The American Indian - Delivered July 1966 - RR251A2
The media player is loading...
|This transcript is unedited. It was:|
|Archived by the Mt. Olive Tape Library|
|Digitized, transcribed, and published by Christ Rules|
|Posted by with permission.|
Our subject this evening is the American Indian. Before we can discuss the meaning of the American Indian in our history we have to disabuse ourselves of some very prevalent myths about the American Indian.
The American Indian is one of the two backward peoples in American society. The Negro and the Indian both have a very depressed condition. Significantly of the two, the Negro is a target of considerable prejudice, and has an extremely low place in our society. The American Indian economically has an even lower place than most Negro’s.
But in the popular imagination he has a very high place. He is the subject of a great many myths. He has a glamorous figure in the public eye. Before we can understand the Indian we must disabuse ourselves of some of these myths, and then possible for us to appreciate the very real qualities that the Indian does have.
First of all, when the white man came to North America he very often had a myth in his mind concerning the noble savage, especially in the 18th century this was true.
One of the prevalent ideas in Europe was deism with its ideas of natural religion. And the thesis of this natural religion concept was that wherever in the world you went you would find men naturally believed in God, immortality, and all the virtues. And according to their theory the unspoiled savage of North America would be the prime example of this natural religion he would be a believer of the Great Spirit and the happy hunting ground and everything else that their mythology told them the Indian should believe in.
So, when they landed in this country these natural religionist in the eighteenth century and the early part of the nineteenth century they went among the Indians, and asked them “Do you believe in these things?” Now the Indian has an Oriental quality in that he is agreeable to a stranger. He doesn’t want to cause him to lose face.
And so he said “Yes” to every kind of question, with the result they wrote up all these stories and they found lo and behold the Indian proved their case. He believed everything they said he should believe in. The “Great Spirit”, the “Happy Hunting Ground”, all these things.
Actually, the Indian has a variety of beliefs none of which coincided or resembled these myths that these writers had in their minds. And he was NOT a noble savage! We’ll come to that in a moment.
Then another great myth which is still with us is that the Indian was a great conservationist. The white man came to North America and immediately began to destroy this magnificent country, and we are the sorted, ugly, creatures who brought nothing but havoc to this continent and the Indian was the one who knew how to care for nature.
Again, this is a myth! The American Indian probably at his peak, never numbered three hundred thousand or more in what is now the United States. As a result, there are not too many of them! Or where he was not a conservationist, for example, one way he had of hunting was to send a few men to one side of a prairie or to one side of a forest to light a fire, and the fire would smoke out all the game so they would come rushing out the other side so the “noble savages” could stand there and kill them. [00:04:43]
This is hardly good conservation...
This is hardly good conservation! The only reason the Indian didn’t lay waste the continent with his ideas of hunting which was to get as much meat as he could, to jerk it, and save it for hard times so that he would not starve, was that there were too few of them to ruin the continent.
Actually the game increased on when the white man came. This seems hard for us to believe, but if you realize that what the white man landed on the Atlantic Coast it was possible for him to walk to Illinois and never see the sun, because he would be under the shade of trees. You realized then how little vegetation there was under those trees because when you were in a thick forest, the ground is simply for the most part, dead leaves and decaying matter. Not grass, grass needs sun.
Now when the white man cleared the forest and began to plant immediately there was an abundance of grass around the edges of this field and expanse, and of course, the deer began to multiply where ever the white man was and this brought the Indians. So that while the white man was taking over Indian territory, the Indian was finding that the white man’s territory was the richest for gain because this was where the deer increased, and this was the place to hunt. And then of course when you hunted deer it was very good! You got yourself a few cows, there’s a lot more meat on a cow than there was on a deer.
And of course, this created problems. So that with this in mind let us recognize that the Indian has been the subject of a great many myths. In reality he was a savage. He was a cannibal. In fact, the very word ‘cannibal’ comes from the American Indian. Originally it was from the word “Caribbean” and the Caribbean Indians as well as many of the North American Indians were cannibals so that when you spoke about a Caribbean you were talking about a cannibal and the word gradually became corrupted from Caribbean to cannibal.
They were more-over, exactly what the word ‘savage’ denotes! Not a nice people. They didn’t fit these ideas of the ‘noble savage’. Because I think we cannot understand the Indian unless we recognize exactly what he was: he was a savage. But he was one of the most superior savages the world has yet seen; we have encountered savages in Africa, Asia, South America, and various parts of the world.
But the Indian has deserved has deserved a great deal of the admiration he has gained and before we can assess him realistically and see his place in terms of the future we have to know him as he is.
The Indian, unlike the Negro, refused to be enslaved and to this day the Indian -and most of the United States- despise the Negro. There’s scarcely anyone in the United States more hostile to the Negro, more contemptuous of him, then the American Indian. And with his savage sense of humor he can often be ruthless to any Negro who comes around. And the reason is a very simple one. [00:09:15]
[?] “You were enslaved, we wouldn’t be enslaved...
[?] “You were enslaved, we wouldn’t be enslaved.” The Indian more-over is a realist, and he looks at life with a very pragmatic eye. And the attitude of the older generation of Indians as I knew them, and as you’ll find in the records was, “We were a good people. White man had to fight hard to beat us. He was the better man, he won. But we’re better than the Negro, he didn’t fight, he was a slave.”
More-over the Indian life was a rugged kind of survival of the fittest and it took a great deal of courage to be an Indian. You could not qualify as a warrior until you met the most rigorous kinds of tests. I think those of the Plains Indians such as the Sioux, the Cheyenne’s, the Shoshone and other similar tribes are particularly of interest. These were perhaps the outstanding tribes of America and when we think the Indian we usually have in our mind the picture of someone like the Sioux.
What did it take to be a man amongst the Sioux? Well, the young man could not become a warrior, he could not marry, and he was not an adult, until he danced the Sun Dance. This was one expectant of his qualification, of his initiation into manhood. What was the Sun Dance? It was not the silly little tourist attraction you see now-a-days.
It was something comparable to a maypole, and the young man you presented themselves as candidates for manhood were taken to this maypole with great big branches coming out, and thongs coming down from it, and the older men of the tribes took a knife and pried up a muscles on their back, put the thong that came down from above through those muscles and cinched them up. Then they were to dance three days and three nights around that maypole it varied as to time in different tribes and bands singing the joys of becoming a man. They could not become a warrior or marry if they failed. If they passed out and dropped- which of course ripped the muscles- they then had to wait till next year and try again. This took of course considerable courage. And it meant that you quickly bred out the weaklings.
Also their life from the hunt and in battle was one which required the quickest kind of reflexes and intelligence. And as a result the kind of Indian that was bred was one which had a tremendous resistance to pain. An ability to take incredible pain, pain without flinching., and an ability to survive under very difficult circumstances.
To give you a couple of examples from among the Shoshone's, whom I knew, stories told to me by the old timers. Because I buried the generation of Indians who saw the first white man coming cross the plain and grew up in the old days when they hunted with bows and arrows and who could remember the Indian wars. And I talked to Nez Perce Indians by the hour in my home who as young boys who were on the march with Chief Josev, so I heard a great deal the stories of the old days, and they like to tell them to me because their children and grandchildren were more interested in comic books then the old days, and there was no one except myself, so they were ready to come over and talk until one and two in the morning and tell me about the old days.
But here are two stories. The Shoshone’s did not of course always kill a man when they scalped him; if they were not too angry with him they took his scalp and turned him loose. A few years before a went to the Western Shoshone reservation a white blacksmith not too far North in Idaho had just passed away who had been scalped years and years before. And I was told by some of the folks there that he had no ill will toward the Indians, he had expected to be killed when he was caught and he was very grateful to get away with nothing more than the loss of his scalp.
Now, among the young the Shoshone’s, when there were two young men who were contending for leadership, or they were contending for the favors of some girl. They would very often have a contest as to who would be the outstanding runner or hunter, and the one would bet his scalp against the other. Now the loser of course, would then sit down and allow the winner to scalp him, but if the loser could take it well, he could be the moral victor in the case. If when he sat down on a rock and allowed the winner to scalp him, he not only took it without wincing, but was witty enough to keep the girls in stitches when it was happening, he was really a hero. And they could do this! [00:15:52]
I have seen Indians take incredible pain, and in one...
I have seen Indians take incredible pain, and in one instance a couple of the choir boys who sometimes didn’t show up on Sundays because they were too drunk, when they were drunk would always fight with each other. And they got along nicely when they were sober, but they were mortal enemies when drunk. And on one occasion the one of them was so savagely beaten up that he was in the hospital for a couple months having his jaw rewired; so he wanted to get even when he got out. And did get even, he worked the other man over, or the other young fellow over with a knife so thoroughly that it was just incredible. And the doctor, (of the Rio Tinto Mine?) told me that “Hooper walked in, holding his intestines in his hands and said “Hey Doc, can you sew me up?” he had been twice perforated in the intestines and the doctor said he knew of no case where they had survived with such perforations he and the nurse worked all night on the young man and took over nine hundred and sixty stitches in him from head to foot and in three weeks he was up and around as good as new and drunk again.
But this is the fantastic ability of them to take pain! Never a murmur or a wince. This comes from centuries of schooling. Again the ability to survive. In a blinding snow as so often come in the Midwest or the plains country it’s common for some adults too be caught and to freeze to death. I’ve known that to happen in my days there in Nevada. And of course for a small child to be caught in the wilds means certain death. But not for an Indian, or an Indian child, because this was a part of their training.
For example, this was one of the stories I was told of a small boy, of an Indian, when a small boy, being caught in a raid, and their small band, two families out hunting, was wiped out. Now the Indians education in the old days, was the stories the Grandfathers told to the boys and the Grandmothers to the girls, telling them stories of how to live, of things they had experienced, now listen and live because this is the way to act. This boy knew from the stories what to do. He found an animal hole and crawled into it at the first sign of fight and pulled the leaves and twigs over and he stayed there not only when there was sound overhead but until it was dark. And then he crawled out. He found everyone dead except his father who was seriously wounded. And with a little liquid refreshment his father was able to get up and they made their way and finally they lay down for the night, having gone a short distance. Then his father told him, he said, “Now, you know what to do, and if when you wake up I’m cold, don’t cry, and don’t waste any time on me, just go on. From your Grandfather’s stories you know how to take care of yourself.” [00:19:56]
It was October, in country where it not only snows...
It was October, in country where it not only snows but drops often to zero at that time of the year. That boy was out in the wilderness for two weeks! Until finally he found the camp where he approached them from the proper direction so the dogs wouldn’t smell him. He came close enough to hear that they were speaking Bannock so they were related people and he walked into camp. He never froze to death, he didn’t starve, he was about four or five years old at the time.
Now, this was the Indian. He had this intelligence geared for warfare, for hunting, for survival. He does have a high order of intelligence. Few savages equal him. But today... he sits on isolated reservations across country, sometimes on poor land, but very often we must remember, on very fine land. And he sits in great poverty. Many a cabin that I’ve been in half or a third the size of this room, a dirt floor, log cabins, ten or twelve people living in it. And when people come and see the Indians living in such circumstance, their attitude is the government ought to do something about it. But the answer to that is that the government has done too much. And we cannot understand the Indian problem until we realize that the Indian today is a sorry figure. He lives on the reservations, under very poor conditions, an alcoholic -and drinking is very commonplace even among children after the fourth grade- and it’s very rare that any child in high school is not a heavy drinker and morally delinquent.
He is a beaten person. He fought hard and he is right in giving himself tribute for his battle. And some of his bitterest fighting came when he knew that the end was in sight. The western Indian knew that he was finished in eighteen sixty-nine but some of the severest battles took place after that. 1869 is the key dates in the western Indian history because it was in that year that the railroad spanned the Continent. As long as the white man came across the plain in covered wagons or as isolated groups on horseback the Indian knew he could deal with them. But when he rode out on the buttes and mountain tops and looked at the first iron monster go hurtling across the plains and through the mountains he knew that the end had come. This was something he could not stop.
And so, in 1870, there began a movement which is extremely important in understanding the Western Indian. The Ghost Dance. What was the ghost dance? It began in Nevada and spread throughout the West into Canada, Mexico, and even into the East. The Indians began to dance and to dream dreams and to have visions and they said that Jesus Monte’ Zuma [?] who was for them the spirit of all the powers -the animals, the ghosts, the powers of the beyond- was angry at the white man and he would send a great wind which would begin at the Atlantic and pick up all the white men from one end of the continent and deposit them in the Pacific Ocean. And the Indians dead would rise out of their graves and the buffalo and the antelope and the elk would be thick on all the thousand hills of the America, and the Indian would have paradise.
They had put together certain aspects of what they had heard from Biblical teaching about the resurrection of the dead and about Jesus, put together their wishful thinking for the end of the white man and for their hopes for themselves and it come out with this new religion. [00:25:34]
If only they did certain things, if only they danced...
If only they did certain things, if only they danced the ghost dance with enough faith, this would happen. And so they would dance the ghost dance to the point of exhaustion and nothing would happen and the move would subside. But then, other runners of this faith would span out across country saying they had had visions that if only they did certain things and danced the dance again in certain ways all this would come to pass. And the movement flared up and subsided, flared up and subsided, until the last gasp of it ended in nineteen thirty-one.
When Jack Wilson the leader of the Ghost dance movement fell ill and in thirty-two died in Nevada and with it the last gasp of hope ended, and Peyotism took over. The religion which uses the Peyote, a narcotics, a cactus button, which has an effect similar to L.S.D. and regards it as their God, as their Healer, as their Cure for all things.
It is very prevalent. A few old timers when I was there still harked back to the old days, and the first funeral I attended when I went to the reservation to conduct the services... it was in November during the war. And the snow was on the ground and the funeral feast which always precedes the funeral was about to begin and the great crowd of M.D.M’s that had gathered in wagons and on horseback were standing around a number of outside fires warming themselves, and the this old Shoshone medicine man began to speak and he said “Let us go back to the old ways. The good old ways. Worship the wolf, for he is the true god. Which of the white man believe in their religion, even their own school books tell us that we have descended from the animals. Our religion is the true religion. Worship the wolf, for he is god.”
But most of them only listened with idle curiosity, the Peyote cult with its green world of narcotics, was the safe refuge from reality for many of them and for the rest of them it was what they termed “The Whiskey Religion”. For them, very realistically whiskey was a religion; it was a sure answer to the problems of life.
The old Indian character had been a rugged one. But under the reservation system what character they had was gone. Because when the Indian was defeated the one policy of the white man was get him out of the way, and so he was put on reservations, often good ones, but he was used to hunting. Not to ranching or farming. And to keep him on the reservation, to keep him from hunting, he was given a ration. He presented himself every fort night or every Saturday at the agency and received a handout of food and clothing.
As a result, very quickly he forgot how to hunt and to fish. He depended on the government hand out. And so the Indian who was a great hunter very quickly seized to be a hunter. And the ironic fact is that on the western Shoshone reservation where I was it was a missionary, one of the first missionaries there, [Imoshwab?] went there I believe in nineteen thirteen or fourteen who taught the Indians again how to hunt.
Then, when they had destroyed the Indian character with his hand out system they decided we’ve got to do something about the Indians. So the government policy became, let’s Americanize the Indian. Let’s make him a good American citizen. How? Well, teach him everything we have. [00:30:28]
And so to break the ways of the Indians, the Indian...
And so to break the ways of the Indians, the Indian children were forcibly taken from their homes and put in boarding schools some distance from their homes. And of course we all know Carlisle the most famous of such boarding schools which turned out champion football teams year after year, under Pop Warner who began his football career as coach for these Indians. I knew many of Pop Warner’s boys. But the trouble with this was that it destroyed the basic security of the child which is his home. And so, while they went off to school and they got excellent schooling, when they returned they were shattered personality with no security. And as soon as they returned home, these Indian boys and girls who had been put through a school and often a college immediately became wine-o’s and that was the end of that.
Then the next policy which began with Roosevelt and Ickes was “let us Indianize the Indian. Let us take him back to his old ways. Because he is an Indian, therefore let him live like an Indian” But this was an artificial product, as one Indian in Arizona said to (Calyer?), the commissioner of Indian affairs when he was talking about this program to the tribal council: “We Indians are ready to go back to the old ways when you white men will leave the car for the covered wagon and you’re washing machine for the wash board.”
It was an absurd policy, but it prevailed for a good many years through the new deal years and began to break up only under Truman.
Now actually there is no policy except a bureaucracy which is perpetuating itself. And so the Indian sits on the reservation depended upon the government, increasingly becoming a useless figure. And he knows it. He has no respect, as I indicated, for the Negro. He doesn’t have too much respect for himself. And he has less and less respect for the white man. Because he understands that what the white man has done too the Indian he is doing to himself. [00:33:33]
One of my most vivid experiences was on New Year’s...
One of my most vivid experiences was on New Year’s day of nineteen forty-four... I was at the home of the young Indian who had just been discharged by the army, and the trouble was that he was a good soldier except when he was on leave and then he was drunk. And not only drunk, but very disorderly! In fact he spent a good deal of the day that New Year’s afternoon and evening telling about his experiences across the country- what fun he’d had on his leave, and how drunk he’d gotten, and how many MP’s it took to handle him, and what a shambles it made of the bar where he was served, and he got a good laugh out of it.
His three sisters were picking out the dinner, was on the mountain side of the little log cabin on the reservation and they brought the gasoline lamp, lit it, and he looked out of the window across the valley. And you could see the lamps being lit in one cabin after another, and he waved out at them and said “Look at them. My people. Good for nothing like myself. Just a bunch of wine downers. We belong here on a reservation, with a fence around it and “Uncle Sam” taking care of us.” and he said, “You know, I’ve been over I’ve been over this country one end of the country to the other. The white man’s got reservation papers! He wants someone to take care of him. And somebody is gonna do it one of these days, he said. The German’s aren’t gonna do it, the Japs aren’t gonna do it. But one of these days soon some outfit is gonna come around and take over, and put a big fence around the whole of the United States. And take care of the white man, give him what he wants, tell him what to do, crack a whip over him. And then he’ll be happy. He’s got reservation fever.” [00:36:16]
That young Indian knew what he was talking about...
That young Indian knew what he was talking about. And our answer to the Indian problem is basically our answer to ourselves. What are we gonna do with ourselves? We do have reservation fever, we do want cradle to grave security, and we are destroying ourselves. And there is no future for the American Indian because there is no future for us unless we change our ways. And with one simple illustration, I’d like to close with that.
No Indian had a worst treatment than the California Indian. In some respects he was the most backward. When gold was discovered he had already had rough treatment for some time from the hands of the Spanish. The Spanish were not gentle with him; he had a very rough time of it. Then the forty-niners came and discovered gold and so his hiding place from the Spaniards, the mountains, became unsafe because this was gold country.
On top of that the gold miners came across the plains without their women folk. So, they took every Indian girl that looked passably good and chased off the Indian (or shot him on sight) and left only the most awful looking women, the ones that they couldn’t stomach even when they hadn’t seen a woman for two or three years, a white woman, for the Indians! So the poor Indian was in a really bad way.
And he was as depressed a class as any in American life at any time. But it was totally a free situation. What happened? Within ten-fifteen years, the Indian who was as far down as he could be was beginning to work his way out from the lowest of the lower class to the middle class, and a few were advancing themselves even higher. It was a totally free situation, it was sink or swim. And so the Indian was swimming! It was the only way to survive.
And as a result the Indian was beginning to find his place in American life, in California. And the roughest situation he had faced anywhere in the United States with great perpetuity and his future was very bright one. Until, the reservation system was imposed on him. Now the reservation, he went down. And he had stayed there. And the reservation system has tended to breed the worst element, and to hamper the best.
This is exactly what we are doing as we are turning the whole United States into a reservation. The worst element among the Negro’s, the welfare people are the fastest breeding and the best supported. The white man has reservation fever. And this is destroying the Indian, the Negro, and the white man. What we do for the Indian and the future depends most of all and first of all on what we do with ourselves.
[Some images or objects are displayed]
Just a few things here -I believe our time is just about up- this is a cradle board. This is Shoshone, the mothers carry the babies in these from birth to sometimes four years of age. They have different sizes for the different ages. You rarely hear an Indian baby cry, here are some babies moccasins - for a toddler, really- and because the mother carries the baby on her back when she shops or when she works around the house, the baby always feels the mothers presence near. The motion of being carried about is very comforting and as a result the baby never cries. The mothers would come into church with these cradle boards -and this is one that has been used- and take them off and put them in the aisle. And if the baby was at all restless they just rocked it this way, and the baby was immediately quiet. [00:41:40]
I’ve seen three or four year old Indian babies when it’s nap time run and grab the cradle board, take it to their mother, and ask to be strapped in! They slept better in the cradle board, it was quite a thing for them finally to be weaned from the cradle board.
[Audience member] That almost seems dangerous, doesn’t it?
[Rushdoony] No, the Indian mothers were very quick about lacing and unlacing these I don’t know how they did it, it would take me forever to do it! But they had a way of doing it so that they did it in just a few seconds.
[Audience member] The Indians made it work [?] on it...
Rushdoony Oh yes, yes. Not in the old days of course, but nowadays they do. Then the Indians of the west made excellent baskets. These are old time baskets; they’re very fragile so I would prefer it that you didn’t handle them because they should rightly be in a museum and in a show case under the proper humidity to preserve them. But baskets like this were used to carry water and they were so tightly woven that they did carry water beautifully. This one of course is now too dry for that purpose.
[Audience member] [?]
[Rushdoony] They would put a wooden top in it, like cork. Then this type of bowl would be used for various kinds of meal and this one also for cooking. Larger baskets of which I have one or two, about so big around with a very loose weave were used for roasting food over a fire.
[Audience member] Why wouldn’t it burn?
[Rushdoony] A good question. First, these were made wet. Second, they were kept wet; when you weren’t using them you put them in the stream. Then third, when you -for example- roasted something over a fire whatever you had you moved around like this, you see. Over the fire, and you didn’t have a fire, you had a bed of coals. The Indian was definitely was more observant than the white man when he built a campfire. Because, as they would always laugh: “white men build big fire much slow cook. Big fire? No can get near get near fire, no can get warm, just eat slow! Indian builds small fire, sit over, get warm.”
The Indians were excellent too in leather work. These of course are modern examples. Things that they used for everyday work or cattle work. And they do make excellent buckskin. This is for a woman; they’re another pair of riding gloves.
[Audience member] Do they ride cattle?
[Rushdoony] Oh yes, very good. This is their life; they love to be on horseback! And for them their idea of wealth is in horses. Now, it’s hard to realize that the Indians did not have horses when Columbus came to America. The Spaniards brought over horses the Indians stole them and took to them with a great rapidity. But there was no such thing as a horse on the North American Continent.
[Audience member] Is that so? But there were wild horses on the prairie?
[Rushdoony] No, no. They became wild as they ran away. But when I was on the reservation, for example, there was nothing for an Indian to have forty horses. Forty to fifty of them. Some of them he might rarely use, but the idea of cutting back on them was terrible! He might only have forty or fifty cows, and he could improve his situation financially if he cut his horses down before to four or five, but this was unthinkable! That was wealth to him. Horses.
[lecture was ended abruptly]...
[lecture was ended abruptly]