San Carlos Federal Irrigation Project in Arizona.

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About the Project

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Source: 68th Congress, 1st Session, Senate, Report No. 129


February 7 (calendar day, February 8), 1924.--Ordered to be printed.

Mr. Cameron, from the Committee on Indian Affairs, submitted the following REPORT. [To accompany S. 966.]

The Committee on Indian Affairs, to whom was referred the bill (S. 966) for the continuance of construction work on the San Carlos Federal irrigation project in Arizona, and for other purposes, having considered the same, report favorably thereon with the recommendation that the bill do pass with the following amendment:

Strike out all after the enacting clause and insert in lieu thereof the following:

That there is hereby authorized to be appropriated, out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, the sum of $5,500,000, or so much thereof as may be needed, for the construction by the Indian Service, of the San Carlos Reservoir project for storage purposes as contemplated in report submitted by the chief engineer of the Indian irrigation service to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs under date of November 1, 1915, embodied in Appendix A, hearings before the Committee on Indian Affairs, House of Representatives, Sixty-sixth Congress, first session, act of June 30, 1919, provided the total cost of the project shall be distributed equally among the lands in Indian ownership and the lands in private ownership that can be served from the waters impounded in said reservoir: Provided, That the cost assessed against the Indian lands shall be reimbursable to the Treasury of the United States on a per acre basis under such rules and regulations as the Secretary of the Interior may prescribe, and there is hereby created a lien against all such lands, which lien shall be recited in any patent issued therefor prior to the reimbursement of the total amount chargeable against such land, and that the construction cost as fixed against the land in private ownership under the project shall be paid by the owners in not less than twenty annual installments, in accordance with such rules and regulations to be promulgated by the Secretary of the Interior: Provided further, That said project shall only be undertaken if the Secretary of the Interior shall be able to make or provide for what he shall deem to be satisfactory agreements with the private landowners for the repayment of their proportionate share of the cost of the project and that the money hereby authorized to be appropriated shall be available for the acquiring of necessary rights of way by purchase or judicial proceedings and for other purposes necessary in successfully prosecuting the work to complete the project: Provided further, That for the beginning of this work subject to the provisions hereof there is hereby authorized to be appropriated $500,000, to be immediately available and to remain available until expended.

This bill, as amended, has the approval of the Secretary of the Interior, and the following letter from the Secretary of the Interior is made a part of this report:

Department of the Interior
Washington, January 24, 1924.

Hon. J. W. Harreld,
Chairman Committee on Indian Affairs,
Washington, D. C.

My Dear Senator Harreld: I am in receipt of your request for report upon S. 966, a bill to authorize the construction of what is known as the San Carlos irrigation project, Arizona.

It appears that this project has been studied by the chief engineer of the Indian irrigation service, whose report of November 1, 1915, was printed as an Appendix A, hearings before the Committee on Indian Affairs, House of Representatives, Sixty-fifth Congress, first session, ‘‘on the condition of various tribes of Indians.’’

A substitute bill has been prepared in the office of Indian Affairs and is herewith inclosed for consideration by the committee.

Should Congress decide that the construction of this reservoir is desirable and that an appropriation therefor should be authorized, this department will be glad to carry out any construction work directed.

Sincerely yours,

Hubert Work

Washington, D. C., February 8, 1924

Hon. J. W. Harreld,
Chairman Committee on Indian Affairs,
United States Senate

My Dear Senator: The Indian Rights Association is deeply interested in the legislation (S. 966) introduced by your colleague, Mr. Cameron, as amended on the 1st instant, which provides for the construction of the San Carlos irrigation project.

For more than a quarter of a century we have been solicitous for the welfare of the Pima Indians in Arizona. This band of Indians have endured great hardships through the lack of care of the Government in protecting their right to the use of water for irrigation, a right which they are estopped from enforcing by reason of their wardship. Our views as presented in our eighteenth annual report (1901) in reference to the claims and needs of the Pimas seem appropriate at this time. We quote in part:

"Backed by a continuous and lengthy line of decisions, the courts have held that the prior appropriators of water for irrigation are entitled to the amount they have turned to beneficial use. As first appropriators, the Pimas have an unchallenged right. Their record for industry and independence have been heralded with pride, nor have they been wanting in patriotism. Uniformly friendly to the Federal power, they have in the past taken up arms against the Apaches at the instance of our Government. With such a history through a long series of years, it is all the more deplorable that they are now reduced to the verge of starvation through the divergence of their water supply by citizens of the Territory; and yet, through this trying period they maintain the same reputation for industry, and have shown no disposition to become mendicants, their neighbors testifying that they often suffer for want of food rather than ask alms.

"The waters of the Gila River have been taken out of that stream above the reservation limits in the past few years as settlements have sprung up thereon, and during this season the river bed has been devoid of water in its course through the reservation; hence the Pimas have been unable to raise a crop depending entirely upon irrigation; but they have been hopeful, and upon my recent visit to the reservation there was evidence of continued industry in anticipation of the flow of water that had not come. * * * The Pimas are not citizens, and hence have no status in the courts, and the duty devolves upon us of protecting them in their rights.

‘‘The proper defense has not been accorded to them. Had they been citizens, they could, through the courts, have enjoined those who interfered with their water rights.’’

During the 23 years intervening between the date of the foregoing report and to-day the Pima need has been stressed and some progress made toward better conditions. The Pima right to a share of the waters of the Gila has been established. While this right has been judicially determined, the use of the water has not been restored to them.

The proposition to construct the San Carlos irrigation project is believed to be the most feasible way to provide the water for irrigation for the Pima lands, a right to which it has been judicially determined they are entitled. This legal right being supported by the great moral obligation of the Government as guardian of these dependent people should secure from the Congress a prompt authorization for the construction of the San Carlos irrigation project.

The millions of our people are awakening as never before to the obligation of a Christian nation toward these wards of the Government. They are urging upon the Congress--yes, demanding--that justice shall mark our treatment of the red man.

We urge that you will be alert in the effort to redeem the Nation's obligation by vigorously supporting the San Carlos irrigation project.

Very respectfully,

S. M. Brosius,
Representing the Indian Rights Association.

This measure is primarily for the restoration to the Pima Indians of their water rights along the Gila River, which have been gradually taken away from them by the white settlers above them appropriating the waters of the river.

The moral and legal basis for this work could well be the present sad plight of the Pima Indians, who are the wards of the National Government. For 300 years these Indians have been the friends of the white man. They can properly be called agriculturists. Long before the formation of this Government they had builded long canal lines and were using the Gila River waters for irrigating fields of corn, cotton, and vegetables. Lieutenant Michler's report to Major Emory, July 29, 1856, says of the Pima Indian country on the Gila:

As we journeyed along this portion of the valley of the Gila we found lands fenced in and irrigated by many miles of acequias, and our eyes were gladdened with the sight of rich fields of wheat ripening for the harvest--a view differing from anything we had seen since leaving the Atlantic States. They grow cotton, sugar, peas, wheat, and corn.

Within the past few years the settlers on the upper river, especially in Graham County, have, somewhat innocently, but still in fact actually, appropriated the Gila River flow, which has belonged to the Pima and Lower River Indians for hundreds of years.

The long score of injuries which the American Indian has suffered in the past from the hands of the white man can never be balanced, but it is certainly true at this time that the people of the United States do not care to make the score worse, and in such a case as this would undoubtedly prefer to treat them fairly no matter what the money cost might be. The improvements which are recommended in this report, if executed, will provide additional units of water for both the Indians and the Graham County settlers when needed in addition to providing a positive means for reducing flood crests and confining the Gila within fixed channel lines through Graham County.

In addition to this evident moral obligation to meet our debt to the Indian is the prime object of self-preservation.

Early records testify that at the height of the Pima cultivation by irrigation, in 1853, they had a stretch of land along the south line of the Gila about 15 miles long and by 2 to 4 miles in width, the whole being occupied by their villages and cultivated fields (p. 113, report on San Carlos irrigation project).

Gradually, by reason of the white settlers above them diverting the waters from the river, the cultivated land of the Pimas was reduced to barren and desert lands. Being wards of the Government, they could not protect their rights through the courts.

The Pimas number 4,000; their reservation contains 369,000 acres of land, no part of which can be irrigated by water from the river at the present time. Some 2,000 acres are irrigated by pumping at an excessive cost.

The Pimas in order to get their water rights restored propose to relinquish 84,000 acres of land, which can be disposed of as the Government sees fit. They also propose that their lands under the project shall be encumbered to the extent of one-half of the cost of the proposed project, less the value of the 84,000 acres of land relinquished. The white settlers within the confines of the project propose that their lands shall be encumbered to the extent of one-half of the cost of the project, and that the total cost of the project will be repaid to the United States in 20 annual installments. In effect, the Pimas are willing to pay for the restoration of the water rights which belonged to them for the last 300 years and which the Government of the United States allowed to be taken away from them and their lands laid waste for the last 30 years.

The project when completed will bring under irrigation 40,000 acres of land in the Indian reservation and 40,000 acres outside of the reservation.

The feasibility of the project has been favorably reported upon by two different boards of engineers, one composed of Army engineers and one composed of engineers from the Reclamation Service.

The Pimas are a proud people, who glory in their agricultural supremacy of ancient times, and the completion of this project, restoring to them a portion of the waters of the Gila, will remove the dark cloud hovering over them of becoming ration Indians, will revive their pristine vigor, and the fruits of their industry will not perish from the earth.

There is appended hereto and made a part of this report the statement made before the Committee on Indian Affairs by Rev. Dirk Lay, D. D., a missionary of the Presbyterian Church to the Pima Indians, residing at Sacaton, Ariz., as follows:

Statement by Rev. Dirk Lay, D. D.

I was born January 21, 1886, on a farm about 9 miles southeast of Hastings, Nebr., and was educated in a country grammar school. In 1900 I enrolled in the Hastings College Academy and graduated there in 1904. In the fall of 1904 I enrolled in the University of Dubuque, Iowa, and was graduated from that university with the degree of bachelor of arts in 1907. I then entered the Presbyterian Seminary of the university, completing my theological training in the spring of 1910. On April 19, 1910, I was ordained by the Presbytery of Dubuque of the Synod of Iowa, of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. In June, 1917, my alma mater conferred the degree of doctor of divinity upon me.

September 3, 1910, I came to the Pima Indians as missionary of the Presbyterian Church, having been sent by the board of home missions of the Presbyterian Church, United States of America, and have lived among them since that date. I go into their homes and out on their farms, and am interested in their material as well as spiritual welfare.

The first three years I worked with the Rev. Charles H. Cook, D.D., who had been in charge of the missionary work since December 23, 1870. In February, 1871, Doctor Cook started the first school for Indians in the Southwest. Since that time practically the whole tribe has been Christianized and a record of the superior court of Pinal County shows that in nine years only three Indians committed crimes serious enough to come before that court. Drunkenness and gambling were their two besetting sins when the missionary first came to them, and they have now been eliminated, with a few exceptions. Under my guidance the Indians have established banking and savings accounts at the First National Bank, Casa Grande, Ariz. I have endeavored to establish a credit for these people who have no legal status as far as making loans is concerned. We have a loan account of $5,500 and this money is loaned to Indians to help them grow their crops. I have in my possession about 100 canceled notes. Most of this money has been loaned in $10, $15, $25, and a few $100 loans, and was used by the Indians who have land which is irrigated by the wells in the Santan district. At Blackwater we have been able to help the Indians dig a well and install a pumping plant which now irrigates 100 acres.

When an Indian wants a loan he comes to me for an indorsement. I go out to see his crop and ascertain the reasons for the loan, which are usually that the Indian wants to clear more land to get ready for larger farming.

The following is a crop report of one of these Indians who has been helped by these loans and who will farm 70 acres this coming year:

Sacaton, Ariz., November 22, 1923.

Rev. Dick Lay, Sacaton, Ariz.

My Dear Mr. Lay: I hereby made a copy of the amount of grain raised by me on our 30 acres of land here at Santan. Hope that it will be of use to you at such time as it may seem necessary.

Wheat sown, December 12-15, 1922; harvested, June, 1923; 600 pounds Early Bart; produced 81 ½ sacks from 8 acres; very good; weighed 11,340 pounds; average little over 10 sacks to the acre, or 22 bushels to the acre.

Wheat sown, January 31, 1923; harvested, June, 1923; 370 pounds Sonora wheat; produced 35 sacks from 5 acres; not so bad; weighed 5,075 pounds; average 7 sacks to the acre to, say, 16 bushels to the acre.

Wheat sown, February 19, 1923; harvested, June, 1923; 435 pounds Sonora wheat; produced 39 sacks from 5 acres; not so bad; weighed 5,460 pounds; like 7 ½ sacks to the acre, or little over 16 bushels to the acre.

Wheat sown, February 20, 1923; harvested, June, 1923; 110 pounds Early Bart; produced 7 sacks from 1 ½ acres; poor; weighed 980 pounds; little over 15 bushels to this 1 ½ acres.

Wheat sown, February 21, 1923; harvested, June, 1923; 200 pounds Sonora wheat; produced 20 sacks from 2 ½ acres; good; weighed 2,900 pounds; like 8 sacks to the acre; little over 17 bushels to the acre.

Total sown, 1,715 pounds; total produced, 182 sacks; total acres, 22; total pounds, 25,755.

Barley sown October 9-10, 1922; 360 pounds; produced hay, tons unknown, from 5 acres; very good; threshed one border to find out how much it yielded an acre; a border 33 feet wide 660 feet long produced 9 sacks, 1,065 pounds; supposed to be one-half an acre.

Barley sown December 18-20, 1922; 375 pounds; produced hay, tons unknown; with the one given above we have a large stack of barley hay from 5 acres; very good; threshed for seed June 1, 1923, 150 feet wide 340 feet long; received 36 sacks of barley seed, 4,500 pounds.

Total acres, 10; total of pounds, 5,565 of seed.

As given above part was threshed out of this 10.

Cotton planted, April 13-14, 1923; amount of cotton picked to date, 2,071 ½ pounds from 7 acres.

I have leased 40 acres of land to be added on with our 30 acres for this coming year at the term of three years.

Henry A. Johnson.

The tribe known as the Pimas was so named by the Spaniards early in the history of the relations of the latter with them. The Pima Indians live in the Gila River Valley, between Phoenix and Tucson. This tribe had their own irrigation system and nice farms when they were visited by Kino in 1687. The Pimas have never shed white man's blood and have always been friendly to the United States. Frank Russell, in his book on the Pima Indians, says: ‘‘The American people owe the Pima Indians a lasting debt of gratitude. The California pioneers that traversed the southern route before the days of transcontinental railroads often owed their lives to the friendly brown-skinned farmers whom they met upon the Gila. This tribe rendered notable assistance as scouts in the long contest with the Apaches. Even had they remained neutral they would have deserved friendly consideration on the part of the whites, but as they fought bravely in the latter's behalf, justice requires that their services be accorded proper recognition.’’

In the late war the Pimas oversubscribed every loan and the last war work drive by 508 per cent. The first Arizonian killed in action in France was a full-blood Pima Indian, who voluntarily gave his life for his country.

The water, which in olden times came down the Gila to help the Pimas raise their crops, is now being used by white people along the river above the Pimas. For the past five years the Indians have had crop failures due to the shortage of water. As early as 1859 Lieut. Sylvester Mowry, special agent, Indian Bureau, foresaw danger threatening the interests of the Pimas and wrote: ‘‘There are some fine lands on the Gila and any extensive cultivation above the Indian fields will cause trouble about the water for irrigation and inevitably bring about a collision between the settlers and the Indians.’’ The Indians have had their water taken from them and have peacefully submitted to the terrible hardships they are now enduring. There is only one way in which this terrible wrong can be made right, and that is by Congress building the San Carlos Dam. During the administration of W. F. Haygood as superintendent the whites living below the San Carlos site signed an agreement that the Indians are to receive 35-62 and the whites 27-62. This will give every Indian some water for farming; that is, providing the water is stored up by a dam at San Carlos. The Government engineers have thoroughly investigated and recommended the construction of the dam at San Carlos. It is now up to Congress to make the appropriation for this project and give back that which has been taken from the Pima Indians, who are our friends to-day in spite of the treatment they have received in the past.

Pimas are excellent farmers and with the small supply of water now available have repeatedly taken first prizes at the Arizona State Fair in competition with the white people of Arizona. In 1922 the Pimas won the sweepstakes on wheat and many blue ribbons; in 1923 they won 15 blue ribbons and many other prizes.

Every year the water supply of the Pima Indian is getting less and less, and if the San Carlos dam is not constructed it means starvation and ruin to this noble tribe of Indians.

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