IN his dealings with the
savage Indian, the civilised white man has been ignorant, apparently, of
the fact that the Red Man’s mind works differently from his own. And it
also seems that he has not taken sufficiently into account the radical
difference in ideals.
The supreme aim of the
average business and professional white man, is to win place and power
and property for himself. The chief ambition of the savage Indian was to
succeed for his tribesmen’s sake. In the trophies of the chase and of
war, all of his people shared.
The civilised man gets to
keep. The savage gets to give.
So, the difference in
mind is neither constitutional nor fundamental. It is traditional and
According to the natural
laws of the world, every life which becomes larger does so by orderly
process. Yet the Great Father at Washington would put the tools of
civilisation into the hands of the adult untutored Indian and expect him
at once to become a civilised man—to take up the responsibilities of
citizenship as quickly as does the immigrant—the product of the oldest
civilisation in the world—and at the same time remain in an uncivilised
The Indian needs the
opportunity to develop himself according to the laws of evolution; he
needs the chance to fit into the trend of modern progress; but he cannot
have this opportunity while confined in a prison called a reservation.
The American Indian has
occupied a unique position in the life of this nation. He has been
regarded as a sovereign, yet treated as a ward. He has been independent
in his tribal relations, yet dependent upon the Government surrounding
him. Again, he has been restrained in his tribal relations and expected
to conform to the ways of civilised life. He has been a part of the
Government, yet not a member of it. He has been subject to the laws of
the land, yet often without protection under them and without the right
to participate in their enactment. And the only man in the world who
cannot sue the United States Government without special act of Congress
is the reservation Indian.
To the end that he may
obtain his rights the Society of American Indians has come into
existence. It is of, by, and for them, and its formation is pronounced
by thinking men to be the greatest epoch-making event in the history of
It recognises the
inevitable—the assimilation of the Red Man with the conquering Caucasian
race, and its purpose is to break down every barrier in his progress
One of the biggest
obstacles is the lack of definition of his legal status. About one-half
of the 266,000 Indians are citizens with all the rights and privileges
which the term implies. But much confusion exists concerning the other
In Oklahoma there are
educated red men who are citizens. In New York those of like culture are
not. In North Carolina Indians are citizens of the State but not of the
United States. Nebraska gives citizenship to those holding allotments of
land. Wyoming does not. In many instances in the same State allottees
are voters while others are deprived of that privilege. Indeed, in some
places, university graduates even are not allowed the franchise. But the
most ignorant negro, the most illiterate immigrant, may enjoy it, and
this in the Red Man’s own country!
Here is but one of the
several wrong conditions which I, as an officer of the Society, hope to
For I, with my brothers,
bow to the inevitable. I know the Red Man must become merged into the
life of this nation if he is to exist at all. I know that he must cut
loose from his old ways or perish.
But for the brave, virile
people of the plains among whom I grew to manhood, my admiration has
increased with the years. They were patriots who were deceived by the
windy legends of the crookedest thing in the world—the white man’s
tongue; their life was spoiled by the blackest thing in the world—the
white man’s heart; they have felt most heavily the strongest thing in
the world—the white man’s hand; they were trampled beneath the heaviest
thing in the world—the white man's foot; and they fought even after hope
was gone, fought to the last for their own, and without self-pity went
down in defeat.
And those who are left?
They do not want to fight. They wait and they listen to the voice that
is calling from the far-away time. It is the voice of the Mystery Man
which reminds them:
“When the buffalo
disappears, the Indian shall cease to be.”
Because of health
conditions I went to Wisconsin. While pastor of the Presbyterian Church
in Neillsville, I visited Chicago, Illinois, where a couple of
highwaymen attempted to hold me up on the street one night. I fought
them off. One of the robbers was wounded in the scrimmage, and I took
his six-shooter from him. During the scrimmage I got a bullet through my
coat.„ A Chicago paper published a vivid account of the affair, also the
Neillsville Times, of October 4th, 1904.
After serving the Ripley,
N. Y., Presbyterian Church a short time I became engaged entirely in
lecturing, booked by a Lyceum Bureau.