« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
THE NEW YORK INDIANS.
We have given much attention to the affairs of the Seneca Indians of the Allegany and Cattaraugus reservations in the State of New York. A very unsettled and unsatisfactory condition of things exists there. Large tracts of land have been leased to railroad companies and many town lots to private parties in the villages that have grown up about several railroad stations, and the Indian people complain that the rents collected are appropriated by a few leading men to their own private use, and that the people receive no benefit whatever.
Mr. G. B. Pray, special United States Indian agent, after a careful investigation, reports that “the affairs of this nation are very loosely and irregularly managed; that the officers use the power of the place for the purpose of perpetuating themselves, and it is openly charged that the money of the nation is used for the same purpose.”
He further says: “It is a fact that I do not think they will dispute that the body of the people have not received from its officers a single dollar of income from leases during the last four or five years.” (Senate Ex. Doc. No. 190, Fifty-fifth Congress, second session.) The Indians have petitioned Congress for redress of those wrongs, and early last winter a bill (S. 2888) was introduced “to regulate the collection and disbursement of moneys arising from leases made by the Seneca Nation of New York Indians.” Though approved, we are assured by the Secretary of the Interior and the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, this bill, which passed the Senate, has not passed and is still pending in the House. We earnestly urge its speedy passage. At our meeting at Mohonk Lake, October 11, 1898, the matter was considered and the following resolutions were adopted:
Resolved, That this board is convinced that the system of administration of their affairs at present in vogue with the Senecas of the Allegany and Cattaraugus reservations encourages corrupt practices and is fraught with injustice and great disadvantages to the Indians.
Resolved, That we believe the time is ripe for breaking up the New York reservations and allotting the land to the individual Indians.
Resolved, That until this is done we respectfully urge on the Government the importance of placing the collection of their rentals and other income with some agency that will secure a proper accounting and distribution of the money.
The romantic story of the heroic life and work of Mr. William Duncan in British Columbia and Alaska is so generally known that we need not repeat it. After raising the Tshimshean tribe of Indians from the lowest grade of barbarism to a high state of Christian civilization, Mr. Duncan, to escape oppressive acts of the white people of British Columbia, determined to remove his Indians from that province and to seek protection under the flag of the United States. Annette Island, on the coast of Alaska, was selected for their future home. To this lonely, rocky, and densely wooded island they came in the year 1887, abandoning their comfortable houses, their mills, their church, and all their improvements for conscience sake.
In 1891 the island was, by act of Congress, “set apart as a reservation for the use of the Metlakahtla Indians, and those people known as Metlakahtlans who have recently emigrated from British Columbia to Alaska, and to such other Alaskan natives as may join them.” There they have lived eleven years in peace. By hard work, equal to that of early pioneers in our Western States, they have cleared away the forest, built a village of about 200 frame houses, erected a salmon can
nery capable of packing 20,000 cases of salmon per annum and a sawmill which can cut 10,000 feet of lumber per day. They have built a town hall which will seat 400 people, a schoolbouse large enough for 200 children, and a church capable of accommodating 800 people, the largest church in Alaska. They have constructed a pipe line, 2 miles in length, from a lake over 800 feet in elevation, which supplies good drinking water for the village and abundance of power for the cannery and the sawmill. They have organized a local government, with rules strict enough to satisfy the most rigid of our Puritan fathers. In short, the Metlakahtlans are a sober, industrious, self-supporting Christian community. They are no burden on the United States Government. All they ask is a secure tenure of their island home, and citizenship. Every sentiment of justice and humanity demands that their reasonable and modest request should be granted. But, alas! traces of gold, it is rumored, have been discovered in the cliffs along the eastern side of the island, and what can withstand the “auri sacra fames ?”
Instigated by greedy gold seekers, a bill was introduced in both Houses of Congress last winter, and is still pending, to take away from the Metlakahtlans and restore to the public domain about five-sixths of Annette Island, leaving to them a small peninsula on the west side, containing about 21 square miles. So much alarm was excited by this proposed legislation that Mr. Duncan was sent to Washington to protest against it. He remained here several weeks. He fully explained the condition of his people, their substantial gains and rapid progress in the arts of civilization, and the good influence they are exerting upon the surrounding native tribes. He earnestly pleaded for "protection and isolation from vicious whites.” The moral and material injury which would result from the passage of the bill now before Congress can not well be overstated. The Commissioner of Public Lands disapproves it. In a letter to the Secretary of the Interior, dated January 6, 1898, he says:
In my judgment the rights and interests of the Metlakahtla Indians are worthy of respect and should be carefully guarded. It is my opinion that their interests can not be successfully maintained or their welfare secured if, as contemplated by this bill, they should be limited to so small an area as the western peninsula portion of said island, and furthermore subjected to temptations which, it is to be feared, they have not as yet attained sufficient strength of character to successfully resist.
The Secretary of the Interior also says: I am convinced that these Indians should be permitted to remain in undisputed possession of their reservation, and that no part thereof should be opened to settlement. The bill has, therefore, my unqualified disapproval, and I trust it will not become a law.
We heartily indorse these emphatic words, and recommend a substitute for the pending bill granting a full title in fee of Annette Island to the Metlakahtlans, with provision for the allotment of the lands in severalty to the Indians and their recognition as American citizens.
THE INDIAN TERRITORY.
The most important measure of legislation relating to Indian affairs during the year was the passage of the Curtis bill, entitled "An act for the protection of the people of the Indian Territory." The provisions of the act are fully explained by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs in his late report. We need name only its most important features. It provides for the allotment of lands to individual Indians in equal portions, or rather in portions of equal value, and thus makes all the people of the Five Tribes citizens of the United States. The mineral lands are reserved from allotment, and are to be leased by the
Secretary of the Interior and operated for the benefit of the tribes. The town sites are also reserved, and the lots are to be appraised, the occupants who have improved them having the prior right of purchase.
This is the first attempt to secure for white residents a title to the lạnds upon which they have built costly buildings and flourishing towns. The act makes the exclusive use of large tracts of land by single individuals, which has been practiced to a large extent, a misdemeanor punishable by the courts. In short this act, together with that which took effect January 1, 1898, must work a complete revolution in the affairs of the Territory and place it practically under the Government of the United States. For its execution a vast amount of work remains to be done by the Dawes commission, and the education of the 64,000 Indian citizens to make a right use of their new privileges throws a new responsibility upon the churches that are doing missionary work in the Indian Territority.
All who are concerned for the civilization and welfare of the Indians watch with special interest their progress in education. From a small beginning, twenty-one
years ago, when the sum of $20,000 was appropriated for the support of Indian schools, the work has steadily grown into such dimensions that its management requires a large part of the time and thought of those who have control of Indian affairs. The Commissioner devotes twenty-four pages of his annual report to this subject, and whoever reads those pages can not doubt that we have now a system of education well organized and under intelligent supervision. The attendance has steadily increased from year to year. The following table shows the enrollment and average attendance for the fiscal years 1897–98, exclusive of the schools among the Five Civilized Tribes and the Indians of New York.
Enrollment and average attendance at Indian schools, 1897 and 1898, showing increase in
1898; also number of schools in 1898.
Three schools transferred to the Government and contracts made for two schools which were paid by vouchers in previous years. c Thirty-one public schools in which pupils are taught not enumerated here.
d These schools are conducted by religious societies, some of which receive from the Government for the Indian children therein such rations and clothing as the children are entitled to as reservation Indians.
From this exhibit it appears that there were in the year 1898 295 schools, with an enrollinent of 24,004 and an average attendance of 19,671, an increase over the previous year of 1,040 in enrollment and 995 in average attendance. For the support of the 242 Government schools and 34 contract schools Congress appropriated $2,631,771.35 for the fiscal year 1898, and for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, 1899, the appropriation is $2,638,390. Adding the amount provided by treaty stipulations—about $600,000—the total sum available for education is $3,238,390. With such means at his disposal, the Commissioner hopes not simply to maintain the existing school system but to make material advance during the current year. Improvement and enlargement of school buildings will furnish accominodations for many additional pupils, and new schools will be opened among the tribes of Arizona and New Mexico, where there are thousands of children without any school facilities. We trust these wise and wide plans may be fully carried out.
The possibility of civilizing and educating our Indians is no longer a matter of question or doubt. Indians are men, and with the same mental, industrial, and moral training that all other races receive they will take their place among us as useful citizens. Results already achieved are full of encouragement. Thousands have gone out from the schools and are exerting an influence for good upon the people among whom they live. Many through the "outing system,” in practice at Carlisle, Hampton, and other schools, have learned the value of civilized home life and the dignity and worth of labor. These new ideas they carry to their people. Some fail to put them in practice, but a large majority have stood firm and have proved the value of the education they have received. From data obtained and collated by the Indian Office it is found that 76 per cent of returned pupils have a good report. As Commissioner Jones says
The ratio of the good to the bad is remarkable from any standpoint, but it is emphasized particularly as showing the value of an educational system which can in a generation develop from savages 76 per cent of good average men and women, capable of dealing with the ordinary problems of life and taking their places in the great body politic of our country.
The contract and mission schools are continued by the various church missionary societies, though with a slight reduction of attendance, since the most of them no longer receive Government aid. We trust that this work may go on and increase. For, as we have often said, our deep and abiding conviction is that what the Indian needs above all things is moral and Christian training. Our Christian civilization is by no means perfect, but it is for our age and country the only civilization worth having; and it is by making Christ his pattern, and accepting His teachings, that the Indian can reach the best standard of manhood.
ALLOTMENTS AND PATENTS.
During the year 1,943 patents have been issued and delivered, 873 allotments have been approved for which patents are being prepared, and schedules of 979 received but not finally acted upon. In addition to the above, 272 allotments have been made and approved to nonreservation Indians. Adding these to the number heretofore reported, we find that more than 60,000 individual Indians have received allotments. As women and children are included it appears that about 12,000 families have now the opportunity to make for themselves homes inalienable for at least one generation. How far they are occupying and making use of their lands is a question often asked, and we have endeavored to
ascertain the results of the allotment policy under the act of February 8, 1887, called the general allotment bill. Last spring the following létter was addressed to the Indian agents on reservations where allotments have been made:
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,
Washington, D. C., April 5, 1898. United States Indian Agent: We have been requested to report the results of the policy of allotting lands in severalty to Indians. To do this intelligently and accurately we need information from agents who are on the ground and familiar with the facts. Please, therefore, favor us with replies to the following questions:
1. How many allotments have been made to Indians of your agency? 2. How many patents have been issued ? 3. How many Indians are living on their allotted lands? 4. To what extent are they cultivating their lands? 5. To what extent are their lands leased and with what results ? 6. What in your opinion are the benefits or the evils of the allotment policy?
By replying, when convenient, and making such suggestions as you may deem fit, you will greatly oblige. Yours, respectfully,
E. WHITTLESEY, Secretary.
Replies have been received from twenty agents, covering about 25,000 allotments and patents. These letters we publish with this report, and they will be read with interest, as they give the opinions and conclusions of intelligent and competent men on the ground.
A careful collation of the figures given shows that at least 80 per cent of the allottees are occupying their lands and cultivating them to some extent. These results are agreeably surprising, and they warrant the hope that with the oversight and instruction of farmers and assistant farmers a large number of Indians will gain a comfortable support by their own labor from the products of the soil, and with the valuable help of field matrons the Indian women will learn domestic arts and acquire for themselves and their families the comforts of civilized homes.
It is conceded by all that the industry upon which the Indians must mainly depend for their future support is agriculture. A few may push their way into professional life, but the great majority must win their living by manual labor. To succeed in this they must have instruction and help by farmers competent to teach them the use and care of farm. ing implements and the best methods of planting and saving their crops. The Government agricultural colleges are now graduating every year men who are capable of filling these positions, and we suggest that it would be good policy to give them appointments.
If the allotment policy is to be successful in the arid regions where many Indians dwell, an abundant supply of water must be furnished by irrigation, and on several reservations work for this purpose has been done as fast as funds appropriated were available. As we recommended last year, a competent engineer has been appointed to superintend the construction and maintenance of irrigation works, and thus greater economy and efficiency will be secured. Mr. W. H. Graves, , appointed to the position, has proved his fitness for it by the great work he has done on the Crow Reservation, Mont. Many miles of irri. gating ditches have been constructed, which will supply a large body of fertile land with abundant water for cultivation. Unfortunately, the funds set apart for this work are not sufficient for its completion. The Indians have sent an earnest petition to the Indian Office that enough