Page:The Indian Dispossessed.pdf/15

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Then put aside the fallacy, and say, that no Indian is the equal of the white man until he has turned to the white man's way; his possessory right to the great hunting-ground of his fathers conferred upon him no ownership, in the white man's sense of ownership, in land fitted for the higher uses of civilization; no precious metals in the hills were his, because for generations he had chased the buffalo and the deer over the surface.

The untamed Indian had but one tangible right,—the right to be shown the new way by those who had made his own way impossible. The very dearth of his rights as a savage measured the white man's tremendous obligation to bring him, by all reasonable means, into the rights that come with civilization. That the Indian did not turn readily to the better way, history makes us sure; the change demanded was too abrupt, too opposed to his inbred notions of labor and responsibility; but civilization was not to be stayed by the Indian's refusal to accept its teachings, and in just proportion to his unbending the Indian went down before it. This was the main tragedy in the Indian's story, and his well-meaning friends have often, in a spirit of undiscriminating sentimentalism, made of it the main indictment against the white man. Of this indictment we may at once acquit ourselves, in so far as we have unselfishly and intelligently labored to make the new way attractive; but to no greater extent, for history again shows