The Indian Today - The Past and Future of the First American
by Charles A. Eastman
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The American Books

The Indian To-day

The Past and Future of the First American



Author of "Old Indian Days," "Indian Boyhood," etc.


Copyright, 1915, by Doubleday, Page & Company

All rights reserved, including that of translation into foreign languages, including the Scandinavian


The author of this book was born in a teepee of buffalo hide near Redwood Falls, Minn., during the winter of 1858. His father was a full-blooded Sioux called "Many Lightnings," (Tawakanhdeota). His mother, the granddaughter of Chief "Cloud Man" of the Sioux and daughter of a well-known army officer, died shortly after his birth. He was named Ohiyesa (The Winner).

The baby was reared to boyhood by the care of his grandmother. When he was four years old, the so-called "Minnesota massacre" of 1862 separated him from his father and elder brothers and only sister, and drove him with a remnant of the eastern Sioux into exile in Manitoba. There for over ten years he lived the original nomadic life of his people in the family of an uncle, from whom he received the Spartan training of an Indian youth of that day. The knowledge thus gained of life's realities and the secrets of nature, as well as of the idealistic philosophy of the Indian, he has always regarded as a most valuable part of his education.

When Ohiyesa had reached the age of fifteen years, and had been presented with a flint-lock musket in token of his arrival at the estate of young manhood, he was astonished by the reappearance of the father whose supposed death at the hands of white men he had been taught that he must some day avenge. He learned that this father had adopted the religion and customs of the hated race, and was come to take home his youngest son.

Ohiyesa's new home was a pioneer log cabin on a farm at Flandreau, Dakota Territory, where a small group of progressive Indians had taken up homesteads like white men and were earning an independent livelihood. His long hair was cropped, he was put into a suit of citizen's clothing and sent off to a mission day school. At first reluctant, he soon became interested, and two years later voluntarily walked 150 miles to attend a larger and better school at Santee, Neb., where he made rapid progress under the veteran missionary educator, Dr. Alfred L. Riggs, and was soon advanced to the preparatory department of Beloit College, Wisconsin. His father had adopted his wife's English name of Eastman, and the boy named himself Charles Alexander.

After two years at Beloit, young Eastman went on to Knox College, Ill.; then east to Kimball Union Academy in New Hampshire, and to Dartmouth College, where Indians had found a special welcome since colonial days. He was graduated from Dartmouth in 1887, and went immediately to Boston University, where he took the medical course, and was graduated in 1890 as orator of his class. The entire time spent in primary, preparatory, college, and professional education, including the mastery of the English language, was seventeen years, or about two years less than is required by the average white youth.

Doctor Eastman went directly to the large Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota as Government physician; and during the "Ghost dance" troubles of 1890-91 he was in charge of the wounded Indian prisoners in their emergency hospital. In 1891 he married Miss Elaine Goodale of Berkshire County, Mass.; and in 1893 went to St. Paul, Minn., with his wife and child. While engaged there in the practice of medicine he was approached by a representative of the International Committee of the Y. M. C. A., and served for three years as their field secretary in the United States and Canada.

In 1897 Dr. Eastman went to Washington as attorney for his tribe, to push their interests at the national capital, and from 1899 to 1902 he served again as a Government physician to the Sioux. Beginning in 1903, he spent about seven years giving permanent family names to the Sioux, and thus helping to establish the legal descent of their property, under the direction of the Indian Bureau.

His first book, "Indian Boyhood," was published in 1902. It is the story of his own early life in the wilds of Canada, and was the outgrowth of several sketches which appeared in St. Nicholas a few years earlier. Since that time he has written "Red Hunters and the Animal People" (1904), "Old Indian Days" (1906), "Wigwam Evenings" (1909), "The Soul of the Indian" (1911), and "Indian Scout Talks" (1914). All have been successful, and some have been brought out in school editions, and translated into French, German, Danish, and Bohemian. He has also contributed numerous articles to magazines, reviews, and encyclopedias.

In connection with his writings he has been in steady demand as a lecturer and public speaker for the past twelve years, and has recently devoted his entire time to literary work and lecturing, with the purpose of interpreting his race to the present age.

When the first Universal Races Congress was held in the city of London in 1911, Dr. Eastman was chosen to represent the American Indian at that historic gathering. He is generally recognized as the foremost man of his race to-day, and as an authority on the history, customs, and traditions of the native Americans.



















It is the aim of this book to set forth the present status and outlook of the North American Indian. In one sense his is a "vanishing race." In another and an equally true sense it is a thoroughly progressive one, increasing in numbers and vitality, and awakening to the demands of a new life. It is time to ask: What is his national asset? What position does he fill in the body politic? What does he contribute, if anything, to the essential resources of the American nation?

In order to answer these questions, we ought, first, to consider fairly his native environment, temperament, training, and ability in his own lines, before he resigned himself to the inevitable and made up his mind to enter fully into membership in this great and composite nation. If we can see him as he was, we shall be the better able to see him as he is, and by the worth of his native excellence measure his contribution to the common stock.

In the first place, he is free born, hence a free thinker. His government is a pure democracy, based solidly upon intrinsic right and justice, which governs, in his conception, the play of life. I use the word "play" rather than a more pretentious term, as better expressing the trend of his philosophy. He stands naked and upright, both literally and symbolically, before his "Great Mystery." When he fails in obedience either to natural law (which is supreme law), or to the simple code of his brother man, he will not excuse himself upon a technicality or lie to save his miserable body. He comes to trial and punishment, even to death, if need be, unattended, and as cheerfully as to a council or feast.

As a free man himself, he allows others the same freedom. With him the spiritual life is paramount, and all material things are only means to the end of its ultimate perfection. Daily he meets the "Great Mystery" at morning and evening from the highest hilltop in the region of his home. His attitude toward Deity is simple and childlike.

Social life is kept as simple as possible, freedom of action only curbed by reverence for Those Above, and respect for the purity and perfection of his own body and those of his fellow-creatures. Only such laws are made as have been found necessary to guard personal and tribal purity and honor. The women do not associate freely with men outside of the family, and even within it strict decorum is observed between grown brothers and sisters. Birth and marriage are guarded with a peculiar sacredness as mysterious events. Strenuous out-of-door life and the discipline of war subdue the physical appetites of the men, and self-control is regarded as a religious duty. Among the Sioux it was originally held that children should not be born into a family oftener than once in three years, and no woman was expected to bear more than five children, for whom both masculine and feminine names were provided to indicate the order of their birth.

The Indian, in his simple philosophy, was careful to avoid a centralized population, wherein lies civilization's devil. He would not be forced to accept materialism as the basic principle of his life, but preferred to reduce existence to its simplest terms. His roving out-of-door life was more precarious, no doubt, than life reduced to a system, a mechanical routine; yet in his view it was and is infinitely happier. To be sure, this philosophy of his had its disadvantages and obvious defects, yet it was reasonably consistent with itself, which is more than can be said for our modern civilization. He knew that virtue is essential to the maintenance of physical excellence, and that strength, in the sense of endurance and vitality, underlies all genuine beauty. He was as a rule prepared to volunteer his services at any time in behalf of his fellows, at any cost of inconvenience and real hardship, and thus to grow in personality and soul-culture. Generous to the last mouthful of food, fearless of hunger, suffering, and death, he was surely something of a hero. Not "to have," but "to be," was his national motto.

As parents are responsible for the conduct of their children, so was the Indian clan responsible for the behavior of its members, both among themselves and in relation to other clans. This simple family government extended throughout the bands, tribes, and nations. There was no "politics" and no money in it for any one. The conscience was never at war with the mind, and no undue advantage was sought by any individual. Justice must be impartial; hence if the accused alone knew the facts, it was a common thing for him to surrender himself.


As regards the original Indian warfare, it was founded upon the principle of manly rivalry in patriotism, bravery, and self-sacrifice. The willingness to risk life for the welfare or honor of the people was the highest test of character. In order that the reputations thus gained might be preserved as an example to the young, a system of decorations was evolved, including the symbolic wearing of certain feathers and skins, especially eagle feathers, and the conferring of "honor names" for special exploits. These distinctions could not be gained unjustly or by favoritism, as is often the case with rank and honors among civilized men, since the deeds claimed must be proved by witnesses before the grand council of war chiefs. If one strikes an enemy in battle, whether he kills him or not, he must announce the fact in a loud voice, so that it may be noted and remembered. The danger and difficulty is regarded above the amount of damage inflicted upon the enemy, and a man may wear the eagle plumes who has never taken a life.

It is easily seen that these intertribal contests were not based upon the same motives nor waged for the same objects as the wars of civilization—namely, for spoil and territorial aggrandizement. There was no mass play; army was not pitted against army; individual valor was held in highest regard. It was not usual to take captives, except occasionally of women and children, who were adopted into the tribe and treated with kindness. There was no traffic in the labor or flesh of prisoners. Such warfare, in fact, was scarcely more than a series of duels or irregular skirmishes, engaged in by individuals and small groups, and in many cases was but little rougher than a game of university football. Some were killed because they were caught, or proved weaker and less athletic than their opponents. It was one way of disciplining a man and working off the superfluous energy that might otherwise lead to domestic quarrels. If he met his equal or superior and was slain, fighting bravely to the end, his friends might weep honorable tears.

The only atrocity of this early warfare was the taking of a small scalp lock by the leader, as a semi-religious trophy of the event; and as long as it was preserved, the Sioux warriors wore mourning for their dead enemy. Not all the tribes took scalps. It was only after the bounties offered by the colonial governments, notably in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, for scalps of women and children as well as men, that the practice became general, and led to further mutilations, often stigmatized as "Indian," though in reality they have been practised by so-called civilized nations down to a recent period. That one should do murder for pay is not an Indian idea but one imposed upon the race by white barbarians.

It was a custom of the Plains Indians to hold peaceful meetings in summer, at which times they would vie with one another in friendliness and generosity. Each family would single out a family of another tribe as special guests of honor. Valuable horses and richly adorned garments were freely given at the feasts and dances. During these intertribal reunions the contests between the tribes were recalled and their events rehearsed, the dead heroes on both sides receiving special tributes of honor. Parents would entertain the participants in an engagement in which their son had fallen, perhaps, the year before, giving lavish hospitality and handsome presents in token that all was done in fair fight, and there remained no ill feeling.


Whatever may be said for this scheme of life, its weaknesses are very apparent, and resulted in its early fall when confronted with the complicated system of our so-called civilization. With us the individual was supreme; all combination was voluntary in its nature; there was no commerce worthy the name, no national wealth, no taxation for the support of government, and the chiefs were merely natural leaders with much influence but little authority. The system worked well with men who were all of the same mind, but in the face of a powerful government and an organized army it quickly disintegrated and collapsed. Could the many small tribes and bands have formed a stable combination or league, they might have successfully resisted the invader; but instead they stood separately, though too weak to maintain their dignity by force, and in many cases entered upon a devastating warfare with one another, using the new and more deadly weapons, thus destroying one another. Since there was no central government, but a series of loose confederations of linguistic or allied groups, each of which had its titular head, able to make treaties or to declare war, these bands were met and subdued one at a time.

The original North American knew no fermented or spirituous drink. To be sure, he used a mild narcotic—tobacco mixed with aromatic leaves or bark, and smoked in strict moderation, generally as a semi-religious ceremony. Though wild grapes were found here in abundance, none had ever made wine from them. The introduction of liquor completed the ruin of our race.

During a long period the fur trade was an important factor in the world's commerce, and accordingly the friendship and favor of the natives were eagerly sought by the leading nations of Europe. Great use was made of whiskey and gunpowder as articles of trade. Demoralization was rapid. Many tribes were decimated and others wiped out entirely by the ravages of strong drink and disease, especially smallpox and cholera. The former was terribly fatal. The Indians knew nothing of its nature or treatment, and during the nineteenth century the tribes along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers suffered severely. Even in my own day I have seen and talked with the few desolate survivors of a thriving village.

In the decade following 1840 cholera ravaged the tribes dwelling along the great waterways. Venereal disease followed upon the frequent immoralities of white soldiers and frontiersmen. As soon as the Indian came into the reservation and adopted an indoor mode of life, bronchitis and pneumonia worked havoc with him, and that scourge of the present-day red man, tuberculosis, took its rise then in overcrowded log cabins and insanitary living, together with insufficient and often unwholesome food. During this period there was a rapid decline in the Indian population, leading to the now discredited theory that the race was necessarily "dying out" from contact with civilization.

It must always be borne in mind that the first effect of association with the more advanced race was not improvement but degeneracy. I have no wish to discredit the statements of the early explorers, including the Jesuit priests; but it is evident that in the zeal of the latter to gain honor for their society for saving the souls of the natives it was almost necessary to represent them as godless and murderous savages—otherwise there would be no one to convert! Of course they were not angels, but I think I have made it clear that they were a God-fearing, clean, and honorable people before the coming of the white man.


The transition from their natural life to the artificial life of civilization has been very gradual in most cases, until the last fifty years, when the changes have been more rapid. Those who were first affected were the so-called "Five Civilized Nations" of the South, and the "Six Nations" of New York State, together with some of the now extinct bands in New England, who came in close touch with the early colonists. Both politically and commercially, they played an important part in the settlement of America. Their services as scouts, guides, and allies were of great value in the early history of this country, and down to recent years. Many received no salary, and some even furnished their own horses. It is a remarkable fact that there is not one instance on record of a scout betraying the cause he served, even though used against his own tribe and his own relatives. Once his honor is pledged to a public trust, he must sustain it at any cost.

In many cases those tribes which declared allegiance to the French, the English, or the Americans, were in their turn the means of bringing a neighboring tribe into subjection. Thus began a new era in the history of the Indian, inaugurating a kind of warfare that was cruel, relentless, and demoralizing, since it was based upon the desire to conquer and to despoil the conquered of his possessions—a motive unknown to the primitive American.

To be sure the new weapons were more efficient, and therefore more deadly; the new clothing was gayer, but less perfectly adapted to the purposes of primitive life. Indeed, the buckskin clothing and moccasins of the Indian were very generally adopted by the white frontiersman. On the other hand, his spiritual and moral loss was great. He who listened to the preaching of the missionaries came to believe that the white man alone has a real God, and that the things he had hitherto held sacred are inventions of the devil. This undermined the foundations of his philosophy, and very often without substituting for it the Christian philosophy, which the inconsistency of its advocates, rather than any innate quality, made it difficult for him to accept or understand.

A few did, in good faith, accept the white man's God. The black-robed preacher was like the Indian himself in seeking no soft things, and as he followed the fortunes of the tribes in the wilderness, the tribesmen learned to trust and to love him. Then came other missionaries who had houses to sleep in, and gardens planted, and who hesitated to sleep in the Indian's wigwam or eat of his wild meat, but for the most part held themselves aloof and urged their own dress and ways upon their converts. These, too, had their following in due time. But in the main it is true that while the Indian eagerly sought guns and gunpowder, knives and whiskey, a few articles of dress, and, later, horses, he did not of himself desire the white man's food, his houses, his books, his government, or his religion.

The two great "civilizers," after all, were whiskey and gunpowder, and from the hour the red man accepted these he had in reality sold his birthright, and all unconsciously consented to his own ruin. Immediately his manhood began to crumble. A few chiefs undertook to copy some of the European ways, on the strength of treaty recognition. The medals and parchments received at such times were handed down from father to son, and the sons often disputed as to who should succeed the father, ignoring the rule of seniority and refusing to submit to the election of the council. There were instances during the nineteenth century in the vicinity of Chicago, Prairie du Chien, Saint Paul, and Kansas City, where several brothers quarrelled and were in turn murdered in drunken rows. There was also trouble when the United States undertook to appoint a head chief without the consent of the tribe. Chief Hole-in-the-Day of the Ojibways and Spotted Tail of the Brule Sioux were both killed by tribesmen for breaking the rule of their respective tribes and accepting favors from the Government.

Intermarriages were not common among the different tribes in the old days, and still less so between Indians and Caucasians. The earlier intermarriages were with the higher class of Europeans: officers, noblemen, etc., and many of the offspring of these unions were highly esteemed, some becoming chiefs. At this period the natives preferred their own marriage customs, which was convenient for the white officers who were thus enabled to desert their wives and children when they chose, and often did so, quite as if there were no binding obligation. Later, when unions between the lower class of both races became common, the Sioux refused to recognize their half-breeds as members of the tribe, and a certain territory was set apart for them. These half-breeds disposed of their land to the Government, and took instead certificates entitling them to locate upon the public domain. Some thirty years afterward they returned to their mother tribe and were allowed full rights as members of their respective bands.

Except among the French Canadians, in no section has there been such a general intermingling of the blood of the two races as in the Southern States. The Virginia legislature early recognized intermarriages between whites and Indians, and from the time of Pocahontas to this day some of the best families have married among Cherokees, Chickasaws, and Choctaws, and are proud of the infusion of aboriginal blood. Among the "Five Civilized Tribes" of Oklahoma the Indian blood is distinguishable only in a minority of those who call themselves "Indians."

This transition period has been a time of stress and suffering for my people. Once they had departed from the broad democracy and pure idealism of their prime, and undertaken to enter upon the world-game of competition, their rudder was unshipped, their compass lost, and the whirlwind and tempest of materialism and love of conquest tossed them to and fro like leaves in the wind.

"You are a child," said the white man in effect to the simple and credulous native. "You cannot make or invent anything. We have the only God, and he has given us authority to teach and to govern all the peoples of the earth. In proof of this we have His Book, a supernatural guide, every word of which is true and binding. We are a superior race—a chosen people. We have a heaven fenced in with golden gates from all pagans and unbelievers, and a hell where the souls of such are tortured eternally. We are honorable, truthful, refined, religious, peaceful; we hate cruelty and injustice; our business is to educate, Christianize, and protect the rights and property of the weak and the uncivilized."

This sort of talk had its effect. Let us see what followed.



I have tried to set forth the character and motives of the primitive Indian as they were affected by contact with civilization. In a word, demoralization was gradual but certain, culminating in the final loss of his freedom and confinement to the reservation under most depressing conditions. It must be borne in mind that there has been scarcely any genuine wild life among us for the past thirty-five years. Sitting Bull's band of Sioux were the last real hostiles of their tribe to surrender, in 1880, and Geronimo's Apaches followed in 1886.

It is important to understand the underlying causes of Indian wars. There are people to-day who believe that the Indian likes nothing better than going on the warpath, killing and scalping from sheer native cruelty and lust for blood. His character as a man of peace has not been appreciated. Yet it is matter of history that the newcomers were welcomed in almost every case with unsuspecting kindness, and in his dealings with the white man the original owner of the soil has been uniformly patient and reasonable, offering resistance only under irresistible provocation.

There have been but few noteworthy Indian wars in the history of America. In 1629 Powhatan's brother revolted against the colonists in Virginia, and King Philip took up arms in Massachusetts in 1675. The Cherokee war of 1758 in North and South Carolina came next; then the conspiracy of Pontiac in 1763, the Creek war from 1812 to 1830, and the Seminole war from 1820 to 1833. These wars in the South were incited by the insolence and aggressiveness of the Americans. The struggles of the Algonquins and the Iroquois, however, were not conducted wholly on their own initiative. These tribes were used as allies in the long-drawn-out conflicts between the French and the English, and thus initiated into the motives and the methods of the white man's warfare.

I doubt very much if Pontiac would have carried his policies so far had it not been for the encouragement he received from French traders and settlers, who assured him that King Louis would come to his assistance in due time, with men and ammunition. Strong in this belief, as well as in his innate sense of right and justice, he planned to unite the scattered tribes against the invader and overthrow all the border forts in a day. His boldness and aggressiveness were unique in the history of Indian warfare.

At this juncture a remarkable man was chosen to guide the Indian policy in America. Sir William Johnson had long been engaged in trade among the Six Nations, and more especially the Mohawks. His influence among them was very great; and it was partly through his conciliatory methods, and partly by reason of the betrayal of his plans and the failure of the French to keep their promises of assistance, that Pontiac, perhaps our greatest military genius, was forced to surrender.

A sad feature of the early wars was the sufferings of those Indians who had listened to the preaching of Jesus Christ. In Massachusetts, during King Philip's war, the Christian Indians were treated no better than the "heathen savages." Some were hanged, some imprisoned, and some sold as slaves to the West Indies. At best, they lost their homes and improvements, and nearly perished of cold and hunger. In Pennsylvania, at Conestoga and Wyoming Valley, they were horribly murdered, and the peaceful Moravian Indians were butchered at prayer in their church, while no one dared say a word of protest except the Quakers.

To return to the wars in the South, many of these were mere feuds between one or two families. The Cherokees secured concessions and promises of better treatment from the white men, after which they continued friendly, and helped in overcoming the Creeks and Seminoles.

Practically all Indian wars have been caused by a few self-seeking men. For instance, a man may secure through political influence a license to trade among the Indians. By his unprincipled practices, often in defiance of treaty agreements, such as gross overcharging and the use of liquor to debauch the natives, he accumulates much tainted wealth. This he invests in lands on the border or even within the Indian territory if ill-defined. Having established himself, he buys much stock, or perhaps sets up a mill on Indian water-power. He gathers his family and hirelings about him, and presently becomes a man of influence in his home state. From the vantage point of a rough border town, peopled largely with gamblers, saloonkeepers, and horse-thieves, this man and his kind plot the removal of the Indian from his fertile acres. They harass him in every way, and having at last forced resistance upon him, they loudly cry: "Indian outbreak! Send us troops! Annihilate the savages!"


The principal causes of Indian troubles in the South were, first, the encroachments of this class of settlers; second, the hospitable willingness of the Indians to shelter fugitive slaves. Many of these people had found an Elysium among the Creeks and Seminoles, and had even intermarried among them, their offspring becoming members of the tribe. Osceola's wife was of this class—a beautiful Indian woman with some negro and some white blood. She was dragged away from him by unholy traffickers in human flesh, and he was arrested for remonstrating. Who could tolerate such an outrage? The great chief was then a young man and comparatively unknown; but within one year he became the recognized leader of his tribe and the champion of their cause. The country was perfectly suited to the guerilla warfare which is characteristic of Indians—a country in which even an Indian of another tribe would be lost! White frontiersmen were imported to guide the army, but according to the testimony of Beckworth, the Rocky Mountain hunter and trapper, all gave up in disgust. The Government was forced to resort to pacific measures in order to get the Seminoles in its power, and eventually most of them were removed to the Indian Territory. There was one small band which persistently refused the offered terms, and still remains in the fastnesses of the Florida Everglades, perhaps the only unconquered band in the United States to-day.

While the Southern tribes were deported almost in a body to what was then the far West, the wars of the Algonquins, along the Great Lakes and the Ohio River, scattered them far and wide in fragments. Such of the Iroquois as had strong treaties with the Dutch colony secured permanent reservations in the State of New York which they still occupy, having been continuously under state control instead of that of the general government.


The Black Hawk war in 1836 was the end of the Algonquin resistance. Surely if there was ever just cause for resistance, Black Hawk had such a cause. His case was exactly similar to that of the famous Nez Perce, Chief Joseph, who illustrates his grievance very lucidly in the North American Review for April, 1879, in an interview with Bishop Hare of South Dakota.

"If I ever sold any land to the Government," says he, "it was done in this way: Suppose a man comes to me and says: 'Joseph, I want to buy your horse.' I say to him: 'I am satisfied with my horse. I do not wish to sell him at any price.' Then the man goes to my neighbor and says to him: 'I want to buy Joseph's horse, but he would not sell it to me.' My neighbor says: 'If you will buy my horse, I will throw in his horse!' The man buys my neighbor's horse, and then he comes and claims my horse and takes it away. I am under no obligation to my neighbor. He had nothing to do with my horse."

It was just such dealing as this which forced Black Hawk to fight with a handful of warriors for his inheritance. The Government simply made a treaty with the Sacs under Keokuk, and took the land of the Foxes at the same time. There were some chiefs who, after they had feasted well and drunk deep and signed away their country for nothing, talked of war, and urged Black Hawk to lead them. Then they sneaked away to play "good Indian," and left him to bear the brunt alone.

There were no more Indian wars for thirty years. The Southwest frontiers were now occupied by eastern tribes or their remnants, which had been transported beyond the Mississippi during the early thirties. Only fragments were left here and there, in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and the South. The great Siouan race occupied nearly all the upper valley of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers and their tributaries. North of them dwelt the Ojibways, an Algonquin tribe with an entirely different language. The Sioux nation proper originally occupied a vast territory, and in the middle of the nineteenth century they still held the southern half of Minnesota, a portion of Wisconsin and Iowa, all of the Dakotas, part of Montana, nearly half of Nebraska, and small portions of Colorado and Wyoming. Some of the bands were forest Indians, hunters and trappers and fishermen, while others roamed over the Great Plains and hunted the buffalo, elk, and antelope. Some divided the year between the forest and prairie life. These people had been at peace with the whites ever since the early French explorers and the Jesuit priests had entered their country. They had traded for many years with the Hudson Bay and American Fur companies, and no serious difficulty had arisen, nor was any obstruction offered to the progress of civilization.

In 1824 the United States required of the tribes in this region to define their territory, a demand which intensified and gave a new turn to their intertribal warfare. The use of gun, horse, and whiskey completed the demoralization, and thus the truly "savage" warfare had its origin, ever increasing in bitterness until it culminated in resistance to the Government, in 1862, one hundred years after the struggle and defeat of the great Pontiac.


A treaty was made in 1851 with the Minnesota Sioux to which one band was not a party. This was the one commonly known as Inkpaduta's band, whose usual winter resort was in northwestern Iowa. White settlers went upon the ceded lands, and when this band returned to Spirit Lake after their summer's roving they found it occupied. Owing to a very severe winter and the presence of the settlements, the surrounding country became depleted of game, and the Sioux, who were starving, sought aid among the settlers. No doubt they became a nuisance, and were so treated, which treatment they very naturally resented, and thus arose the "Spirit Lake massacre." The rest of the tribe condemned the act, and Sioux from the Redwood reservation pursued the guilty band until they overtook and killed two of Inkpaduta's sons. The others were driven back among the wild Sioux. This was their first offence, after more than a century of contact with the whites.

Little Crow's band formed the east wing of the Sioux nation, and were the first to enter reservation life. The causes of their outbreak, a few years later, were practically the same as in many other instances, for in its broad features the history of one Indian tribe is the history of all. Their hunting-grounds were taken from them, and the promised support was not forthcoming. Some of the chiefs began to "play politics" like white men, and through their signatures, secretly given, a payment of $98,000 due the tribe was made to the Indian traders. Little Crow himself was involved in this steal, and was made head chief by the whites, who wished to have some one in this position whom they could deal with. But soon the non-payment of annuities brought the Indians to the verge of starvation, and in despair they forced Little Crow to lead them in revolt. In August, 1862, they massacred the agency employees and extended their attack to the white settlers, killing many and destroying a large amount of property, before a part of the tribe fled into Canada and the rest surrendered to General Sibley.

Next came the struggle of the Western Sioux and Northern Cheyennes in defence of their homes. The building of the Northern Pacific and the Union Pacific transcontinental railroads had necessitated the making of new treaties with these people. Scarcely was the agreement completed by which they ceded a right of way in return for assurances of permanent and absolute possession of other territory, including the Black Hills and Bighorn Mountains, when gold was discovered in these regions. This fact created great excitement and a general determination to dispossess the Sioux of the country just guaranteed to them, which no white man was to enter without the consent of three fourths of the adult men of the tribe.

Public excitement was intense, and the Government found itself unable to clear the country of intruders and to protect the rights of the Sioux. It was reported that there were no less than fifteen thousand men in the Black Hills district placer-mining and prospecting for the yellow metal. The authority of the United States was defied almost openly by the frontier press and people. Then the Indians took matters into their own hands, carried on a guerilla warfare against immigrants, and harassed the forts until the army was forced to enter upon a campaign against them. In 1868 another treaty was made, but the great chief, Red Cloud, would not sign it until he saw forts C. F. Smith and Phil Kearney abandoned. Here is probably the only instance in American history in which a single Indian chief was able to enforce his demands and make a great government back down. At that time it would have cost immense sums of money and many lives to conquer him, and would have retarded the development of the West by many years.

It is a fact that Sitting Bull was thoroughly opposed to yielding any more territory. No doubt he foresaw the inevitable result. He had taken up the cause of the Eastern Sioux in Minnesota and fought Sibley and Sully in 1862. He had supported Red Cloud in his protests against the establishment of the Bozeman trail, and against the new forts, although thus far these aggressions had not affected him directly. But when surveyors began work on the Northern Pacific, they entered his particular domain, and it was time for him to fight in its defence. Unfortunately for him, the other bands of Sioux whom he had helped in their time of need were now all settled upon reservations, so that he had not much support except from Crazy Horse's band, and the so-called hostiles or renegades of the Western bands. Hostilities began in 1872, culminating in 1876 with the famous "Custer fight," which practically ended the struggle, for after annihilating Custer's command the Indians fled into British America. Four years later Sitting Bull was induced to come in and settle down upon the Sioux reservation.

The Modoc war in Oregon and Idaho, in which the Shoshones and Bannocks were involved, was really a part of this same movement—namely, the last defence of their hunting-grounds by the Plains Indians, as was also the resistance of the Cheyennes and Comanches farther south, and of the Utes in 1877, simultaneously with the last stand of the Sioux. It had been found impossible to conquer the Plains Indians without destroying the buffalo, their main subsistence. Therefore vast herds were ruthlessly destroyed by the United States army, and by 1880 they were practically extinct. Since it was found cheaper to feed than to fight them, the one-time warriors were corralled upon their reservations and kept alive upon Government rations.


All Indian warfare worthy the name had now come to an end. There were left Geronimo's small bands of Apaches, who were hunted down in an all but inaccessible country and finally captured and confined in Southern forts. More recent "Indian outbreaks," so-called, are usually a mere ruse of the politicians, or are riots caused by the disaffection of a few Indians unjustly treated by their Government agents. The only really serious disturbance within a generation was the "Ghost-dance war" of 1890-91. And yet this cannot fairly be called an Indian war. It arose in a religious craze which need not have been a serious matter if wisely handled. The people were hungry and disheartened, their future looked hopeless, and all their appeals were disregarded. At this juncture the suggestion of a Messiah, offering hope of miraculous intervention in behalf of the red man, appealed to many, and the "new religion" spread far and fast. In some tribes it soon died a natural death, but in the Sioux country it was unwisely forbidden by the authorities, and led to grave results.

At Pine Ridge, in December of 1890, the ghost-dancers had come in to the agency and the situation was apparently under control when the attempted arrest of Sitting Bull in his cabin by Indian police led to his death and the stampeding of his people. Several of the stampeded bands came down to Pine Ridge, where they were met by United States troops, disarmed, and shot down after one man had resisted disarmament by firing off his weapon. This was the massacre of Wounded Knee, where about 300 Indians, two thirds of them women and children, were mown down with machine-guns within a few minutes. For some days there was danger of a reprisal, but the crisis passed, and those Indians who had fled to the "Bad Lands" were induced to come in and surrender. From that time on the Indian tribes of the United States have been on a peace footing.



The early colonists, accustomed to European usages, undertook to deal with a native chief as if he were a king, with the power to enforce his rule over his people. As a matter of fact, he was merely their spokesman, without authority except as it was given him by the council of his clan, which was called together in any important event. Each clan or band was responsible only for its own members, and had nothing to do with the conduct of any other band. This difference of viewpoint has led to serious trouble.


Most of the early agreements were merely declarations of peace and friendship, allowing freedom of trade, but having nothing to do with any cession of land. In New England small tracts of land were purchased by the settlers of individual Indians who happened to sojourn there for the time being, and purchased for a nominal price, according to their own history and records. The natives had no conception of ownership in the soil, and would barter away a princely estate for a few strings of beads or a gallon of rum, not realizing that they conveyed the absolute and exclusive title that they themselves, as individuals, had not pretended to possess.

The status of the Indians within the United States has been repeatedly changed since colonial times. When this Government was founded, while claiming the right of eminent domain over the whole country, it never denied the "right of occupancy" of the aborigines. In the articles of confederation Congress was given sole power to deal with them, but by the constitution this power was transferred in part to the executive branch. Formal treaties were made which had to be ratified by the Senate, until in 1871 Congress declared that the Indian tribes might no longer be recognized as independent nations, and reduced the treaties to simple "agreements," which, however, must in ethics be considered fully as binding. Their natural resources had now in many cases been taken from them, rendering them helpless and dependent, and for this reason some of the later treaties provided that they should be supported until they became self-supporting.

In less than a century 370 distinct treaties were made with the various tribes, some of them merely friendship agreements, but in the main providing for right of way and the cession of lands, as fast as such lands were demanded by the westward growth of the country and the pressure of population. In the first instance, the consideration was generally not over five or ten cents an acre. While the Indians were still nomadic in their habits, goods in payment were usually taken by steamboat to the nearest point and there turned over to the head chiefs, who distributed them among the people. Later the price increased and payments were made either in goods or cash; fifty cents to a dollar and a quarter, and more recently as much as $2.50 per acre for cessions of surplus lands on reservations after the owners have all been allotted. Gradually large trust funds have been created for some of the tribes, the capital being held in the United States Treasury and the interest paid to the Indians in annual per capita instalments, or expended "for their benefit." Farmers, blacksmiths, carpenters, and other industrial teachers; cattle, farming tools, houses, and schools are variously promised in the later treaties for the "support and civilization" of a people whose own method of making a living has been rendered forever impossible. The theory was humane and just, but the working of the system has proved in a large degree a failure.


A natural result of frequent land cessions was the reserving or setting aside of tracts of land for Indian occupancy, known as "reservations." Such lands have been set aside not only by treaty but in many cases by act of Congress, and in others by executive order. The Indians living upon them may not sell standing timber, or mining rights, or right of way to railroads, without the consent of the Government.

The policy of removal and concentration of Indians originated early in the nineteenth century, and was carried partially into effect. Indian Territory was set apart as a permanent home for the tribes, and the Creeks, Cherokees, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Seminoles were removed thither from the Southeastern States. After a terrible journey, in which many died of disease and exhaustion, and one boatload sank in the Mississippi River, those who were left established themselves in the "Promised Land," a country rich in natural resources. They soon saw the necessity of a stable government and of domestic and agricultural pursuits. They copied the form of their government after that of the States, and the trust funds arising from the sale of their eastern lands formed the basis of their finances. They founded churches, schools, and orphan asylums, and upon the whole succeeded remarkably well in their undertaking, although their policy of admitting intermarried whites and negroes to citizenship in the tribe led to much political corruption. Gradually some forty tribes, or tribal remnants, were colonized in the Territory; but this scheme failed in many instances, as some tribes (such as the Sioux) refused absolutely to go there, and others who went suffered severely from the change of climate. In 1890 the western part was made into a separate territory under the name of Oklahoma and colonized by whites; and in 1907 the entire territory was admitted to statehood under that name, the "Five Civilized Nations," so-called, having been induced to give up their tribal governments.

The Indians of the Southwest came in, in 1848, under the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, although with some of them other treaties have been made and their lands added to by executive order. The Navajoes, about twenty-two thousand in number, now own more than twelve million acres in Arizona and New Mexico. They are sheep-herders and blanket-weavers, and are entirely self-supporting. Owing to the character of the land they occupy, and the absence of sufficient water for irrigation, there is not enough grass on the reservation to support all the Indian stock. Therefore 5,000 or more Navajoes are living outside the reservation, on the public domain; and of these, according to Indian Office statements, about 1,000 are unallotted, and under the present law can only be allotted as are white homesteaders, by paying the costs of survey and fees to the land office.

The Pueblos hold their lands (about 1,000,000 acres) under Spanish grants, and are in absolute control of them, so that the Government cannot build schoolhouses among them unless sites are deeded for that purpose, which they are sometimes unwilling to do. These people are still self-governing, but their titles are now in danger, owing to a recent ruling of the local courts that declares them citizens, and as such liable to taxation. Being for the most part very poor and fearing to have their land sold for taxes, they have petitioned the United States to act as trustee to manage their estates.

The natives of California were a peaceable people and made scarcely any resistance to the invaders, a fact which has resulted in their rapid decline and extreme poverty. Under the Spanish friars they were gathered into missions and given a general industrial training, but after the secularization of the missions the Americans took possession of their cultivated lands, and many of the Indians were landless and homeless. The remnants are now living as squatters upon the property of white settlers, or on small pieces of land allotted them by the Government.

In striking contrast to the poverty-stricken condition of these Pacific Coast Indians is the wealth of the Osages, a small Siouan tribe occupying a fertile country in Oklahoma, who are said to be the richest people, per capita, in the world. Besides an abundance of land, rich in oil and timber, they have a trust fund of eight million dollars in the United States Treasury, bringing in a large annual income. They own comfortable houses, dwell in substantial towns, and are moderately progressive.


The Indian of the Northwest came into reservation life reluctantly, very much like a man who has dissipated his large inheritance and is driven out by foreclosure. One morning he awoke to the fact that he must give up his freedom and resign his vast possessions to live in a squalid cabin in the backyard of civilization. For the first time his rovings were checked by well-defined boundaries, and he could not hunt or visit neighboring tribes without a passport. He was practically a prisoner, to be fed and treated as such; and what resources were left him must be controlled by the Indian Bureau through its resident agent.

Who is this Indian agent, or superintendent, as he is now called? He is the supreme ruler on the reservation, responsible directly to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs; and all requests or complaints must pass through his office. The agency doctor, clerks, farmers, superintendents of agency schools, and all other local employees report to him and are subject to his orders. Too often he has been nothing more than a ward politician of the commonest stamp, whose main purpose is to get all that is coming to him. His salary is small, but there are endless opportunities for graft.

If any appeal from the agent's decisions, they are "kickers" and "insubordinate." If they are Indians, he can easily deprive them of privileges, or even imprison them on trumped-up charges; if employees, he will force them to resign or apply for transfers; and even the missionaries may be compelled, directly or indirectly, to leave the reservation for protesting too openly against official wrongdoing. The inspector sent from Washington to investigate finds it easy to "get in with" the agent and very difficult to see or hear anything that the agent does not wish him to hear or see. Many Indians now believe sincerely in Christ's teachings as explained to them by their missionaries, but they find it impossible to believe that this Government is Christian, or the average official an honest man.

Any untutored people, however, are apt imitators, and so these much-exploited natives become politicians in spite of themselves. The most worthless of the tribe are used as the agent's spies and henchmen; a state of affairs demoralizing on the face of it. As long as the Indian Bureau is run in the interests of the politicians, and Indian civilization is merely an incident, the excellent and humanitarian policies approved by the American people will not be fully carried into effect.

It is true that good men and especially good women have gone into the Indian service with a genuine desire to deal justly and kindly by the Indian and to serve the Government honorably and efficiently. Such people often become disgusted with the system and find it impossible to stay, or else are forced out by methods familiar to the experienced. When you clear your American cities of grafters, and purify your politics, then perhaps you will be in a position to redeem the Indian service, and only then. Alas! the skirts of the Goddess of Liberty have never yet been quite clean!

The Indian is no fool; on the other hand, he is a keen observer and an apt student. Although an idealist by nature, many of the race have proved themselves good business men. But under the reservation system they have developed traits that are absolutely opposed to the racial type. They become time-serving, beggarly, and apathetic. Some of their finest characters, such as Chief Joseph, have really died of a broken heart. These are men who could not submit to be degraded; the politicians call them "incorrigible savages."

The distribution of rations to the Plains Indians was, as I have explained, originally a peace measure, and apparently a necessity in place of their buffalo which the white man had exterminated. For many years Texas beef was issued monthly "on the hoof"; that is, the cattle were driven out one by one upon the plain, and there surrounded and shot down by representatives of the groups to which they belonged. Bacon, flour, sugar, and coffee were doled out to the women, usually as often as once in two weeks, thus requiring those who lived at a considerable distance from the agency to spend several days of each month on the road, neglecting their homes and gardens, if they had any. Once a year there was a distribution of cheap blankets and shoddy clothing. The self-respect of the people was almost fatally injured by these methods. This demoralizing ration-giving has been gradually done away with as the Indians progressed toward self-support, but is still found necessary in many cases.

Not all features of reservation life are bad; for while many good things are shut out and some evils flourish, others are excluded. Liquor traffic among Indians has been forbidden by law since the colonial period; and the law is fairly well enforced by a number of special officers; yet in a few tribes there has been in recent years much demoralization through liquor. It is generally admitted that there is less crime and rowdyism on the reservations than in civilized communities of equal size. In 1878 a force of native police was authorized to keep order, eject intruders, act as truant officers, and perform other duties under the direction of the agent. Though paid only ten or twelve dollars a month, these men have been faithful and efficient in the performance of duties involving considerable hardship and sometimes danger. Their loyalty and patriotism are deserving of special praise. In making arrests and bringing in desperate prisoners, as in the case of Pretty Elk the Brule Sioux murderer, and of the chief, Sitting Bull, the faithful police have sometimes lost their lives.


It is commonly admitted that the Indian treaties have been frequently broken by the United States, both in the letter and the spirit, while, on the other hand, the Indians have acted in good faith and with a high regard for their national honor. It is also a fact not very creditable to the Government that treaties have been materially amended in the Senate and not again submitted to the tribe, who were not even made aware at once of their altered provisions. I believe this would be considered a piece of sharp practice in the case of any people able to defend itself.

The breach of treaty obligations on the part of this Government has led to a large number of Indian claims, involving millions of dollars, which represent the efforts of tribes or bands which feel themselves wronged or defrauded to obtain justice under the white man's law. The history of one or two such may be of interest.

Most of the Oneida and Stockbridge tribes exchanged their New York reservations for a large tract of land in Kansas, and started for their new home in 1830, but never got any farther than Green Bay, Wisconsin. There the Menominees invited them to remain and share their reservation, as they had plenty of good land. The Stockbridges had originally occupied the beautiful Housatonic valley, where Jonathan Edwards preached to them and made them good Presbyterians; nevertheless, the "Christian" colonists robbed them of their homes and drove them westward. They did not resist the aggression. If anything is proved in history, it is that those who follow in the footsteps of the meek and gentle Jesus will be treated unmercifully, as he was, by a hard and material world.

These Stockbridges went still further with their kind hosts, and ultimately both tribes accepted the hospitality of the Ojibways. They made their unfortunate brothers welcome, and made them a free gift of land. But now observe the white man's sense of honor and justice in glaring contrast! For seventy-five years the United States Government failed to recompense these people for their Kansas land, which they never reached, and which in the meantime was taken up by settlers, and gradually covered with thriving homes and fertile farms.

The whole case was scrutinized again and again by the Congress of the United States from 1830 to about 1905, when at last a payment was made! The fact that the two tribes remained in Wisconsin and settled there does not invalidate their claim, as those wild Ojibways had no treaty with the Government at that time and had a perfect right to give away some of their land. It was a barefaced, open steal from the Indians. Yet the tribes were obliged to employ white attorneys at a liberal per cent. of the amount they hoped to recover. They had to pay high for simple justice. Meanwhile they lived on their own labor for two or three generations, and contributed to the upbuilding of Wisconsin. To-day some of them are doing better than their white neighbors.

This is only one illustration of a not uncommon happening; for, while some of these claims are doubtless unreasonable, I personally know of many in which the ethics of the case are as clear as in this which I have cited. It is often the fact that differences among attorneys and party politics in Congress delay justice for many years or deprive the Indians of their rights altogether. A bill has recently been introduced, at the instance of the Society of American Indians, which is framed to permit Indian tribes to sue in the Court of Claims, without first obtaining the consent of Congress in each case. This bill ought to be at once made law, as it would do away within a few years with many long-drawn-out disputes and much waste and worse than waste of time and money.



I have tried to state plainly some of the difficulties found so harassing in adjusting the relations of the native and white races in America. While there have been terrible and most un-Christian mistakes in dealing with the Indian (who has always been fully able to appreciate fair play and to resent the lack of it), it is equally true that there has been of late years a serious effort to bring him within the bounds of modern progress, so that he may eventually adapt himself to the general life of the nation. Until recently he himself preferred to remain just outside the borders of civilization, and was commonly assumed to be incapable of advance or change.

The birth of the new era really dates from Abraham Lincoln's refusal to order the execution of three hundred Sioux braves, whom a military court had, in less than two days, convicted of murder and condemned to be hung, in order to satisfy the clamor of the citizens of Minnesota. They demanded to be avenged for the loss of friends, relatives, and property in the outbreak of 1862, and they forgot that these Sioux had been defrauded of the finest country in the world, their home, their living, and even cheated out of the ten cents per acre agreed to be paid for millions of acres of the choicest land. They had shown their teeth at last, after more than a century of patience and self-control.

The great President personally reviewed the records of the court, and wrote with his own hand the names of the forty Indians who were executed, instead of three hundred originally condemned to die. He was abused and insulted for his humanity. Governor Ramsey of Minnesota appealed to him in vain in the name of the frontier people: that gentle, brave, just President had his way, and many of those whom he pardoned afterward became leaders of the Sioux in walking the white man's road.


During General Grant's administration the famous "Peace Policy" made a remarkable start in the face of the determined resistance of the Plains Indians. The Indian, when making his last stand against injustice, is a desperate and a dangerous enemy. It was estimated at this time that every warrior killed in battle had cost the Government twenty-three lives and a round million of dollars. At this rate, the race would not be "wiped out" for generations. Kindness would be infinitely cheaper, as well as more pleasing, doubtless, to the white man's God!

In a word, Christian men and women came tardily to the conclusion that something more consistent with the claims of their religion must be shown these brave people who had lost everything in the face of the herculean advance of the dominant race. Reflection upon the sordid history of their country's dealings with the red man had taught them to think clearly, above the clamor of the self-seeking mob. Some of them had lived side by side with their dusky neighbors, and studied them at close range, in the light of broad human feeling. Such men were General Grant, Bishops Whipple and Hare, William Welsh and his nephew, Herbert Welsh of Philadelphia, Commissioner of Indian Affairs Smith, General Armstrong, and General Pratt. No class or sect has more fully endorsed this policy than have the Quakers, of whom the late Albert K. Smiley of Mohonk Conference fame was a distinguished representative.

In 1870 President Grant placed all Indian agencies under the control of the various churches and missionary organizations, which had hitherto been practically the sole channels of educational or uplift work among the tribes. Undoubtedly Grant sincerely wished to put an end to official corruption in this branch of the service, and to make the best possible use of all moneys that might be appropriated for Indian civilization, when he took the radical step of inviting each of the denominations interested to name the agent at one or more agencies, their candidate to hold office as long as he enjoyed their confidence, and to choose his own subordinates. It was confidently hoped that by this means the civil and religious work might be in full harmony, and that the Indians, instead of being hopelessly confused by conflicting views and practices among their would-be teachers, might learn equally by precept and example.

Grant's policy remained in force for about ten years, and there is no question that in this short space of time the churches accomplished wonders among the raw Sioux but lately confined to their reservations. The following agencies of which I had personal knowledge were then industrious Christian communities: namely, Sisseton under the Presbyterians, Devil's Lake under the Catholics, Yankton under the Episcopalians, Santee under the Quakers. Winnebagoes, Pawnees, Omahas, all the wild Plains Indians did well under consistent and conscientious management. Large fields of wheat were cultivated by them, with but little assistance, which have since gone back to wild land under the "spoils system," and over which, ten years ago, I hunted prairie chickens.

There were developed during this period many strong Christians of a genuinely apostolic stamp, who became teachers and preachers to their wilder brethren. Both children and adults were taught to read in their own language, and at least two papers were published monthly in the Sioux tongue, which had been reduced to writing by the Riggses and Williamsons, the earliest Protestant missionaries. It was then and there that I myself received my impetus toward an education. My father, who was one of the two hundred and sixty Sioux pardoned by Lincoln, had voluntarily abandoned the reservation with its pauperizing influences, and was a self-supporting citizen in 1870.

Another interesting feature of Grant's administration was the number of Indians holding responsible positions in the service. At a time when there were no great Indian schools, there were found and trained men competent to act as agency blacksmiths, carpenters, millers, etc. There was even a full-blood Iroquois at the head of the Indian Bureau—Grant's chief of staff, General Ely Parker.


It was a genuine calamity for our people when this system was overthrown, as it was in a few years, by the clamor of the politicians for patronage, together with the sectarian disputes that have been a scandal to the heathen throughout the history of Christian missions. On many reservations proselyting work had been begun by two or more denominations, and these bodies now became rivals, even bitter and hostile rivals, for the souls and bodies of their reputed converts. To the Catholics, in particular, who claimed thirty-eight of the seventy-two agencies, on the ground of prior religious influence, there had been assigned but eight. Strong pressure was brought to bear through their Bureau of Missions to reverse this ruling; and equally strong, or stronger, was the political pressure for the rich spoils of the Indian agencies. By 1883 Grant's too idealistic system broke down entirely, the fat offices were returned to the politicians, and all denominations were permitted to engage at will in missionary propaganda, but without secular authority.

A certain chief in the Red River region well expressed a view common among our people when he said to the priest: "You tell us that we can be saved only if we accept your faith and are baptized by you. The Protestant minister tells us the same. Yet both claim to worship the same God! Who shall judge between you? We have considered the matter, and decided that when your two roads join we will follow you; but until then we prefer our own religion!"

Nevertheless it was largely through the influence of the missionaries and their converts that in most of the treaties made during this period there were inserted clauses providing for the practical education of the Indian children. There has been much fraud connected with the purchase of materials and supplies, and in every way that shrewd and unprincipled men can devise, but even the politicians could not entirely prevent the building of those schools. One fact stands out boldly: it was the Christian missionary, in spite of serious mistakes, who played the most important part in the transformation of the Indian and the development of the West.


From this time on the old view of the Indian as a hopeless savage has been gradually abandoned, and replaced by the juster modern view which regards him as essentially a man, and as good material for the future citizen. The volunteer organizations arising under Grant and continuing active to the present day have been effective molders of public opinion along these lines.

The Boston Indian Citizenship Committee was organized in 1879, on the occasion of the forcible removal of the Poncas to Indian Territory. Chief Standing Bear and the Indian maiden Bright Eyes (Susette La Flesche) visited many leading cities and told eloquently the story of their wrongs. They were ultimately restored to their old home, largely through the efforts of this group of influential men. The committee then undertook to secure citizenship for Indians on the basis of taxation, a principle that was denied by the Supreme Court; but a few years later the same end was attained by the passage of the "Dawes bill." Since then they have endeavored to secure honest allotments to Indians, to prevent the sale of the best lands to whites at nominal prices, and to obtain the dismissal of corrupt Indian agents and inspectors.

The National Indian Association, composed chiefly of women, began work with a memorial to Congress in 1879, and has continued it until now, under the efficient leadership of Mrs. A. S. Quinton, Mrs. Sara T. Kinney, and others. The missionary department has established fifty pioneer missions in as many neglected tribes or tribal remnants, turning them over ultimately, with their buildings and plant, to the mission boards of the various Protestant denominations. The society has also fostered native industries, being the mother of the Indian Industries League; has loaned money to Indians for home-building; assisted in the education of especially promising individuals; built and supported hospitals, and done other valuable work. Its headquarters are in New York City.

The Indian Rights Association was organized in Philadelphia, in 1882, at the home of Mr. John Welsh. Mr. Herbert Welsh has been for many years its leading spirit, and others who have done yeoman's service in the cause are the late Professor Painter, Mr. Brosius, and Mr. Matthew K. Sniffen. Its slogan was the same as that of the others: Education; Land in Severalty; Citizenship! To all three of these bodies, as well as to the Board of Indian Commissioners, belongs much credit for urging the reforms which triumphed, in 1887, in the "Dawes bill," the Emancipation Act of the Indian.

The Indian Rights Association maintains a representative in Washington to cooperate with the Indian Bureau and to keep an eye upon legislation affecting the tribes, as well as a permanent office in Philadelphia. Its officers and agents have kept in close touch with developments in the field, and have conducted many investigations on Indian agencies, resulting often in the exposure of grave abuses. They have been courageous and aggressive in their work, and have not hesitated to appeal to the courts when necessary to protect the rights of Indians. They have also done much to mold public sentiment through meetings, letters to the press, and the circulation of their own literature to the number of more than half a million copies.

One of President Grant's first acts was the creation, in 1869, of the United States Board of Indian Commissioners, a body of ten men supposed to be "eminent for their intelligence and philanthropy," to serve without pay in an advisory capacity, and to cooperate with the Interior Department in securing a sound and progressive administration of Indian affairs. The only appropriation is for travelling expenses and for a salaried secretary with an office in Washington. It has been one of the important duties of this Board to inspect the Indian supplies when purchased, if possible securing goods up to the standard of the samples submitted and preventing open fraud. Its members have travelled extensively in the Indian country in order to observe conditions, and their patriotic services have been appreciated by both races.

In the autumn of 1883 Mr. Albert K. Smiley, the large-hearted owner of a hostelry overlooking beautiful Lake Mohonk, in the Shawangum range, invited a number of prominent Indian workers to meet as his guests for discussion of actual conditions and necessary reforms. With this historic meeting began an uninterrupted series of "Mohonk Indian Conferences," at which missionaries of all denominations, Government officials, members of Congress, representatives of philanthropic societies, teachers in Indian schools, editors, ministers, and other influential men and women, with a sprinkling of educated Indians, meet annually at the call of Mr. Smiley, and since his death in 1912 at that of his brother, Mr. Daniel Smiley, to discuss all matters bearing upon the welfare of the race in a sympathetic atmosphere and amid the pleasantest surroundings. Mr. Smiley was a member of the Board of Indian Commissioners, and for many years these conferences were closely connected with the affairs of the Board, and the proceedings were published as a part of its annual report.

The platform adopted each year at Lake Mohonk is widely circulated, and has had much influence; although, as it represents only the unanimous vote of a body among whom there actually exist wide differences of opinion, it is not always as satisfactory as it might be. It has seemed to some who attended the early conferences that those of late years have been less fruitful, owing partly to less novelty in the subject-matter and to the sharing of the time with problems of Hawaii and the Philippines, and partly to a desire for unanimity and good feeling that has kept unpleasant facts from the light. It is certain that the debates are more carefully pre-arranged and therefore less spontaneous.

The Mohonk Conferences have consistently recommended larger appropriations for Indian education; the extension of the laws of the land over Indian reservations; the gradual withdrawal of rations; the allotment of communal land to individuals, and more recently the breaking up of the tribal trust funds into individual holdings. Emphasis has been laid upon the need of greater care in selecting men of character as Indian agents and superintendents. The thirty-first conference urges a vigorous campaign against tuberculosis, trachoma, and other diseases among Indians, also against the liquor traffic, and mescal habit, and declares that the proposition to control Indian affairs through a non-partisan commission to serve during long terms is "worthy of serious consideration." It also makes special recommendations in behalf of the Pueblo, the Navajo, the Five Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma, and the New York Indians, looking toward their present protection and future citizenship.

These "Eastern sentimentalists," as they have often been called by persons interested in depriving the red man of his heritage, have pursued their ends steadily, though not without severe setbacks. The opposition to Indian schools in Congress was for many years very strong, but it has now almost ceased, except in sporadic instances. One seldom hears it said nowadays that "the only good Indian is the dead Indian," and the Western Senator who declared that "you could no more civilize an Apache than you could civilize a rattlesnake" would rather shock than convince his hearers in the light of present-day progress. The greatest enemy to Indian civilization has been the return of the "spoils system" in the eighties, and the formation of a corrupt "Indian ring" whose ramifications extended so deep and so high that even the most sincere and disinterested despaired of obtaining justice. Yet the average American citizen honestly wants to give the Indian a fair chance!

To sum up, he had been an indomitable foe, and occupied a vast region which by 1870 was already beat upon by the tides of settlement. Two things were determined upon: First, he must be induced, bribed, or forced to enter the reservation. Second, he must be trained and persuaded to adopt civilized life, and so saved to the future if he proved to be worth saving, which many doubted. In order to carry out these projects his wild food supply had to be ruthlessly cut off, and the buffalo were of necessity sacrificed.

Here is a system which has gradually taken its present complicated form during two thousand years. A primitive race has put it on ready made, to a large extent, within two generations. In order to accomplish such a feat, they had to fight physical demoralization, psychological confusion, and spiritual apathy. In other words, the old building had to be pulled down, foundations and all, and replaced by the new. But you have had to use the same timber!



The thought of educating the natives of America was first conceived by the earliest explorer-priests, prompted by ecclesiastical ambition and religious zeal. Churches and missionary societies among the early colonists undertook both to preach and teach among the children of the forest, who, said they, "must either be moralized or exterminated." Schools and missions were established and maintained among them by the mother churches in England and Scotland, and in a few cases by the colonists themselves. It was provided in the charters of our oldest colleges that a certain number of Indian pupils should be educated therein, and others, as Dartmouth and Hamilton, were founded primarily for Indian youth. The results, though meagre, were on the whole deserving of consideration. In the middle of the eighteenth century there were said to be some Indian boys in Stockbridge, Mass., who "read English well," and at Harvard several excelled in the classics. Joseph Brant, though a terror to the colonists during the Revolution, was a man of rare abilities and considerable education; and Samson Occum, the most famous educated Indian of his day, was not only an eloquent preacher and successful teacher but an accomplished hymn-writer. The visit of "the great Mohegan" to England in 1765, when he preached more than three hundred times and raised some ten thousand pounds for Dartmouth College, was perhaps the most striking incident of his career.

From this early chapter of Indian education we find it clearly proven that individual red men were able to assimilate the classical culture of the period, and capable, moreover, of loyalty toward the new ideals no less than the old. The utter disregard of hygiene then prevalent, and the further facts that industrial training was neglected and little or no attention paid to the girls, would account to the modern mind for many disappointments. However, most of the so-called "failure" of this work is directly traceable to unjust laws, social segregation, frequent wars, strong drink, and the greed of the whites for Indian lands, one or all of which causes destroyed many promising beginnings and exterminated whole tribes or drove them from well-established homes into poverty and exile.


Beginning with the first years of the nineteenth century, practically every religious denomination in America carried on more or less educational work among the natives. In some cases the Indians themselves contributed toward the expense of these schools, and in others the United States Government gave meagre aid. As early as 1775 the Continental Congress had appropriated five hundred dollars for the support and education of youths at Dartmouth College. This was, however, less an act of benevolence than of self-interest, since its avowed object was to conciliate the friendship of those Indians who might be inclined to ally themselves with the British during the struggle for independence.

From the year 1819 to 1848 ten thousand dollars annually was distributed by the Government among mission schools of various denominations, and in the latter year there were one hundred and three such schools, with over three thousand pupils. In 1870 the appropriation was increased to one hundred thousand; and about 1873, during Grant's administration, already described as marking a new era for the red man, the Government began to develop a school system of its own, but did not therefore discontinue its aid to the mission boards. On the contrary, such aid was largely increased in the form of "contracts."

The usual rule was to pay a fixed sum (commonly $167 per capita per annum) for each pupil actually in attendance, the religious society or individual to whom the contract was given providing buildings, teachers, and equipment. It does not appear that there was any unjust discrimination between religious bodies in the application of these funds, and the fact that in the course of a few years a large and increasing proportion passed under the control of the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions must be attributed entirely to their superior enterprise and activity. This was a period of awakening and rapid growth. By 1886 the total appropriations for Indian education had risen to more than $1,000,000, and the contracts aggregated $31,000. In ten years more the Catholics alone drew $314,000. But, during this decade, the policy of assisting sectarian schools with the public money, claimed to be a violation of the American principle of separation of Church and State, had been continuously under fire; and in 1895 it was finally decided by Congress to reduce the contracts 20 per cent. each year until abolished.

Meantime, the Methodists first in 1892, followed by all the other Protestant bodies, voluntarily relinquished their contracts, but the Catholics kept up the fight to the end; nevertheless, in 1900, all Congressional appropriations for sectarian schools were finally withdrawn.

Naturally this reversal of a policy of such long standing, even though due notice had been given, worked serious hardship to schools established in the expectation of its continuance. Bishop Hare's valuable work in South Dakota was crippled, particularly as the principle at issue was so interpreted by the Indian office as to forbid the issue of treaty rations to children enrolled in mission schools, although they would have received such rations had they not been in school at all.

It was held by the Bureau of Catholic Indian missions that Indian treaty and trust funds are in a different class from moneys derived from the taxpayers, and that it is perfectly legitimate for a tribe to assign a portion of its own revenues to the support of a mission school. The Supreme Court has since declared this view to be correct, and accordingly this church still utilizes tribal funds to a considerable amount each year. Rations were also restored to certain schools by act of Congress in 1906.

As in the case of the sectarian protests against President Grant's policy in regard to manning the Indian agencies, I believe that religious prejudice has been a real misfortune to our people. General Armstrong, in an address given at Lake Mohonk in 1890, expressed the well-founded opinion that the industrial work of the Catholic schools is as good as any, often superior; the academic work generally inferior, while on the moral and religious side he found them at their best.


The Carlisle School in Pennsylvania was the first non-reservation boarding school to be established, a pioneer and a leader in this important class of schools, of which there are now thirty-five, scattered throughout the Middle and Western States. General R. H. Pratt (then Lieutenant Pratt), while in charge of Indian prisoners of war at Saint Augustine, Florida, made important reforms in their treatment, which led in 1878, when their release was ordered by the War Department, to a request on the part of twenty-two of the younger men for further education. Seventeen of these were received at Hampton Institute, Virginia, General Armstrong's celebrated school for freedmen, and the next year an Indian department was organized at Hampton, while General Pratt was authorized, at his own suggestion, to establish an Indian school in the abandoned army barracks at Carlisle.

The school opened with 147 pupils. There were many difficulties and much unintelligent opposition in the beginning, but wonderful success attended General Pratt's administration. For many years Carlisle has enrolled about 1,200 pupils each year, keeping almost half of them on farms and in good homes in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, where they work for board and wages in summer, while a smaller number attend the public school during the colder months. They earn and save about thirty thousand dollars annually. This "outing system" was devised by General Pratt, and has been adopted elsewhere, though not always with equal success.

Periodical attacks have been made upon the Carlisle school, usually from political or purely selfish motives; but it has survived them all. General Pratt's policy was to take the young Indian wholly out of his environment and the motives as well as the habits of his former life, and in support of it he has opposed some of the methods of the missionaries. His advice to his graduates is to remain east and compete in civilization. He has worked with tremendous energy and great single-mindedness, and has often been undiplomatic in his criticisms, thus incurring some enmity. But, upon the whole, his theory is the very backbone of Indian education, and in fact we are following it to-day.

It is the impression of the most advanced members of the race that he has rendered to them and to the country a particular service, and that the wonderful progress demonstrated by the Indian in recent years is due in large measure to his work, and to its results as seen at Hampton and Carlisle. These schools are visited by hundreds of people every year, and have furnished a convincing object-lesson to the many who opposed Indian education on theory alone. The other thirty-four non-reservation schools were secured with comparative ease after he had proved his case.

The Indian department at Hampton Institute, which opened in 1878 with General Pratt's seventeen prisoners of war, flourished for more than thirty years, and provided for the education of more than one hundred Indian pupils each year in "the hand, the heart, and the head." General Armstrong, one of America's heroes of peace, was an enthusiastic champion of the red man's cause, and as an object-lesson to the public, as well as in training native teachers and leaders, his great school has contributed much to the new era. It was decided by Congress a year or two ago to withdraw the Government appropriation of $20,000 annually from the Hampton school, but notwithstanding this, more than thirty Indian pupils remain to work their way through, with some assistance from free scholarships.

Hampton claims to have been the first school to begin keeping systematic records of its returned Indian students, and by means of these records the school is able to show satisfactory and encouraging results of its work for Indians.

In reply to the oft-asked question: "Do educated Indians go back to the blanket?" it should be said, first, that return to Indian dress in isolated communities where this is still the common dress of the people is not necessarily retrogression. It may be only a wise conformity to custom. Investigation has shown, however, that very few graduates of any school ever do reassume Indian dress or ways. Of those who have attended school but two or three years in all, a larger proportion may do so. A northwestern school reports that out of a total of 234 graduates only three are known to be failures. The most recent Carlisle report shows that of 565 living graduates, all but 69 are known to be profitably employed in a wide variety of occupations; 110 are in the Government service. There are also 3,800 ex-students, not graduates, of whom a large majority are successful. Hampton has 878 living returned Indian students, of whom 87 per cent. are recorded as doing well.

In 1897 the Indian Bureau required all Indian agents and superintendents to report upon the conduct and usefulness of every student returned from a non-reservation school. Such an investigation was sure not to be unduly favorable, and the report showed 76 per cent. of successes. In 1901 a more careful inquiry raised it to 86 per cent.


It must not be supposed that the downfall of the contract system and the development of Government work has meant the end of distinctively mission schools for Indians. Although a few have been closed, there are still many in successful operation under the various church boards, the Indians themselves willingly contributing to their support. Indeed, this feature of partial self-support is much in their favor, as it is certain that an education that costs the recipient something is of more worth.

Except for a few plants taken over by the Government, the Catholics continue to conduct their fine agricultural boarding-schools, notably those among the Sioux. Bishop Hare of the Episcopal Church began his labors among the same people in 1873; and in nothing was his statesmanlike breadth of mind more clearly shown than in the foundation of a system of excellent boarding-schools, of which at one time there were five under his watchful care, where from thirty to seventy children each were sheltered and taught in the atmosphere of a sunny Christian home. It was impossible to carry them all after the discontinuance of all Government aid, either in money or rations, but, although the Bishop died in 1909, Saint Mary's at Rosebud and Saint Elizabeth's at Standing Rock remain a monument to his memory.

The Presbyterian Church conducts two successful boarding and a number of day schools; and the Congregationalists have concentrated their efforts upon a large training-school at Santee, Nebraska, under the veteran missionary teacher, Rev. Alfred L. Riggs. At Santee the Indian boys and girls are given a practical education developed to fit their peculiar needs—its goal the training of teachers, preachers, and leaders in every walk of life. Here I received my first impulse toward a career in 1875-6. In all these schools, even those where the material equipment is insufficient, there is more emphasis upon character-building, more of permanence and in general higher qualifications in the teaching force than under Government.


There has been nearly $90,000,000 appropriated by Congress since 1876 for Indian education. The appropriation for 1915 was over $4,500,000. Yet even more is needed. The Indian Bureau estimates 77,000 Indian children of school age; of these about 27,000 are provided for in Government schools, 4,000 in mission and 25,000 in public schools, leaving about 20,000 entirely neglected, besides an estimated 7,000 sick and defective children, who need hospital schools or some form of special care.

The present system includes day and boarding schools on the reservations, as well as the large industrial schools off the reservations. In 1913 there were reported two hundred and twenty-three day schools and seventy-six reservation boarding-schools. The training in the former is elementary; and the most advanced goes little beyond the eighth grammar grade in the public school, though at Carlisle and a few others there are short normal and business courses. In 1882 a superintendent was appointed to inspect and correlate these widely scattered institutions, and a few years later a corps of supervisors was put in the field. Since 1891 there have been institutes and summer schools conducted for the benefit of the teachers.

It is the rule in all boarding-schools that one half the time of each pupil be given to industrial work, which includes most of the labor involved in running the kitchen, dining-room, laundry, sewing-room, and school farm or garden, as well as systematic training in housekeeping, agriculture, and the mechanical trades. The age of graduation is usually from seventeen to twenty-five or even more. This retardation is to be attributed partly to the half-day system; partly to frequent transfers from one school to another, and consequent loss of grade; and in the poorer schools to inefficiency of teachers and lack of ambition on the part of pupils. It must be remembered, moreover, that the subjects and methods of study, in language, mathematics, and abstract ideas of all kinds, were entirely foreign to the untutored Indian mind. It is difficult to study in a foreign language even when the subject of study is familiar; the Indian student is expected to master subjects absolutely unknown to him in his own life. Yet I have heard teachers experienced in public school work declare that these children of nature are as responsive as white children; in writing and drawing they excel; and discipline is easier, at least among the wilder tribes. The result in thirty or forty years has opened the eyes of many who heretofore held the theory that the Indian will always remain Indian.

Admitting that these schools compare well with state institutions which are on a similar basis, and are controlled by political appointments, there are some abuses, as might be expected. While there are fine men in charge of certain schools, there are others who are neither efficient nor sympathetic with the cause of Indian uplift. Most regrettable is the fact that the moral influence of such schools has been at different times very low. The pupils themselves have come to look upon them as political institutions and to discard all genuine effort. It is a case of serve the master and he will not bother you; all else is merely show. I believe that there has been some improvement in recent years, chiefly on account of the protection given by the rules of the civil service. Let the teacher set an example of honest living and the scholar will be sure to follow; but if the one is a hypocrite, the other will become one. Remember, you have induced or forced the Indian mother to give up her five and six year old children on your promise to civilize, educate, Christianize—but not subsidize or commercialize them!

Some of the reservations are oversupplied with schools, while others, notably the Navajo, have almost none. In the former case, the Indian parents are kept in an anxious state and often very unhappy. Since the Indian Bureau has required the superintendent to keep up his quota of pupils, or the number of teachers and the total appropriation will be reduced in proportion, he may be compelled, as some one has said, to "rob the cradle and the grave"—in other words, he is not careful to omit those under age and the sickly ones. Much harm has been done by placing children in an advanced stage of tuberculosis in the same dormitory with healthy youngsters. Irregular attendance is too often tolerated; and a serious evil is the admission of children of well-to-do parents, who dress their young folks extravagantly, supply them with unlimited spending money, and who, in all reason, should be required to pay for their support and education.

Another drawback lies in the fact that each new Commissioner of Indian Affairs, usually a man without special knowledge or experience in the complex work over which he is called to preside, comes out with a scheme for reforming the whole system. Perhaps he advocates doing away with Carlisle and the schools of its class, and places all the emphasis upon the little day schools in the Indian camps; or it may be vice versa. All the advance we have made is through all of these schools; we cannot spare any of them. We should be a thousand times better off if the reformers could rid us of the professional politicians, but I fear this is impossible. I have abandoned all hope of it, after long experience both in the field and in Washington. I would give up anything rather than the schools, unmoral as many of them are. The pupils become every year better fitted to choose and to combat the evil in their environment. They will soon be able to prepare themselves for the new life without taking notice of what does not concern them. I rejoice in every real gain; and I predict that the Indian will soon adjust himself fully to the requirements of the age, be able to appreciate its magnificent achievements, and contribute his mite to the modern development of the land of his ancestors.



Although among the graduates and ex-students of the Indian schools there are now some in almost every modern occupation, including commerce, the trades and professions, the great majority of these young people, as of their fellow tribesmen who lack an English education, are farmers, ranchers, and stockmen. Nearly all Indians own some land, either individually or in common; and while it may generally be leased by those who are either unable or for good reasons do not desire to work it themselves, this is done under such troublesome restrictions and conditions that it is, as a general rule, better for the owner to live on and utilize his allotment. Of course this is a rule that admits of many exceptions.


Since most Indian reservations are in the arid belt and the greater portion of the land is therefore unsuited to agriculture, at least without extensive irrigation, perhaps the larger number of the men are stock-raisers, an occupation well suited to the Plains Indians, who are great riders and very fond of their horses. They raise both horses and cattle, and many have become well-to-do from this source. From time to time their herds are improved by well-bred stallions and mares and blooded cattle, furnished by the Government under treaty stipulations. The total valuation of stock belonging to Indians, both individual and tribal, is now twenty-two million dollars in round numbers, according to the tables furnished by the Indian Bureau. This estimate includes sheep, goats, and poultry. The Navajoes, who number about 22,000 and are in a fairly primitive state, having few schools or missionaries among them, are thrifty and successful sheep-herders and entirely self-supporting. The value of crops raised by Indians during the last fiscal year is estimated at more than four millions.

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