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)
2 REPORT$ OF THE DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR. 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.
As a work of the United States government, this material is in the public domain.| For information on re-use see: http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/Copyright