Custer: Indians cannot rise to civilisation

by Jim Morgan

The question may also arise as to what influence the wild nomadic tribes of the West are most likely to yield and become peaceably inclined toward their white neighbors, willing to forego their accustomed raids and attacks upon the frontier settlements, and content to no longer oppose the advance of civilization. Whether this desirable condition  of affairs can be permanently and best secured by the display and exercise of  a strong but just  military power, or by the extension of the olive-branch on one hand and government annuities on the other or by a happy combination of both, has long been one of the difficult problems whose solution has baffled the judgment of our legislators from the formation of the government to the present time. My firm conviction, based upon an intimate and thorough analysis of the habits, traits of character, and natural instinct of the Indian, and strengthened and supported by the almost unanimous opinion of all persons who have made the Indian problem a study, and have studied it, not from a distance, but in immediate contact with all the facts bearing thereupon, is that the Indian cannot be elevated to that great level where he can be induced to adopt any policy or mode of life varying from those to which he has ever been accustomed by any method of teaching, argument, reasoning, or coaxing which is not preceded and followed closely in reserve by a superior physical force. In other words, the Indian is capable of recognizing no controlling influence but that of stern arbitrary power. To assume that he can be guided by appeals to his ideas of moral right and wrong, independent of threatening or final compulsion, is to place him far above his more civilized brothers of the white race, who, in the most advanced stage of refinement and morality, still find it necessary to employ force, sometimes resort to war, to exact justice from a neighboring nation. And yet there are those who argue that the Indian with all his lack of moral privileges, is so superior to the white race as to be capable of being controlled in his savage traits and customs, and induced to lead a proper life, simply by being politely requested to do so. ~pp101-102

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