An Indian Agent’s Unusual Proposal

In his October 4, 1867 annual report to Colorado Territorial Governor Alexander C. Hunt, Indian Agent Daniel C. Oakes proposed a plan to make the Ute Indians under his charge self sufficient, no longer in need of government support.
          “I have under my charge about 1,500 souls, say 250 lodges,” Oakes wrote. “Not one of these people object to being put upon a reservation if they could be assured of subsistence where their own exertions and vigilance would bring them reward. Agriculture in any part of the country where they are likely to be settled is out of the question on account of the short season peculiar to the climate.”
          Oakes proposed an initial government contribution to start the Indians on the road to self-sufficiency. He estimated costs as follows:
“Twenty sheep to each lodge cost probably $15,000;
two tame American cows to each lodge cost $20,000;
two bulls, $500;
making in all, $35,500.”
          “Add to this $5,000 paid out in cheap spinning wheels, looms, and wool cards, with a white man capable and willing to instruct the women how to prepare the wool and make cloth and blankets, and my word for it, no more annuities or presents need be sent them after the second year. These herds would give them something to protect and make them fear war rather than desire it, give them a kind of employment very desirable to them, and one which would very soon cause them to adopt the manners and customs of their white neighbors.”
          “I would give this bearing stock [female animals] to the women alone, and in case of death the next eldest female child to be the possessor of all bearing animals, giving to the men only a right to the male issues [male offspring of the animals], and restricting butchering to male issues alone.”
          Clearly, Oakes saw Ute women as key to stability. He concluded, “No difficulty need be apprehended of the squaw preserving and keeping her property.”

Photo by H.S. Poley, courtesy the Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

Quoted text from the Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs 1867

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