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Chapter 30: Oklahoma.

Oklahoma is the name proposed by Creek and Cherokee radicals for the Indian countries, when the tribes shall have become a people, and the hunting grounds a State. Enthusiasts, like Adair and Boudinot, dream of such a time. These Indians cannot heal their tribal wounds, nor get their sixteen thousand Cherokees to live in peace; yet they indulge the hope of reconciling Creek and Seminole, Choctaw and Chickasaw, under a common rule and a single flag. Still more, their hearts go out into a day when tribes still wild and pagan-Cheyennes, Apaches, Kiowas, and other Bad Faces — will have ceased to lift cattle and steal squaws, will have buried the hatchet and scalping-knife, and will have learned to read penny fiction and to drink whisky like White men.

That day is yet a long way off. [303]

A “new policy” has just been adopted by President Grant towards the Red men, with a view to their more speedy settlement and conversion. This policy is founded on Franciscan experience, but adapted to the principles of a secular state, and the existing order of things. In future, the Indians are to be received and marked .as “wards.” Driven by bayonets into nooks and corners, they are now placed under the guidance of certain sects, who feed and teach them, and under the inspection of certain captains, who watch and shoot them, should they be caught roaming across the paper lines. The teachers, anxious to please the sects and “justify the ways of God,” have created an ideal Indian country, smiling with imaginary ranches, gardens, schools, and churches. Every Indian reservation has a school fund on paper, and in some settlements there are actual sheds called schools. The captains tell another tale. These captains have no theories to support. When a white ranch has been violated, as at Snake River, or a white family scalped, as at Smoky Hill, they have to chase and fight the savages. Illusions find no place in a frontier post. Now, it is the short and simple truth to say that-so far as my experience [304] reaches — no officer who has served on the Plains believes that any full-blooded Indian can be civilised.

A Red man cannot understand a White man's law.

Take the last decision of Chief Justice Waite and his learned brethren of the Supreme Court, and ask how either a Creek or Cherokee, not to say an Osage or a Kickapoo, is to comprehend such law? Years ago the Indians, as the weaker party, became subject to a general law of removal by the State from one point to another. If their hunting grounds were wanted by White farmers, they were forced to move; but their right and property in the soil were not denied, and something like a fair exchange of lands was always offered to them. On quitting Georgia, the Cherokees obtained a better country on the Verdigris. In place of their old home, the Creeks and Choctaws got hunting-grounds along the Arkansas. The Senecas got the Alleghany; the Oneidas, Green Bay. The Omahas received lands on the Missouri, the Crows on Yellowstone, the Shoshones on the Snake. No tribe was ever driven from home, except on promise of a finer campingground elsewhere. From Penn and Ogle, therefore, [305] to Story and Chace, no one has denied that the original title in the land lay with the Red men.

But Waite and his learned brethren have wrought a sudden change. These magistrates have decided that the Indians are not owners of the soil, generally, or even holders of the fee in their own lands. The true proprietor, they assert, is the Government of the United States!

No Creek, no Choctaw can be made to seize the maxims on which Waite proceeds, but the most benighted Indian can understand that his field is not his own, that he is only a tenant on the land, and that he must no longer cut and sell a pine.

Under the “new policy,” which turns the Red war into pious idyls, and confiscates the whole Indian country to the Government, the Indians are displayed for public approval in four great classes:

First. Those that are wild and scarcely tract. able to any extent beyond that of coming near enough to the Government agent to receive blankets and rations.

Second. Indians who are thoroughly convinced of the necessity of labour, and are actually undertaking [306] it, and with more or less readiness accept the direction and assistance of Government agents to this end.

Third. Indians who have come into possession of all lands and other property in stock and implements belonging to a landed estate.

Fourth. A class of roamers and vagrants.

The first class in this division is said to contain ninety-eight thousand souls, including, amongst others, Sioux, Utes, Apaches, Kiowas, Cheyennes, Comanches and Arapahoes. The second class is supposed to contain about fifty-two thousand souls, including, amongst others, Osages, Kickapoos, Pai-Utes, Shoshones, Pawnees, and Navajos. The third class is believed to number a hundred thousand souls, including, amongst others, Creeks, Choctaws, Cherokees, Seminoles, and Chippewas. The fourth class is more difficult to estimate; but it is guessed at twenty or thirty thousand souls, including, amongst others, Winnebagoes, Sacs, Pottawatomies, and such broken up bands of Shoshones and Utes as those of Labeta and Cornea. Such classes and figures may amuse the sectaries, who are now trying on the Plains the great Christian experiment [307] which the Franciscans tried in California. But the classification is too vague and weak for practical life, and is thrust aside by men who have to deal with living facts.

These practical men know two Indian classes only-

I. Wild Indians.

II. Half-wild Indians.

All the great families and tribes are wild: Sioux, Utes, Cheyennes, Arapahoes, Navajos, and the like. These are the Red men who have never been subdued and fixed. Pagan, predatory, and nomadic, these Indians count about two hundred thousand souls; and are the true Red men, unmixed with alien blood, untouched by alien creeds.

The second class contains the smaller Indian families, who, from contact with White men, have been half-subdued and fixed: Mission Indians of California, Pueblo Indians of Arizona, Senecas in New York, Chippewas in Michigan, Winnebagoes in Nebraska, Choctaws, and Cherokees in Oklahoma, and their fellows everywhere. These Indians, mostly surrounded by White settlers, count about [308] a hundred thousand souls, the salvage of mighty nations which have passed away. They have been tamed a little, and thinned off very much. In fact, an Indian fears White “customs,” chiefly because he finds that the first step taken in our civilisation is a step towards his physical ruin and moral death.

Colonel Stevens, an officer with much experience of savage life, tells me he was employed on the Plains, as Government engineer, to build a number of stone houses for the Indian chiefs. These tenements were designed as baits to catch their tribes. In six months all his tenements were gone, sold to the White men for a few kegs of whisky. One big chief, Long Antelope, kept his house, and Stevens rode to see their chief as being a man of higher hope than others of his race. He found Long Antelope smoking in a tent pitched near the window of his house.

“Why living in a tent, Long Antelope, when you have a good house?”

Long Antelope smiled. “ House good for pony, no good for warrior-ugh!”

Stevens went in, and found Long Antelopes pony stalled in the dining-room.

“ A house,” says Stevens, “is too much for a full [309] blood Indian's brain. The only notion you can get into such a fellow's head, is, that to settle down means to wrap his shoulders in a warm blanket instead of in a skin, to loaf about the Agency instead of going out to hunt, and to spend his time in smoking and drinking instead of in taking scalps.”

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