Page images
PDF
EPUB

Indians under the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

Respectfully submitted,

A. J. POPPLETON,
JNO. L. WEBSTER.

1

III.

TESTIMONIES TO INDIAN CHARACTER.

“ Early in 1800 the Governor of the North-west Territory, in his message to the assembly, invited their attention to the condition of the Indians. He observed that, irrespective of the principles of religion and justice, it was the interest and should be the policy of the United States to be at peace with them; but that could not continue to be the case if the treaties existing between them and the Government were broken with impunity by the inhabitants of the Territory. He referred to the well-known fact that while the white men loudly complained of every injury committed by the Indians, however trifling, and demanded immediate reparation, they were daily perpetrating against them injuries and wrongs of the most provoking and atrocious nature, for which the perpetrators had not been brought to justice. * * * He stated that the number of those unfortunate people who had been murdered since the peace of Greenville was sufficient to produce serious alarm for the consequences. He added, further, that a late attempt to bring to punishment a white man, who was clearly proved to have killed two adult Indians and wounded two of their children, had proved abortive.”—BURNET's Notes on Northwest Territory.

CHARACTER OF NORTH-WESTERN INDIANS.

“ Among other falsehoods it has been asserted confidently, but without a shadow of argument or fact to sustain the assertion, that they cannot be brought to a state of civilization, or be induced to form communities and engage in the pursuits of agriculture and the arts, in consequence of some physical difference between them and the Anglo-Saxon race. This hypothesis is contradicted by experience, which has abundantly shown that the two races, when placed in the same situation, and acted upon by the same causes, have invariably resorted to the same expedients and pursued the same policy.

This averment is sustained by a reference to the white people who have been taken prisoners in childhood and brought up among the Indians. In every such case the child of civilization has become the ferocious adult of the forest, manifesting all the peculiarities, tastes, and preferences of the native Indian. His manners, habits, propensities, and pursuits have been the same, so that the most astute philosophical observer has not been able to discover any difference between them, except in the color of the skin, and in some instances even this has been removed by long exposure to the elements, and the free use of oils and paints.”

The many instances which there are on record of cases in which persons taken captive by the Indians, while young, have utterly refused in later life to return to their relatives and homes, go to confirm this statement of Judge Burnet's.

On the other hand, he says: “ The attempts that have been made at different times to improve the minds and cultivate the morals of these people have always been attended by success.

“On an unprejudiced comparison between the civilized educated white man and the civilized educated Indian, all this theory of an organic constitutional difference between the European and the native Indian vanishes.

“ In what respect have Ross, Boudinot, Hicks, Ridge, and others differed from the educated men of our own race? Inasmuch then as the reclaimed educated Indian becomes assimilated to the white man, and the European brought 'up from infancy among the Indians becomes identified with them, this alleged difference cannot be real, it must be imaginary.

“ The fact is, the difficulty of civilizing the natives of this continent is neither greater nor less than that which retarded the improvement of the barbarous nations of Europe two thousand years ago.

* * * Men uncivilized have always delighted in the chase, and had a propensity to roam; both history and experience prove that nothing but necessity, arising from such an increase of population as destroys the game, has ever induced men to settle in communities, and rely on the cultivation of the earth for subsistence. In the progress of civilization the chase has given way to the pastoral state, and that has yielded to agriculture as the increase of numbers has rendered it necessary.

“ As soon as the Cherokees and the Wyandots were surrounded by a white population, and their territory was so contracted as to cut off their dependence on hunting and fishing, they became farmers, and manifested a strong desire to cultivate the arts; and

this would have been the choice of the whole Indian race if the policy of the Government had permitted it!

“ It is not just to consider the natives of this country as a distinct and inferior race because they do not generally imitate us, when we not only remove every consideration that could induce them to do so, but in fact render it impossible. What motive of ambition was there to stimulate them to effort, when they were made to feel that they held their country as tenants at will, liable to be driven off at the pleasure of their oppressors?

“ As soon as they were brought to a situation in which necessity prompted them to industry, and induced them to begin to adopt our manners and habits of life, the covetous eye of the white man was fixed on their incipient improvements, and they received the chilling notice that they must look elsewhere for permanent homes. " At the time our settlements were com

mmencing north-west of the Ohio, the Indians were its acknowledged owners and sovereigns; the Government claimed no right either of occupancy or soil, except as they obtained it by purchase.”

(On the 31st of July, 1793, the United States Commissioners said to the assembled chiefs of the North-western tribes, in a council held at the home of one Captain Elliott, on the Detroit River: • By the express authority of the President of the United States, we acknowledge the property, or right of soil to the great country above described, to be in the Indian nations as long as they desire to occupy it; we claim only the tracts before particularly mentioned, and the right of pre-emption granted by the King, as before explained.")

“ The entire country from Pennsylvania to the Mississippi was admitted to be theirs, and a more delightful, fertile valley cannot be found on the earth. * * *

is Unconscious of the ruinous consequences that were to follow their intimacy with white men, they ceded to the American Government large and valuable portions of the country at nominal prices. Those lands were rapidly settled by Americans, in whose purity and friendship the unsuspecting natives had great confidence; nor did they awake from that delusion till their habits of sobriety and morality had been undermined, and the vices engendered by intemperance and idleness had contaminated every tribe. * * *

“ Their subsistence became precarious; their health declined; their self-respect, their dignity of character, and the heroism in.

66

herited from their ancestors were lost. They became in their own estimation a degraded, dependent race. The Government, availing itself of their weakness and want of energy, succeeded by bribes and menaces in obtaining the best portions of their country, and eventually in driving them from the land of their birtha to a distant home in an unknown region.

6. This distressing chapter of aboriginal history began at the treaty of Greenville, in 1795, and terminated in less than fifty years. The writer of these notes witnessed its commencement, progress, and close.”—BURNET's Notes on North-west Territory.

NES PERCÉS AND FLAT-HEADS IN THEIR OWN COUNTRY.

They were friendly in their dispositions, and honest to the most scrupulous degree in their intercourse with the white men. *** Simply to call these people religious would convey but a faint idea of the deep hue of piety and devotion which pervades the whole of their conduct. Their honesty is immaculate; and their purity of purpose and their observance of the rites of their religion are most uniform and remarkable. They are certainly more like a nation of saints than a horde of savages.”—CAPTAIN BONNEVILLE's Narrative, revised by W. IRVING.

· I fearlessly assert to the world, and I defy contradiction, that the North American Indian is everywhere in his native state a highly moral and religious being, endowed by his Maker with an intuitive knowledge of some great Author of his being and the universe-in dread of whose displeasure he constantly lives with the apprehension before him of a future state, when he expects to be rewarded or punished according to the merits he has gained or forfeited in this world.

“I never saw any other people who spend so much of their lives in humbling themselves before and worshipping the Great Spirit as these tribes do, nor any whom I would not as soon suspect of insincerity and hypocrisy.

“Self-denial and self-torture, and almost self-immolation, are continual modes of appealing to the Great Spirit for his countenance and forgiveness.

“ To each other I have found these people kind and honorable, and endowed with every feeling of parental, filial, and conjugal affection that is met with in more enlightened communities." Catlin's North American Indians.

Mr. Catlin spent eight years among the Indians more than forty years ago. He travelled among the wildest of them, lived

with them in the freest intimacy, and this is his verdict as to their native traits, when uncontaminated by white men and whiskey.

As long ago as 1724, the Jesuit Father Lafitau wrote of the Indians, and stated that to his own experience he added that of Father Garnier, who had lived sixty years among them: “ They are possessed,” says he, “ of sound judgment, lively imagination, ready conception, and wonderful memory. All the tribes retain at least some trace of an ancient religion, handed down to them from their ancestors, and a form of government. They reflect justly upon their affairs, and better than the mass of the people among ourselves. They prosecute their ends by sure means; they evince a degree of coolness and composure which would exceed our patience; they never permit themselves to indulge in passion, but always, from a sense of honor and greatness of soul, appear masters of themselves. They are high-minded and proud; possess a courage equal to every trial, an intrepid valor, the most heroic constancy under torments, and an equanimity which neither misfortunes nor reverses can shake. Toward each other they behave with a natural politeness and attention, entertaining a high respect for the aged, and a consideration for their equals which appears scarcely reconcilable with that freedom and independence of which they are so jealous. They make few professions of kindness, but yet are affable and generous. Toward strangers and the unfortunate they exercise a degree of hospitality and charity which might put the inhabitants of Europe to the blush."

Father Lafitau does not disguise the fact that the Indians have great faults. He says they are suspicious and vindictive, cruel to their enemies."

Père Lallemant, a missionary among the Hurons, says: “In point of intellect they are not at all inferior to the natives of Europe; I could not have believed that, without instruction, nature could have produced such ready and vigorous eloquence, or such a sound judgment in their affairs as that which I have so much admired among the Hurons. I admit that their habits and customs are barbarous in a thousand ways; but, after all, in matters which they consider as wrong, and which their public condemns, we observe among them less criminality than in France, although here the only punishment of a crime is the shame of having committed it."

In a history of New France, published in 1618, it is stated of the Indians that “ they are valorous, faithful, generous, and hu

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »