While most people today recognize the heinous wrong African-Americans have suffered throughout their
history in this country, at least progress has been made in many areas to protect our black citizens and ensure they are treated with justice and
equality. We still have far to go to make this an acceptable reality, but with the American Indians, we really have not even begun to recognize the scandalous
wrongs committed against them since Europeans began their invasion of this land. This book, first published in 1881, provides an overview of the shameful
treatment of seven specific Indian nations by the United States Government. As Jackson states, it would fill volumes to actually go into detail and relate the
whole story of the treachery and betrayal the American Indians have suffered though our government's greed, lack of integrity, and failure to honor and
fulfill promises made.
The lengthy Introduction provides a background of the sanctity of treaties and agreements and the responsibility of nations and governments to uphold them. Jackson discusses the original rights recognized by the government of the Indians to occupy their own land until it was legally sold, and also granted them rights to punish any settler who did not abide by those rights. But of course, after the United States freed herself from England, the rights of the Indians, the agreements and treaties signed by both sides began to disintegrate. She says:
They stated, in a succession of numbered articles, promises of payment of moneys, and surrenders and cessions of land, by both parties; were to be ratified by Congress before taking effect; and were understood by the Indians agreeing to them to be as binding as if they had been called treaties. The fact that no man's sense of justice openly revolted against such subterfuges, under the name of agreements, is only to be explained by the deterioration of the sense of honor in the nation. In the days of Grotius there were men who failed to see dishonor in a trick if profit came of it. . .
She further continues by saying that nations should be held to the same standards as individual people:
. . .that we may hold nations to standards of justice and good faith as we hold men; that the standards are the same in each case; and that a nation that steals and lies and breaks promises, will no more be respected or unpunished than a man who steals and lies and breaks promises.
And look where we are here in 2015. A nation that operates on stealing, lying, and breaking promises. Jackson further states:
The history of the United States Government's repeated violations of faith with the Indians thus convicts us, as a nation, not only of having outraged the principles of justice, which are the basis of international law; and of having laid ourselves open to the accusation of both cruelty and perfidy; but of having made ourselves liable to all punishments which follow upon such sins—to arbitrary punishment at the hands of any civilized nation who might see fit to call us to account, and to that more certain natural punishment which, sooner or later, as surely comes from evil-doing as harvests come from sown seed.
Our punishment for centuries of dishonorable behavior is long overdue. And thus, the tone for the rest of the book is set.
As we learn the history of specific tribes, the stories become more personal and heartbreaking. This particular tribe was known as peaceful and friendly, always trying to work with the government for fair and just agreements. These are the people who occupied my home area: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Michigan—the Ohio valley and Great Lakes region. For a while at least. The boundaries to lands which were assured to be theirs forever, changed every time more white settlers decided to push west. Though ignorant people may think the Indians were savages, they were far from it. Jackson tells of a council held in 1793 in which the Delawares and twelve other tribes met with commissioners of the United States on the question of boundaries:
The records of the council are profoundly touching. The Indians reiterated over and over the provisions of the old treaties which had established the Ohio River as one of the boundaries. Their words were not the words of ignorant barbarians, clumsily and doggedly holding to a point; they were the words of clear-headed, statesman-like rulers, insisting on the rights of their nations. As the days went on, it became more and more clear that the United States commissioners would not agree to the establishment of the boundary for which the Indians contended, the speeches of the chiefs grow sadder and sadder.
Finally, they suggested that all the money being offered to them for sale of their lands be given to the poor white people
attempting to occupy new settlements. The Indians said money was of little value to them, and giving it to the white settlers might induce them to go
But in the end, notice was sent to the governor that the Indians "refused to make peace." Their crops were burned down by General Wayne, and after much harassment, they were forced to move on. The Delawares then settled in Kansas. They made the most of what they had, being wise and industrious people. They all had nice log cabins, large working farms with successful mills, livestock and comfortable abundance. All children could read by age twelve and trade schools were established. These are obviously not uncivilized savages, but a community of intelligent and resourceful people. But white settlers wouldn't leave them alone. They stole their timber and livestock. In 1862, the Delaware men readily enlisted to serve in the Union army, 170 men out of 200. But while they were gone, the remaining old men, women and children were abused and harassed. Finally, tired of putting up with barbaric white settlers, the Delawares agreed once again to push farther west, this time being absorbed by the Cherokee Nation.
The history of the government's dealing with this nation is even more atrocious than with the Delawares. Whereas with the Delawares, it was more a situation of lies, broken promises and deceit, with the Cheyennes it was downright vicious, insulting, abusive, and criminally violent with of course the blame being laid on the Indians. These people relied on hunting for their subsistence, and when the buffalo declined in number due to the westward moving population, they found themselves at starvation point. Even when they were placed in communities where they could farm, white people stole their property, especially ponies and livestock, and any attempt to protect what was theirs resulted in imprisonment or downright slaughter by the United States military, which included destroying their property and means of survival. Of course, it appears little was done to apprehend the whites who had stolen from them in the first place. These tribes repeatedly attempted to adhere to the agreements, but how could they when the government chose whether or not (and often not) to comply with what they had promised? Eventually great numbers succumbed to disease, starvation, or freezing. It is beyond sickening, but of course, our own government now operates with total lies and corruption, and we, the general population are the victims.
The Nez Percés and The Sioux
It seems with each chapter, the treatment of the Indians by the United States Government becomes more odious. These two
chapters are basically a repeat of the last one. The Sioux were a huge nation comprised of many, many tribes, making their situation perhaps even worse than
the others. As usual, the government made promises it didn't keep, and probably had no intention of keeping. In reading this material, being able to look back
from such a distance, it seems that extermination by cruelty and neglect was probably the hidden agenda. And to make matters so much more horrendous, the Indians,
all of them dealt with in these chapters kept their word and made every effort to fulfill their part of the deal. These people were hard working and
industrious, and in the cases where they were given land and a little training, they created prosperous farm communities, sent people to their schools to learn
reading or a trade. They even in some cases published their own newspaper. These people were intelligent and wise.
But in each case, it seems no sooner did they become established than the government ordered them to move again, because their presence wasn't convenient to white settlers. They were paid a fraction of what their land was worth, and kept getting pushed into less desirable areas where no person could survive, leaving the best lands available to the whites, and the government's benefit. I don't think there's a word in the English language strong enough to express the atrocities these people had to endure, and of course the worst part of it was, it was their land to begin with. My anger intensified with each chapter.
The Poncas and The Winnebagoes
The abuse and slaughter continues in these next two chapters. The plight of the Poncas is particularly heartrending. As
was the case with all the tribes and nations, the government was continually forcing them to relocate when their presence became an inconvenience for white
people. One well documented history is of a particular move, an extremely difficult and long journey by foot, with terrible weather and conditions, with
many of the people, especially children, sick and dying along the way. The misery brought upon these peaceful and gentle people is inexcusable, as are all
the horror stories related in this book.
The Winnebagoes, at the time when harassment by white people began, were well established in a beautiful surrounding:
At this time the lands of the Winnebagoes lay between the Rock and the Wisconsin rivers, along the shore of Winnebago Lake, and the Indians claimed that the whole lake belonged to them. It was here that President Morse had found them living in 1882. He gives the following graphic picture of their pleasant home: "They have five villages on the Lake and fourteen on Rock River. The country has abundance of springs, small lakes ponds and rivers; a rich soil producing corn and all sorts of grain. The lakes abound with fine-flavored firm fish." Of the Indians themselves he says: They are industrious frugal and temperate. They cultivate corn, potatoes, pumpkins, squashes and beans and are remarkably provident. They numbered five hundred and eighty souls.
Of course such good conditions were not to be wasted on savages, and they soon found themselves forced from their beautiful dwelling to accommodate the wishes of white settlers.
The last nation discussed in this book is the Cherokees, who occupied a huge area along the Tennessee River: Georgia, the
Carolinas, Alabama. They were soon cajoled into giving up South Carolina, of coursed being made false promises of compensation for other lands by the U. S,
government. Despite some people's claim that Indians in general, refuse to work, there is overwhelming evidence that proves these peoples were intelligent
and easily adapted to the white people's way of life. At the time covered in this book, the Cherokees had established cotton manufacturing, schools,
printing presses and productive farms.
Eventually, the main body of the tribe was pushed into mostly Georgia, and it is from that state that their miseries truly commenced. They had been promised certain areas for their permanent habitation by the federal government, but the Georgian government would not abide. The same story of injustice and slaughter continues with these noble peoples.
This is one of the most heartbreaking books I have ever read. Jackson leaves no doubts as to the lies perpetrated by historians concerning white settlers and these often gentle, peaceful, and rightful inhabitants of this land. I often find that non-fictional books take me longer to read than fiction because I must process the material presented rather than enjoy the flow of a story. It was not the case in this one. This book is well-written and engrossing and reading was fascinating. If there is one huge negative remark I must make, it is that Jackson kept referring to the Indians as "creatures," which, though I know she wasn't meaning to be insulting, is a most inappropriate choice of words. Other than that, I highly recommend this one to be read by every citizen in this nation.
All material on this site copyright © 2015 by Laughing Crow.
This site designed and written by Laughing Crow.