Louise Seymour Houghton.

Our debt to the red man; the French-Indians in the development of the United States online

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this study has to do, appear to be practically ignored.

A worthy estimate of French mixed-bloods was

[201]



Our Debt to the Eed Man

given by Lord Dufferin in his farewell address at
Manitoba in 1877 : ' ' That inappreciable class of men, ' '
he said, ' ' who combine the vigor, strength and love of
adventure natural to their Indian blood with the civil-
ization, education and intellectual force of their pat-
ernal ancestors. They have proclaimed the gospel of
peace, goodwill and mutual respect with results equally
advantageous to the savage chief in his lodge and the
colonist in his chantier. They have been ambassadors
between the East and the West, the interpreters of
civilization to the inhabitants of the prairie, as they
have told the whites what is the consideration due
the subsceptibilities, pride, prejudices and innate love
of justice of the savage race. In fact the metis have
done for the Colony what it could not have done with-
out them: established between between the white and
Indian peoples traditional sentiments of friendship
and good will which it would have been impossible to
establish without them." (Quoted by B. A. T. de
Montigny, Recorder of Montreal, in his Biographie et
Recit de Gabriel Dumont sur les evenements de 1885).
The Government of this country is now evidently
awake to the importance and the duty of a new, un-
selfish and consistent policy with regard to the Indian.
A thorough revision of the entire body of laws dealing
with this race is a part of the duty of the present Con-
gress. The proposed revision, known as the Carter
Code Bill, was drawn up by a committee of the Society
of American Indians, was presented in February
1918 by Representative Carter, a lawyer and a French

[202]



Feench Mixed-Bloods and our Indian Problem

Indian, who also presented the so-called Hayden bill
''for the purpose of conferring citizenship upon all In-
dians and segregating the competent Indians from the
supervision of the Indian Bureau." The former has
been passed, and the work of revision of the body of
Indian law is now m process. Congress has still
to pass an Enabling Act before Indian claims
may be directly presented to the Court of Claims,
(an element of the Carter Code Bill) but this
Act cannot be long delayed. The White Earth Chip-
pewas (mainly metis) sent to the Congress which ad-
journed on March fourth, 1916, a delegation of their
prominent men (four Beaulieus among them) to urge
certain legislative measures recommended by the In-
dian Conference of the State (Minnesota.) A French-
Indian, Mr. Red Fox James, who recently organized at
Carlisle the first Indian troop of Boy Scouts in the
world, about that time rode 3,784 miles on his Indian
pony, carrying to President Wilson a message from
the Governor of Montana, endorsed by the Governors
of twenty-four states and by a vast number of other
influential men, with the petition that ' ' Indian Day, ' '
advocated by Mr. A. C. Parker and accepted by the
Society of American Indians, be made a National holi-
day in honor of the North American Indians.

No doubt the most prophetic day in the Indian
history of the twentieth century was Columbus Day,
1911, which saw the founding of the Society of Amer-
ican Indians. Many important successes are already
to its credit, and into the large horizon of its future
[203]



Our Debt to the Ked Man

the imagination loves to look. But the brightest of all
the days it has as yet seen was December 10, 1914,
when President Wilson received a group of delegates
of that Society. That day, as Mr. A. C. Parker wrote
in the Quarterly Journal, marked a new beginning in
Indian progress. ''Never before perhaps had there
assembled so large a body of men and women of In-
dian blood, having so wide an influence in the world 's
affairs." The memorial then presented had been
formulated by a committee of Indians of distinction,
in the office of the then Registrar of the Treasury, the
Hon. Gabe Parker, a French-Choctaw and a member
of the advisory board of the Society. Mr. A. C. Par-
ker, then Secretary-Treasurer, now President of the
Society, introduced to the President the forty dele-
gates present. Senator Owen (Cherokee) being wdth
him. The Memorial asked, first, that measures be taken
to define the status of the Indians by Federal author-
ity, and second, that the Court of Claims be given
jurisdiction over all Indian claims against the United
States. It further made request that just opportuni-
ties be afforded to insure the efficiency and enlarge the
capacity of those who have not now the freedom to
struggle upward. Every lover of this country should
stand with the Societ}^ of American Indians in press-
ing the requests of this Memorial which still, in 1918,
are ungratified.

For the purpose of the present study it is en-
tirely legitimate to observe the large part that men
and w^omen of mixed French and Indian blood have

[ 204 ]



French Mixed-Bloods and our Indian Problem

had in the founding of this Society and in all its acts
hitherto. Though for five years its first president was
the full blood Apache the Rev. Sherman Coolidge/
cousin by marriage of the Bishop of Nevada, and such
other full bloods as the Sioux Dr. Charles Eastman and
the Winnebago Rev. Henry Roe Cloud are prominent
in its councils, yet such names as Parker, Carter, Gor-
don (Gaudin), Dagenett, and many others with which
this study has made us familiar are constantly in evi-
dence. The Society especially recognizes its debt to
such women of French blood as Mrs. Marie L. Botti-
neau Baldwin, Miss Alice H. Denomie, and above all,
Mrs. Rosa Bourassa La Flesche. ' ' The quiet labors of
Mrs. Rosa B. La Flesche must forever stamp her as one
of the most heroic women who ever lived, ' ' writes one
who bore a laboring oar in the herculean task of
launching such a society as this; "her deep faith in
the Society, her devotion to it, carried the first Con-
ference to success and gave the Society strength to
live through its first critical period."

One of the most efficient officers of the Society of
American Indians is its present Secretary, Mrs. Ray-
mond T. Bonnin, wife of a metis Captain in the
Regular Army. Gertrude Bonnin is the daughter of
a Frenchman and a Sioux woman who were married in
the Presbyterian Mission Church of Yankton Agency
S. D. Her first conspicuous service to her people be-

^ He was made Honorary President by acclamation at the Cedar
Rapids (Sixth) Annual meeting of the Society, September 29,
1916, and Mr. A. C. Parker, (a French mixed-blood) elected
President.

[205]



Our Debt to the Eed Man

gan in Fort Duchesne, Utah, whence as a center Mrs.
Bonnin established a series of social and community
centres among the Uintah Utes, the Society of Amer-
ican Indians granting her such financial aid as its slen-
der resources rendered possible. Going alone, on horse-
back, among the women of this turbulent tribe which
but a few years earlier had been on the war path,
(supra, p. 156), accosting them not as a stranger but
as an Indian, she found the women glad to cooperate
with her. Thus she was able to establish in ' ' commun-
ity centres" sewing classes for children and domestic
science classes for women, and at the posts to which the
Indians came once a week to transact business, rest
rooms for the women, with the serving of inexpensive
lunches. The local representative of the Indian Bur-
eau not being sympathetic with these efforts to uplift
the Uintah Utes, Mrs. Bonnin removed to Washington,
where she devotes her entire energies to serving the
cause of the Indians. Mrs. Bonnin had for years been
active not only in the effort to secure government reg-
ulation or prohibition of the use of the noxious drug
peyote, or mescal, but also in personal influence to dis-
suade Indians from its use. At its convention held in
Washington in December, 1917, the National Woman's
Christian Temperance Union heard Mrs. Bonnin 's
arguments concerning peyote, and passed a resolution
to support her effort.

It does not yet appear that Congress as a whole
is alive to the character of the French mixed-blood
and his immense influence over other Indians, and

[206]




MRS. GERTRUDE BONNIN

Social Worker among Indians, Lecturer and Writer, Secretary

of the Society of American Indians

French-Sioux



French Mixed-Bloods and our Indian Problem

therefore to the aid he might lend to the government
in the work which must inevitably fall upon it in the
near future — the work, namely, of doing justice to
the Indian by making it possible for him to do justice
to himself by the way of citizenship. For that work,
so utterly new and untried, Congress will need all
available help. The debt of this country to the French
mixed-blood is already large. It can best be repaid, it
can only be repaid, by enlisting his help in solving
one of the most serious problems of the present time,
and one in which he is vitally interested.

The recent census has shown that the Indian is
not a vanishing race ; but it is one thing to exist with
so much of vitality as to be enabled to increase in
numbers, and another thing to be permitted to employ
all one's God-given powers to their utmost capacity.
^'The crushing of a noble people's spirit, and the
usurpation of its right to be self supporting and
self governing," writes Mr. Parker in an article to
which more than one allusion has been made, ' ' is more
awful than the robbery of lands, more hideous than
the scalping and burning of Indian women and babes,
more harrowing than torture at the stake. ' ' Does not
every white man and woman endowed with a free
spirit assent to this ? To the Indians who befriended
our first white ancestors in this country freedom was
the very breath of the nostrils, and it is amazing that
four thirds of a century of tutelage have not stifled
the race. The masterful protest of Chief Garantula
two and a half centuries ago, to the Governor of Can-

[207]



Our Debt to the Eed Man

ada who tried to force the Five Nations to trade ex-
clusively with the French, is forceful with this breath
of freedom: ^'Hear, Yonondio, I do not sleep. . . . We
are born free; we neither depend on Yonondio (the
French) nor Corlear (the Dutch) ; we may go where
we please and carry with us whom we please, buy and
sell what we please. If your allies are your slaves,
use them as such."

It is Mr. Parker who quotes this utterance, add-
ing, "A race of men and women to whom liberty was
the condition of life itself must have liberty restored
if it is again to live."

What an asset in our national life would be the
Indian race if once again permitted to live! "An
examination of our culture, ' ' writes Mr. Leo J. Frach-
tenberg of the Smithsonian Institution, (Quar. Journ.
S. A. I.) ''reveals to us the fact that the influence
of the Indian on our civilization has been far reach-
ing and comprises every phase of our intellectual,
political, social, agricultural and industrial life;"
and he instances as positive contributions not only
the Indian trails which have become our roads of
commerce and travel, but such dyestuffs as arnotto
and cochineal, many fibres used in manufacture,
even the use of caoutchuc, as well as the element-
ary industry of raising corn and potatoes, without
which latter Ireland, southern Germany, Rumania
and a number of our wealthiest states (and it may be
added, the bleakest section of the mountains of Syria)
would be wild, unoccupied regions ; many methods of

[208]



French Mixed-Bloods and our Indian Problem

catching fish and of securing without injury the skins
of animals; such comforts as Panama hats, Navajo
blankets, hammocks, moccasins, dog sleds, even snow-
goggles and pemmican, without which Arctic explora-
tion would be impossible, with the perhaps question-
able luxury of tobacco.

"How has he (the Indian) contributed to the
world's progress?" asks Dr. Charles A. Eastman in
the Quarterly Journal of the Society of American In-
dians for January 1815. "By his personal faithful-
ness to duty and devotion to the pledged word. ... By
his constancy in the face of hardship and death. . . .
This simplicity and fairness have cost him dear, ....
even to the extinction of his race as a separate and
peculiar people, but as a type, an ideal, he lives and
will live."

"Look back in history," writes the Apache, Dr.
Carlos Montezuma, "and find if you can, any race
that ever inhabited this earth who have contended
against a greater force than ours for a period of four
hundred years. . . . God only knows the trials, tribula-
tions, slavery and oppressions to which the Indian race
has been obliged to submit, and yet is valiantly fight-
ing to overcome."

Yes, let us as a nation look back — that we may
go forward to a far greater achievement than we
wrought when through blood and tears we freed the
blacks ; and peacefully, hopefully, joining hands with
those men and women of mixed-blood who bring us
"next" to it, apply our own best powers to wipe the

[209]



Our Debt to the Red Man

dark blot from our scutcheon, by enabling the noble
Indian race to realize its "best."

Since the first writing of these pages the entrance
of the United States into the world war has materially
affected the relative positions of the United States
and its "wards," whether of full or mixed blood.
Though it seems probable that the Reservation Indians
will be declared not subject to draft, yet Indians,
whether or not on the Reservations, are in large
numbers proving their loyalty. They subscribed Ten
Million Dollars to the first and second Liberty Loans ;
to the number of three thousand they have volunteered
to serve in various branches of' the military service of
the United States. Of these, 1,000 are from Oklahoma,
and 800 were educated in government (Indian)
schools. Several are First or Second Lieutenants
(among the former Arthur C. Parker), Raymond T.
Bonnin, a French Sioux and two others are Captains,
Oliver Parker, whose father is a Seneca Indian and
whose mother is a descendant of one of Napoleon's
officers, has enlisted in the aviation service a 1 at this
writing is at Fort Worth, Texas. About 400 Indians
did not wait for their own government to declare war,
but enlisted in the Canadian army. Before the close
of the present year it may be expected that 5,000 In-
dians will be in the military and naval service of the
United States.



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Online LibraryLouise Seymour HoughtonOur debt to the red man; the French-Indians in the development of the United States → online text (page 14 of 14)