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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 II. — Effects of Civilized Habits on Reproduction.

THE condition and future prospects of the Indian tribes of the United States are subjects of the highest moral interest to the government and people. In many respects the race and their prospects are alike peculiar, the history of the world not furnishing an exact parallel. Other races of hunters had the benefit of the intermediate pastoral condition, in progressing from the hunter to the civilized state. The wildest Arab tribes, and the nomads of Asia, reared the camel, horse, cow, or sheep. But the North American Indians possessed no domestic animals when the continent was discovered; they had formed none of the manners resulting from such cares, or from the discrimination of private rights; and the ferocity of their character was not in the least ameliorated by any such important class of duties. Nor, so far as tradition extends, does it appear to have been thus influenced in times past.

The Indian's golden age is ever the era of the chase; and to this period do all the reminiscences of the elders point, as to the age of aboriginal prosperity, and superlative happiness. The Great Spirit then smiled on him.

Agriculture was recognised only by the cultivation of limited fields of the zea maize; but this was not a reputable labor, and the supply of food relied on, from all sources, was so essentially of a spontaneous growth, that it repressed the power of reproduction, and a very sparse population spread itself over immense areas, remarkable for their natural fertility and abundant resources. There is reason to believe that the native population but little exceeded 1,000,000, on the same area that now contains 22,000,000 of the descendants of European races. The question of numbers is, however, but one section of the great investigation before us. It has been well said, in an official paper, "These remnants of the people who preceded us in the occupation of this country, and who have yielded to our destiny and their own, although greatly reduced in their numbers, have yet claims upon the United States, which their citizens seem disposed neither to deny nor conceal. Differences of opinion exist concerning the extent and nature of the aid which shall be offered to them, and of the interference which it is proper to exert in their conduct and affairs. And it is not easy to foresee how these difficulties are to be reconciled, nor to devise a plan which shall neither attempt too

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much nor too little, but which shall preserve a practical medium between these habits and circumstances, and the moral and political state of improvement of which we furnish them an example. These difficulties are inherent in the subject itself. The situation of the Indians and the operation of the settlement and improvement of the country upon them, are without a parallel in the progress of human society." 713

Within the last half-century, and since our population has been freely poured into and across the Mississippi valley, from the eastern banks of which, as a consequence, the Indians have been driven, these questions have, in part, received a solution. Hunting, which, before the discovery of America, was pursued as a means of subsistence, and an incentive to manly vigor and adventurous amusement, has entirely failed. The wide areas which, in a state of nature were required for the chase, being denuded of their game, left the tribes with immense surplus territories, which were no longer valuable for hunting, and which they were not inclined, if they even possessed the ability, to employ for agricultural purposes. The consequence was, that cessions of these surplus and exhausted areas were made to the Government in consideration of annuities, the tribes only retaining enough arable land to supply their own limited need of agricultural products, or retiring into remoter regions, where the chase could still be followed.

A contest of races ensued. The struggle between civilization and barbarism, which had existed, from the first, eastward of the Alleghanies, was renewed, on a wider field, in the West. Habits so diametrically opposed as those of the European and Indian, produced a condition of society replete with difficulties, and equally adverse to each. Population, which had never been in a favorable and healthy state of reproduction, declined, and, with every decade of our history, diminished more and more. History abounds with the evidences of such conflicts of manners and opinions, the result of which, however protracted, is still seen to be the same. The higher type of race is sure to prevail; labor, laws, and arts must triumph, and this fact has been demonstrated by the settlement of the Mississippi valley. The Indian tribes have separated themselves into two distinct classes, founded on the adoption or neglect of the principles of labor and knowledge. The former have either been colonized in large masses, where the industrial arts, protected by equitable laws, could be most advantageously followed, or they have submitted to the domination of labor and law in the States. The latter are still nomadic, and pursue the business of hunting, deriving little or no permanent advantage from civic precepts and examples; while every rational man, who considers the wonderful problem of their long resistance to civilization, arrives at the same conclusion, that while this resistance lasts, the question is narrowed down to one purely relative to the time of their eventual destruction and extinction. The

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wonder is, not that, under existing circumstances, the Indian population has diminished, but that the tribes have not already become extinct.

The single problem of Christianity, unconnected with field labor and domestic industry, is not alone sufficient to account for the decay of the Indian race. Labor is the common condition assigned to men, and the violation of this principle in tribes is one great cause of their numerical diminution. When the chase is totally abandoned, the most important step toward progress is taken. The female who spends days in
digging tepia, or wild artichokes, would be doubly rewarded for her labor by cultivating potatoes. The raising of cattle, hogs, and sheep, in a few years, places the Indian farmer in a position to obtain fresh meat, at proper times, without wasting his energies and strength in pursuing deer, buffaloes, or antelopes. Horses are easily raised in the western latitudes, no expensive stables being required, nor hay to be stacked and fed out. Locomotion is thus made easy when it is necessary to travel from settlement to settlement; saddles, bridles, and buggies necessarily following in the train of improvements. The rude Indian tripod is replaced by well-made chairs and tables; cast-iron stoves, for cooking purposes, are introduced; then a chamber, or a parlor looking-glass, and perhaps a clock. The dwelling begins to display the evidence of female taste in furniture, and much of the paraphernalia of housekeeping. Finally, the children are sent to school, and the parents themselves join the church. He must be a dull observer of the progress of the settlement who has not witnessed these improvements. Society, as it were, arises and stands upright. Indians have done these things. Who will hazard the assertion that they do not tend to numerical increase?

To the beneficial influence of instruction, the record of missionary teaching bears ample testimony. Perhaps few examples can be adduced which give a more pleasing aspect to the field of labor than that of Miss Catherine Brown, a Cherokee of Alabama. Many years have passed since this bright native female excited the liveliest hopes; and a long time has elapsed since her gentle spirit winged its flight to a better world; but her memory is yet green in the recollections of many. To the graces of person and manners she united high educational attainments. In the language of Mr. Anderson, her mind was of a delicate texture — clear perception, correct judgment, intellectual economy, and good sense, being her strongest characteristics. In the acquisition of knowledge, her mind moved easily; in the communication of it to others she did so with felicity and a just appreciation of their capacities. Her delicate sensibility, her exact view of propriety and dignity, her high principles of action, and her gentleness and sweetness of manner, excited general admiration. 714 A very similar delicacy of feeling, sweetness of air and voice, propriety of expression, ease of conversation, and dignity of manner characterized Miss Jane Johnston, and Miss Madeline La Fraumbois, of Michigan, Mrs. Charlotte (Rev.) M'Murray, of Niagara, Canada, and Miss Mary

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Halliday, of Syracuse, New York, who were the subjects of careful moral instruction, and may be regarded as wild flowers, transplanted from the Indian wilderness.

Whatever mitigates the evils of Indian society, adds to its permanent means of growth, and is favorable to its moral and physical development. It may be well to lay before the reader the sum of these statistics, that he may scrutinize more closely the character of the Indian mind, and determine its capacity for bearing the mental superstructure, proposed to be based on it through the medium of the Indian colonies; and, by extending this inquiry to what the aboriginal mind has done in past times, without the aid of letters, to furnish some idea of what it may, with cultivation, accomplish.

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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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