« PreviousContinue »
Indians equally esteemed as desirable regions for habitation. At once began the long history of negotiation, treaty and purchase, inevitable as a phenomenon of human progress but too often defiled by the sordidness of power, by which the country passed piecemeal into the possession of the white race. It is true the newcomers acknowledged that ownership of the lands was vested in the native occupants, and that they usually paid for the territories, in a technical sense, under terms of formal purchase. But it was the white men who demanded to buy. It was the white men who fixed the purchase price, and the red men who realized what refusal would mean. The occupation of continents and the sway of white skins over dark skins is determined by laws not passed by legislatures. The unfortunate effect upon the red men of the process by which they were stripped of their possessions was the speedy creation of a hostility — always existent thereafter in at least a passive sense and often fanned into warfare by imposition or pressure upon them -- toward the movements of the white men. For the Indians soon saw that much white travel resulted in more demands to buy land, more purchases, permanent white occupation and a curtailment of their own territory and natural means of subsistence. The presence of white men meant the absence of game, and Indian poverty.
That conception of the red man which has been summed up in the ethnological proverb, "The only good Indian is a dead Indian," runs somewhat wide of the truth. It is not too much to say that in the early days of their association with the English speaking colonists, the native Americans compared rather favorably with the strangers in the exhibition of those human qualities 1 Reference is made to the English speaking colonies and colonists.
that inspire confidence and serve to distinguish honor and fair dealing from duplicity. When an Indian and a white man were about to engage in a transaction involving something of value owned by the native and coveted by the Caucasian, it was for a long time a common custom to make the Indian drunk as a preliminary to the negotiation. Peter Kalm, in his Voyage to North America, refers to this practise, and says: “Many persons have assured me that the Indians are frequently cheated in disposing of their goods, especially when they are in liquor, and that sometimes they do not get onehalf or one-tenth of the value of their goods. I have been witness to several transactions of this kind."
When a white man had a just grievance against a native and the attention of the offending Indian's tribe was called to the matter, the chiefs of his clan compelled the culprit to make restitution and often visited upon
him a severe penalty. The Iroquois held deceit in such abhorrence that on some occasions they punished lying with the penalty of death. Among the early colonists the personal accountability code of the Indians was not looked upon with favor for use in dealing with offenders of the white race. As a consequence the estimation in which the newcomers were held by the natives was lowered. Under normal conditions, and in dealing with colonists who did not impose on them, the Indians as a race were hospitable and kind to the limit of their opportunities. In their sight, at first, a white man was presumed to be a good man, kindly disposed. If he proved himself to be bad, that was another matter. There were bad men on both sides. But the Indian had to prove himself, against open prejudice, to be good. Occasionally and after long effort he was successful, but it was a hard matter at best, and from the chronicles that have come down from those times it is apparent that such attempts on his part, even when sincere and justified by the facts, failed more often than they succeeded.
1 An Indian once said to Sir William Johnson (England's agent in dealing with the northern natives): "You English buy territory by the use of the bottle."
With liquor as the bartering medium, nothing could save the Indian from wrong." -Winsor, in "The Westward Movement.
; This attitude of the natives gradually ceased. The authorities of the colonies got into sponsibility for their unfair or unlawful acts. mitted their outrages at such a distance from the hand of authority that it was impossible example of the whites, and took the same position.
the habit of disowning the white trouble-makers along the border, and of disavowing re
Trespassers on Indian lands sometimes comto catch the culprits even if the desire to do so existed. So the natives followed the
One of the best records of the relative viewpoints from which each race regarded the other lies in the words spoken to Conrad Weiser, an early traveller, by Canassatego, the Onondaga chief who was his host. "If a white man in travelling through our country,” said the savage to the civilized man, "enters one of our cabins, we treat him as I do you. We dry him, if he is wet; we warm him, if he is cold; and give him meat and drink that he may allay his hunger and thirst, and we spread soft furs for him to rest and sleep on. We demand nothing in return. But if I go into a white man's house and ask for victuals and drink, they say, 'Where is your money?' and if I have none they say, 'Get out, you Indian dog.'” Whatever value Canassatego's words may have as a possible illumination of Indian character does not lie in the manner of their utterance but in the philosophy that inspired them. Few Indians could have spoken thus, but there is much evidence to indicate that the Indians as a race felt as he did, until their character and attitude, in so far as relations with white men were concerned, were much changed by long brooding on imposition and the impending wreck of their birthright.
The things that resulted in enmity between the red men and the white are not hard to define. They were a failure by the bulk of the newcomers to understand the viewpoint of the natives with respect to the ownership of the country and the effect of white men's presence in it, and the display, on the part of the strangers, of motives and methods that antagonized both the philosophy and material interests of the original inhabitants. Whenever it happened, in the earlier days of their association, that a white man treated his Indian neighbors as decent fellow men, and not as dangerous creatures that should be removed from the face of nature, such a white man was esteemed as a friend. Accounts of the early troubles between the races, having all been prepared and handed down by one party to the controversies, can be depended on as reliable and conservative whenever they give praise to the opposition. And narratives of the sort, written by colonists, contain the record sometimes by inference and sometimes frankly — of native traits such as are here outlined. In later years, unhappily, a white man was often considered to be an enemy simply because he was white, just as a colonist looked on an Indian as an enemy because he was an Indian.
Civilization in its final aspect is not demonstrated by the possession and operation of railroads, steamboats and flying machines. We may with safety say, despite a considerable lingering impression to the contrary, that further and greater progress can be made by the use of more intangible elements than these. The Indians had not progressed in mechanical ingenuity to the point that we have reached, nor could they, but in one sense their cultural state surpassed that of the race which was to overthrow them. Their age-long battle with and study of Nature had woven into their character a consideration of the common welfare, a man-to-man accountability for
20.—The Yarmouth Coach, which originated in England, was a very small,
cart-like pleasure conveyance, with two broad-tired wheels. When similar vehicles were employed for more serious purposes in America the standing driver ceased to appear.
word and act, a disdain of petty evasion, an ability to discern motive, and a keenness in separating honesty from hypocrisy and friend from foe, that excelled the similar attributes possessed by the white-skinned men who appeared among them. The strangers from abroad, though they did not realize it, were under one disadvantage. Their methods of life — their civilization had blunted in them those qualities in which the Indians were supreme. That was why the Indians as a race did not get along in their dealings with the white men as a race. There was no common footing, either of character or material interests, on which both could stand. The whites