Roget's Int'l Thesaurus
Fowler's King's English
The King James Bible
Brewer's Phrase & Fable
Frazer's Golden Bough
Shelf of Fiction
Later National Literature, Part II
Travellers and Explorers, 18461900
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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes
VOLUME XVII. Later National Literature, Part II.
Travellers and Explorers, 18461900
§ 12. Indians.
Thousands were now preparing to follow thousands to the fortune-field that lay against what Frèmont 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 trappers or pioneers 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 Indians 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
The native American has been generally despised by his white conquerors for his poverty and simplicity. They forget, perhaps, that his religion forbade the accumulation of wealth and the enjoyment of luxury. To him as to other single minded men in every age and race, from Diogenes to the brother of Saint Francis, from the Montanists to the Shakers, the love of possessions has appeared a snare, and the burdens of a complex society a source of needless peril and temptation. It is my personal belief after thirty-five years experience of it, that there is no such thing as Christian Civilization. I believe that Christianity and modern civilization are opposed and irreconcilable and that the spirit of Christianity and of our ancient religion is essentially the same . Since there is nothing left us but remembrance, at least let that remembrance be just.
With reference to the treachery of the whites, at times, in the treatment of Indians it is permissible to refer the reader to the
Massacre of Cheyenne Indians, 38th Congress, 2nd Sess., House Doc., Jan. 10th, 1865,
wherein the Committee on the Conduct of the War, Benjamin F. Wade, Chairman, reports on an unprovoked attack by Colorado militia on a Cheyenne village in which sixty-nine, two thirds women and children, were killed and the bodies left on the field.
The Indian side of much of the trouble of the years following 1861 may be read in Forty Years with the Cheyennes, written by George Bent for
a Colorado Springs monthly. Bents mother was Owl Woman of the Southern Cheyennes, and his father, Col. William Bent, the widely known proprietor of Bents Fort on the Arkansas, also called Fort William. Young Bent left school to join the Confederate army, was captured, paroled, and sent to his father. He then went to his mothers people and remained with them.
There was at least one American of early Western days who looked on the Indian with more sympathy. This was George Catlin, now famous for his paintings and books. Thanks to a kind Providence, not to our foresight, his invaluable painted records of a life that is past are now the property of the United States. Thomas Donaldson gives an exhaustive review of Catlin, his paintings in the National Museum, and his books in
Part V, Report of the U. S. National Museum
We are not here concerned with Catlins paintings and only note his literary output. His
Letters and Notes on the Manners and Customs of the North American Indians, Written During Eight Years Travel Among the Wildest Tribes of Indians in North America in 1832, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, and 39, with Four Hundred Illustrations Carefully Engraved from his Original Paintings
was published first in London, at his own expense, in 1841. The same year it was brought out in New York. Another of his volumes was
Catlins Notes of Eight Years Travels and Residence in Europe with his North American Indian Collection, with Anecdotes and Adventures of Three Different Parties of American Indians whom he Introduced to the Courts of England, France and Belgium
(1848). A book of his that raised strong doubts as to his veracity was
Okeepa, A Religious Ceremony, and other Customs of the Mandans,
which was published in Philadelphia in 1867, and gave one of the earliest accounts of the extraordinary Okeepa ceremonial: a self-sacrificial affair akin to the Sun Dance of the Dakotas. The book today is recognized as veracious and valuable. He wrote
Life among the Indians
(1861) for young folk, and in 1837 he brought out a
Catalogue of Catlins Indian Gallery of Portraits, Landscapes, Manners, Customs, and Costumes, etc.
His well-known, and now rare,
North American Indian Portfolio, Twenty-five largeTinted Drawings on Stone, some Coloured by Hand in Imitation of the Authors Sketches,
appeared in London in 1844; his
Shut your Mouth
in 1865; and
Last Rambles amongst the Indians of the Rocky Mountains and the Andes
in London in 1868.
His viewpoint was totally different from that of the trapper or pioneer, explorer or traveller. Catlin was interested in the Indian as a man. The Indians have always loved me, he declares, and why should I not love the Indians? He wrote a Creed, part of which was: I love the people who have always made me welcome to the best they had. I love the people who have never raised a hand against me, or stolen my property, where there was no law to punish for either.
The Mormons soon adopted a conciliatory policy towards the Indians, feeling it was more profitable to deal justly with them, to pay them, than to fight them. It was obligatory to have a cool clear-headed man to carry out such a policy, and Brigham Young selected Jacob Hamblin for the service. No better choice could have been made. Slow of speech, quick of thought and action, this Leatherstocking of Utah was usually called Old Jacob. He tells an interesting story through James A. Little in
Jacob Hamblin, a Narrative of his Personal Experiences
(1881). A devoted Mormon, he was never unfriendly to other sects and often assisted persons of opposite faith, at least on two occasions saving lives.
The list of books on Indians is enormous, the Bureau of Ethnology alone having produced a great many, including the series of thirty-two invaluable
inaugurated by J. W. Powell, as well as more than fifty-eight equally important
George Bird Grinnells
Indians of Today
The North Americans of Yesterday
(1901) by Frederick S. Dellenbaugh are two volumes which present a wide general survey.
A famous man associated with Indians throughout his life was Kit Carson, one of the most remarkable and upright characters of the Far West. Dewitt C. Peters persuaded Carson to dictate to him the story of his life. The last and complete edition is
Kit Carsons Life and Adventures
(1873). George D. Brewerton in
(1853) wrote an account of A Ride with Kit Carson through the Great American Desert and the Rocky Mountains. This ride was made in 1848 and was over the Spanish Trail eastward from Los Angeles. The springs are few and far between in Southern Nevada and South-Eastern California, and in studying this route and the literature pertaining to the region Walter C. Mendenhalls
Some Desert Watering Places
(U. S. Water Supply Paper 224, 1909) is most useful.
Some experiences were published long afterward, as in the case of William Lewis Manlys
Death Valley in 49,
which was never printed till 1894. It is deeply interesting. The author, arrived at Green River, decided with several others to shorten the journey by taking to the river, and was hurled through the torrential waters of Red Canyon and Lodore. Later he joined a California caravan to suffer terribly in Death Valley.
John Bidwell, an earliest pioneer, has contributed to
The Century Magazine,
vol. XIX, and to
Out West Magazine,
vol. XX, some invaluable reminiscences. He was with the first emigrant train to California. It crossed in 1841. In 1853 Captain Howard Stansbury made a report on his
Exploration and Survey of the Valley of Great Salt Lake,
the valley where the Mormons already were proving by irrigation the accuracy of Frèmonts statement as to its fertility.
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