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 limited
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 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 that. • 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.
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 activities • 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 land • 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 Evolved • 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 recognized • 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 farming • 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 vegetables
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 reported • "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 below) • 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
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 allocated • 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 farming: • 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
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 reservations). • 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 1899 • 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 reservations. • Case studies suggest similar implications for a number of other tribes, and a few, including the 5 civilized tribes, were doing very well
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
Grazing Land was not Broken into Individual Parcels • Like the open range ranching system of White ranchers • 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 input • 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 farmers • 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 1895 • 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 BIA. • 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.