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

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


Page 6

6      REPORTS OF THE DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR. 
to deserve and the ambition to ask for the best there is in American 
education is likely to be refused. All that I have asserted is-what 
anybody familiar-with the field can see for himself-that the mass of 
Indian children, like the corresponding mass of white children, are 
not prepared for conveyance beyond the elementary studies. They 
are not in a condition to absorb and assimilate, or to utilize effectively,
the higher learning of the books, and it is unwise to promote an un- 
practical at the expense of an obviously practical system of teaching. 
Moreover, unlike the Caucasian, the average Indian hates new things 
on the mere ground of their novelty, and resists obstinately all 
attempts from outside to change his condition; while, unlike the 
negro and some other colored types, he has no strain of the imitative 
in his nature, and never aspires from within to be a white man. 
Whatever you do for him in the line of improvement you have, as a 
rule, to press upon him by endless patience and tact and by a multi- 
tude of persuasive devices; and I insist that it is foolish to force 
upon an Indian those studies which have no relation to his environ- 
ment and which he can not turn to account, as long as there is so much 
of a simpler sort which he is capable of learning and which he 
actually must know in order to make his way in the world. 
A second critic will doubtless air his fears as to what will become 
of the Indian's land and money under this " wide-open" policy.
To 
such an one I would respond: "What is to become of the land or the 
money that you are going to leave to your children, or I to mine? 
Will they be any better able to take care of it for having been always 
kept without experience in handling property of any kind? "  Swin- 
dlers will unquestionably lay snares for the weakest and most igno- 
rant Indians, just as they do for the corresponding class of whites. 
We are guarding the Indian temporarily against his own follies in 
land transactions by holding his allotment in trust for him for 
twenty years or more unless he sooner satisfies us of his business 
capacity. Something of the same sort will be done with respect to 
the principal of his money. In spite of all our care, however, after 
we have taken our hands off he may fall a victim to sharp practices; 
but the man never lived-red, white, or any other color-who did not 
learn a more valuable lesson from one hard blow than from twenty 
warnings. 
A great deal has been said and written about the " racial tendency"
of the Indian to squander whatever comes into his hands. This is no 
more "racial'" than his tendency to eat and drink to excess or
to pre- 
fer pleasure to work: it is simply the assertion of a primitive instinct
common to all mankind in the lower stages of social development. 
What we call thrift is nothing but the forecasting sense which recog- 
nizes the probability of a to-morrow; the "dea of a to-morrow is 
the boundary between barbarism and civilization, and the only way 


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