Government Auditors and Indian Agents, 1870s

Indian Agents paid many expenses for their assigned Indians, particularly when they traveled to Washington City for treaty talks. And Agents were used to the government auditing of each bill submitted for reimbursement. Most agents accepted the irritating reviews and questions, even when they seemed ridiculous.

Agent William Dennison was questioned about $30 he had paid to hire a wagon and driver for five days. The government auditor said the amount spent seemed “enormous.” Dennison replied, “If six dollars per day is considered “enormous” for the hire of a pair of horses, with wagon and driver, no explanation I can make will be satisfactory.” His response made sense to a second auditor who reviewed the claim. He wrote “suspension removed” on the claim and sent it on to be paid.

An Agent named Pease was called to account for claims submitted without receipts to verify the expense. He had spent $12.75 on meals for a Crow delegation at a stage coach station in Montana. He said “there was neither ink nor paper at this locality.”  He also explained why he spent $28 on cab fares in St. Louis. He said he used cabs (horse drawn wagons called “hacks”) because “it was difficult and almost impossible to get the Indians to the hotel on account of the great crowd of people who surrounded the Indians when they walked on the street.” (The $28 included some medicine purchased for the Crows and Pease admitted he simply failed to get receipts as he was busy keeping track of the Indians.)

Another agent was told his claim of $1.50 per Indian for bathing and barbering services in Washington was “exorbitant.” He replied to the auditor, “Probably it is dearer cleaning Indians than white men.”

Information from Diplomats in Buckskin by Herman Viola

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Published in: on July 27, 2015 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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