This is a somewhat depressing and startlingly frank look at how Americans were swindling native tribes out of their land. It is nice to know that even in 1910 people already realized that the Native Americans were not treated fairly. For some reason I had a notion that this sort of guilt was a more modern perspective on history. It turns out that a lot of eye-opening was due to a woman named Helen Hunt Jackson, whose book A Century of Dishonor, published 30 years earlier, brought a lot of moral injustice to light.
The article uses her book as a jumping off point and brings readers up to date on how the Native Americans were still being taken advantage of:
When the Five Nations were moved westward-ho, to make room for a civilization that had no particular use for them, they were paid for their lands and were given over 19,000,000 acres in what is now Oklahoma. Here they were to live as they wanted to live, and hunt or farm just as they liked, unmolested by the white man. It was a good theory, but it did not work. It was, in fact, about the most conspicuous failure the Nation ever made.
As we grew and waxed fat we extended anxious eyes toward Oklahoma. The Indian land was, unfortunately for them, very good land. No sooner did we grasp this fact than we felt we must take up the white man’s burden.
Should that land be unopened merely because the owners preferred it that way? Never. The march of civilization cannot be stopped. The Indian must be civilized, which meant he must let in the white man. It is a great saving of time to belong to a race made exactly right; whenever we meet people made differently it is proved, without any argument, that whatever they like or do is wrong. It was very simple in the case of the Indian.
It was done in this fashion. Beginning in 1887 certain severalty acts were passed conferring citizenship on any Indian who would give up tribal life and take up land individually. In 1891 this offer was extended to the Five Nations in Oklahoma…
It is not to be supposed that the Indians had anything to do with this arrangement. The white man took, along with his other burdens, that of deciding that the Indian should sell his land.
So it was sold.
It gets worse, detailing individual stories of Native Americans being taken advantage of. It’s probably an important read, but it might not leave you in the best mood. If you’re interested in reading more, you can find free eBook editions of A Century of Dishonor here.
GRAFTING ON THE INDIANS AND HOW IT IS DONE: How Our “Century of Dishonor” Has Been Replaced by an Era of Plain Swindling (PDF)
From August 7, 1910
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