Federal Fathers & Mothers: A Social History of the United States Indian Service, 1869-1933

By Cathleen D. Cahill | Go to book overview

2
Only the Home Can Found a State

BUILDING A BETTER AGENCY

On the evening of 10 October 1890, the “Friends of the Indian” gathered for the closing session of that year’s Lake Mohonk Conference. The three-day event had been deemed a great success, with attendees listening to various presentations that included “The Capacity of the Indian to Be Educated,” “The Choice of Industries in Indian Education,” and “Indian Agents.” They also had heard reports from the Women’s National Indian Association and various missionary societies about their work on the reservations. In between sessions, they had enjoyed the beauty of the hotel grounds, strolling through its formal gardens, relaxing on its shady lakeside verandas, and venturing up the rocky crest of Shawangunk Ridge for panoramic views of the Hudson River valley below. Before thanking their hosts and the hotel staff for their generous hospitality, the conference goers spent a few final hours discussing the “Indian problem.” In one lively exchange, they peppered the Reverend Thomas Riggs, Indian agent for the Standing Rock Reservation in South Dakota, with probing questions about the details of Dakota family life. These questions demonstrated just how fundamental the home was to the project of Indian assimilation.

What is the condition of the houses of the Indians at the
present time, as compared with two or three years ago?

Do you find soap and towels and wash-basins now?

How about chickens and pigs?

Is the grade of house steadily improving?

How many of the three thousand Indians at Standing Rock
live in houses?

-34-

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