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Of the 528,472,000 feet of timber cut and removed from Indian reservations during the calendar year 1944, the major portion has been used directly in war production. Many relatively small sales were made to provide timber for as many sawmill operations as practicable, and the sale areas have been selected and controlled according to the principles of sustained-yield management.
The Indians, through their tribal sawmill enterprises, produced approximately 30,954,500 feet of lumber during the past year. These enterprises are located on the Menominee Reservation in Wisconsin, the Red Lake Reservation in Minnesota, and the Navajo and Fort Apache Reservations in Arizona. Production was curtailed to some extent by limited labor and equipment.
White pine blister rust threatens the development of white pine in a control area of 108,870 acres, most of which is located in the Lake States. In cooperation with the Bureau of Entomology and Plant Quarantine, Department of Agriculture, 80,182 acres have been given initial treatment and 48,398 acres have been reworked, Indian women performing much of the labor involved. The pine bark beetles continue to cause considerable loss of ponderosa pine on Indian reservations in the far West. While forest management minimizes the depredations of the beetles, special control programs are necessary. These were not possible during the war, but have been planned for the postwar period.
Fortunately, the weather during last year's fire season was very favorable, and only 885 fires were reported, as compared to the annual average of 1,038 for the past ten years; but the areas affected totaled 127,742 acres, as compared to the annual average of 115,830.
During the calendar year 1944 approximately 44,000,000 acres of forest and open range lands on Indian reservations were utilized for grazing, providing forage for about 9,000,000 cattle months, with a value of approximately $1,900,000. Of this area, 34,000,000 acres were used by Indian stockmen.
Maximum production has been maintained on Indian range lands in keeping with the principles of conservation, and overstocking has generally not been permitted. On the Navajo, Hopi, and Papago Reservations, however, overgrazing continues to be a difficult problem. Range lands on those reservations will not support a sufficient number of livestock to provide a decent living for all the Indians. Consequently the reduction of flocks and herds to the estimated grazing capacity of the land is proceeding slowly.
Soil Conservation During the war years, farming, of necessity, has been on an exploitative basis. As a result, the nation's basic resource has decreased, and Indian lands have suffered with the rest of the country. The great demand for peanuts, cotton, corn, and other row crops requiring clean cultivation, has resulted in annually increased acreages of these crops. Consequently, pastures and grass-crops have been much reduced, and rotations, that maintain the organic content of soil, have been postponed. Removal of the protective vegetative cover during a major portion of the year has resulted in severe erosion by wind and water.
Through conservation during the past year, soil depletion under row-crop farming in the South and Southwest has been checked to a considerable degree, in spite of limited facilities and decreased funds and personnel. Almost 27,000 acres of Indian lands were contoured; legumes were planted on 22,450 acres; strip-cropping was practiced on 13,670 acres; 4,290 acres were converted to improved pastures; 397 miles of farm terraces were built. Application of the above practices resulted in a 35 percent average increase in yield, which is only a portion of the benefit derived, inasmuch as the soil is retained in place and future productivity is assured.
As a result of the war demand from 1917 to 1921, approximately 200,000 acres of the finest Indian grazing land in the Great Plains were plowed for wheat, and less than 2 percent of it has revegetated satisfactorily. During the past year steps were taken to forestall a repetition of such land destruction as that which produced the dust bowl of the middle 1930's. Insistent demands have been made for plowing virgin sod land for flax, as the growers did not want the land that had been cropped and abandoned during the first World War. The Indian Service has cooperated to the fullest extent in securing additional flax acreage, but only under safeguards that would protect the basic soil resources. Definite soil-conserving practices were specified for each major soil class, with the requirement that land be reseeded to an adapted grass species upon cessation of cropping.
In the great Northwest wheat region, the alternate-year cleanfallow system of wheat farming has been standard practice since the country was settled. Under this system, the soil surface has a protective vegetative cover during only 3 or 4 months out of each 2-year period. As a result, the best one-third to one-half of the rich prairie topsoil has been lost by erosion. Conservation plans now in effect on 633 Indian farms, totaling 130,500 acres, have brought about many desirable improvements. A leguminous cover, instead of clean fallow, has been introduced between wheat crops on 15,000 acres; stubble, loose mulch, and rough tillage are now applied on 43,500 acres; crop rotations are practiced on 66,000 acres; 1,150 acres, formerly plowed each year, have been converted to grass. These changes have increased production, reduced erosion, and are actually restoring soil fertility.
In the Southwest, destructive flood waters have been diverted and spread on 39,150 acres of Indian range lands. This has been a major contribution to the checking of siltation in reservoirs, and has increased carrying capacities by 600 cow years. Improved irrigated pastures, totaling 470 acres, have provided forage for an additional 1,200 cow years. Results from the reseeding of 24,895 acres of range land are not reflected in this increased carrying capacity, but if the seeding is successful, it should provide forage for an additional 600 cow years. Seedings made in previous years, have, however, resulted in increased forage equal to about 300 cow years this season. It is difficult, if not impossible, to estimate in dollars the loss of soil from Indian land. The reduction in fertility results not only in decreased yields to the farmer, but in the filling of streams and reservoirs. There is ample evidence that the losses have been accelerated during the war; and while the conservation practices here described are helpful, they do not solve the problem involved. A soil restoration and conservation program on an increased scale is in order, and plans have been made to this end.
Land Released for Military Use
During the war, over half a million acres of land passed out of Indian ownership to be used by the Government for air bases, gunnery ranges, bombing practice areas, etc. The permanent loss of so great an acreage would be a heavy blow to Indian economy, and it is hoped that not only the half million acres devoted to military purposes, but additional areas of grazing land also, may be made available for Indian use.
Colorado River Resehlement
Although, by provision of the act of 1865, the Colorado River Reservation was set up “for the Indians of said river and its tributaries,” no colonization of Indians from the tributary areas was found feasible during three-quarters of a century, owing to the general desert condition of the land and the lack of irrigation facilities.
With the completion of the Headgate Rock Dam and distribution system at the outbreak of the war, colonization became feasible; and during February 1945, the Council of the Colorado River Tribes adopted an ordinance opening the southern three-fourths of the reservation to colonization by Indians of the Colorado River watershed. During May 1945, the War Relocation Authority returned to the control of the Indian Service about 2,000 acres of subjugated land in the southern area.
The Indian Service entered into negotiations with the Hopi Indians, who had expressed interest in migrating to the Colorado River Reservation, and applications were received from 20 families for permits to occupy 40-acre units to be available September 1, 1945.
Livestock As only about one-eighth of the total Indian land base may be classified as agricultural, livestock raising is of necessity the chief industry of the Indians. Accordingly, during the past year, as throughout the past decade, it has been one of the principal functions of the Indian Service to aid Indians in increasing the numbers of their stock, in improving its quality, and in establishing efficient marketing methods.
Livestock numbers have been, and are being, steadily increased. In 1932 Indians owned a total of 170,700 beef cattle and 11,300 head of dairy stock. That year total income from sales of livestock and livestock products was $1,229,800. By 1943 the number of their beef cattle had been doubled, their dairy herds had increased to more than 50,000 head, and the total cash income from both was nearly $14,000,000. In the calendar year 1944 the number of Indian-owned beef cattle was 361,300, the dairy cattle numbered 50,700, and the total income from these sources was $15,039,000, while the livestock and livestock products consumed at home had a market value of $7,431,410.
It is a much simpler matter to increase the numbers than to improve the quality of the stock. During the past year continued efforts were made to aid Indians in securing better sires with each successive purchase and in culling inferior animals. As a result, a marked improvement is to be noted in many Indian herds. Some reservations are now operating breeding cattle herds for the production of superior bulls. At Fort Apache and San Carlos registered cows are being artificially inseminated. It is found that about 10 times the normal number of calves may thus be sired by one outstanding bull, and greater uniformity of quality may be obtained.
Improved marketing methods have aided greatly in augmenting Indian income from livestock. To this end cooperative livestock associations have been organized on most reservations, and 149 of these were in operation during the past year. Usually livestock are owned individually, but are managed and marketed cooperatively.
. Improving Navajo Sheep During the past quarter of a century there has been a steady decline in the quality of Navajo rugs because of a diminishing supply of suitable wool. The Indian Service has introduced fine-wooled rams for cross-breeding with native Navajo ewes to increase unit production and improve the quality of wool and lambs for the market. This has resulted in raising the market value of both wool and lambs, but the wool still lacks some of the qualities desirable for band-weaving.
The laboratory at Fort Wingate, N. Mex., operated jointly by the Bureau of Animal Husbandry of the Department of Agriculture and the Indian Service, is endeavoring to develop a type of sheep better suited to the economic needs of the Navajo Indians than either the fine-wooled or old-type Navajo sheep. Although only three generations of cross-bred offspring have been produced, definite progress has been noted. Last year the average clean-wool production of the cross-bred ewes in the experimental flock was almost 100 percent greater than the 1936 production of the foundation Navajo ewes; but at least eight generations will be required to establish the desired type.
Agriculture In the Southern and Southwestern States, forage is produced chiefly through the development of pastures. On most northern reservations the critical factor in the livestock industry is the production and storage of feed for the winter months. In 1944, 436,794 tons of forage crops, with a valuation of $4,793,911, were harvested on 396,600 acres of Indian land.
Although Indians in general depend chiefly upon livestock for their cash income, other cash crops have been increasing during the past decade. In 1943, 370,000 acres of cereal crops yielded 3,780,000 bushels. In 1944, only 340,000 acres were planted, but the yield of cereals increased to 4,839,500 bushels with a market value of nearly $5,000,000. Other field crops were valued at $3,682,400, while tree fruits, nuts, and berries, sold and consumed, were worth $775,600.
The Indian Service has continued to stress the importance of gardening. In 1944, 31,800 families raised gardens, the home-consumed produce therefrom being valued at $1,280,000.
Experimental Work at Sacaton At the United States field station, Sacaton, Ariz., the Indian Service cooperates with the Bureau of Plant Industry, Department of Agriculture, in conducting experimental work on crops in the Southwest. During the war years research work has been modified so as to contribute to war needs as much as possible.
New strains of cotton, developed at the Sacaton station, have contributed millions of dollars to the income of Southwestern cotton growers, and other promising strains are now being worked out. Greater attention is being given to the long staple varieties, such as American-Egyptian and the SXP; and the station is taking the lead in furnishing an adequate supply of reliable seed for growers. Valuable contributions have been made to the knowledge of cotton diseases as a result of investigations at Sacaton. Worthwhile work is also being done with flax, and pasture experiments are being conducted to test the suitability of various grasses, clovers, and other forage plants.