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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 10

10     REPORTS OF THE DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR. 
showed in pursuing game the Indian of to-day must bring to bear 
upon his new livelihood. 
The thoughtless make sport of the Indian's love of personal adorn- 
ment, forgetting that nature has given him an artistic instinct of 
which this is merely the natural expression. What harm does it do 
him that he likes a red kerchief around his neck or feels a thrill of 
pride in the silver buckle on his belt?  Does not the banker in the 
midst of civilization wear a scarf pin and a watch chain, and fasten 
his linen cuffs with links of gold? The highest of us is none the 
worse for the love of what is bright and pleasant to the eye. Our 
duty is plainly not to strangle the Indian's artistic craving, but to 
direct it into a channel where its satisfaction will bear the best fruit
for himself and the world. 
A white visitor among the Moqui in Arizona, looking at some of 
the earthenware, coarse and rude in quality, but ornamented elabo- 
rately with symbolic figures of serpents and lightning and clouds and 
dropping rain, remarked on the symmetrical grace of the outline of 
a certain vase. A friend rebuked him with the comment that the 
Indian who made that vase would have been better employed hoeing 
in his corn patch at the foot of the mesa. 
The criticism was founded on a wrong principle. Here was a piece 
of work showing real artistic spirit. Hoeing corn is right enough, 
but we can not all hoe corn. Some of us must teach, and some write 
for the press, and some sell goods, and some build houses. We are 
all equally producers, and if it were not for diversity of occupation 
and production the world would be a cheerless and uncomfortable 
place indeed. Corn will feed us, but it will not clothe us or shelter 
us or furnish us with mental occupation. Aside entirely from the 
question of the relation of diversified production to the higher civili-
zation, we may well ask ourselves whether beauty has no place in the 
social economy. We can live without it, but life is certainly fuller 
for having it. The vase has its use in the world as well as the ear 
of corn. 
The critic had a further word of censure for the character of the 
decorations, expressing his regret that the pantheism or nature wor- 
ship of the Indian sticks out even in his ornamentation of a vase. 
Here again was a false note of comment. Believe as strongly as we 
may in winning the Indian away from his superstitions, it would be 
hard to tell how these symbols on a vase, if decorative in character, 
were going to hurt the Indian, or through his art spread his fetishism. 
With all our boasted civilization we have not yet banished Cinderella 
or the Sleeping Beauty from the libraries of our children, nor would 
we. The mythical Santa Claus and his chimney are still a feature 
of the Christmas celebration, a festival supposed to be commemora- 
tive of the birth of Christianity in the person of its Founder. The 


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