Testimony taken by the Committee on Indian Affairs - 1885
Testimony taken by the Committee on Indian Affairs


Washington, D. C., December 19, 1884.
D. B. Dyer examined.
By the Chairman :
Question. What is your full name ?—Answer. D. B. Dyer.
Q. Have you had much experience with the Indians of the Indian Territory ?—A. I have been with the Indians for a great many years. My first efforts were at the Quapaw Agency as clerk. I have lived on the border about fourteen years altogether. I was appointed clerk at the Quapaw Agency about five years ago through Mr. Haskell, whom I presume you knew well.
Q. When were you appointed agent there ?—A. After I had been there a year as clerk I was appointed agent.
Q. Are they civilized Indians ?—A. Yes, sir; most of them are civil­ized.
Q. Did they execute any leases while you were agent there?—A. Yes, sir; the Ottawas made a lease to Mr. Crowell, of Baxter Springs, for 5,000 acres of land.
Q. At what price per acre ?—A. At 12½ cents per acre.
Q. For how long a time was this lease made ?—A. For five years. I could give the nature of that lease and the causes that led to it.
Q. I would like to have the whole of it.—A. Mr. Crowell used to be a merchant in Baxter Springs, which is near the agency. I might say here that the Quapaw Agency embraces eight small tribes—the Quapaws, the Peorias, the Miamis, the Ottawas, the Shawnees, the Wyandottes, the Modocs, and Senecas.
Q. Are there any Poncas at that agency ?—A. No, sir. Well, during the time Mr. Crowell was a merchant in Baxter Springs the Ottawas, expecting to receive a large sum of money from the sale of their lands in Kansas, incurred bills with him, and as they were disappointed in getting the money they failed to pay these bills. So being thus indebted to him they made a proposition to let him have 5,000 acres of their unoccupied land in order to cancel this debt.
Q. That is, they proposed to let him have the use of it?—A. Yes, sir. So that is the way they became interested in the lease business; but I don't think Mr. Crowell has utilized it to make a dollar. Cattle were high at the time the lease was made, and have kept up until lately, and he has never occupied the range; but they are canceling their debt with him.
Q. Is it good grazing land?—A. No, sir; the greater part of it is ag­ricultural land.
Q. It is not what goes as grazing land then?—A. No, sir; the Chey­enne and Arapho land is better grazing land; it is out on the plains.
Q. Did the Quapaws make any other leases?—A. Some parties from Chicago made a lease with the Quapaws for 20,000 acres at 10 cents per acre.
Q. Did you have anything to do with that lease?—A. No, sir; I did not.
Q. For how long a term was this lease?—A. I think it was for a term of two years with the privilege of extension if they paid as much as anybody else.
Q. What is the character of this land?—A. That is agricultural land but they use it for grazing entirely.
Q. What part of the Indian Territory is that?—A. That northeastern part of the Territory; and the land is like that in the eastern part of Kansas.
Q. Are those all the leases you know of?—A. No, sir; the Miamies made a lease of 8,000 acres on the same terms and with the same par­ties. It is not much of a cattle country, and is only fit for small herds.
Q. Those are all the leases you know of ?—A. Yes, sir.
Q. When were you appointed agent for the Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians?—A. Last April I was promoted and sent to relieve John D. Miles at the Cheyenne and Arapaho Agency. I took charge there April 1.
Q. Have the Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians made any leases?—A. Yes, sir; they have made leases, but it was done before I went there.
Q. When were these leases made?—A. In the neighborhood of two years ago.
Q. Have the parties fenced in the land they have leased1—A. Yes, sir.
Q. How much laud have these Indians leased?—A. About 3,800,000 acres. Nearly all of the Cheyenne and Arapaho lands are leased.
Q. Have you copies of these leases?—A. No, sir; I have not. I think there is one copy in the office.
Q. Could you forward a copy to the committee?—A. Yes, air; I can.
Q. There are different leases?—A. They are all the same with the exception of the names.
Q. Who were the lessees?—A. Yon will find their names in the last report of the Commissioner. They are a Mr. Fenton, of Leavenworth, Kans., Denman, of this city, Hunter, of Saint Louis, Evans, of Saint Louis, Malaley, of Caldwell, Kans., J. S. Morrison, of Darlington, Ind. T., and Briggs, of Mascotah, Kans.
Q. You say they were all executed before you came there?—A. Yes, sir.
Q. Are they executed in two parts?—A. Let me understand you.
Q. That is, do the Indians hold one copy and the lessees another copy?—A. Yes, sir; I think so. There is a copy on file, I think. I never paid much attention to it. There is a drawer full of them at the agency.
Q. Do you know who acted for the Indians?—A. I think they acted for themselves. They held general councils for that purpose.
Q. Did you ever talk with them about these leases?—A. I have had a great many talks with them upon the subject.
Q. Do you know the circumstances under which these leases were finally agreed upon?—A. No, sir; I only know what the Indians told me.
Q. Did you understand that any white men acted in their. interest?—A. Only their agent.
Q. That is what I want to know.—A. I believe their agent, John D. Miles, acted for them.
Q. Where is he now?—A. He is at Lawrence, Kans.
Q. What are the terms of the leases?—A. The terms are 2 cents an acre per year for ten years.
Q. How much land is left for the use of the Indians?—A. About?00,000 acres, or perhaps over that amount, is left to the Indians.
Q. Where is it in reference to the agency?—A. It is right about the agency.
Q. What kind of land is it?—A. It is, I think, about all that you can consider agricultural land; but there is a difference of opinion as to what is agricultural land. They made a reservation on the North Canadian bottom, along the Oklahoma country, and all the land that can be farmed is on the North Canadian.
Q. How much of the?00,000 acres cannot be used?—A. A vast amount of it is grazing land, and sandy and rocky, and covered with prairie-dog towns.
Q. What use is made of it?—A. The Indians graze their ponies on it, and the agency has about 800 head of cattle there, and the contract. or who supplies beef to the agency has his herd upon it.
Q. Does he pay anything for grazing his herd upon it?—A. No, sir; he does not pay anything for it. The Government requires him to keep the beef within a reasonable distance; and they give him, under contract, the privilege to keep his cattle there all the year.
Q. Where does he get his cattle?—A. He buys the cattle in Texas and Colorado.
Q. And brings them there and appropriates the land?—A. That privilege is given him.
Q. How is the money due for these leases paid to the Indians?—A. The money is paid to the Indians every six months.
Q. Who acts for the Indians?—A. I have been present twice and witnessed the payment. The Indians are issued tickets at the agency for beef and flour; the beef tickets by bands, and the flour tickets by families. They present the family tickets to the lease-men. A ticket is presented representing so many men, women, and children, and they pay the money out per capita to the man, or woman, or whoever presents it.
Q. If it is a boy, do they pay him the same way?—A. It is the same whether the ticket is presented by a man, woman, or child.
Q. About how much is it per capita every six months?—A. I think it was $6.25 per capita the last time.
Q. What do they do with the money?—A. They buy bacon, sugar, coffee, clothing, and other necessaries that we do not issue to them.
Q. here do they buy these things?—A. They buy them at the traders' stores at the agency.
Q. Do the Indians do any work themselves?—A. No, sir; not much. Q. Do they have any disposition to herd cattle themselves?—A. Very few work at anything.
Q. Had you known them before you went there?—A. No, sir; I was never in that country before.
Q. You do not know, then, how their condition compares now with what it was five years ago?—A. No, sir; I cannot tell you how it compares with what it was then.
Q. Please state their present condition.—A. I do not know whether you want that in connection with the matter of leases or not, but I can state it and you can tell about it.
Q. Well, we will for the present continue the inquiry into the matter of leases. Do these men who made the leases occupy the land themselves or do they sublet?—A I think they occupy themselves.
Q. How many head of cattle have they?—A. I could not tell; but the leases are not stocked up at all.
Q. Are these leases inclosed?—A. Yes, sir; they are enclosed.
Q. With barbed wire?—A. Yes, sir.
Q. Are they in different inclosures?—A. Yes, sir; each lessee has his own inclosure.
Q. Who makes the fencest?—A. The lessees make the fences, and they agree to give these fences to the Indians at the expiration f the lease. The lease gives the lessees the privilege of fencing the land, and of doing such other things as are necessary to maintain the lease.
Q.. Where do they get the timber they use?—A. They cut the timber on the reservation.
Q. Is the timber plentiful?—A. No, sir; the timber is scarce.
QIs the agency well located?—A. Yes, sir; the buildings might have been?½ or 2 miles further north, near where the new school build­ing is.
Q. Is it not much better land where the new school building is?—A. It is more healthy there, but I don't know that the land is better. The best interests of the Indians can be served where they are now, as well as anywhere else. As long as they have the best improved arms, and are allowed to roam over the country, and are fed, nothing more can be done for them.
Q. Does it contribute to their advancement to furnish them money to purchase all they want, or would it be more likely to advance them if they were taught to earn money?—A. Any man must be taught the value of money in order to make any progress; and it is the same with an Indian. They must be controlled before they ever will do anything. For years and years they have roved over the plains from their present location to New Mexico and Colorado, and have been their own masters.
Q. Have they many ponies?—A. Yes, sir.
Q. Would they not be better off without them?—A. If they are going to continue doing what they have been doing they would be better oft without; but if you insist that they must do something for themselves it would be well to let them keep the ponies. They have more ponies than would be necessary for farming.
Q. What about their arms?—A. I will say that out of the 6,200 Indians at the Cheyenne and Arapaho Agency there are 1,200 men, probably, who are armed with Winchester and Remington rifles, pistols, and revolvers, and well supplied with ammunition.
Q. Where do they get these arms and this ammunition?—A. They can go to Caldwell and buy all they want.
Q. Where do they get the money?—A. From the leases, from freighting, the sale of ponies, and in different ways.
Q. The rental from these leases is enough to supply them with arms, is it not?—A. It keeps them in clothing, and they spend it for all pur­poses, except to buy beef and flour.
QThat the Government supplies?—A. Yes, sir; that is all.
Q. Do you think they ought to be disarmed?—A. Certainly.
Q. By force?—A. Yes, sir; I would insist upon it.
Q. Would you try to induce them to exchange their arms for cattle?—A. I would give them agricultural implements, help them to build houses, and teach them to farm.
QHow much in the aggregate would this rental money be?—A. About $80,000 a year.
Q. Could not that be better used to teach them to take care of themselves than by distributing it per capita?—A. I don't know what they would live on if they didn't get it. Without this money they could not clothe themselves.
QWhy, if taught to work, would they not be able to earn something?—A. Of course, by that time they would be better able to use this money to advantage.
QDon't you think a wise, benevolent white man could better spend it for them than they can for themselves?—A. I have no doubt he could.
Q. What is the inducement to self-support if the bread comes from the Government, and they continue to receive this rental l Would they ever make any advance out of this condition of things?—A. No, sir; not until forced to.
Q. So nothing now offers any inducement to lift them out of their present condition?—A. Not the slightest.
QWould it not be better to make some effbrt to appropriate this money in a way that would promote their civilization?—A. That ques­tion could be better answered if we had these Indians under our con­trol. If they were, then I do not think there is any question but what the Government could expend that money for supplying agricultural implements, sugar, coffee, and other necessary articles, so that it would go much further than now. I do not think there is any question about that.
QCould it not be so expended as to hold out an inducement to them to work?—A. I do not know whether it could or not.
Q. You haven't much courage in that line?—A. Yes, sir; lots of it.
Q. Much faith is a better word?—A. Yes, sir; I have a good deal of faith. My experience with the Modocs, who had just come out of the lava beds, was such that I have unbounded faith that the Indians can be made self-supporting. I have stated my policy to the Department, and if they would adopt it in a few years I could make the Cheyenne and Arapahoes self-supporting.
QIf you had the Cheyenne and Arapahoes on your hands, and had the means of the Government and the power of the Government, what would you do with them?—A. First I would disarm them, and then I would say to every man who was able-bodied (I should not expect women, children, and cripples to do it), here is a plow; I am at your back to help you as long as you help yourselves. If you don't go to work you can starve.
Q. What would you do with the rentals?—A. I think I should pay them per capita, for a few years at least.
Q. Would you do anything towards making them homes?—A. Oh, yes; would build houses for them.
Q. Why not take some of this money for that purpose?—A. Because they need it to buy the necessaries of life with—sugar, coffee, &c.
Q. Could they not be induced to raise a bushel of something if you would furnish them from this money as much more? Could they not be induced to do something for themselves by a system of rewards?—A. So long as an Indian has a rifle, and is allowed to roam over the country, I don't think it could be done.
Q. I am assuming that you have disarmed them and have control of them?—A. Well, I would assist them in agriculture, in cutting logs, hauling them from the mill, and in putting up fences. Of course I would have to have means for that purpose. I should not expect the Government to withdraw all support. If these people were disarmed we could force them to work, and those who could work should be helped until they could make a support for themselves. I am satisfied that this can be done from a few examples: There was a Pawnee man who had a farm of 8 or 10 acres; he came to me and said, "I want 20 acres in that field."I told him it would be better to stake off 40 acres. I said, "You get your posts, and I will get the wire, and help you to build the fence and house, and I will help you until you can take care of yourself."The idea struck him favorably at once.
Q. Is he a blanket Indian?—A. No, sir; he is not a blanket Indian, but most of them are. Well, he said he would do as I said, and started out to get the posts, but the dog soldiers went to him and said, "You are talking about starting a farm."
Q. Who are these dog soldiers?—A. They are Indians who rule the police of the tribe.
Q. Do you mean the police appointed by the Government?—A. No, sir; not the Government police. We have Government police also.
Q. How many have you?—A. I think we have twenty now. When I went there there were more. I discharged them because they were of no value whatever to the Government. They can only arrest women. They cannot arrest the men. This Indian I was speaking of came to me and said, "The dog soldiers say if I do get the posts they will take my ponies, and if that don't do that they will kill me."They shot his dog and his cow, and he said to me, "Unless you give me some protection I can’t do this thing."
Q. Can't he find out who did it?—A. Oh, yes; but we would be perfectly powerless to punish them.
Q. Are not these men made stronger in their insubordination by having this money paid to them per capita?—A. I can't say so positively, but possibly they are. It has been growing on them. Each year they go a little further. Three or four years ago when Major Miles was making an issue on the other side of the agency corral, an Indian named Mad Wolf told him he wanted an extra beef ration. Miles said, "I can't do it."Mad Wolf said, "You have got to do it,"and he drew up his gun and pointed it at Miles, and told his dog soldiers to take charge of the teams. And Miles said he had to do it. The agency police undertook to take this man and he rallied his dog soldiers. The military from Fort Reno came out and the Indians surrounded them and told them they had better go back to the fort, which they finally did. Things have gone from bad to worse.
Q. If the Government disarmed these Indians, and took this *80,000 rental and managed their supplies entirely, with personal supervision of them, do you think they could be brought into the ways of self-stip-port f—A. Most assuredly; I haven't a doubt of it.
Q. Do you think the Indians capable themselves of making fair and just contracts in relation to their land?—A. Yes, sir; if the matter was thoroughly understood; I think they understand the value of these things more than they did a few years ago.
Q. Do they receive as much rental as the land is worth?—A. I don't think the price they receive is as much as they could receive, provided the situation was different from what it is, roving as they o, and living on this leased territory, going to the camps to receive supplies, and killing beef wherever they pleased. These men who take the leases make some sort of an estimate of what the expense is going to be to them under all these circumstances. if they were under control, as in the eastern part of the Territory, the land would be worth $160,000, and the cattlemen would pay it. The Government ought to take control of the matter.
Q. Would it be wise to make these Indians herders?—A. Not at present, sir.
Q. Do you think they could be brought with an effort to be herders?—A. Yes, sir.
Q. How would you go to work?—A. I would adopt the same plan I have mapped out for self-support, and I think many of them would be glad to go to herding cattle.
Q. Would they have a salutary influence upon the others f—A. No doubt they would.
Q. The present condition of the Cheyenne and Arapahoes is that of insubordination?—A. Yes, sir.
Q. They control the agency instead of the agency controlling them?—A. Yes, sir; and they do most effectually, too.
Q. How many Indians are there at the agency?—A. About 6,200.
Q. The Northern Cheyennes have left?—A. Yes, sir.
Q. Who were the best, the Northern or Southern Cheyennes?—A. The Southern Cheyennes were supposed to be the best, but they have taken up all the mean things done by the Northern Cheyennes.
Q. The effect of the Northern Cheyennes upon them has been very bad, then?—A. Yes, sir; very bad indeed.
Q. Mr. Dyer, are there any other suggestions you desire to make in connection with the Cheyennes and Araphoes?—A. The main points you want are in connection with these leases.
The Chairman .. No; everything about these Indians which you think we ought to know and don't know. If you have any further suggestions as to the leases themselves, the propriety of them, or what modifications should be made, we would be glad to hear them. We want to know anything that would be of benefit to the Indians or the Government.—A. Well. I think it a very important thing that the Government should control the matter and supervise the making of leases. It should approve them, and, if not, they should be rejected. It appears to me that we ought to have some control over the business, and the money to be paid to the Indians should be paid to the agent or to whatever officer the law may indicate; and then, if it seems to be best to,disburse that money per capita, let it be disbursed upon a regular Government payroll. As to the propriety of the leases, my opinion is this: If you don't propose to take this land away from the Indians—that is to say, if you propose to recognize the fact that they own or control this land, then I say the leasing is the next best thing that can be done, for the land is of no value to them unless they can lease or do something of this kind with it. They have not the stock themselves, and if they get a fair price, and the money is properly used, of course it is a good thing. The only parties I have heard object to these leases at all are some few Indians who, before the leases were made, were deriving two or three hundred dollars for allowing white men to graze on the land. Some particular Indians were doing this and protecting the white men, and they knew that if this money was divided per capita, they would not get as much as they were getting the way they were managing it. I heard two or three of them say in one of their councils, when we were talking about the lease-money, that they were not getting enough. I told them that if everything was made as I would like to see it made, they ought to have more. They said they were told they could get five or six times as much money for the land. Squawmen and other irresponsible persons told them this. The only persons who objected to leases generally have been men who were deprived of a range by some one leasing it; that is to say, they were parties who were sore because they did not get the leases themselves, and they have done the talking about the business. I am satisfied the Indians have been paid every dollar of this money, and I am satisfied it could be made a better thing if the Government would take hold of it. They could get a good deal more money than these men have been paying them.
Q. Do you know of anything unfair about the getting of the leases?—A. I do not. When the lessees came to make one of their payments the Indians said : "We have been told that we can get more money for our land."A council was held in the commissary. The Indians said in my presence: "We ought to have more money,"and then the lessee said: "Here is your agreement. We propose to give you every dollar of this money, and give it to you as it is due, twice a year; and we want you to live up to your part of the agreement."
Q. Do you think the Indians understood the agreement?—A. I was satisfied from their conversation that they understood the agreement, and had not been misled from want of understanding; and I am just as well satisfied that nobody has been unduly influenced in the matter. That is, that there has been anybody bought up, or anything of that kind. They went into a general council and made this contract. Some of them feel that they ought to have more, but they all said they understood it.
Q. You think it is not practicable in the present condition of the In­dian to make him a herder?—A. No, sir.
Q. What do you say to beginning with small herds?—A. It will not do.
Q. Will you give the reasons?—A. For years and years they hunted the buffalo, and did not know the cost of raising a herd of cattle; and they haven't an idea of values, and haven't the patience to wait for a calf to be three years old. It must be something that they don't have to wait so long to get a return from. It is different with the Indians I had charge of before; they are so far advanced as to be self-supporting. They live on good farms and have good houses, and could produce good herds. The difficulty with the Indians here is that they are wild.
Q. Can't you suggest any method that would aid in getting them on their feet?— I don't know of anything in the world; I have thought of the matter earnestly, carefully, and prayerfully.
Q. Do you mean to say that they are hopeless?—A. No, sir; I believe, as I said this morning, that if they were disarmed so that we could have control, I will put a plow in their hands and get something out of them. The first thing is to disarm them.
Q. Could it be accomplished without an outbreak?—A. Yes, sir; it only requires a sufficient force.'
Q. What would hinder their going to Kansas and getting new arms?—A. Simply this, tell them we have taken your arms once, and if you buy more we will take them again, and you will lose the money. They know the difference between right and wrong. Even these Indians with blankets on could be put under the United States law, and would obey it as readily as any white people in this Union.
Q. Would it be wise to extend the criminal laws of the United States over these Indians?—A. Most assuredly; to the full extent of the laws.
Q: Do they practice polygamy?—A. Yes, sir; some of them have two or three wives, but Powder Face, the leading chief of the Arapahoes, has only one wife, and has not had but one for a good many years.
Q. Could the laws against polygamy be enforced?—A. Yes, sir; they would obey it.
Q. They keep up the medicine dance, I believe?—A. Yes, sir. Last spring after some of the Indians had plowed up pieces of land containing from a quarter of an acre to 10 acres and had planted it in corn the dog soldiers told them they were going to have a medicine dance, and they went off and left it, and the weeds choked it out.
Q. This was on account of the medicine dance ?—A. Yes, sir. They left their crops and didn't come back at all. The dog soldiers insisted upon their going. The Pawnee man and some others didn't want to go, but they shot his chickens and cows, and frightened him into going.
Q. Has not the Commissioner issued an order to have these things stopped?—A. Yes, sir; but you might issue an order to take your equals and tell me to lock them up, and I could just as easily do it. I haven't the power. The Department has urged all their agents to break up the medicine dance, but I am so situated that I can't do anything.
Q. Have you communicated these things to the Department?—A. Yes, sir.
Q. Do you know whether your predecessor did so, too?—A. I can't say whether my predecessor communicated them to the Department or not.
Q. How about the schools?—A. Well, we have schools, but there is not so much interest taken in them as there ought to be. Still we have four schools running at the present time, two conducted by the Mennonites and two agency schools. The Mennonites have about thirty scholars in each of their schools, and we have accommodations for one hundred scholars in the Cheyenne school and for about the same in the Arapaho school.
Q. Have any of the Cheyenne and Arapahoes been to Carlisle?—A. There are fifty-four at Carlisle at present.
Q. How many have come back?—A. I suppose twenty young men have come back.
Q. Do they go back to their old life again?—A. If the Government can't give them employment they go back to their blankets; and I want to say here that the fact that these Indians are under no control has the effect, when these boys come back home, to drive them back to their old life. The other Indians compel them to take up their blankets. I had a boy named White Buffalo, whose hair, by the way, is as white as yours; and I put him in my tin•shop. One of the dog soldiers cursed him, and told him he must come back into the camp. He told him the Government would support him if he didn't work. The boy came up to the office crying, and I told him to go back to work. I sent for the dog soldier and told him not to bother him again. The boys generally go back into camp and make meaner Indians than the blanket Indians. One of them led a scouting party which he had organized, and they found a big lot of oxen which were freighting through the Territory; and he said, "We will play buffalo hunting;"and they shot seven of them, and didn't take a piece of the meat. These things occur because we can't control the body of the Indians, and we can give employ­ment to only a few of the boys. I suggested iu my last report that if we had control of these Indians I could give every boy a farm. The radical defect is not in the boys, but in the condition of the tribe. The schools are a success; and if Captain Pratt could keep our boys five instead of three years, it would be much better.
Q. Have any girls come back?—A. Well, I suppose fifteen or twenty have come back.
Q. Have they gone back into the camp, too?—A. Yes, sir; they have gone back into Indian life; some of them are wearing our garb, but most of them have put on blankets.
Q. This is because the Indians are not under control?—A. Most as­suredly.
Q. If you had them under control could you not set these boys up as herders?—A. Yes, sir; but it would be better, instead of trying to teach them to raise cattle, unless you give them only a cow or two, to make farmers of them. They will come nearer to that than anything else; and in the farming line they will gradually get into stock-raising. I wish to say before concluding my testimony that besides our agency schools I have sent ninety-five children to the new school at Lawrence, Kansas, this fall.
Q. Your idea is that the schooling will be lost unless something is done at home to put the Indians under discipline?—A. Yes, sir.
Q. Did you say to Mr. Price that I would not send for you unless I thought of something more of importance?—A. Yes, sir.
The Chairman . If you will send me copies of those leases I will be obliged to you.
The WITNESS. I will do that, sir.

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