Page images
[merged small][ocr errors]

The separate existence of the Indians in tribes invites attack and is in this respect an element of weakness, yet, nevertheless, it is absolutely necessary to preserve them in that condition until they are sufficiently civilized to be made citizens—in fact, not merely in name—and thus become able to take their chances with other men in the battle of life.

A writer in the Friends' Review says, that in 1870, Pleasant Porter, a leading Creek, said to him :

“If our country be placed under a territorial government and whites come in upon us, the few of us, who are educated so as to avail ourselves of the sale of lands, will become rich. But the mass of the people will soon lose their all and become vagabonds and fugitives. For untold generations, your people have held property in severalty and have had hereditary habits of acquiring and holding possession and of looking to the future. For untold generations our people have held property in common, have learned only to supply our present wants and to care nothing for the future, and when we are brought into contact you eat us up. Do all you can then to help us hold this territory intact until by the slow process of education, we can train our people to bear competition with yours.”

In order to clearly understand the Indian question and to indicate what course should be pursued by the Nation in its relations with this race, it is necessary that the history of the past be first considered.

Let the Federal policy of the past be briefly reviewed both as to its acts and the instigators of them.




The Federal policy in the past has been weak, shuffling and perfidious to the last degree. Let the reader for a moment ask himself what element has inaugurated this policy. It will be seen that the humanity, the enterprise, the public spirit, and the culture of the Nation have silently looked on unconcerned whilst the lawless passions and greed of a handful of frontiermen and refugees have forced their ideas upon the Government. These are the refuse of the great cities, the failures of civilization, the men whose natures are restive under the restraints of law-in other words, the practical men who affect to sneer at what they term the sentimentality of the East. This class flourishes in all its native rankness in that political fungus--the glory of the immature commonwealths of the border—the mining town, and it is from this source that the Federal policy has drawn its inspiration. And yet the civilized millions of the Nation have, for generations, permitted a few thousand border ruffians to attitudinize on the political stage as the "pioneers of civilization.”

These men with fierce bluster and swagger have been allowed to force their barbaric demands upon the Federal Government which always talks well and acts ill.

The Nation has proclaimed that "all men are created equal and that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights."

But according to these frontier statesmen, this means that “all men, except Indians, are created equal." In the broad benevolent minds of the representatives of the political annex of mining, banking and railroad companies yclept the State, the redman's “inalienable rights” are to be scalped, to be hunted like game, to be driven from his home, to have the property of his tribe destroyed without hope of redress. And all this for the benefit of those heroic souls who are wont to remind the world with no uncertain sound that they are “carrying westward the frontier of civilization.” God preserve us from such civilizers.


is oñe long story of never ending shame, of promises broken and repeated and broken again, of merciless wars, of wanton, unpunished massacres both by troops and citizens, of unblushing treachery, of assassination and stealthy murders and rapine not merely permitted, but ordered, with all the ghastly details of military etiquette, and of effusive praise by general officers of the regular army for the more than savage barbarism of troops under the command of subordinates, who knew what would be commended, and were more than willing to carry out the extermination theories of their superior officers.

To all this active evil must be added the neglect of every duty and the failure to perform every promise found inconvenient or unpopular. These are hard words, but the history that evokes them has been written in blood and tears drawn from the hearts and eyes

of countless thousands of both races by the wanton encroachments of the frontier settlers and the alternate cruelty, weakness and perfidy of the Federal Government.

Bishop Whipple (1880) wrote: “Pledges solemnly made have been shamelessly violated. The Indian has had no redress except war. In these wars ten white men have been killed to one Indian, and the Indians who were killed have cost the Government $100,000 each. Then came a new treaty, more violated faith and another war until we have not a hundred miles between the Atlantic and Pacific which has not been the scene of an Indian massacre.

Major General Stanley (1870) writing from Dakota, said that he was “ashamed longer to appear in the presence of the chiefs of the different tribes of the Sioux, who inquire why we do not do as we promised, and in their vigorous language, aver that we have lied.”

Sitting Bull, who had declined to treat with the Government,


* Preface to “Century of Dishonor," 1881.

[blocks in formation]

sent his refusal to Assistant Secretary Cowen, in these words: “Whenever you have found a white man who will tell the truth, you may return and I shall be glad to see you.".

It is utterly useless to argue with the border element. The humanity of the Nation must have a well-defined and aggressive policy of its own, and force its adoption on the Government. It must move on these so-called civilizers of the frontier and wipe out the wrongs they have done and are still doing, and with them the dishonor which now rests on the whole people, the responsibility for which they cannot avoid.

When history comes to pass upon this Nation, it will expose to posterity a people claiming to be just and free and brave, to be enlightened and humane, to be foremost in the race of life, yet for generations, without ceasing, committing on a brave, but weak and defenceless race, cruelties without name and perfidies without number. Only prompt and ample reparation can avert the lasting stain of a severe but righteous judgment.


Is a contrast needed ? It is at hand.

In Canada, since the American Revolution, there have been no Indian wars, no massacres, no ruined settlements. The Indians are loyal to the Crown. Why is this?

The Canadian Government fulfils its plighted faith, gives the Indian personal rights, protects him by wise laws, and its Indian service is not the spoil of partisanship. Its agents are fitted for their work, they hold office practically during good behavior, and the result has been peace and prosperity, both to the Indians and the settlers. *


In order to remedy that accumulation of cruelty and wrong called the Federal Indian policy, the public conscience must be awakened. For a century it has slept, for generations it has known these evils and moved not. Within a few years there has been a change for the better. The atrocious wrongs of the past are becoming generally known and deplored. But the public conscience has not yet been quickened into action. It has not yet even determined that anything can be done much less attempted to do it. The greatest obstacle to be overcome and the cause of the greatest difficulty in solving the Indian problem will be found in what may be called the vis inertia of society. The evil is aggressive, restless, untiring, the good is the reverse.

* Canada has, relatively, more room, more game and fewer Indians than the United States. The problem there is now simpler. But, when the United States was in the condition in which Canada now is, the Indians were treated no better than they are at present.

All unite in condemning the shameless, vacillating“ policy” of the Federal Government, but in the same breath nearly all exclaim of the Indians, nothing can be done for them! They are a doomed race! Certainly that is the way to doom them.

! The well-meaning, indolent, average respectable citizen is sure that it is all very bad and should be changed, but he never dreams that the way to change is to change, and that it is his duty to help to bring about that change. It never occurs to him that he individually is to blame, but nevertheless he is. Why he should be called upon to exert himself in favor of this reform will never, unaided, strike his mind until he is moved from without. The invariable "why should we do this,” or “let the Government attend to it,” must be answered. That is the object of this paper. The individual citizen must be made to understand his personal duty, his responsibility must be brought home to him that he may be active for good, and thus help to force the Government to do right. There is only one way to bring about this result. The public must know the truth and its conscience must be thoroughly aroused.

In 1861, Secretary Stanton well said:-“If you came to Washington to tell us that our Indian system is a sink of iniquity and a disgrace to the nation, we all know it. This government never reforms an evil until the people demand it. When the hearts of the people are touched these evils will be reformed and the Indians will be saved."

[ocr errors]
« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »