Learning to Farm

The Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs offers interesting information about life on early day Indian reservations.

For the year ending June 30, 1880, the government reported all Indian tribes combined held 156,756,579 acres of land in the United States as reservations. Just 18,236,317 of those acres were considered tillable – less than 12%.

Of the available land, Indians had cultivated 70,540 acres plus 503 acres cultivated by Indian school children. The government worked 6,181 acres. White intruders raised crops on 90,851 acres of reservation land.

Among all reservations, Indians produced 468,822 bushels of wheat, 664,103 bushels of corn, 224,899 bushels of oats and barley, 375,853 bushels of vegetables, and 75,745 tons of hay. They also raised 362,412 pumpkins.

Indian school children raised 5,865 bushels of corn, 4,779 bushels of of oats and barley, 9,201 bushels of vegetables, and 512 tons of hay. They also grew 2,718 pumpkins and 3,422 heads of cabbage. The children harvested 3,422 head of cabbage, more than the 2,760 cabbages gathered by adults.

The following data from the 1880 report includes the Los Pinos and the Southern Ute Agencies in Colorado.  There were no reports for the White River Agency for that year and the Bureau noted the agency had been abandoned.

Indian Agents were expected to encourage the Indians to become farmers. For the fiscal year 1880, the Indians at Los Pinos cultivated 75 acres of land and broke 10 more acres for farming. They raised 25 bushels of wheat, 500 bushels of corn, 1,720 bushels of vegetables, and harvested 10 tons of hay. They cut 60 cords of wood.

Between the Los Pinos Agency and the Southern Ute Agency, the Indians owned 12,467,200 acres of land. At Los Pinos there were 500,000 tillable acres (suitable for farming) but only 8,000 such acres on the Southern Reservation


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