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BUREAUCRACY VS INDIANS The Reservation System Under the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) AI_11_13 * Early BIA Initially, Federal control over reservations was very ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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  • The Reservation System Under the Bureau of Indian
    Affairs (BIA)
  • AI_11_13

Early BIA
  • Initially, Federal control over reservations was
    very limited
  • Single "Indian Agent" assigned to a reservation,
    or to multiple reservations, with responsibility
    for distributing food commodities to the Indians,
    but with relatively little responsibility beyond
  • The entire BIA, initially called the Office of
    Indian Affairs, only had 108 employees in 1852
  • By 1888, 1,725 employees in the Bureau.
  • Called on the military in the case of any
    disorder or if any Indians left the reservation
    without permission.

Apache Chiefs with Indian Agent
Reservation Life Rosebud Reservation Indians and
Pine Ridge Reservation, late 1880s
Sioux at Pine Ridge Waiting for Food
Commodity Distribution
Cattle Killed at a Beef Issue
Skinning Beef at a Beef Issue
Blackfoot Woman Drying Meat, 1920
Early BIA Functions
  • Small number of agents still meant BIA was not
    able to do much beyond distribute commodities
  • Over time scope of activities and power expanded
    as the bureau grew
  • 1911 6,000 employees and 1934 12,000
  • Early reservation Indians relatively free to
    establish their own institutions and economic
  • Dominant economic activity throughout the country
    at the time, and especially in the parts of the
    country where most reservations were established,
    was agriculture.
  • Most reservation land was suitable for growing
    crops or grazing livestock.

Agriculture and Property Rights Issues
  • To pursue agriculture, Indians had to allocate
  • Recall, systems of property rights in land varied
    considerably among American Indians depending on
    whether they were hunter-gatherers,
    agriculturists, or some combination of the two
  • Once a tribe was confined to a reservation,
    generally encompassing a much smaller area than
    had previously been claimed and in many cases, in
    a totally different geographic area and physical
    environment than the tribe had controlled before,
    it had to develop a system of property rights
    suitable to the new conditions.

Where Agriculture was Attractive, Usufruct
  • Government's Agent and the members of the tribe
    recognized an individual's property rights to
    animals, and where farming was practiced, a
    family's claim to the land it worked was
  • More land could be claimed by an individual or
    family by bringing it under cultivation (Locke)
  • Essentially adopted on all of the reservations
    where farming was feasible,
  • Similar to the system of rights that had existed
    among agricultural tribes before they were placed
    on reservations.
  • Had sufficient legal status so that when land was
    taken for some reason, (e.g., right-of -way for a
    railroad) owners would be compensated.

Development of Reservation Agriculture (Ag)
  • Indians previously involved in Ag moved quickly
    to reestablish Ag on reservations
  • 5 Civilized tribes in Oklahoma in the 1830s and
    40s, were the first to establish subsistence
  • In 1877 they were producing about 70 percent of
    the wheat being produced on reservations, over 80
    percent of the corn, and almost 45 percent of the

Ag Development (Cont. 1)
  • Other traditional ag tribes also adopted quickly.
  • Couer d'Alene in Idaho had practiced Ag before
    being confined to a reservation. The 1900 Census
  • "Agriculture is their principle occupation, and
    with few exceptions, their farms are well
    supplied with buildings and implements. Material
    progress is being made from year to year in the
    improvements of the farms, and new land is being
    broken each year. Many of the Indian farms at
    Couer d'Alene would compare favorably with those
    of neighboring white men in the number of acres
    under cultivation."
  • Some Couer d'Alene became quite prosperous

Ag Development, (Cont. 2)
  • Couer d'Alene achieved their Ag success with
    almost no supervision or guidance from government
    agents (agent assigned to the reservation also
    served another one)
  • Point made in part because agents often claimed
    credit for the development of agriculture of the
    reservations that they supervised (discussed
  • Traditional non-Ag tribes were slower to adopt ag
    technology, as long as hunting remained feasible
  • buffalo were gone from the plains by early 1870s,
    and populations of other food sources for hunters
    (deer, elk, and antelope) were also severely
    reduced by Indians, white settlers, trappers, and
    army troops
  • As hunting opportunities disappeared, these
    tribes also began to shift into Ag

Selling Hay to the Cavalry
Yankton Reservation in South Dakota Provides a
Useful Case
  • Shows how Indian property rights evolved before
    Congress and the bureaucratic apparatus began to
    assert their own vision about how land should be
  • Reservation established by treaty with the
    Yankton Dakota (Sioux), in the late 1850s
  • Buffalo had largely vanished from that part of
    the Plains by the 1860s, so government agents
    increased their efforts to promote Indian farming
  • Started agency farms as demonstration projects
  • Hired white farmers to work the agency farm.

Yankton, Continued
  • According to Department of Interior, Office of
    Indian Affairs publications, the demonstration
    project and other activities to encourage farming
    resulted in a substantial growth of small scale
  • by1878 farming was conducted "by each man on his
    own plot of ground
  • actual impact of these government efforts to
    encourage farming is unclear since the Indians
    themselves faced increasingly strong incentives
    to farm as hunting options disappeared.
  • Cultivated farming plots only ranged from 5 to 15
    acres in size, but by 1888, according to an
    Indian Affairs publication, many individuals had
    land claims that had been recognized and
    maintained for as long as 20 years

Teaching Agriculture to Indian Boys Tulalip
Yankton, Continued
  • The tribe certainly was not self-sufficient in
    Ag, so it continued to require food and other
    commodities from the government,
  • Members also clearly were not unwilling to get
    involved in ag activities, even though this was
    not a tribe that had been involved in Ag before
    they were placed on the reservation
  • Same ownership patterns emerged on a large number
    of other reservations, often with much larger
    individual land holdings, even for tribes that
    had never had any experience with ag (e.g.,
    Yakima in Washington and the Flathead in Montana,
    both of which had very fertile farm land on
  • Frequently cited hypothesis that Indian culture
    prevented development of Ag is not valid

Trends in Indian Ag
  • Acres cultivated by reservation tribes excluding
    the 5 civilized tribes
  • 117,267 in 1875, up to 369,974 by 1896
  • Reservation grain production grew by an average
    of 5.5 per year from 1875 to 1895, from about
    1.1M bushels in the mid 1870s to about 3.2M
    bushels in 1895
  • Census of Agriculture 19,910 Indian farms in
  • One farm for every 12 Indians on reservations
  • Given family sizes, a large portion of the
    reservation Indians in areas where ag was
    feasible were actively pursuing farming.

Size of Indian Farms
  • Average farm size was 172.5 acres.
  • In North central region where the Northern plains
    states are included, most of the reservations
    involve tribes like the Sioux who had
    traditionally not been farmers. Nevertheless,
    there were 4,037 Indian farms in this region in
    1899 with a mean size of 307 acres and a median
    of 135 acres.
  • Homestead act allocated 160 acres to
    homesteaders, so many of the Indian farms were
    much larger than the homesteader's farms,
    although most were clearly smaller.

Another Example Santee Sioux
  • Several tribes adapted fairly quickly to Ag
  • Santee Sioux, one of the three Eastern sub-tribes
    of the Sioux, were located in Minnesota
  • In 1862, the tribe was under considerable stress
    due to the decline in hunting opportunities,
    White encroachment into their territory, and
    broken promises of aid
  • War broke out, and although it was relatively
    short it was quite bloody
  • Most of the Santee were removed from Minnesota
    and placed on three scattered reservations - the
    Santee reservation in Nebraska, the Sisseton
    Reservation (mostly in South Dakota, but also
    parts of North Dakota and Minnesota, and the
    Devil's Lake Reservation in North Dakota).

Santee (Cont.)
  • Ag began to develop on these reservations
  • Considerable strides were made toward
    self-sufficiently through the 1870s and 1880s, as
    individuals developed private farms (not unusual
    similar progress occurred on the Yankton
    Reservation that I mentioned earlier, where, by
    1895 several farmers were raising enough for
    their own subsistence)
  • Tribe was not prosperous or even approaching
    self-sufficiency, but they were making steady
    progress toward Ag-based economies on
  • Case studies suggest similar implications for a
    number of other tribes, and a few, including the
    5 civilized tribes, were doing very well

Apache Harvest
Indian Ranching
  • Some reservations, particularly in parts of the
    high plains east of the Rockies, and the arid
    lands between the Rockies and the Sierras are not
    well suited for cultivation farming
  • Some are more suited for cattle ranching (e.g.
    parts of the Blackfoot Reservation on the high
    plains of Montana).
  • For these tribes, as hunting became difficult,
    cattle were acquired, and individual ownership
    of cattle was recognized.
  • Private ownership of cattle was so well
    established that when the Federal Government
    replaced private herds with tribal herds between
    1910 and 1920 the Indians were very resistant to
    the change

Jackson Sundown An Indian Cowboy
Grazing Land was not Broken into Individual
  • Like the open range ranching system of White
  • Methods of dividing cattle into separate herds
    and confining them onto separate lands was not
    technologically feasible
  • Water is scarce in these areas so several
    ranchers often had to have access to the same
    water source
  • Plains Indians readily adapted to cattle
    ranching had been herding horses for a long
    time, and skill with horses was easily adapted to
    cattle ranching where horsemanship was a valuable
  • Several tribes were making considerable progress
    toward success in ranching by the late 1800s

Some Indian Lands Were too Arid for Ag
  • Some reservation Tribes never did develop Ag
  • Ute Indians on the Unitah and Ouray reservations
    in Utah provide an example
  • Utes had never been involved in Ag before they
    were confined to reservations, and the Indian
    agents contended that it was their cultural
    resistance that prevented them from becoming
  • Actually, land they were on was clearly not
    suited for Ag
  • Very rough and arid terrain
  • Crops on experimental agency farms suppose to
    provide examples for Indians consistently failed

Adapting to New Technology
  • A new form of Alfalfa hay was developed that
    proved to be a successful crop on the Ute
    reservations where irrigation was possible. So
    as hunting opportunities declined, many Utes
    began to be involved in agricultural efforts,
  • By 1920, 79 of the adult males were cultivating
    land, averaging 42 acres each.
  • However, by this time incentives for Indians had
    clearly changed, and more cultivated land on the
    reservation was actually being leased to white
    farmers than was being farmed by Indians.
  • After this period the Utes moved out of farming.

Trends Actually Changed in Mid-1890s
  • Mid-1890s was the peak of Indian farming
  • Stagnated after that
  • Land under cultivation stayed roughly the same
    for the next decade,
  • grain output declined to about 2.5 million
    bushels from the high of 3.2 million bushels in
  • Key question Why did this stagnation occur?
  • Similarly, several tribes were making very good
    progress towards successful cattle ranching in
    the late 1800s and even into the early 1900s
  • Then the U.S. Government induced them to sell off
    their herds and lease their lands to whites

Why Did Incentives Change?
  • Changes mandated by Congress and imposed by the
  • A writer quoted by Anderson explained
  • "When we hear it said today that Indians do not
    believe in property or in private enterprise, we
    are still hearing the echoes of the struggle
    against Indian agrarian entrepreneurs in the
    1930s, a struggle waged in the name of liberating
    landless Indians from poverty, but which in
    reality returned reservations economics to
    government dependence.
  • This struggle actually began earlier, however.
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