told how an Osage Indian agent had once been gladdened by the receipt of a lot of straw hats in December.
    Continuing, Mr. Price said the sale of firearms on or off the reservations should be prohibited; that Indian agents should be paid more, and that the Commissioner of Indian Affairs should have more power.
    "But," he concluded, "nothing will be done. I've been commissioner, and I've been in Congress ten years, and I know how it is. You people will meet here and talk, but it will do no good. You'll have nothing more than the nigger had for his prayers. You will have your labor for your reward."
    President Gates made a little speech, saying: "Mr. Price has let us down." He had hoped for something encouraging. He told a good story, however, and counseled the delegates not to be discouraged.



Lively Scene at the Evening Session of
the Conference.

    The evening session was devoted to the discussion of the causes of the present Indian outbreak, and the perplexed subject was very thoroughly canvassed, though no one had any suggestions to make regarding the settlement of the difficulties, now that they have been brought about.
    Herbert Welsh, secretary of the Indian Rights Association, of Philadelphia, said that the Indian office was overtaxed, weighted down with its work and its progress retarded. If this had been remedied, he thought, by proper legislative aid, the present Indian outbreak would have been averted.
    "Had the bureau been able to take up and dispatch the work promptly, had the work of education been promptly carried out, had every Indian child been given a Christian education, the present trouble would not exist."
    He said that the reduction of the supply of beef had, beyond a doubt, something to do with it, but he indicated that the principal cause was the existing system of appointments under the stress of political influence. He said the Indian question could never be solved till the administration of Indian affairs was freed from the curse of partisan politics.
    Gen. Armstrong made a trip through the Indian country about seven years ago and visited the same places again two years ago. He had seen wonderful advancement on all sides. The negro question, he said, was being discussed in Congress, and there was undoubtedly a horrible state of affairs down South, but there was no doubt that the condition of affairs was moving steadily toward a betterment. The political bedevilling of the Indian question was, he thought, doing a great deal of harm just as it is hurting the cause of the negro in the South. But, in spite of it, the Indians, like the negroes, are getting ahead. The difficulties in the way of civil service reform, in the administration of Indian affairs with its wealth of patronage were very discouraging, but the good work must be continued. The best hope of the Indian was the Indian himself.
    Dr. Gates, the president, thought that it was not too much to expect that before a great while the board of commissioners might be strong enough to ask that the civil service views, avowed by both parties, should be put in full force in the Indian Bureau, which was comparatively small and isolated.
    "Mr. Welsh echoed this view, and then the chair called on Senator Dawes, who was present, and asked what legislation would be necessary to this end. The Senator thought none at all was needed. The present civil service law was broad enough to cover the whole matter, he thought, if any administration chose to apply it. In answer to another question the Senator said that a law insuring continuity in office in the Indian Bureau could be framed easily enough, but it was doubtful whether the people who would have to pass the law would want to do it, and criticisms of the present administration, he thought, should be very sparingly indulged in, for it had done a very great deal of good. The way to remedy the present bad condition of affairs under the spoils system was to tone up public sentiment and to continue the agitation of the matter.
    Dr. Gates asked Senator Dawes if it would not be possible to get the Indian service under a civil service system by passing a law putting the appointment of agents in the hands of the Secretary of the Interior, and then the President's making an order that no agent should be displaced except for cause. Senator Dawes answered, "If I were elected President of the United States [here some one clapped his hands] I would have just two rules to govern the civil service. The first would be that I would appoint no one to office while he was in Washington; the second, that I would appoint no one who brought to me the recommendation of any member of Congress unless I had asked for it."
    Dr. Langford then told what he said was one of the most impressive Indian stories he had ever heard. The story was of the four bas reliefs in the rotunda of the Capitol, one representing, the first, the landing of Columbus, the Indians welcoming him, the second, the Penn treaty, the third, Pocahontas saving John Smith's life, and the fourth, Daniel Boone killing Indians. He said as an old chief who had visited the Capitol and seen these bas reliefs, commented on them as follows: "Indian give white man bread. Indian give white man land. Indian save white man's life. White man kill Indian."
    A round of applause followed Dr. Langford's impressive recital of the story, Then a Philadelphian, who was armed with a Public Ledger clipping, got up and succeeded in stirring up the meeting quite effectually.
    He was Colonel William McMichael, and among other things, he said that one cause of the Indians' dissatisfaction was that the whites had broken their word in regard to the issuance of rations and in other particulars. He read the following extract from a letter by Miss Cox, which was printed in the Public Ledger last September:
    Gen. Crook, Gov. Foster, of Ohio, and Gen. Warner, the acting commissioners, gave not only verbal promises, but written ones, that if they would sell their lands and sign the treaty founded on the Dawes bill their rations should not be reduced and that nothing which they then received should be taken from them. Not more than a month after the treaty was signed at Pine Ridge the beef issue was reduced 1,000,000 pounds for the year, and at Rosebud 2,000,000; their annuities were also reduced. It is said that Gen. Crook felt so bad about this that it is thought it hastened his death.
    Senator Dawes was on his feet at once. He said that there had been no broken faith. To say that Gen. Crook's death had been hastened by anything of the sort was the silliest sort of nonsense. The Senator explained that the commissioners had not made the Indians any promises, only that they would try to have certain things done. The bill for this purpose had passed the Senate last session and the House this, and the Senator said he expected it to repass the Senate with the House amendments to-day. As to the reduction in the beef rations the Senator said that "through some sort of hocus-pocus in the census" the Government had been issuing rations to some 2,500 more Indians than there were. When the mistake was discovered the number of rations was reduced.
    This rather staggered the Philadelphian, but he recovered, and continued to charge bad faith on the part of the Government. "Didn't they," he said, loudly, "promise the Indians that these things should be done?" Senator Dawes nodded.
    "Now, Senator Dawes, have these promises been kept?" Col. McMichaels asked, taking two or three strides toward where Senator Dawes sat and shaking his finger at him.
    The Senator said the bill would probably be passed to-day, and started to rise, evidently intending to reply to the excited Philadelphian again when President Gates neatly avoided a climax by calling Col. McMichael's attention to the fact tnat he was supposed to be addressing the whole body and not Senator Dawes.
    A letter from Dr. Charles A. Eastman, vividly describing the scene of the killing near the Pine Ridge agency, which has already been widely published, was read and created a profound sensation. Eastman is a full-blooded Indian, educated in Boston.
    Then the resolutions, drafted by the committee appointed at the morning session, were reported for adoption, and they elicited a lively discussion. Gen. Morgan, the Indian Commissioner, rose and said he would refrain from voting on the resolutions because he was an executive officer of the Government, and the resolutions criticised the Government. Capt. Pratt announced a similar determination.
    The resolutions evoked evidences of considerable differences of opinion amongst the commissioners.
    The references to the "barbarous and inhuman butchery of their women and children" was softened a bit.
    As finally adopted, the resolutions read as follows:
    This conference meeting, at a time of gloom in the history of the Indian movement, derives fresh courage from the comparison of views as to the situation. The Dakota trouble although melancholy in its results of violence and bloodshed, extends to but probably less than 5,000 of 250,000 Indians. Its cause is partly to be found in the inevitable opposition of the chiefs and the anti-progressive and anti-Christian elements to the present civilizing tendencies. Deprecating the contact of soldiery with those people when unnecessary as frequently demoraling and injurious, and the indiscreet and sometimes needless firing upon the Indians and especially the barbarous and inhuman destruction of their women and children, we rejoice to be assured that the administration has not yielded to the demand for the transfer of the Indians to the War Department.
    We are also more and more convinced of the detrimental effects of removing valuable officers in the Indian service, whose experience cannot be replaced, solely or really for political reasons, and most earnestly urge the retention of such men, without regard to their political opinions, and the extension of civil service reform regulations to the subordinate appointments to the Indian department. The value of permanence cannot be too strongly insisted on in all governmental relations to the Indians, permanence, in the tenure of office, permanence in the lines of policy pursued, and permanence in the efforts for their education, elevation, and Christianization. While seeking to accomplish these objects as rapidly as possible, we recognize the fact that it is rendered a slow process by the conditions that surround the solution of the problem.
    This conference urge very earnestly upon the Government a continued increase in the Congressional appropriations for education under a system of adequate common school instruction until every Indian child is enabled to go to school. We favor compulsory education as indispensable to qualify these children for citizenship, and continued support to contract schools until the Government is ready to assume the entire instruction of Indians in the Government schools.
    We believe that every effort should be made to induce the Indian tribes to accept lands in severalty, and the Government should afford every facility for securing them in the full and undisputed possession of their lands as speedily as possible. To this end we recommend that money appropriated for the benefit of the Indians to whom land has been allotted may be expended at the discretion of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs without obligation to wait for the final approval or issuing of patents for the land.
    In the view of all the facts, in spite of the obstacles encountered, we yet feel encouraged to go forward under the overruling Providence of God, believing this great problem will yet be solved, as becomes an intelligent and Christian people.
    Then, after the 150 ladies and gentlemen who filled the big parlor had sung the Doxology, the conference adjourned till next year.



Latest Information at the Interior De-
partment--Agent Rogers' Dismissal.

    The Indian situation as summed up at the Interior Department yesterday is about as follows: There are in all about 20,000 Sioux Indians, men, women, and children, on the northern reservations. Of this number 16,500 are accounted for, as they are living on the reservations in peace, and not taking any part in the present disturbance. This leaves about 3,500 men, women, and children to force the earthworks, the howitzers, and the 8,000 men now under the command of Gen. Miles. The hostile camp is located about seventeen miles north of the Pine Ridge agency, and the cordon of troops surround the hostile camp with the exception of the south side, the object being to drive the Indians into the reservation. There is constant communication between the hostile camp and the agency. The hostles [sic] are well supplied with beef, but they have no sugar or coffee, except as they are supplied by the "friendlies," as the reservation Indians are called.
    While the situation is regarded as a hopeless one for the Indians, yet it is believed that they have no intention of surrendering. It is predicted by some who are on the ground that there will be a battle on Sunday or Monday. When the hopelessness of the situation of the Indians in fighting against such odds is pointed out the only explanation vouchsafed is, "The Indians are crazy."
    From reports received at the Interior Department the situation is believed to be tense, and the people at the agencies are very much disturbed.
    Secretary Noble yesterday sent a dispatch to Agent Royer, at Pine Ridge, dismissing him from the service. The Secretary directs him to turn over the property to Capt. Pierce, First Infantry, who will temporarily act as agent at that point. This action, so far as the removal of Royer is concerned, was determined upon some time ago, when the officials of the Indian office learned that Mr. Royer was not proving to be equal to the emergency. While his ability to perform the duties of his position in ordinary times is not questioned, yet since the present disturbances began he has failed, it is said, to show the nerve which the situation required.
    Secretary Noble said that he was in perfect accord with Secretary Proctor in regard to the policy to be pursued in the management of the turbulent tribes of the Northwest. He had endeavored to do everything in his power to bring this disturbance to an end. The rations had been supplied promptly and in sufficient quantity. His officers were acting in harmony with the troops, and, in fact, a united effort was being made to give to Gen. Miles every facility for carrying on his operations.


The Military Indian Agents.

    The President yesterday appointed Capt. Pierce, First Infantry, U. S. A., to be agent of the Indians at the Pine Ridge reservation, vice Royer, removed. The order from the War Department directing Capt. Pierce to report to Gen. Miles for duty at the Rosebud agency has therefore been rescinded. Capt. C. A. Earnest, Eighth Infantry, who was designated to take military charge of one of the Indian reservations, has been relieved of that duty because of illness, and Capt. Joseph H. Hurst, Twelfth Infantry, has been designated in his place. He will report to Gen. Miles for assignment to duty.
    Capt. Jesse M. Lee, Ninth Infantry, will proceed without delay to Pine Ridge Agency, S. D., and report in person to Maj. Gen. Nelson A. Miles, commanding the division of the Missouri, for duty at Standing Rock Indian agency.


Unknown, "Friends of the Indian, Annual Conference of Indian Commissioners and Missionaries," The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., Friday, 9 January, 1891, p. 6.

Created May 16, 2006; Revised May 16, 2006
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