Musings from the Manhut

Where the ebb and flow of life creates a cascade of words down the paper's face

Tag: Indian

Custer: Indians cannot rise to civilisation

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

Custer: Reason for Indian War

As pretended but not disinterested friends of the Indians frequently acquit the latter of comitting unprovoked attacks on helpless settlers and others, who have never in the slightest degree injured them, and often deny even that the Indians have been guilty of any hostile acts which justify the adoption of military measures to insure the measure of protection and safety of our frontier settlements, the following tabular statement is here given, This statement is taken from official records on file at the headquarters Military Division of the Missouri, and, as it states, gives only those murders and other depredations which were officially reported, and the white people mentioned as killed are exclusive of those slain in warfare. I am particular in giving time, place,etc., of each occurrance, so that those who hitherto may have believed the Indian to be a creature who could do no wrong may have ample opportunity to judge of the correctness of my statements. Many other murders by the Indian during this period no doubt occured, but, occurring as they did over a wide and sparsely steeled tract of country, were never reported to the military authorities.

Indian burial described by Custer

Our second day’s march brought us to the Saline River, where we encamped for the night. From our camp ground we could see on a knoll some two miles distant a platform or scaffold erected, which resembled somewhat one of our war signal stations. Curious to discover its purpose, I determined to visit it.

Taking with me Comstock and a few soldiers, I soon reached the point, and discovered that the object of my curiosity and surprise was an Indian grave. The body, instead of being consigned to mother earth, was placed on top of the platform. The latter was constructed of saplings, and was about twenty feet in height. From Comstock I learned that with some of the tribes this is the usual mode of disposing of the body after death. The prevailing belief of the Indian is that when done with this world the spirit of the deceased is transferred to the happy hunting-ground, where he is permitted to engage in the same pleasures and pursuits which he preferred while on earth. To this end it is deemed essential that after death the departed must be supplied with the same equipment and ornaments considered necessary while in the flesh. In accordance with this belief a complete Indian outfit, depending in extent upon the rank and importance of the deceased, is prepared, and consigned with the body to the final resting place.

The body found on this occasion must have been that of a son of some important chief; it was not full grown, but accompanied with all the arms and adornments usually owned by a warrior. There was the bow and quiver full of steel-pointed arrows, the tomahawk and scalping-knife, and a red clay pipe with a small bag full of tobacco. In order that the departed spirit should not be wholly dependent upon friends after his arrival at the happy hunting-ground, he had been supplied with provisions, consisting of small parcels containing coffee, sugar, and bread. Weapons of modern structure had also been furnished him, a revolver and rifle with powder and ball ammunition for each, and a saddle, bridle, and lariat for his pony. Added to these was a supply of wearing apparel, embracing every article known in an Indian’s toilet, not excepting the various colored paints to be used in decorating himself for war. A handsome buckskin scalping-pocket, profusely ornamented with beads, completed the outfit. But for fear that white women’s scalps might not be readily obtainable, and desiring no doubt to be received at once as a warrior who in his own country at least was not without renown, a white woman’s scalp was also considered as a necessary accompaniment, a letter of introduction to the dusky warriors and chieftains who had gone before. As the Indian of the Plains is himself only when on horseback, provision must be made for mounting him properly in the Indian heaven. To accomplish this, the favorite war pony is led beneath the platform on which the body of the warrior is placed at rest and there strangled to death.

Origin of the Amerind from 1911 Encyclopedia Brittanica

This is from the article entitled Indian, North American from the 11th Edition of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica. It is in the public domain in the United States.

This sort of relates to a quote by Custer from his book My Life on the Plains, which I will post later on.

The North American Indians have been the subject of numerous popular fallacies, some of which have gained world-wide currency. Here belongs a mass of pseudo-scientific and thoroughly unscientific literature embodying absurd and extravagant fallacies, theories and speculations as to the origin of the aborigines and their “civilizations” which derive them (in most extraordinary ways sometimes), in recent or in remote antiquity, from all regions of the Old World Egypt and Carthage, Phoenicia and Canaan, Asia Minor and the Caucasus, Assyria and Babylonia, Persia and India, Central Asia and Siberia, China and Tibet, Korea, Japan, the East Indies, Polynesia, Greece and ancient Celtic Europe and even medieval Ireland and Wales. Favourite theories of this sort have made the North American aborigines the descendants of refugees from sunken Atlantis, Tatar warriors, Malayo-Polynesian sea-farers, Hittite immigrants from Syria, the ” Lost Ten Tribes of Israel,” &c., or attributed their social, religious and political ideas and institutions to the advent of stray junks from Japan, Buddhist votaries from south-eastern Asia, missionaries from early Christian Europe, Norse vikings, Basque fishermen and the like.

Particularly interesting are the theories of ” Welsh (or white) Indians ” and the ” Lost Ten Tribes.” The myth of the ” Welsh Indians,” reputed to be the descendants of a colony founded about A.D. 1170 by Prince Madoc (well known from Southey’s poem), has been studied by James Mooney (Amer. Anlhrop. iv., 1891, 393-394), who traces its development from statements in an article in The Turkish Spy, published in London about 1730. At first these ” Welsh Indians, who are subsequently described as speaking Welsh, possessing Welsh Bibles, beads, crucifixes, &c., are placed near the Atlantic coast and identified with the Tuscaroras, an Iroquoian tribe, but by 1776 they had retreated inland to the banks of the Missouri above St Louis. A few years later they were far up the Red river, continuing, as time went on, to recede farther and farther westward, being identified successively with the Mandans, in whose language Catlin thought he detected a Welsh element, the Moqui, a Pueblos tribe of north-eastern Arizona, and the Modocs (here the name was believed to re-echo Madoc) of south-western Oregon, until at last they vanished over the waters of the Pacific Ocean. The theory that the American Indians were the  “Lost Ten Tribes of Israel” has not yet entirely disappeared from ethnological literature. Many of the identities and resemblances in ideas, customs and institutions between the American Indians and the ancient Hebrews, half-knowledge or distorted views of which formed the basis of the theory, are discussed, and their real significance pointed out by Colonel Garrick Mallery in his valuable address on
Israelite and Indian: A Parallel in Planes of Culture” (Proc. Amer. Assoc. Adv. Set. vol. xxxviii., 1889, pp. 287-331). The whole subject has been discussed by Professor H. W. Henshaw in his “Popular Fallacies respecting the Indians” (Amer. Anthrop. vol. vii. n.s., 1905, pp. 104-113).

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