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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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Section Twenty-first. — Principles Contended for by the Indians During Three Centuries. Chapter I. — Antagonism of Barbarianism and Civilization.

"WHY," said Apaumet, "do you believe letters and arts superior to the pursuits of the bow and arrow? Do they more truly fulfil the ambitions of the human heart, according to the measure of light and knowledge, which determine the actual conditions of the different races of men?" Apaumet was a Mohican scholar, who had been carefully educated at Princeton, in New Jersey, where he was named John Calvin, and where he acquired a knowledge of classical and English Literature, of which, as he had a retentive memory, he was, on some occasions, not a little vain. He returned to his tribe on the Housatonic, and accompanied them to the banks of the Oneida, in western New York, where, as he was neither a hunter nor a fisherman, he became a schoolmaster: being disappointed with civilization, and discouraged with life, he tried to drown his sorrows in the intoxicating bowl, and often, while inebriated, would recite some of the finest passages of Homer. He said that his knowledge was useless to him, because he had no letters to write, and no accounts to keep; and that his study of history had taught him that his people were savages, and he himself a lettered savage, alike unfit for Indian or civilized life.

Apaumet would neither have warred against the European race, nor laid a straw in the way of civilization; but the Indian race lacked his intellect, his knowledge and his Christianity. Their minds were obscured by the gloom of barbarism, and, when aroused to action by their prophets, or excited by the eloquence of their chiefs and

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sachems, they became uncontrolable; their ardor being in a great measure proportioned to their ignorance.

It has been ever thus from the discovery of this continent. Their affection for ancient rites, manners, and customs, was a succedanum for patriotism; and their old traditions supplied their entire store of information. They regarded themselves as having once been the peculiar favorites of the Great Spirit, and they looked back to that period as to a sort of golden age, when every want was supplied. Their old men were then wiser; their laws, and their very language, was purer. Savages they never suspected themselves to be, and one common thought pervaded the whole mass. There were no facts from which to draw inferences, except those derived from Indian life; and these taught, that bravery and endurance were the chief objects of human attainment. The Indian mind is a unit; the likes, dislikes, and objects of contention of one member, being participated in by the rest of the tribes. Before the present condition of the tribes, who have been tranferred from the east to the west of the Mississippi, is adverted to, it may be appropriate to refer more fully to those leading principles which give uniformity to the Indian history. The condensed view of it which has been presented, from the day when the first European foot trod the soil of this continent, renders it evident that the contest has not been so much between particular races of Europe and the Indians, as between them and all races who upheld civilization against barbarism. It was not so much a struggle between colonies and tribes, as between conditions of society. True to his instincts, the Indian desired to preserve his territories as hunting-grounds, on which the entire race of animals might increase, and his offerings to a class of imaginary gods, at once propitiate their favor, and avert the penalty of past neglects or ingratitude. He did not wish for a religion whose teachings were diametrically opposite; and coveted not letters, which he did not understand or appreciate, and could not employ in the nomadic life which he led. Industry was to him a weariness he could not endure, and which he was ever ready to confound with slavery, of which the surveyor's compass and chain, the plough, and the loom, were regarded as the talismanic emblems. Possessing a marked character for secresy, deception, and endurance, he only tolerated what he could not resist. The conspiracies of Opechanganough, in Virginia, of the Chicoras and Tuscaroras in the Carolinas, of Sassacus and Pometacom, in Massachusetts, of Pontiac and Tecumseh in the West, and of Tuscaloosa and Osceola in the South, of Black Hawk in 1832, and of the Seminoles in 1835, were alike in accordance with the generic principle which they professed, and three centuries have not varied the issue. What the Indian contended against in 1622 and 1675, he tried to resist in 1712, 1763, and 1812. It was civilization he warred against; and letters, labor, and Christianity, were the potent and mysterious powers he supplicated his gods to resist.

Keeping in view this great truth, we have been enabled to present the preceding sketch of Indian history, without breaking it up by geographical lines; for the theatre

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of contest was America, not this, or that State; and the actors were the subtle and energetic groups of Vesperia. Whether encountered on the plains of New England or New York, or in the valleys of the Susquehanna, the Wabash, or the Mississippi, it was the same race, possessing similar characteristics, and actuated by like vindictive principles, that was to be encountered.

Discords like those which existed among the Cherokees, between the Ross and Ridge party, are exceptional cases to this rule. This side contest may be likened to the war between Uncas and Sassacus, which was originally based on rivalry and personal ambition. These feuds introduced no new principle, and do not disclose a new trait of character.

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Chapter II. — Philosophical Examination of the Argument on the Differing Manners and Customs of the Races of Men.

WHEN, in 1577, Sir Francis Drake visited the Pacific coast, he conferred the name of Albion on a part of it, which was inhabited by a tribe who lived almost in a state of nudity, sheltering themselves in pits excavated in the ground, and who, mingling traits of kindness and simplicity with their barbaric manners and customs, exhibited savage society in some of its most suggestive lights. In a biography of this intrepid adventurer, written by Dr. Samuel Johnson, he carefully depicts those traits of the Albionenses, subjoining the moral conclusions deducible from the state and condition of the nomadic races on the face of the globe, which tower above the ordinary scope of humanitarian philosophy.

"Whether more enlightened nations ought to look upon them with pity, as less happy than themselves, some skeptics have made, very unnecessarily, a difficulty of determining. More, they say, is lost by the perplexities than gained by the instruction of science; we enlarge our vices with our knowledge, and multiply our wants with our attainments, and the happiness of life is better secured by the ignorance of vice, than by the knowledge of virtue.

"The fallacy by which such reasoners have imposed upon themselves, seems to arise from the comparison which they make, not between two men equally inclined to apply the means of happiness in their power to the end for which Providence conferred them, but furnished in unequal proportions with the means of happiness, which is the true state of savage and polished nations; but between two men, of which he to whom Providence has been most bountiful, destroys the blessings by negligence or obstinate misuse; while the other, steady, diligent, and virtuous, employs his abilities and conveniences to their proper end. The question is not, whether a good Indian, or bad Englishman, be most happy? but, which state is most desirable, supposing virtue and reason the same in both?" 684

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Comment on such a conclusion is vain. The libertines of philosophy, who fill the world with new theories, have not failed to inculcate the idea that the heathen nations of the globe are subject to a peculiar moral responsibility, different from the ordinary code, and may derive happiness from, obedience to axioms, rightful or erroneous, not recognised by the canons of revelation. By far the greatest part of the world, since the era when paganism first predominated, are thus placed on a basis differing from, and antagonistic to, the rest. To reconcile this notion with reason, there must be two gradations of intellectual truth, two of virtue, and two of moral accountability. The Indian must be justified, by this theory, in his submission to barbarism, because it constitutes his happiness; and the skeptical world is satisfied to witness the progress of idolatry, and the spread of the empire of the tomahawk. They affirm that education should not be forced on the Indians, because it is not an element essential to their happiness; and that the revelations of Christianity should be withheld, because they do not desire to become Christians.

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Chapter III. — Subsidence of the Indian Feuds.

CLOSE association in civil communities for a series of years has had a tendency to allay discords. The great principle for which all the aboriginal tribes struggled, was to prevent the hunter state of society from being overslaughed and annihilated by civilization. The happiness of the Indian was centred in forests and the chase: schools and churches were abhorred by him. There have been no contentions on this score between tribe and tribe, nor between divisions of the same tribe; internal dissensions have invariably arisen from private jealousies and ambitions. These have been the real, but secret source of tribal discords. Questions regarding the disposition of funds, and the regulation of their internal policy, have been discussed and settled in both general and tribal councils. The object for which these bodies are now convened is not, as formerly, during the hunter state of the tribes, to discuss the policy of proclaiming war or concluding peace, and to wrangle with each other respecting trespasses on tribal boundaries, but to adjust their civil affairs. Morals, education, arts, and agriculture, respectively, occupy a share of attention in these public assemblies; and the progressive improvement in the Indian character has been so easy and imperceptible, that their councils and assemblies have been completely changed, in a few years, from arenas for the display of wrangling, and disputatious and declamatory elocution, to legislative bodies, whose meetings are characterized by calm and sober discussion and dispassionate decision. Reference is had particularly to the FOUR TRIBES. The representative principle has been generally adopted for limited periods and definite objects. The beneficial effects of temperance, a virtuous life, and habits of industry, on the manners of society, and on public as well as private prosperity, have been recognised and acknowledged as the true elements of political economy. These leading tribes have, indeed, fairly embarked in their national career, which perseverance, energy, and decision will enable them to pursue triumphantly.

The Cherokee disturbance, once so threatening, has entirely subsided, and it is now evident that the prosperity of the nation was well secured by the treaty of New Echota,

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although the execution of that instrument by the minority gave the political and personal preponderance to the majority, and took the power from the leading, pacific, and progressive chiefs. The act was regarded by the malcontent chiefs as a usurpation of authority, and their feelings were more highly excited by the loss of personal power than by that of national wealth.

Events occurring among the Indian tribes are slow in development, and years elapse before discords are forgotten, or opinions become nationalized. This may be fully demonstrated by reference to the history of the Cherokees. Nineteen years have passed away, and the blood of Boudinot and the Ridges has not, to use an Indian metaphor, been washed from the assassins' hands. The sanguinary deeds which once harrowed up the feelings of the nation, and aroused the sympathies of the Union, have been succeeded by peace, though the atrocities are not forgotten; and the government of the Cherokees, the great bone of internal contention for so many years, remains in the hands of the Rossite party. A detail of the incidents which occurred in Cherokee history during this period, would impart but little additional interest to the narrative, and add nothing at all to the knowledge of Indian character. Notwithstanding the feelings of indignation entertained at the time against the perpetrators of these foul murders, the scene of the transactions was too remote to enable the Government to act with certainty and promptitude; and the object to be attained, however just and right, was too delicate and difficult to risk; for it involved the sacrifice of the lives of a valuable part of the nation, and, at the same time, the hazard of the possible outbreak of a general Indian war in that quarter. The true friends of the nation may feel a consolation in reflecting, that the wise forecast and decision of character which induced the Cherokees to relinquish their ancient residences east of the Mississippi, and begin a new career of industry in the West, have laid the foundation of the permanent prosperity and civilization of the tribe; and that the respected names of Elias Boudinot and John Ridge will long be remembered as the great benefactors and moral heroes of their country. Those who stained their hands in the patriotic blood of these men, failed thereby to arrest the onward progress of the Cherokees.

The present condition of the Cherokees is one of industrial and educational prosperity. They are the owners, in fee simple, of 7,000,000 acres of the most fertile and beautiful lands, diversified with prairie and forest, and watered by the clearest streams. This tract, which is amply sufficient for their growing population for many years to come, is situate on the great level, intermediate between the buffalo plains, at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, and the forest country on the borders of Arkansas; and is favored with a fine, equitable climate, conducive to vigorous health, and beneficial to agriculture. On its prairies, cattle, horses, and hogs are raised, without other labor than that of tending them. They cultivate the zea maize and cereal grains, and pursue agriculture profitably. Lumber and grist mills, and manufactories, are located in every advantageous position. Their style of building, and the fences which enclose their fields, are

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altogether equal to those of their white neighbors. They conduct their own mercantile operations, send their own products to market, and receive their annual supplies. Their government is a representative one, with presiding officers, whose terms of office are limited. They have courts for the adjudication of civil suits, and the trial of criminal offenders. The number of their schools and churches, as returned at stated periods, is found to increase regularly. Their population feels the impulses of the industry and vitality imparted by plenty and prosperity, equitable laws, general education, and habits of temperance; and all observers, official and unofficial, bear testimony to the fact, that the stability of their nascent government, the elevated tone of society, and their general improvement, become more apparent with every decade.

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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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