Indian Reservations 100 years ago

The 1913 Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs offers a look back in time at the state of Indian Reservations.

          In that year, some 300,000 Indians lived on reservations. The total Indian population was 331,250 (excluding Indians in Alaska).  All the reservations combined covered an area as large as the New England States plus the State of New York. Collectively, their lands were valued at $900,000,000. The timber on reservation land had an estimated worth of $80,000,000.

          The annual Indian death rate (all causes) was 32.24 deaths per 1,000 Indians. Among the total United States population, the annual death rate was 16 per 1,000 persons. Tuberculosis was a growing problem across the nation. Among Indians, 32% of all deaths were due to tuberculosis compared to 11.2% for the general U.S. population.

          Ten thousand Indian children had no schools available.



Published in: on April 1, 2013 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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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

Locating Indian Reservations

On June 14, 1869, President Ulysses S. Grant appointed Edward M. McCook to replace Alexander Hunt as Governor of Colorado Territory. In this capacity, McCook was also in charge of Indian affairs for the territory.
          A few months after taking office, Governor McCook prepared his first Annual Report to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs. In it he expressed his pointed views on government policy regarding location of Indian reservations.

“As to the policy of isolating the Indians in order to civilize them…in my opinion the best way to accomplish this object would be to bring them in direct contact with the highest standard of civilization instead of placing them entirely beyond its influence. I think the settlement of these untutored tribes in the vicinity, say of Boston, where they would daily be thrown in contact with what is claimed to be the most cultivated community on this continent, would be more likely to bring about the desired end than a complete isolation from these powerful and beneficent influences.”

Edward M. McCook
Governor and ex officio Superintendent Indian Affairs
C.T. (Colorado Territory)

From the Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to the Secretary of the Interior for the Year 1869