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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 9

COMMISSIONER OF INDIAN AFFAIRS. 
nature's work and do it over, but grand results are possible if we 
simply turn her forces into the best channels. 
The Indian character is often misjudged because studied from 
.poor specimens. As Americans we are quick to resent criticisms 
passed upon us by foreign tourists who have never visited us in our 
homes, and whose impressions of our whole people have been gained 
from chance acquaintances picked up at hotels and in public convey- 
ances. On our own part, if we wish to know more of the Italian 
people, for instance, we do not visit the pauper colony of Rome, or 
accept as the standard type of the nation the lazzaroni who swarm 
around the quays of Venice. In like manner, if we are to treat the 
Indian with justice, we must not judge him by the hanger-on about 
the edges of an agency or by the lazy fellow who lounges all the day 
in a gambling room of a frontier town. To get at the real Indian 
we have got to go back into the wilder country, where white ways 
have not penetrated. There we find him a man of fine physique, a 
model of hospitality, a kind parent, a genial companion, a stanch 
friend, and a faithful pledge keeper. Is not this a pretty good foun- 
dation upon which to build? 
I have no absurd idea of painting the Indian as perfect in char- 
acter, or even well on the road toward perfection. Against his 
generosity as a host must be balanced his expectation that the guest 
of to-day will entertain him in return to-morrow. His courage in 
battle is offset by his conviction that any means are fair for outwit- 
ting and any cruelty permissible in punishing an enemy, The duty 
of our civilization is not forcibly to uproot his strong traits as an 
Indian, but to induce him to modify them; to teach him to recognize 
the nobility of giving without expectation of return, and to see true 
chivalry in good faith toward an active foe and mercy for a fallen 
one. The pugnacity and grit which command our admiration on 
the battlefield, the readiness to endure hunger and fatigue and cold 
for the sake of making a martial movement effective, are the very 
qualities which, turned toward some better accomplishment than 
bloodshed, would compel success. It is therefore our part not to 
destroy them, but to direct them aright. We accuse the Indian of 
maltreating his women because he expects them to cultivate the corn 
and fetch the water from the spring and carry the burdens on the 
march. We do not always pause to reflect that this is after all a 
matter of convention rather than of moral principle. When the 
chase was the Indian's principal means of getting food for his camp, 
his women were absolved from any share in his arduous enterprises; 
and in war, offensive or defensive, he has always provided well for 
their protection. Our attitude toward this subject ought to be that, 
in a game-stripped country, farming, lumbering or herding must 
take the place of hunting, and that the same prowess his fathers 


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