George Copway.

Life, letters and speeches of Kah-ge-ga-gah-bowh, or, G. Copway, chief Ojibway nation .. online

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about. And, seeing, as they must see, that the plan I
propose, or some other, is indispensable to the success
they seek to command, 1 imj^lore them to take up the
subject in all its bearings, and by the instrumentalities
which they have at command, manufacture, collect, and
embody public opinion, in regard to what may be de-
termined to be done ; and by memorial, and personal
agencies, bring this ojiiuion to bear upon Congress,
with whom alone the j^jower is vested, to redeem, dis-
enthrall, and save, and bless, the remnants of this abo-
riginal race. And I make the same appeal to all the
good, of all religious persuasions, both in the Church and
out of it, and politicians of all parties, to second this
attempt, feeble as I know it to be, to save the Indians,
and consolidate, and perpetuate peace between them
and us, and, by so doing, ward off the terrible retribu-
tion which must sooner or later, unless it be averted,
fall upon this nation."


I have given two of the speeches which were deliv-
ered in the Legislature of South Carolina, Dec. 1848,
and the other in Harrisburgh, Fenn. Legislature, on a
subject which has occupied my whole attention in be-
half of my brethren, the North- West Indian Tribes.

Besides the Speeches, the Letters which have ap-
peared in the " Flag of Our Union," a widely circula-
ted paper in Boston. By the request of my friends,
they are given, with a few Notices of the Press, (as my
time has been so occupied with other matters,) as a
continuation of my crooked Travels.


Mew York, Feb. bth^ 1850.




A correspondent of the Charleston Courier, writing
from Columbia, gives the following address de-
livered by the Rev. Geo. Copway, (or Ka-ge-ga-
gah-bowh,) well and favorably known in this com-
munity, before both Houses of Legislature of South
Carolina, on the subject of Indian Civilization, and
the best means of promoting it :

Gentlemen of the Legislature of South Carolina:

My limited knowledge of your language renders it
somewhat difficult for me to make myself distinctly
understood. I speak with some embarrassment a lan-
guage which is not my native tongue. I must beg you,
therefore, to pardon any errors, of diction I may com-
mit when advoqating the claims of the Indian. Extend
to me personally your charity, and, at the same time,
allow me to ask your sympathy for the cause in which
I am. engaged.

^ In presenting my claims before your august body, 1
cannot but recur to an early period in the intercourse
of my forefathers with yours, 356 years ago. The In-
dian, then, roamed over the country unmolested. It
was a vast world of grandeur. The Indian was as free
as the air he breathed. He then knew no bounderies.
No cloud appeared which foreboded dangers. The
mountains were covered with the game he lived on.
The vales swarmed with the natural productions of the


land. The whole was his dominion. The shout of
his children answered shout from peak to peak of his
mountains across the vales. He was then happy.

The Paleface was then a small nation, and while he
trembled with cold on Plymouth rock, the Indian took
him, and placed his billow-tossed limbs by his \varm
fires and nerved him to walk ! We reared your fore-
fathers ; until now the country, w^iich was then our
sires', belongs to you. Here are now your planta-
tions. The changes with my nation have been great.

In return, w^e now look to you as our guardians. To-
day I come to lay before your body a plan, w^hich if
folio we(J out, will ensure the salvation of the Indian ;
when you have listened to my remarks, you cannot,
1 am sure, reasonably charge me with selfishness, for I
have studied the interests of your Government, as well
as the w^ants of my nation.

My plan is this — to collect the Indians in bodies in
the West, in some portion of the country, where enjoy-
ing a permanent home, they may improve in science, in
agriculture, in morality, and the arts of civilized life.

Before we can do the Indians much good, we must col-
lect them together, for thus only thej^ will be likely to
improve. The first means to be employed in accom-
plishing this object is, to move Congress to apportion
them a tract of country, say near the bank of the upper
waters of the Missouri River, about sixty miles square,
more or less, as they might need for agricultural pur-
poses. Thus, the whole of the Northern scattered
tribes, the Indians north of the southern boundary of
the State of Missouri, all the tribes of the Lakes,
Upper Mississippi and Iowa, the Shawnees, Soukees,


Foxes, Chippeways, Ottowas, Delawarcs, Minominees,
Winebagoes, and Sioux, might be gathered together in
one general settlement. This country would become
the great nucleus of the Indian nations.

In advocating this plan in this country, I have been
asked, " Have not the Indians homes now which the
Government has assigned to them ]" The answer is,
Yes ! they have the same kind of homes which they
had East of the Mississippi, before they left their
country. There have been 96,000 removals since the
policy of removing the Indians cammenced, and there
are 24,000 more still waiting their removal Westward,
according to their agreement with the Government. I
am not opposed to their being removed by Govern-
ment, provided they are placed in such a position in
the AVestern country that future migration may not
bring trouble upon them. What is the nature of the
country they now hold as their present home 1 It ex-
tends, in detached portions, from Texas to the head
waters of the great Mississippi. Unfortunately, the
Commissioners appointed some years ago, selected a
country which the Indians cannot hold, for several rea-
sons; among others, I would notice, in the first place,
that the position of the country is like a great barrier,
through which emigration must necessarily pass, and
the majority of it must obtain vent through their coun-
try, and this will again disturb the minds of the In-
dians, and prevent them from improving. They will
begin to suspect that the Government are anxious, as
heretofore, to get the whole of their lands. Who, in
such case, will guarantee to them the undisturbed pos-
session of their homes, when various influences, which


will always continue to operate, are at work to disturb
their tranquility 1 Rail roads must pass through their
country, canals and military roads be opened, and it
will be impossible to carry out these internal improve-
ments without disturbing the Indians and preventing
their peaceable enjoyment of their lands. This will
be constant and fruitful cause of discontent and dis-
satisfaction. In the second place, I would remark that
the vast quantity of land assigned to them by the Gov-
ernment, amounting in all to 15,000,000 acres, is de-
cidedly injurious to my countrymen. It encourages
roving habits among themselves, and holds out a per-
petual temptation to the emigrant. The lands are fer-
tile, and the Indians easily duped by artful speculators
into selling them at a price vastly under their value.
Thirdly, in their present situation, they have not the
means of educatino; their children and of advancino- in
intelligence. They live only from day to day, and pro-
vide very little for the future. When they see the
wicked white man standing by his barrel of cider, they
long to partake of the intoxicating draught. They en-
gage in drunken revels during the night, and the mis-
sionaries, consequently, however desirous to promote
their temporal and spiritual Vv^elfare, do them little or
no good. If you can place them in some situation
where they would have opportunities for moral, intel-
lectual and religious instruction, beyond the sphere of
the temptations and mischievous influences by which
they are now surrounded, you might then hope for
their permanent improvement and progressive eleva-
tion in the scale of nations.

Fourthly. The Indian, as he is now situated, can


live and live comfortable on the proceeds arising from
the the sale of his lands. It is very obvious, so long as
this state of things continues, that he will have little
or no inducement to turn his attention to agriculture.
The disposition to rove, Avhich is natural to the Indian,
will still continue to form one of his marked charac-
teristics. The children will retain all the predilections
of tlieir fathers for a roving life, hoping and expecting
to fare no worse than their fathers have done. As his
means of living become less and less, lie will at last
be compelled to sell all, and will be left without any

Fifthly. In their present situation they do not see the
necessity of turning their attention to agriculture. By
circumscribing their domain, they would soon learji
that they had no other means of living than what was
furnished by the culture and production of the soil, and
they would be compelled from the force of circum-
stances, to adopt industrious habits. But until they
see the absolute necessity of industry, they will never
become industrious — never become an agricultural
people, but will continue to rove through -the forests
in pursuit of deer and will live by hunting ; and when
their lands are all gone and the last deer is killed what
then ] They will retire to the frontier, and issuing
from their fastnesses in the Rocky Mountains, they
will prosecute an exterminating war against whites.

Sixthly. U the Indians remain as they now are,
their peculiarities and natural traits will be perpetual.
You will have to send your agents to each tribe, and
the labor of civilising them, in detached portions, will
be greatly increased. But bring them all together in


some central spot, and you will have a better chance to
break down and merge in the higher forms of civiliza-
tion the distinctive peculiarities which now separate
the different tribes from each other, and which prevent
their actinaf tog-ether for their common g^ood. Give
them, as I before suggested, some sixty miles square
on the banks of the Missouri, where they shall remain
unobstructed by the land-speculator and the trafficker
in firewater — that curse of the poor Indian — and you
may then look for some radical changes in their condi-
tion and character for the better. Until this is done, I
despair of their making much progress under their
present circumstances. As to the quantity of land,
sixty square miles is enough, 1 would not recommend
a larger quantity. Let this land be properly distribu-
ted, each Indian receiving a certain number of acres to
till. In this way he would become attached to the soil,
and would feel a pride in cultivating it.

The results of such an arrangement would be :

1. That the JS^orth Western, Indians would remove there
and have perm a?ient homes. Hitherto they have had to
move from place to place.

2. Seminaries of learning would not be rooted up.
They would become permanent establishments, and
their effects be felt to future generations.

3. Necessity will compel them to become agricul-
turists. xMy nation has become agriculturists. This
has resulted in part from their becoming Christians, for
some twenty years ago my nation embraced Christian-
ity. Ten years ago many of them were hunters. They
had to go twelve or fifteen miles for deer. But they
now have their little farms, and they find it much bet-


ter to stay at home and cultivate the land, than to wan-
der abroad for an uncertain subsistance. For example,
my uncle, last year, raised on his farm 978 bushels of
wheat. He employed two horses to carry it to market,
and got his money for it. In all ages men try to get a
living in some way ; and the Indian, while he holds a
gun in one hand, now holds a hoe in the other. He has
made this approach to civilization, and only requires
encouragement and opportunity to become still more
civilized and more Christianized.

4. The Indians are a remarkably social race. If
they had some central interest, such as I propose to
give them, their individualities would be lost as they be-
come better acquainted with each other, and they would
become one people, all having common objects and in-
terests to promote and pursucmg them with energy.
I can scarcely unfold to you all the benefits which
would result from the establishment of Schools among
them, but I would mention one of the most important
and obvious of those benefits. When the children of
various nations go to a common school, their parents,
however hostile they may have been heretofore, will,
in the common advantages which they see their chil-
dren enjoy, find new bonds of union to connect them
with each other.

5. Nothing will contribute more to tranquility of
mind than the assurance that they are no more to be
removed from the home they occupy. This is what
the Indian has always wanted. Give them settled and
permanent homes and you will make them contented.

6. When they are once convinced that they derive
great advantages from a common intercourse in some


central position, their objections will give way to the
force of argument. The Indian is not obstinate when
his reason is convinced.

7. The improvements of which I speak m the con-
dition of the Indian, though certain, will be gradual.
You cannot accomplish them at once. When you give
them a government, the laws should not only prohibit
and punish drunkeness, but prohibit the sale of liquor to
the Indians by those who now traffic in the article.
The government of the United States would thus hold
a hammer over those bad men, one good consequence of
which would be, that quarrels and wars which now re-
sult from the intemperate use of ardent spirits, would

8. A spirit of emulation would spring up among the
Indians which would be attended with the happiest re-
sults. In 15 or 20 years the country would be settled,
provided, in the mean time, they are not disturbed in
the occupation of their lands ; but, begin to construct
Rail Roads through their territory, and they will burn
them as fast as you build them.

9. The present government fund for the education of
the Indians amounts to $10,000 ; but under the present
distribution of it among the scattered tribes, it does lit-
tle or no good. Let seminaries of education be estab-
lished ; let a college be founded with the proceeds of
the sale of their lands ; give the Indians a single fort in
this central position for their defence ; give them Courts
of Justice in which they should adjust their quarrels
according to the laws of Indians, in connection with the
Courts of the United States, and a better understanding
would spring up between them and the Government of


the United States, and there would no Jonger be any
reason to apprehend hostility and war on their part.

10. Your Government expenses would be less. You
now have to guard the whole of your frontier, from Texas
along the whole of your Southern border. But concen-
trate the Indians, and give them for their defence a single
fort, and you will have nothing more to fear from the in-
cursion of the border tribes. Not one grain of powder,
not a single ball will be necessary.

11. Y^ou will liave to give only one price for their lands,
instead of two or three prices, which you now give when
you wish to remove them.

12. The expense of sending out agents will be less.
You now employ many agents. You are obliged to do
it : but, if my plan is adopted, only two or three agents
will be necessary.

13. There need be no expense for transporting them.
Give the first settlers a premium and they will go there
fast enough at their own charges.

14. The Missionaries would then become permanent
among them. The agents are now in the habit of slan-
dering the Missionaries, representing them as being
unfavorable to the Government.

In conclusion, in asking this favor of the American
people, 1 have not consulted my own feelings. I ask
them only to give the Indian education and literature.
He loves to live by his own stream, as the bee loves to
gather sweets as he flies from flower to flower. When
we come rmong you, we like to reciprocate the friendly
feelings you entertain towards Us. If you are prosperous,
and, sitting in halls like this, our children come to you
and ask you for bread, will you give it to them 1 Wi!l you


put the plough in their hands and teach them how to use it ]
Then will our children be merry around our fireside,
with a Bible in their hands, and a touch o? God's fire in
their hearts. Then will our people participate in the
blessings of religion and civilization. Then will peace,
love and unity prevail ; and our poor neglected race will
occupy a high place in the scale of nations.

Fanatics have talked of extending universal suffrage,
even to the colored man, but their hemg silent in reference
to that which would elevate the North American Indian,
proves that they assent to his downfall. He must receive
something in return f.jr giving up his whole country. In
return give him but institutions of learning, and he wi!I
give you noble examples, perhaps a Patrick Henry, or a
Kandolph, v/ho shall do honor to his race, and who shall
handle the lightning, as a mere plaything, with a Frank-
lin or travel with a Newton from star to star. The wide
world looks with wild intensity to our shores for a model
— a noble example it finds in him who loved liberty, the
father of liberty, George Washington. I ask you to give
the Indian that liberty, and then he will, like the eagle
{the emblem of liberty) stretch his wings abroad and
soar aloft.

It is my purpose to collect all the expressions of sympa-
thy from the people and from the different Legislatures,
until next March, and in this way move Congress to adopt
some plan for the permanent good of the Indians in the
West. I ask your favorable consideration of this plan.
It is true, you have but few Indians in this State — a mis-
erable remnaiit of the Catawbas. But ever remember
after this, that, on the 15th day of December, an Indian
dropped his tears in this Hall, when he, in a reasonable


manner, presented the claims of the Indian /or your cch

Finally, for success, I depend not on these arms — nor
on any natural endowments I may have been blessed
with ; but for success, in the God of the Universe will 1

In all my journeys on the shores of Lake Superior,
while I endeavored to hold up the Cross before my breth-
ern, I have watched the movements of Providence, step
by step, and if I can but be a connecting link betwen the
United States and my race, I shall then be happy. Those
of you who pray to the Great Spirit, ask his blessing on
me, that the same angel who has watched over me in the
woods, may guide and shield me and them: and if, when
dying, I shall be so happy as to see my children and
yours enjoying prosperity and happiness, I shall die in


The following is an address delivered before the Legis-
lature of Pennsylvania, on the 25th of January last,
by Mr. George Copvvay, (or Kah-ge-ga-gah-bowh,)
a chief of the Chippewa tribe. Mr. Copway has
recently been in this City and lectured before re-
spectable and interested audiences. We presume
all feel an interest in the welfare of the Indians —
and we place this address before our readers, feel-
ing that they will be instructed in its reading.

Gentleme?i of the Legislature of Pennsylvania :

My limited knowledge of your language will render
it somewhat difficult for me to be understood this
evening, as I speak a tongue which is not my own —
which is not my native language. Permit me, however,
to ask your indulgence while I endeavor to present to
you the claims of the Indian, and at the same time, I
solicit you to extend to me, personally, your sympathy,
as well as to the cause in which I am engaged. Be-
sides the embarrassments under which I labor at the
present moment, I have had for several days past a
severe cold, which, in a great degree, incapaciates me
from speaking with that ease and freedom that I could
wish, in order to lay my heart open to you.

In presenting the claims of my unfortunate race, I
cannot resist recurring to the period when the Indian


and the white man first commenced their intercourse,
three hundred and fifty-six years ago. The Indian
was then an inhabitant of all the Eastern Countries on
which rests the different cities of the Atlantic States.
The Indian was the sovereign of the whole country ;
the mountain echoed with his voice, and all he saw was
his. The game of the forest he claimed as his own,
the fish of the waters and the course of the rivers were
also his. Proudly he then roamed through the country
where now stand your farms and your mighty cities.
There was then no cloud that the heathen saw portend-
ing his danger. The heavens were clear before his
eye. He knew no bounderies ; he knew no limits to
his desire. And when he was found in this country,
he had no extent of society, he had no extensive insti-
tutions, which have since been established where he
then lived. There v>'ere no palaces, with their gaudy
attendants ; but, wherever you now see the mountains
of your State, whether in the north, the south, or the
west, you may picture to your mind's eye the noble
form of the Indian standing on one of their lofty peaks.
He made his native mountains his throne, and it was
from thence he could see, to a limited extent, his
boundless empire.

While the paleface trembled on Plymouth Rock,
shivering there with cold, his billow-tossed limbs were
gathered by our fathers, who brought him to their
firesides, and introduced him to their people. The
palefaces were then a small nation, but they have since
become a great one, and the proud sons of the forest
have, one by one, fallen away, like the stars that die
at a distance in the skies. In return for our kindness


and friendly feeling- towards you, we look to you for
protection, for guadianship, for instruction, as we
protected and taught your fathers in the early history
of this country. Several years hack, with much soli-
citude, I endeavored to study the peculiar wants of my
poor people, as well as the condition of the emigrants
westward ; and in order to promote the welfare and
interests of both. I attemped, to the best of my abili-
ty, to mature a plan which, I think, if caried into ef-
fect, will prove highly beneficial and advantageous to
both people, the whites as well as the Indians. Gentle-
men, I feel assured that when you shall have heard all
my remarks on this important and interesting subject,
you will not accuse me of selfishness on this occasion,
as I have not overlooked your nation in advocating the
claims of my own.

In presenting my plan before you this evening, gen-
tlemen, permit me to state, in as few words as possible,
what I have to say, as I Avish to accomplish my visits
to the different State Legislatures now in session, on
this errend, with as little delay as possible. On the
31st of March last, you may remember that a meeting
was held in the city of Philadelphia, where I attended
for the first time, and broached the subject of civiliza-
tion among the Indians in a more extensive and elabor-
ate manner than on the present occasion. I found
however, that it was done at a consumption of a great
deal more time and an expenditure of money than I
could conveniently afford. I found that the getting
up of meetings in cities was a more tardy and ineffi-
cient method of obtaining the action of Congress in
the matter than in personally soliciting and enlisting


the aid, influence and action of the Legislatures of the
several States. I have visited the different States of the
Union, presented to them my views in relation to saving
the Indians, and, if possible, to get their expressions of
approbation of my plan, in order that their resolutions
might be addressed to Congress, in the hope that they
may set apart a territory in the West, in v^^hich all the
Indian tribes shall be collected, and there remain unmo-
lested for ever. Gentlemen, I have found this project,
as far as I have gone, meet the views of those who have
counselled me in the matter.

The object I have in view, is to call upon the General
Government to grant to the Indians a part of the north
western territory, west of the Iowa territory, and between
the Nebraska and Minesotta territories, for the use and

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Online LibraryGeorge CopwayLife, letters and speeches of Kah-ge-ga-gah-bowh, or, G. Copway, chief Ojibway nation .. → online text (page 11 of 15)