There is no Indian massacre of whites to compare with this shocking barbarity, for at least the Indian always had the excuse that war had been declared, and he was acting on the defensive. Of a similar character were the massacres at Cos Cob, 1641; Conestoga, 1763; Gnadenwhutten, 1782; Coquille River, 1854; Wounded Knee, 1890; and a hundred more that could be mentioned. And no punishment was ever meted out to the murderers. Why? First, because apparently the Bureau at Washington approved; second, because "An Indian has no legal status; he is merely a live and particularly troublesome animal in the eye of the law." (New York Times, February 21,1880.) (See "Century of Dishonor," p. 367.) Governor Horatio Seymour says:
"Every human being born upon our continent, or who comes here from any quarter of the world, whether savage or civilized, can go to our courts for protection - except those who belong to the tribes who once owned this country. The cannibal from the islands of the Pacific, the worst criminals from Europe, Asia or Africa, can appeal to the law and courts for their rights of person and property - all save our native Indians, who, above all, should be protected from wrong." (Century of Dishonor," title-page).
And this is the land whose Constitution grants equal rights to all alike. This is the land that waxes virtuously indignant when Russia expels or massacres Nihilists, Poles or Jews. Have we not enough courage left to face the simple truth that every crime of despotism in Russia has been more than doubled in atrocity by what has but recently been done in America? Nihilists, Jews and Poles were certainly breaking the law, usually plotting against the Government, when attacked. Russia never used burnings at the stake, as did the American unofficial Indian-killers. And never did Russia turn batteries of machine-guns on masses of men, women and children who were absolutely quiet, unarmed, helpless and submissive: who had indeed thrown themselves on the mercy of the Government, and were under its protection.
Americans were roused to a fury of indignation by doubt-ful newspaper accounts of Spanish misrule in Cuba. But the atrocities so credited to Spain pale into insignificance beside the unspeakable abominations proved against the United States by records of its own officials in its dealings with the native American race during the last hundred years.
There are many exceptions to this charge that the Indian is cruel to his enemies, enough, almost, to justify a complete rebuttal, and among these was none more honorably distinguished than Tecumseh, the war chief of the Shawnees; perhaps the greatest of all historic Indians. Like a new incarnation of Hiawatha, he planned a defensive federation of the whole red race, and led them in war, that he might secure for them lasting peace. All great Indians had taught the doctrine "Love your friend." But Tecumseh was the first in authority to extend the heaven-taught precept, so they should be kind, at least, to their enemies; for he put an end in his nation to all torturing of prisoners.
Above all whose history is fully known, Tecumseh was the ideal noble Redman realized; nevertheless, he was not alone; Wabasha, Osceola, Kanakuk, and Wovoka must be numbered among those whose great hearts reached out in kindness even to those who hated them.
Tecumseh taught, "Love your enemy after he is conquered"; Kanakuk preached non-resistance to evil; Wovoka, "Be kind to all men".
The Indian had no property instincts. He was a Socialist in all matters of large property, such as land, its fruits, rivers, fish, and game.
So were the early Christians. "And all that believed were together; had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need." (Acts, ii., 44-45).
They considered that every child had a right to a bringing up, and every old person to a free living from the tribe. We know that it worked well, for there was neither hunger nor poverty, except when the whole tribe was in want. And we know also that there were among them no men of shameful, monstrous wealth.
He was improvident. He is now, just like our own drunkards. He was not, until after the Great Degradation that we effected in him. All the old travelers, testify that each Indian village had its fields of corn, beans, and pumpkins. The crops were harvested and safely carried them over long periods when there was no other supply. They did not believe in vast accumulations of wealth, because their wise men had said that greed would turn their hearts to stone and make them forget the poor. Furthermore, since all when strong contributed to the tribe, the tribe supported them in childhood, sickness and age. They had no poor; they had no famine until the traders came with whiskey and committed the crimes for which we as a nation have yet to answer.
He was dirty. Many dirty habits are to be seen to-day among the Reservation Indians, but it was not so in the free days. A part of the old Indian's religion was to take a bath every day the year round for the helping of his body. Some tribes bathed twice a day. Every village had a Turkish bath in continual use. It is only the degraded Indian who has become dirty, and many of the whites who oftenest assail him as filthy never take a bath from birth to judgment day.
He was lazy. No one who saw the Indian in his ancient form has preferred this charge. He was not fond of commercial manufacturing, but the regular work of tilling his little patch of corn and beans he did not shirk, nor the labor of making weapons and boats, nor the frightful toil of portaging, hunting and making war. He undertook these at all times without a murmur.
Many men will not allow their horses to bear such burdens as I saw the Chipewyans bear daily, without a thought of hardship, accepting all as a part of their daily lot.
He degraded woman to be a mere beast of burden. Some have said so, but the vast bulk of evidence to-day goes to show that while the women did the household drudgery and lighter tasks, the men did all the work beyond their partners' strength. In making clothes, canoes, and weapons, as well as in tilling of the fields, men and women worked together. The woman had a voice in all the great affairs, and a far better legal position than in most of the civilized world to-day.
He was treacherous. Oh! how ill it becomes us to mention such a thing! Every authority tells us the same - that primitive Redman never broke a treaty; his word was as good as his bond; that the American Government broke every treaty as soon as there was something to gain by doing so. Captain J. G. Bourke thus scores the continual treachery of the whites: "The occasional treachery of the aborigines," says he, "has found its best excuse in the unvarying Punic faith of the Caucasian invader." ("On the Border with Crook," p. 114).
But let us look for evidence of the Indian's character among those who saw with their own eyes, and had no object to serve by blackening the fair fame of the bravely dying race.
It would be easy to fill a large volume with startling and trustworthy testimony as to the goodness of the old Indian of the best type; I shall give a few pages bearing on the Indian life and especially relating to the various characteristics for which the Redman has been attacked, selecting the testimony preferably from the records of men who knew the Indian before his withering contact with the white race.