The Annual Conference of the Board of Indian Commissioners with the representatives of the various religious bodies having charge of Indian Missions was held in the parlors of the Riggs House, January 8th. The presence of Senator Dawes, Representative Cutcheon, and other distinguished persons, gave weight to the deliberations, and special interest was added to the meeting by the troubles now prevailing in the Dakotas among the Sioux Indians. Commissioner Morgan, Captain Pratt of the Carlisle School, General Armstrong of Hampton, and the Secretaries of the Missionary Societies presented an array of facts and of recent information that gave a more favorable aspect to the situation than is generally entertained. The disturbance among the Indians is confined to at most 5,000 among the 250,000, and strong hopes are entertained that serious bloodshed may be avoided. And yet, so great is the uncertainty hanging over this matter, that before these lines reach our readers, the daily press may give sad news of battle and disaster.
The discussions of the Conference were ended with a series of resolutions, the purport of which may thus be summed up: The Dakota trouble is confined to a small number of Indians, and is due to the inevitable opposition of the chiefs and anti-progressive elements among the masses of the Indians. The removal of experienced Indian Agents for political reasons was deprecated, and the importance of permanence in the lines of policy pursued in the educational and Christianizing influences was emphasized. Larger appropriations by the Government to establish an adequate system of common-school education, until every Indian child is enabled to attend school, compulsory education and the continued support to contract schools, and additional facilities for securing lands in severalty to the Indians, were endorsed.
The decision which it was understood the Government had made, not to transfer the care of the Indians to the War Department, was warmly approbated.
The Indian Problem
The present difficulties among the Indians in the Dakotas will probably lead to a re-consideration of the whole system by which the Government and the nation deals with these people. As a contribution to that discussion, we present in condensed form some suggestions recently published in a Boston paper, from our esteemed friend, S.B. Capen, Esq., whose intelligent interest in the Indian entitles his opinion to thoughtful consideration:
While public attention is everywhere called to this matter, it is time to agitate for a radical change in the whole administration of the Indian service. We believe that this should be disconnected entirely from the Department of the Interior, and be made a separate department. This whole Indian question is so important and so complex that it ought not to be simply an annex to a department which has under its control land, patents, etc. It should stand by itself; there should no longer be a divided responsibility, which is always productive of evil. We are finding the necessity in our cities of making responsibility more direct and personal. The time, we believe, has fully come to reorganize the Indian service on this basis. Our criticism is not against any individual, but against a system which is the growth of many years.
We would suggest the following;
- Have the Commissioner of Indian Affairs responsible only to the President and to the public. What he does, or may do, shall not be controlled by the Department of the Interior.
- Ask Congress to provide such legislation that no agents or teachers shall ever be removed without proper cause.
- All inspectors and special agents shall be under the absolute control of the Commissioner.
- There shall be a division of the Indian reservation into school districts, with an assistant superintendent for each. It shall be their duty to visit the schools constantly, and keep themselves in full sympathy and touch with the work. This is the method in the Statesan official responsible for a field which he can properly cover.
Our Hospital At Fort Yates, N.D.
By the Physician in Charge, Cynthia E. Pingree, M.D.
I am sure that all will be glad to hear a word about the hospital for Indians, especially as there is nothing but good news to tell.
This hospital has now been built about two years. It will seem very small when I tell you that it has but two wards, containing three cots each, a bath-room, dispensary, reception room, doctor’s and nurse’s room and dining room; and yet when the patient comes to us, he feels that we have not only every convenience, but a great many luxuries, and from this little Woasui Tipi or House of Healing, goes out many a ray to gladden the hearts of those whom we to-day are trying to bring from darkness into light.
But little has been done for these people when ill, except conjuring, which is synonymous with torturing, but these “medicine men” are losing their hold upon the faith of those who at one time, and that not long past, trusted them fully, and the more intelligent ones gladly avail themselves of treatment. And no class of people needs it more, the filthy manner in which they live causing much sickness. It has been a great surprise to me as well as to them, to see how much simple cleanliness will do in very many of these cases. The old rule, “remove the cause, the disease is removed,” holds true in these cases. It is encouraging to see how soon some of these come to see the great importance of this.
I have in mind now a bright little boy nine years old, who was brought to me wrapped in filthy old rags, unable to take one step on account of terrible sores, which had received no attention whatever. The mother’s heart was very sad as she told me this was the only boy she had, five having died. All the while I was attending to the little fellow the mother carefully watched. She was given all that was necessary to use for two weeks and when they returned, at the end of that time, it was very evident that the boy had received good care. The mother cared for him almost entirely after this, and in two months he came running across the prairie, his braided hair just flying, asking for a piece of bread. While the child was not cured, he had been made comfortable, the parents’ hearts had been lightened of a great sorrow, and they had learned more than one lesson in thus caring for their child.
This is only one of many cases. Until they feel their illness is well-nigh fatal they prefer the tent to the hospital, and even then a great many wish to die out of doors. So that often the family come with the ill one and camp just outside the yard. The hospital wards bring comfort to two classes principally; the more civilized Indian, who realizes the great benefit derived from good nursing, and those friendless ones who are brought because they are too much trouble elsewhere. Both of these classes are very grateful for all they receive. The dispensary is open all the time and a great many are provided with medicine. I think the friends of this Hospital may be of good cheer.
Our Alaska Mission
Letters received from Rev. Dr. Sheldon Jackson and Mr. Lopp give us the gratifying assurance that the mission is by this time opened under favorable auspices. Dr. Jackson found on reaching Alaska that Mr. Lopp had visited the mission at Cape Prince of Wales this spring and discovered that the buildings, furniture and supplies were in good condition. Mr. Lopp, in response to our request, has consented to return to the Cape and re-open the mission. He greatly regrets that an ordained minister was not sent, and expresses the earnest hope that another season this necessary addition will be made, but he consents to return and do the best he can. He has little fear of violence from the natives, finding them completely intimidated by the threats of the captain of the revenue cutter “Bear.”
The experiment of introducing the reindeer into Alaska is thus far very encouraging. Mr. Lopp has had a herd under his care at Port Clarence, and although the winter has been unusually severe one hundred and fifty fawns were added to the herd. The Government has promised to our mission at Cape Prince of Wales this season one hundred reindeer, and Mr. Lopp, with adequate help, will have the care of them. The ultimate success of this experiment with reindeer in Alaska is one of great promise. It indicates a food and clothing supply for the natives, with increased facilities for transportation, thus laying the foundation for growth in population and in civilization.
It will be remembered that of the three men connected with the horrible murder of Mr. Thornton, two were at once arrested by the natives and shot. The third, Titalk, who was the leader, escaped for the time. Mr. Lopp thus describes his death: “After the ‘Bear’ had left for the South, Titalk came back to the cape, and his uncle, Te-ed-loo-na led him up on the hillside near the grave of Mr. Thornton, and asked him how he should put him to death, strangle him, stab him or shoot him. The boy preferred to be shot, so he commanded him to hold his head down and then shot him.”
Mr. Lopp furnishes another evidence of the disposition on the part of the leading natives to guard the interests and property of the mission: “On one occasion during the winter Chief Eliguok heard that a boy had broken into the school-house, and he announced his intention to kill the boy, but upon investigation it was found to be a false report.”
We trust that in the good providence of God, this mission will be made prosperous and be greatly enlarged, that its missionaries will be preserved in safety, that the natives will become more orderly, that the influence of the school and mission may bring to them peaceable fruits of civilization and Christianity.