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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=schoolcraft6.html


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Chapter I. — The Indian Viewed as a Man Out of Society.

SAVAGE and civilized society have been regarded as presenting a necessary state of conflict. There is a perpetual opposition of thoughts, manner, and opinion — a perpetual struggle of races. [2] It is not just to suppose that the civilization of Europe, at the settlement of this country, required more of the aborigines than it ought to have done. The very reverse is true. Civilization required him to quit hunting — religion required him to quit idolatry, and virtue required him to quit idleness. The Indian was gazed at with wonder, as a man without history, but he was not hated. Civilization combated only his errors and his moral delinquencies. Letters, labor, art, morals, Christianity, demanded no more of him, than they had previously demanded, fifteen centuries before, of the Britons, Celts, Franks, Danes, and Goths, and the predatory Angles and Saxons, from the banks of the Iser and the Weser. Man was created, not a savage, a hunter, or warrior, but a horticulturist and a raiser of grain, and a keeper of cattle — a smith, a musician — a worshipper, not of the sun, moon, and stars, but of God. The savage condition is a declension from this high type; Greece and Rome were in error on this point. The civil and social state was the original type of society for man, and it was just, therefore, to require a return to it. Those who pronounce the Indian a "noble race," only mean some gleams of a noble spirit, shining through the thick moral oxydation of barbarism. The exaltation of thought that sometimes bursts out from him is ennobling, because it represents in him

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a branch of original humanity — of man in ruins. A noble subject of philosophical and moral inquiry the Indian truly is, and this constitutes the animus of these investigations.

In any comprehensive view of the transference of civilization into the boundaries of savages, we must regard it, in every phasis, as a contest between two bitterly opposing elements. The one aiming to advance by the peaceful arts of the loom and plough; the other, by the tomahawk. It was ever as much a conflict of principle against principle, as of race against race. It was not the white man against the red man, but of civilization against savageism. It is a war of conditions of society. When the English landed in America, the hunter and the agricultural state grappled in deadly combat. It has been a perpetual struggle between labor and idleness, education and ignorance, sobriety and indulgence, truth and error. Safety was ever the result of caution and manual power during the early ages of the colonies; and this struggle, often fearful and of doubtful issue, continued till the population of the new or intrusive element reached its equilibrium. The lower orders of Hindoos are hated as a caste, the Indian only as the representative of a condition — and, as in all conflicts of a superior with an inferior condition, the latter must in the end succumb. The higher type must wield the sceptre. This is true in a moral as well as a political sense. The prophet announces that the nation and kingdom that will not serve the Lord shall perish. [3] It is a useless expenditure of sentimental philanthropy to attribute the decadence of the Indian race to anything else. When the fiat had been uttered, "Thou shalt live by the sweat of thy brow," the question was settled. We sympathize with him, truly, but we do so with our eyes open.

The Indian tribes never appreciated the landing of Europeans in America as an advent of propitious omen. Far from it. "You are robbers and plunderers," said Vittachucco. [4] They were, it is true, glad of its indulgences, and the products of arts and commerce. But they underrated its refinements and promises. They hated its schools and religion. At the call of commerce, they sprang with new vigor to the chase; but this soon became destructive of the very state they contended for, as it destroyed the animals upon which they subsisted.

The Indians having produced no historian, have never had the advantage of stating their side of the question. The native born philosopher of the woods averred, that God had made him exactly as he ought, and had given him arts and knowledge suited to his sphere. He was prone to refer to his past history as a golden age. The Great Spirit in his view, was exclusively a God of kindness, not of holiness. All the Red man's elaborate cogitations were of the past. His sages represented the future as a sphere of rewards, not of punishments; deeming this life to be a scene of such vicissitude, that the future was designed to be a theatre of compensations. It never entered into the Indian

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theory that justice was an attribute of the Deity. He did not fear, but rather loved death, and he sang his funeral song at the stake, with an assurance that he was on the eve of departing to a land of bliss. It is necessary to comprehend the Indian before we declare him to be void of reason. The Christian philosophy stood counter to all this. He hated Christianity, because he neither understood nor believed it. He denied that he had worshipped stocks and stones, the sun, moon, and stars, but affirmed that he had employed them merely to exhibit his offerings to a higher power. He avowed his belief in the Great I AM — the great IAU. [5] Such were the teachings to be gathered from the words of Opechanganough, Tamenend, Sassacus, Passaconawa, Pontiac, Achinwa, and other eminent chiefs.

Resting in the conviction that his state was, in every respect, precisely that which the Overruling Power had designed, he turned a deaf ear to other theories, and modes of life, and obligations. He did not believe that his forefathers were not wise, and had not worshipped the Great Spirit aright. He could not comprehend that he himself was a savage. There is no word in the Indian language that means savage. They had no use for such a word. Christian philosophy taught that he lived in a state of very great declension from his original state; and that knowledge and ignorance, instead of being prejudged or fated conditions of men, as he believed, were but the mere results of human exertion, under the benign and universal law of original mental freedom of act and thought. Gall and sweetness could not be more opposite than these two theories. A war of conditions was the consequence. In this conflict the parties never more than half comprehended each other. Misunderstandings and dissatisfactions continued through centuries. Both parties were suspicious of each other to the last degree. The Indians were often cruel and treacherous. Arms were appealed to, when reason would have been better. But the teacher and the philanthropist, the humanitarian and the Christian, plied their cares with renewed vigor whenever the pauses in the contest rendered it practicable. For centuries together, councils and treaties, war and peace, succeeded each other with fitful and uncertain periods.

But whatever they thought of the advent of the Europeans, they by no means believed that the severe toil and high standard required in all moral, intellectual, and legal accountability between man and man, and God and man, were any equivalents for the idleness, the spasmodic pleasures, and the wild independence of the chase. Least of all, did they think it an improvement to give up their Jossakeeds and seers for Christian pastors. They adhered with tenacity to the power of a Great Manito, or a Wahconda — an Owayneo, or an Aba Inca. Such were, in an emphatic degree, the ideas and the Vesperic families of the United States Indian tribes.

The history is one, of an unfortunate and benighted branch of the human race, in which there is more cause of pity than blame. In narrating it, there is a perpetual

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and unavoidable conflict between barbarism and civilization. Sombre traits in the narration will sometimes be relieved by bright ones. The fiend will often change places with the hero and the noble minded. But there are no ruins of arts, no monuments of bygone thoughts and labors, to decorate the way. A rude piece of pictography on a rock, alike perpetuates, in doubtful characters, his triumphs over man and over beasts. A scroll of bark, inscribed with hieroglyphics, serves his memory to awaken his magic, or medicine songs. His consecrated meda sack, embraces those charmed articles which he supposes to be proof against disease; to render him invulnerable to the darts of his enemy; to draw the wild animals to his path; and to secure, in fine, the great objects of prosperity in life. He puts a pine stick, with marks, at the head of his loved and honored dead, not regarding its perishable nature, for he too, soon expects to perish and rejoin the person interred, in blissful scenes, to which he has been privileged first to go.

But in depicting such a history the survey can borrow no charm from arts, letters, or refinements. Even the semi-civilization to which some of the tribes had reached in southern latitudes, he had not attained. But it cannot fail to be perceived, in the references we shall make to these tribes, that if he had not reached their attainments in agriculture, and the erection of buildings and temples, he had also escaped their brutal idolatry, loss of all personal independence, and loose and corrupt manners. The only merit, therefore, to which the narrative can aspire, will be to depict things in their true light and true order, with simplicity and clearness. The task itself has not been voluntarily undertaken, nor would it have been assumed as one of public duty, had it not been for the occasion it presented of throwing around the subject a body of authentic materials, illustrative of their mental habitudes, and their present condition and prospects; and thus, promising to furnish a true basis for the governmental policy to be pursued with them as tribes and nations, and for the pursuit of the momentous object of their reclamation and salvation as men.

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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=schoolcraft6.html
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