NO WORLD-MOVEMENT ever yet grew as a mere doctrine. It must have some noble example; a living, appealing personality; some man to whom we can point and say, "This is what we mean." All the great faiths of the world have had such a man, and for lack of one, many great and flawless truths have passed into the lumber-room.
To exemplify my outdoor movement, I must have a man who was of this country and climate; who was physically beautiful, clean, unsordid, high-minded, heroic, picturesque, and a master of Woodcraft, besides which, he must be already well-known. I would gladly have taken a man of our own race, but I could find none. Rollo the Sea-King, King Arthur, Leif Ericsson, Robin Hood, Leatherstocking, all suggested themselves, but none seemed to meet the requirements, and most were mere shadows, utterly unknown. Surely, all this pointed the same way. There was but one figure that seemed to answer all these needs: that was the Ideal Indian of Fenimore Cooper and Longfellow.
For this reason, I took the Native American, and called my organization "Woodcraft Indians."* And yet, I am told that the prejudice against the word "Indian" has hurt the movement immensely. If so, it is because we do not know what the Indian was, and this I shall make it my sad and hopeful task, at this late day, to have our people realize.
*Also called Seton Indians and Indian Scouts.
We know more about the Redman to-day than ever we did. Indeed, we knew almost nothing of him twenty years ago. We had two pictures offered us; one, the ideal savage of Longfellow, the primitive man, so noble in nature that he was incapable of anything small or mean or wicked; the other was presented by those who coveted his possessions, and, to justify their robberies, they sketched the Indian as a dirty, filthy, squalid wretch, a demon of cruelty and cowardice, incapable of a human emotion, and never good till dead.
Which of these is the true picture? Let us calmly examine the pages of history, taking the words and records of Redmen and white, friends and foes of the Indian, and be prepared to render a verdict, in absolute accordance with that evidence, no matter where it leads us.
Let us begin by admitting that it is fair to take the best examples of the red race, to represent Indian philosophy and goodness; even as we ourselves would prefer being represented by Emerson, Tolstoi, Lincoln, Spencer, Pea-body, General Booth, or Whitman, rather than by the border ruffians and cut-throat outlaws who were the principal exemplars of our ways among the Indians.
It is freely admitted that in all tribes, at all times, there were reprobates and scoundrels, a reproach to the people; just as amongst ourselves we have outcasts, tramps, drunkards, and criminals. But these were despised by their own people, and barely tolerated.
We must in fairness judge the Indian and his way of life and thought by the exemplifications of his best types: Hiawatha, Wabasha I, Tshut-che-nau, Ma-to-to-pa, Te-cumseh, Kanakuk, Chief Joseph, Dull Knife, Washakie, and many that loved their own people and were in no wise touched by the doctrines of the whites.
If from these men we gather their beliefs, their teachings, and the common thoughts that guided their lives, we may fairly assume that we have outlined the creed of the best Indians.