93. Indian Commissioner Price on Civilizing the Indians: Extract from the Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, October 24, 1881
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154 extending over Indian reservations the government of the laws of the States or Territories in which such reservations are located, giving the Indians standing in the courts and securing to them the full benefit of the laws. I venture to express the hope that Congress may not adjourn again without having taken action upon these important measures, so essential to the progress and security of our Indian wards. . . . [House Executive Document no. 1, 46th Cong., 3d sess., serial 1959, pp. 3–4, 11–13.] 93. Indian Commissioner Price on Civilizing the Indians Extract from the Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs October 24, 1881 The 1880s marked a new drive to solve the “Indian problem.” Typical arguments in favor of making the Indians support themselves on individual homesteads were advanced by Commissioner Hiram Price in his annual report of 1881. His goal was to make the Indians a happy and prosperous people according to white modes of life. . . . . It is claimed and admitted by all that the great object of the government is to civilize the Indians and render them such assistance in kind and degree as will make them self-supporting, and yet I think no one will deny that one part of our policy is calculated to produce the very opposite result. It must be apparent to the most casual observer that the system of gathering the Indians in bands or tribes on reservations and carrying to them victuals and clothes, thus relieving them of the necessity of labor, never will and never can civilize them. Labor is an essential element in producing civilization. If white men were treated as we treat the Indians the result would certainly be a race of worthless vagabonds. The greatest kindness the government can bestow upon the Indian is to teach him to labor for his own support, thus developing his true manhood, and, as a consequence, making him self-relying and self-supporting. We are expending annually over one million dollars in feeding and clothing Indians where no treaty obligation exists for so doing. This is simply a gratuity, and it is presumed no one will question the expediency or the right of the government, if it bestows gratuities upon Indians, to make labor of some useful sort a condition precedent to such gift, especially when all of the products of such labor go to the Indian. To domesticate and civilize wild Indians is a noble work, the accomplishment of which should be a crown of glory to any nation. But to allow them to drag along year after year, and generation after generation, in their old superstitions, laziness, and filth, when we have the power to elevate them in the scale of humanity, would be a lasting disgrace to our government. The past experience of this government with its Indians has clearly established some points which ought to be useful as guides in the future. There is no one who has been a close observer of Indian history and the effect of contact of Indians with civilization, who is not well satisfied that one of two things must eventually take place, to wit, either civilization or extermination of the Indian. Savage and civilized life cannot live and prosper on the same ground. One of the two must die. If the Indians are to be civilized and become a happy and prosperous people, which is certainly the object and intention of our government , they must learn our language and adopt our modes of life. We are fifty millions ofpeople,andtheyareonlyone-fourthofone million. The few must yield to the many. We cannot reasonably expect them to abandon their habits of life and modes of living, and adopt ours, with any hope of speedy success as long as we feed and clothe them without any effort on their part. In this connection I wish to call attention to the fact that in almost every case it is only the non-laboring tribes that go upon the warpath , and the stubborn facts of history compel me to say that the government is largely to blame for this. The peaceable and industrious Indian has had less consideration than the turbulent and 155 vicious. One instance in proof of this can be found at this moment in the case of the White River Utes (the murderers of Meeker) and the Utes on the Uintah Reservation. The White River Utes have just been moved to the Uintah Reservation alongside of the peaceable...