Dr. Lucien C. Warner, New York

Dr. Lucien C. Warner, New York.

It has been my privilege to spend about two weeks in traveling through the Sioux Reservation, and I want to speak especially of the Standing Rock Agency, where there are about 4,000 Indians. It is a grazing country, where it is impossible to raise any crops. Grain and vegetables do not succeed oftener than once in three years. There is no water outside the river and wells, and the water of the wells is often so mineral that it destroys the grass. If you were to give land in severalty and fence off the portion next to water, the rest would be worthless. It must be used for grazing in large parcels.

For the Indians to get a living by grazing is not so simple as it might at first appear. I made inquiries as to how much land it would take to keep one cow, and the very best informed men assured me it would take 25 acres. With 160 acres a man could keep 6 cows, but if he had to buy wheat and potatoes, and could raise nothing but meat, that would not be enough to support a family; it would hardly support a single person. Most of the Indians have only 2 or 3 cows, though some have as many as 20 or 30. They realize that only by having large herds can they support themselves. There was talk of leasing this land to herders from outside. The plan was to bring in 15,000 cattle from Texas upon this reservation and to fat-ten them here for market. It would be an excellent business for the railroads, but what would become of the Indians? If you put 10,000 or 15,000 cattle in there they would have to have water, and they would monopolize the streams and sources of water. It would discourage the attempts of the Indians to increase their herds. But it would have another effect more disastrous. It is difficult to tell the ownership of cattle even under the most favorable conditions. Sometimes the owner does not see his cattle for six months. The custom is to round them up and brand them just after calving. Experience shows that if the white man’s cattle are among the Indians that the calves get branded a little early, and it is discovered that nearly all the cows that belong to the whites have twins and those that belong to the Indians have no calves. It is no wonder that the Indian becomes discouraged.

This is the economic problem before the Indians. I am not sure that they will be able to make a living on their land. Perhaps it would be better for them to move, but they enjoy raising horses and cattle, and there is a possibility that they may succeed. If, however, the land is leased they will have to leave. They never could succeed in competition with the whites, and the Government would have to supply rations as long as they remain on this land.

I visited many of the Indians at their own houses, living and sleeping among them, and I want to pay my tribute to the progress they have made in civilization. The proportion of those who attended church and were members of the different churches is as large as that of the average community here in the East. I was surprised and delighted to see the impression that the gospel has made upon them. They were living in comfortable log houses, well dressed, and enjoying many of the comforts of civilization. Few of them speak English, but they read Dakota and sing with spirit and melody in their own tongue. The great problem before them is economic. It is to teach them how to save, how to work, how to be thrifty. These are lessons, which they learn very slowly.

Miss Collins. I was delighted to hear what Dr. Warner said, for he knows where of he speaks. I took him over the reservation myself, and he saw the country there. We passed over a large tract where there is no water. Fifty miles from there we went through another district where there is no water, and I did not hesitate to point out to him what our Indians would suffer if they were shut out from the sources of water when they were trying to raise cattle. Before I came away the chiefs came to me, for they thought I was going straight to the Great Father in Washington, and they wanted to send a message to him, and they said: “Tell him not to hurry us; not to go too fast. They are talking about allotting our lands. We trust you to tell the Great Father that if it is necessary to allot us, just to allot our homes, and leave the great grazing land for us to hold together, where we can graze our cattle in common. Tell him we do not wish to lease any part of our land for several reasons.” And one of the wise ones said to me: “One reason is that we fear it will be an entering wedge. We could spare some of it for a few years; but by and by, if we succeed, we shall need the whole reservation, but if the white men had been using it, it would not be ours then. We would rather have our land for our own cattle.”

I want to say a word about the Indian money. What shall we do with the money that belongs to the Indian? I am one of those Christians who believe that to be a true Christian one should be a true lover of his country. I believe that we have made treaties with these Indians, and that we should keep them. This money in the Treasury belongs to the Indians. Our Indians do not ask for money in cash payment, but they do ask that when students return from school they be given cattle or something to start them in housekeeping. If that is done, and the boy when he comes home has cows given to him, so that he can start a herd, then the whole of Standing Rock Agency will not be too large. It is large, but it is not good for agricultural farming.


History, Sioux,

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

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