The Indians and Our Civilization.
In the annals of the American Revolution very dark and bloody is the recital which tells of the employment of Indians by the British Crown in its strenuous endeavor to overcome the colonies in revolt. Likewise, to the name Hessian has become attached a distinct stigma, because of the fact that for a mercenary cosideration the Landgraf f Hesse-Cassel had been willing to hire out the soldiers of the electorate to subdue the Americans fighting against an oppressive government. In our present progress toward imperialism, we seem to be almost ready to embark upon methods which formerly we repobated. Thus, a few days ago, a military officer, nephew of a United States Senator, called upon the President, with the request that he authorize the organization of an independent company of Indian scouts for service in the Philippines, a request which the President has referred to the Secretary of War.
Ten years ago the practice of permitting Indians to leave their reservations for engagement in Wild West shows was very much protested against. The then Commissioner of Indian Affairs, John H. Oberly, fully recognizing the truth of the averment of Senator Wilson, of Iowa, that such spectacular engagements were "not calcuated to promote the best conditions of civilization among the Indians," urged, in a long communication to the Secretary of the Interior, that the precedents which had obtained in this matter be reversed, and that he "grant no further permission to take Indians for exhibition purposes." The harmful practice, however, does not seem to have been seriously interfered with, a very lax interpretation being put upon that requirement of the department which stipulates that a person of good moral character and habits shall accompany the Indians so released, and look to their interests and welfare. Thus, A. L. Riggs, of the Santee Agency, Nebraska, in an address on "The Moral Basis of Progress," at the Indian School Service Institute, held at Colorado Springs last year, remarked: "What, then, could be more senseless than that our Government, having taken up the work of civilizing the Indians, should at the same time cultivate barbarism by giving official approval and aid to Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show--turning our agencies into recruiting stations for him, where the young bloods grow long hair and divorce their wives, that they may be fitted to take part in this travelling orgy. This is the glorification of the old Indian, that we are trying so hard to get rid of. Our answer to the Indian of the dance and the Wild West Show should be that civilization is not a mere fashion. It is based upon principles of righteousness. We can believe in our social order, can defend and recommend it just so far as it has a moral basis, and no farther . . . Let us not fail to make use of every means open to us. Everything that intellectual enlightenment, industiral training and new conditions of life can bring us. But beyond that let us lay hold of the soul of the man, reinforce his conscience, open up for him obstacles to his ascent. That which answers the deep need of Indian nature, as all human nature, is the highest Word of Revelation, 'As many has received Him, to them gave He power to become children of God.'" Says Estelle Reel, Superintendent of Indian Schools, in her first annual report (1898): "Indorsing the views and opinions of Dr. Riggs, whose knowledge of the Indian character has been acquired by an extensive experience, which has made him familiar with the habits and customs of the Indians, his conclusions are entitled to careful and prayerful consideration."*
Noticing in yesterday's daily paper a schedule of the weekly arrangements for intercollegiate football games this autumn between students of the Industrial Training School at Carlisle and thoes of other institutions in New York City, Utica, Cambridge, etc., and considering that many of these match games, played on the Seventh-day of the week, must carry the Carlisle scholars hundred of miles from the school and their customary places for religious worship, involving more or less travel on the First-day of the week to enable them to timely get back to their regular school duties, it occurred to me, that in learning this phase of our civilization, there was interposed an obstacle to the Indian lad's ascent such as the experienced instructor first quoted was concerned to caution against.
During the present month, Superintendent R. H. Pratt, of the Carlisle Training School, sent out a circular-letter of advice and inquiry to his patrons, in a certain rural locality, who received Indian girls from the school into their homes, instructing them in domestic service and in other matters, in which he reminded them of the need of great care in the oversight of the temporarily assigned pupils, their correspondence, shopping, visiting, how they employ their time on the First-day of the week, &c. I felt a sympathy with the purpose of the superintendent's categorical inquiry, and so wrote to him. In so doing, it seemed pertinent to refer additionally to the fact that when, seven years ago, two of these girls were received into the household of the writer, they appeared content to wear the plain hats and simple, uniform attire of the institution whence they came, but, year by year since then, there seemed an increasing disposition to srive after the fashions, which indeed was not to be greatly wondered at, considering the example set them by so many of the white people. The earnest appeal of Dr. Judson to the Christian women of America who felt called to labor with him for the conversion of the Burmese and Karen women, was, that they shouold leave at home their ornaments and fine attire, lest those they came professedly to help should be beguiled thereby from the plain path of the pilgrim. The like argument holds good for the indians in our homes, who must find it somewhat difficult to apprehend why they should not bedeck themseles with the feathers and plumes that were in common use among themselves not long ago, seeing that these things form the favorite hat ornamentation of those amongst whom they have now come.
The Training School Curriculum provides for, and gives a good deal of place to, instruction in music. Whether this course will prove permanently beneficial to the learners some of us would incline to question. Placed in families where there is no piano in the parlor, some express their dissatisfaction. One thus placed out desired a change, that she might practice on the mandolin--her companion that she might learn the use of the violin. While this kind of knowledge might open up to some the means of earning a livelihood, it does not seem to offer a fitting introduction to the practical after-life of these people, such as is so usefully supplied by the major part of the home-training which they receive.
J. W. L.
* Since the above was written, the conference upon Indian affairs, in session at Lake Mohonk, has issued a report in which they record their disapproval of the taking of Indians from their reservations for the purposes of perpetuating, by public exhibition, the conditions of barbarism.