Miss Constance G. Du Bois, Interested in the Mission Indians of California

The Mission Indians Of California.

We regret that no satisfactory provision seems to be made for the pressing need of homes for the Mission Indians of California. Our inquiries lead us to the belief that the cessation of all attempts (some four or five years ago) to continue the work of surveying and allotting the land belonging to the Mission Indians was needless, and not for good reason. We think that the surveying and allotting for these Indians should be at once resumed and the work carried forward and completed in California.

The Chair introduced Miss Constance G. Du Bois as a lady especially interested in the Mission Indians of California.

Miss Du Bois. This last summer I visited the Indians living in the remote reservations far beyond the tourists’ line of travel. The crying need among these Indians is not unknown to the Government. A special recommendation was sent a few years ago to the Indian Office in order that there might be additional land secured for them in the Campo region. These little Indian places are very different from those that lie nearer the white man’s land down on the orange belt quarter. Very few reservations are adequate to the support of the Indians. If the Indians had no opportunity of going away to work I do not know of any which would be adequate. Some of the best reservations had but 25 arable acres. People who visit southern California cannot understand the conditions in the back country in the summer time. There is no rain for six months, and streams are all dry. As we took our camping tour we had always to inquire carefully in advance where we could get water for ourselves and horses. The Indians had no irrigation. I have seen a patch of 3 or 4 acres with stagnant water with wigglers in it, and that was all they had. I wish to impress upon the attention of this conference the conditions of the Indians of San Felipe. They are a small number, between 30 and 40. They, too, are threatened with eviction the case is not actually decided. It is pending, but with the Hot Springs decision as a precedent it is likely to be adverse. If ordered off r where can they go? They are on the eastern slope of the mountains looking toward the desert. There is very little water, which loses itself in a bog. They have some goats, and they eat the kernels of the wild cherry stones. All the Indians in these remote regions have to eke out their scanty harvests with Manzanita berries and acorns, boiled grass, or anything that can fill the stomach. At Manzanita there are 53 Indians on barren hills where there are 5 or 6 arable acres. At another reservation there are 40 or 45 acres, 20 of which can be cultivated, but without water for irrigation and little for drinking. They can raise only a little grain. Congress means to do something for the Hot Springs Indians. If Congress has to buy land for them, it would be wise economy to make adequate purchase so as to make provision for the Indians of San Felipe and others as well. If the amount of land were sufficient it would invite an overflow from those desert places, and it would settle the whole question. The Government has shown its generous interest in these California Indians by making an appropriation for a new school for them at Riverside, showing that it is anxious to uplift them; but should not the Indians in the remote places feel the uplift too? I would rather see them starve on their barren acres than reduced to pauperism. I have seen old Indians lying dying on the ground, with their head on a stone, ragged, absolutely without provision, and yet the young Indians were not responsible. The young are miles away from home getting what work they can. I have seen them along the irrigating ditches, but it is only temporary work, and most degrading, from its associations with white men’s saloons. It is only a makeshift condition. The white man’s civilization is presented to them in its worst form. The people of San Diego were amazed at the conditions there, which I crossed the continent to tell them about. I think an adequate measure might be carried through the next session of Congress. I have traveled several hundred miles in a wagon to get a business scheme that might be presented, and if the members of Congress want the best proposition I am ready to give it.

Mr. A. K. Smiley. I am glad to hear Miss Du Bois’s full statement in regard to the destitute condition of the Mission Indians at Warner’s Ranch. This beautiful tract of land has undoubtedly been held by the Indians from time immemorial, and, as has been fully proved, is their rightful possession. When the Mexican Government transferred California to us the merciful provision was introduced into the treaty that all Indians should forever hold the lands then occupied by them unless they voluntarily left them.

You may recall that about twenty years ago Helen Hunt Jackson was sent out by the Government to look into the condition of the Mission Indians of Southern California. She sent in her report, calling attention to the need of immediate action to prevent the Indians being driven away by grasping white settlers, and to secure these lands permanently for them.

Soon after, she and Senator Dawes met and framed a Congressional bill, creating a commission with ample powers to secure the land while it could be had. Ten years afterwards practically the same bill passed Congress, giving authority to the President to appoint a commission of three, with full powers to obtain all available land to be held inalienable for twenty-five years. I was chairman of that commission, and we labored for two years, and secured all the desirable land we could obtain for the Indians. We found they had been forcibly driven out by unprincipled whites from the land they had formerly occupied, and thus lost their possessor right. The owner of Warner’s Ranch was at that time trying to eject the Indians from his property. His own attorney joined with us in an unsuccessful effort to give the Indians a clear title to the land rightfully theirs. He and his heirs continued their efforts for ten years before the courts to eject the Indians, but notwithstanding that thousands of dollars have been expended by private individuals to obtain justice in the Indians defense, quite recently the highest court has decided against them. By this decision many hundreds of defenseless Indians are liable at any moment to be suddenly removed from their beautiful farms, their well built houses, and the graves of their ancestors, with no place provided for them.

It is imperatively necessary that Congress, which is soon to assemble, should, with its customary liberality to the Indians, make sufficient appropriation to secure homes for these worthy and homeless Indians. There are one or two other small bands of Indians, which may need similar help.

Great mistakes have been made heretofore in dealing with the Indian. The giving of rations, clothing, and farming utensils to Indians who have proper means of earning them destroys their independence and tends to pauperism. The Indian in competition with the white man needs to have knowledge of the English language, an elementary education, and some industrial training, and should then be thrown upon his own resources like the white man. He may need some care to set him in right direction, but should mainly depend upon his own industry and skill to make himself a useful citizen.

Exceptions to the above treatment would have to be made in the case of those Indians who have been removed to barren lands, where it is next to impossible to earn an honest living; but wherever Indians live in sections where they can earn proper wages and will not avail themselves of it they should not be assisted. The distribution of money arising from the sale of Indian lands works infinite harm to the Indians. I wish Senator Dawes’s wise plan could be adopted to divert this money into a permanent fund, the interest of which might be used for their industrial training and general education.

I hope the time will soon come when reservations and the Indian Bureau will be abolished, and the whole Indian population becomes a part of our general civilization.

Adjourned at 1 p. m.

Board Of Indian Commissioners. Thirty-Third Annual Report Of The Board Of Indian Commissioners. Government Printing Office. 1901.

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