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Tahan
Chapter XLIV The Red Man and the White—A Contrast


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 social.

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 environment.

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 the race.

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 toward civilisation.

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 half.

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 see righted.

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.


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