October 11, 2004

"Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent."

--Isaac Asimov

It occured to me tonight as I studied for my American Lit I midterm that there are many who still operate under a common misconception about our relations with Native American tribes. Namely, most people think that we continually pushed Indians westward, then eastward, then into the grave as we settled North America simply because we wanted their land. These same people are under the impression that we couldn't have it while they were on it because settlers who tried that had a nasty habit of winding up scalpless.

These people would be wrong. And if you'll hold on for just a second, I will dramatically change paragraphs and tell you why.

Okay, you still with me? Good. The reason we couldn't suffer the Indians to stay put clearly had nothing to do with pretty fields or bloody heads. It was a matter of national pride. It was a matter of self-respect. It was a matter of no longer having to feel the pricks of the razor-edged, rapier wit of an "inferior" people.

In short, we couldn't take the zingers anymore.

I had to read some Native American oratory and one speech in particular made me cringe, separated though I am by two hundred years and half a continent. I give you (and don't worry, it's pretty short):

The Speech of Red Jacket - Having lived as an MK for the lion's share of my life to date, I couldn't help but empathize with the targets of this speech (missionaries asking for permission to set up a mission among his people). In fact, I'm almost positive that one of my first thoughts was, "Ha! Sucks to be them!"

Brother! This council fire was kindled by you. It was at your request that we came together at this time. We have listened with attention to what you have said. You have requested us to speak our minds freely. This gives us great joy, for we now consider that we stand upright before you, and can speak what we think. All have heard your voice and all speak to you as one man. Our minds are agreed.

Brother! Our seats were once large, and yours were very small. You have now become a great people, and we have scarcely a place left to spread our blankets. You have got our country, but you are not satisfied. You want to force your religion upon us.

Brother! Continue to listen. You say that you are sent to instruct us how to worship the Great Spirit agreeably to his mind; and if we do not take hold of the religion which you white people teach we shall be unhappy hereafter. You say that you are right, and we are lost. How do you know this to be true? We understand that your religion is written in a book. If it was intended for us as well as for you, why has not the Great Spirit given it to us; and not only to us, but why did he not give to our forefathers the knowledge of that book, with the means of understanding it rightly? We only know what you tell us about it. How shall we know when to believe, being so often deceived by the white people?

Brother! You say there is but one way to worship and serve the Great Spirit. If there is but one religion, why do you white people differ so much about it? Why not all agreed, as you can all read the book?

Brother! We do not understand these things. We are told that your religion was given to your forefathers and has been handed down, father to son. We also have a religion which was given to our forefathers, and has been handed down to us, their children. We worship that way. It teaches us to be thankful for all the favors we received, to love each other, and to be united. We never quarrel about religion.

Brother! The Great Spirit has made us all. But he has made a great difference between his white and red children. He has given us a different complexion and different customs. To you he has given the arts; to these he has not opened our eyes. We know these things to be true. Since he has made so great a difference between us in other things, why may not we conclude that he has given us a different religion, according to our understanding? The Great Spirit does right. He knows what is best for his children. We are satisfied.

Brother! We do not wish to destroy your religion, or to take it from you. We only want to enjoy our own.

Brother! We are told that you have been preaching to the white people in this place. These people are our neighbors. We are acquainted with them. We will wait a little while, and see what effect your preaching has upon them. If we find it does them good and makes them honest and less disposed to cheat Indians, we will then consider again what you have said.

Ouch. I mean . . . what do you . . . can you . . . even say to that? Nothing!

1)Hang head, 2)Tuck tail between legs, and 3)Go home. And take the other whites with you. You lose.

Or . . .

Well, you could just . . .

*whispers* Kill them . . .

Y'know, it just flat-out sucks that the intellectual victory is never really enough. Might doesn't make right . . . But then, it doesn't need to.

Put that in your peace pipe and smoke it.

Posted by Jared at October 11, 2004 11:59 PM | TrackBack