These are the chief charges against the Indian:
He was cruel to his enemies, even torturing them at the stake in extreme cases. He knew nothing about forgiving and loving them.
In the main, this is true. But how much less cruel he was than the leaders of the Christian Church in the Middle Ages! What Indian massacre will compare in horror with that of St. Bartholomew's Eve or the Massacre of Glencoe? Read the records of the Inquisition, or the Queen Mary persecutions in England, or the later James II. abominations for further light!
There was no torture used by the Indians that was not also used by the Spainards. Every frontiersman of the Indian days knows that in every outbreak the whites were the aggressors; and that in every evil count - robbery, torture and massacre - they did exactly as the Indians did. "The ferocity of the Redman," says Bourke, "has been more than equaled by the ferocity of the Christian Caucasian." ("On the Border with Crook," p. 114).
There are good grounds for stating that the Indians were cruel to their enemies, but it is surprising to see how little of this cruelty there was in primitive days. In most cases the enemy was killed in battle or adopted into the tribe; very, very rarely was he tortured. Captain Clark says of the Cheyennes:
"There is no good evidence that captives have been burned at the stake, flayed alive, or any other excruciating torture inflicted on persons captured by these fierce, war-loving and enterprising barbarians." (" Sign Language," p. 106).
But we know now that the whites did use diabolical tortures in their dealings with the Indian, and deliberately and persistently misrepresented him in order to justify their own atrocities.
The whites, however, had print to state their case, while the Indians had none to tell their story or defend them. Furthermore, it is notorious that all massacres of Indians by the whites were accomplished by treachery in times of peace, while all Indian massacres of whites were in time of war, to resist invasion. At present, I know of no exception to this rule.*
In almost every case, it must be said that the army officers and men were personally guiltless. They were impressed with the heroism of the Indians, admired them for their bravery, were horrified by the wickedness of the orders sent them, and did all they could to mitigate the atrocious policies of the shameless Indian Bureau. But there were instances in which the army officers showed themselves the willing tools of the politicians. Among the notorious cases was the cold-blooded massacre, in 1864, by Col. J. H. Chivington, of several hundred Cheyennes. Men, women, and children had surrendered and disarmed, and were, indeed, at the time, under military protection. The fiendish cruelty and cowardice of that one attack on these defenseless beings was enough to more than justify everything the Cheyennes have ever done to the race of the assassins. (See "Century of Dishonor," pp. 341-358).
*Many supposed massacres by Indians are now known to have been the work of whites disguised as Indians.
Still worse was the Baker massacre of Blackfeet, on January 23, 1870.
A border ruffian, a white man named Clark, had assaulted a young Indian, beating him severely, and the Indian, in retaliation, had killed Clark and gone off into Canada. Without troubling to find the guilty party, or even the band he belonged to, Brevet Col. E. M. Baker, major Second Cavalry, stationed at Fort Shaw, marched out, under orders from Gen. Philip H. Sheridan, to the nearest Indian village, on Marias River; as it happened, they were peaceable, friendly Indians, under Bear's Head. Without warning, the soldiers silently surrounded the sleeping village. But the story is better told by Schultz, who was on the spot later, and heard it all from those who saw:
"In a low tone Colonel Baker spoke a few words to his men, telling them to keep cool, aim to kill, to spare none of the enemy; and then he gave the command to fire. A terrible scene ensued. On the day previous, many of the men of the camp had gone out toward the Sweetgrass Hills on a grand buffalo hunt; so, save for Chief Bear's Head and a few old men, none were there to return the soldiers' fire. Their first volley was aimed low down into the lodges, and many of the sleeping people were killed or wounded in their beds. The rest rushed out, men, children, women, many of the latter with babes in their arms, only to be shot down at the doorways of their lodges. Bear's Head, frantically waving a paper which bore testimony to his good character and friendliness to the white men, ran toward the command on the bluff, shouting to them to cease firing, entreating them to save the women and children; down he also went with several bullet holes in his body. Of the more than four hundred souls in camp at the time, very few escaped. And when it was all over, when the last wounded woman and child had been put out of misery, the soldiers piled the corpses on overturned lodges, firewood and household property, and set fire to it all.
"Several years afterward I was on the ground. Everywhere scattered about in the long grass and brush, just where the wolves and foxes had left them, gleamed the skulls and bones of those who had been so ruthlessly slaughtered. 'How could they have done it?' I asked myself, time and time again. ' What manner of men were these soldiers who deliberately shot down defenseless women and innocent children?' They had not even the excuse of being drunk; nor was their commanding officer intoxicated; nor were they excited or in any danger whatever. Deliberately, coolly, with steady and deadly aim they shot them down, killed the wounded, and then tried to burn the bodies of their victims. But I will say no more about it. Think it over, yourself, and try to find a fit name for men who did this." (" My Life as an Indian," pp. 41-2).
According to G. B. Grinnell, one hundred and seventy-six innocent persons were butchered on this day of shame; ninety of them women, fifty-five babies, the rest chiefly very old or very young men, most of the able-bodied hunters being away on a hunt. No punishment of any kind was given the monster who did it.