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United States. Office of Indian Affairs / Annual report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, for the year 1905, Part I

Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs,   pp. 1-155 PDF (58.6 MB)

Page 2

Suppose, a few centuries ago, an absolutely alien people like the 
Chinese had invaded our shores and driven the white colonists before 
them to districts more and more isolated, destroyed the industries 
on which they had always subsisted, and crowned all by disarming 
them and penning them on various tracts of land where they could 
be fed and clothed and cared for at no cost to themselves, to what 
condition would the white Americans of to-day have been reduced? 
In spite of their vigorous ancestry they would surely have lapsed 
into barbarism and become pauperized. No race on earth could 
overcome, with forces evolved from within themselves, the effect of 
such treatment. That our red brethren have not been wholly ruined 
by it is the best proof we could ask of the sturdy traits of character 
inherent in them. But though not ruined, they have suffered serious 
deterioration, and the chief problem now before us is to prevent its 
going any further. To that end we must reckon with several facts. 
First, little can be done to change the Indian who has already 
passed middle life. By virtue of that very quality of steadfastness 
which we admire in him when well applied, he is likely to remain 
an Indian of the old school to the last. With the younger adults 
we can do something here and there, where we find one who is not 
too conservative; but our main hope lies with the youthful generation, 
who are still measurably plastic. The picture which rises in the 
minds of most Eastern white persons when they read petitions in 
which Indians pathetically describe themselves as " ignorant" and
"poor," is that of a group of red men hungry for knowledge and
eager for a chance to work and earn their living like white men. 
In actual life and in his natural state, however, the Indian is sus- 
picious of the white race-we can hardly blame him for that-and 
wants nothing to do with us; he clings to the ways of his ancestors, 
insisting that they are better than ours; and he resents every effort 
of the Government either to educate his children or to show him how 
he can turn an honest dollar for himself by other means than his 
grandfathers used-or an appropriation from the Treasury. That 
is the plain truth of the situation, strive as we may to gloss it with 
poetic fancies or hide it under statistical reports of progress. The 
task we must set ourselves is to win over the Indian children by 
sympathetic interest and unobtrusive guidance. It is a great mistake 
to try, as many good persons of bad judgment have tried, to start 
the little ones in the path of civilization by snapping all the ties of 
affection between them and their parents, and teaching them to 
despise the aged and nonprogressive members of their families. The 
sensible as well as the humane plan is to nourish their love of father 
and mother and home-a wholesome instinct which nature planted in 
them for a wise end-and then to utilize this affection as a means of 
reaching, through them, the hearts of the elders. 

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