Tongue River Agency
Report of special agent, Walter Shiraw on the Indians of Northern Cheyenne reservation, Tongue River agency, Montana.
Name of Indian tribe occupying said reservation:1 Northern Cheyenne. The unalotted area is 371,200 acres, or 680 square miles. It was established, altered, or changed by executive order November 26, 1884.
Indian population 1890: 865.
Northern Cheyenne Reservation
I visited Tongue River agency in August 1890, and found James A. Cooper, special United States Indian agent, in charge, and was informed that an accurate enumeration of the 865 Indians on the reserve had been made and the acknowledgment of the same, as rendered to the Census Office, duly received. Since then 39 Pine Ridge Indians have, been added to the issue roll by consent of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs.
The Indians are located on the Northern Cheyenne reservation, situated south of the Yellowstone River, on two of its tributaries, Tongue River and Rosebud creek. Their settlements commence about 80 miles south of the mouth of the former and 65 miles south of the mouth of the latter, extending up these streams a distance of 20 miles. Lame Deer and Muddy creeks, tributaries of the Rosebud, have Indian settlements on them extending some 5 miles up each stream. The valleys of these streams are very small when compared to those forming the arable land of the Crow reservation.
This has been an excessively dry season, in consequence of which no crops of any description will be raised by the Indians and little or nothing by the white settlers on these streams, except where irrigated, and this has been done only to a limited extent. The hay crop is only a success to the few having land under irrigation.
These Indians have been located on this so called reservation about 6 years. The uncertainty of their position and claims as regarding the settlers has seriously retarded their progress.
The Cheyenne rank high morally and physically. Their perceptive faculties are largely developed beyond those of the white man, but their reasoning powers are far below. A promise once made, they demand its fulfillment. Industry and application are unknown to them.
The grazing lands are good. The Cheyenne are poor, improvident, and warlike, displaying great courage.
The Cheyenne have 2 schools, a contract and an agency day school. The contract school, under the auspices of the Catholic Indian missions, is located on Tongue River, 20 miles from the agency. It is known as the St. Labre, and has buildings ample for the accommodation of its 60 pupils. The teachers are making strong efforts to bring the attendance of pupils up to the required number, which is no easy task.
The agency day school was opened September 1. Every effort will be made by the agent to fill this school to its fullest capacity, which is limited.
The language of the Cheyenne differs but little from that of the Crows, but is much more musically spoken. Their method of courtship and marriage is a matter of barter, and a plurality of wives is allowed. The Cheyenne is remarkably pure in morals, abortion is unknown, and motherhood is respected.
The Cheyenne is rich in superstitions. Faith in the supernatural powers of the medicine man holds with him. The children now being trained in the agency show a strong devotion to Christian forms, but understand no creed.
The sun dance and some other festivities have been prohibited. The dances still permitted form side amusements to pony racing, which is much indulged in by the young men.
The Cheyenne are healthy. There are fewer deaths than births. The women are chaste, and from their open-air exercise, free manner of dressing, all garments depending from the shoulders, are free from diseases peculiar to civilization. Industrial habits are not encouraged. They really have nothing to do, but appear willing and anxious to do something. Drunkenness is unknown. Among themselves they are peaceful, but are hostile to outsiders, and have a special contempt for the Crow, calling him coward and horse thief.
The building’s of the agency are the agent’s house, with a separate building as agency office; the schoolhouse (log), 40 by 20 feet, with accommodations for 50 pupils (there are 204 persons of school age); store buildings, a blacksmith and carpenter shop combined, and wagon shed and stabling, also 3 buildings for employees. All of these last named are, like the schoolhouse, built of logs, and $10,000 would fully cover the value of agency . buildings, including the residence of the agent.
The police force consists of 6 trusty Indians, with White Hawk as captain. The ” good ‘? Indians are employed in government freighting for the agency; they also helped in erecting the agency buildings and 20 log huts for themselves. The rations issued are necessarily considerable on account of the many seasons of drought.
The statements giving tribes, areas are from the Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1890, page 434-445, The population is the result of the census. ↩