Page:The Cambridge History of American Literature, v3.djvu/165

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
The Indians

related in other books on Frémont's expeditions; and Micajah McGehee, who was of the party, gives all the terror of their struggle in "Rough Times in Rough Places" in The Century Magazine, vol. XIX. After this catastrophe Frémont proceeded to California by the far southern route of upper Mexico and the Gila, arriving just as the great gold excitement was in its first heat.

Thousands were now preparing to follow thousands to the fortune-field that lay against what Frémont previously had named the Golden Gate. It mattered not that the way was beset with impossibilities for the greenhorn (or in later nomenclature, the tenderfoot); to California he was bound through fair and foul. Not the least of the troubles arose from Indians, those people who already possessed the country and were satisfied with it. They disliked to see their game destroyed by these new hordes, their springs polluted by cattle, their families treated with brutality or contempt according to the physical strength of the pioneer party. The latter on their part regarded the Indians as merely a dangerous nuisance, to be got rid of by any possible means. Sometimes when the trapper's or pioneer's confidence ran high with power, the Indian, armed only with a bow and arrows, was pursued and shot as sport from horseback, just as the sportsman chases antelope or buffalo.

The misconception of Indian life and character so common among the white people [remarks Francis LaFlesche, himself an Indian, in his preface to his charming little story of his boy life, The Middle Five: Indian Boys at School (1900)] has been largely due to ignorance of the Indian's language, of his mode of thought, his beliefs, his ideals, and his native institutions.

We have heretofore viewed the Indians chiefly through the eyes of those who were interested in exploiting them; or of exterminating them. Perhaps it is time to listen to their own words.

Another educated Indian, Dr. Charles A. Eastman (Ohiyesa), a full-blood Sioux, writing on this subject in The Soul of the Indian (1900), declares:

The native American has been generally despised by his white conquerors for his poverty and simplicity. They forget, perhaps,