Indian Inspector Reports
The first annual report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs was submitted to the Secretary of War in 1826. Each of the annual reports is a vast and detailed government document containing updates written by Indian Agents located all over the United States and Indian“territory.” Excerpts from the 1886 and 1893 Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs reveal how Native people were viewed by the government at the time. In 1893 the Commissioner referred to Native Americans as a degraded and ignorant people.
These two documents, which are emblematic of the annual reports spanning decades, reflect the worldview and prejudicial mindset of government officials at the outset of the federal boarding school experiment. They include descriptions of the Native peoples and their land, their condition, habits, manner of living, agriculture, morals, religion, and sanitary conditions. There is data on the number of days the agents spent visiting Indian homes, medicine administered to the sick, number of boys’ hair cut short, rules and regulations, agreements with Indian tribes, and data about Indian schools, health, and demographics.
What do the Indian Inspector Reports reveal about how government officials saw Native peoples in the late 1800s?
- Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to the Secretary of the Interior, for the year 1886. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1886.
- Sixty-second Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to the Secretary of the Interior,1893. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1893.
Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to the Secretary of the Interior, 1886
Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to the Secretary of the Interior, 1893
Questions & Activities
- Read the excerpted text from the 1886 report and answer the following questions:
- How did Indian Agent, John S. Ward, see Native families in California? What can you infer from Indian Agent John W. Cramsie's report about the relationship between the Native people in Dakota and the Army? What did you learn about the role of girls and women?
- Read the excerpted text from the 1893 report and answer the following questions:
- Why do you think the Commissioner recommends the appointment of agents who do not reside in the community? What can you infer from this about the relationship between the government and the local Native community?
- Write a short essay in which you make the case for Indian schools and make the case against Indian schools. Please provide a well thought out rationale for each and include a final paragraph clarifying your own perspective.