George Copway.

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

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occupancy of all those Indians who are living there in a
scattered condition, where they can enjoy permanent
homes, the advantages of education and agricultural in-
struction, so that, after a time, when they shall have be-
come Christianized and enlightened, they may be incor-
porated into the Federal Union as a State. Before we
can do much good for the Indians, we must, as I have
already said, provide them permanent homes, and by that
means, secure to them peace of mind, which is abso-
lutely necessary to ensure their improvement and pro-
gress in the arts of civilization. Much good can be ef-
fected in this way ; and all the Indian tribes will assem-
ble together, and go to their new and permanent homes,
there to live in peace and harmony.

But the Indians, in their present isolated condition,
are eternally at war with each other, and every influ-
ence is now brought to bear upon them, that is calcu-


iated to increase their revengeful feelings towards one
another. I do not refer to the civilized, educated and
enlightened portion of the Indians that are now living
in different parts of the United States, as, for instance,
the Indians of the State of New York, and those in Mich-
igan, and the States of North and South Carolina, as
well as Georgia. All these Indians, however, will go
to the far West, and there join their brethren and form
one family. I repeat, that I do not mean that the more
improved and educated portion of them, will remove
from their present homes but only those who are not so
advanced m civilization. Let them remain where they
are, and go on improving and enjoying all the blessings
of civilization. I mean that those Indians that are scat-
tered in Michigan, the territory of Iowa, and on the
banks of the Mississippi, shall go to one place, and form
a great settlement among themselves.

Gentlemen, in advocating this plan in the different
States of the Union, I have been asked the question —
*Have not the Indians now homes in the West, which
theUnited States have granted them, on the other side
of the Mississippi V Those Indians in Arkansas — the
Chickasaws and Creeks, and several other nations have
homes there, and the same kind that they had when they
were east of the Mississippi river. It is said that their
homes have been so secured to them that no one can
buy their homes from them. That, gentlemen, is our
present version of the acts of the general government
with the Indians : but have they not been violated in by-
gone ages ] Have not the laws which have been secur-
ed to this people, been violated by those who succeeded
to the law-making power. Most assuredly they have.


LFiifortunateiy for the government of the United States,
the commissioners appointed by it to select a territory
for the Indians, selected the best portions of the west,
and the consequence has been that circumstances liave
rendered it impossible — and unfortunately — for them
to hold their lands.

In the first place, their position is such that their
land extends all the way from Texas to the North, like
a barrier through which emigration must press. There,
roads are to be constructed and canals opened through
their country. Military roads, too, will be opened for
emigrants j and, no sooner do you propose to go and
buy one acre of land to open these higliAvays, than the
eye of the Indian will be directed with suspicion to
their Great Father, and the Indians will be removed
from the last acre of land that they hold.

2. The quality of their land is another great induce-
ment to deprive them of it, and they never can hold it.
Several months ago, I was conversing on the subject
with Mr. Albert Gallatin, of New York, when he re-
marked 'that is one of the greatest reasons why the In-
dians can never hold the lands which the United
States 1ms ceded to them. The quality is such, that
the people living out West will tease the Indian, and
also the government of the United States, that in the
end the land will be bought again from the Indians by
the government. Then, again, the day will come when
we will see trouble, as in the State of Georgia.

3. The quantity of the land is so great that they can-
not hold it. And what do the Indians want with so
much land when we are attempting to teach them the
science of agriculture 1 for, the having so much land


begets a feverish anxiety on their part for deer hun-
ting; and, as long as there is a deer on their territory,
so long will they let fall every agricultural implement
from their hand and take their guns in order to maintain
themselves by hunting.

4. They have no means of educating their children,
because they are inhabiting so broad an extent of coun-
try, that it is impossible for the people of the United
States to supply them with schools, and teachers of mo-
rality, and the arts and sciences, which are necessary
to elevate their condition,

5. They depend upon the proceeds of the sales of
their lands, and having a great quantity for sale, they
dispose of it and will reason thus : 'my children will
fare no worse than I have fared. I was living yonder ;
my father sold a portion of the territory, which we oc-
cupy, to the United States, upon the proceeds of which
I and my children have lived, and now the United
States will buy this land from us. My children will
fare the same as I fared ever since I sold it to the Uni-
ted States. Therefore, it will not be worth while to
have plantations, because they will only be a loss to
us ; for, no sooner have we our plantations and our
farms, than we must be compelled to sell them through
necessity. This moving, then, must still go on west-
wardly, till the last Indian shall stand on the barren
peaks of the Rocky Mountains, and gaze on the land
which has been taken from him. The kind-hearted,
then, will drop a tear for the fate of that race which
was once noble and free as the eagle that soars in the

6. The scarcity of food which must follow, will pro-
cluce trouble between the Indians and the government


of the United States ; for, as long as there is a deer or a
buffalo on this side of the Rocky Mountains, no cloud of
discoid will be over the head of the Indian and the white
man. But, no sooner will the last resourc^of the Indian
be gone, than he will nerve himself for the worst, and
take up his weapons of warfare. He will feed for a time
upon the cattle on the frontier, and no sooner has he kill-
ed a bullock or a steer for his subsistence, than the news-
papers abroad will proclaim that 'the Indians are com-
ing against us, that they are killing our cattle by hun-
dreds ;' and the whole country is in danger, and soon
the soldiers will be on the spot, and the rattling of their
firearms be heard, giving proof of the destruction of a
race that once lived in this country. And when, gentle-
men, that day comes, the Indian will die with his wea-
pons of war — for he will not die but at the mouth of the
cannon, when desperation has driven him to it. In or-
der to avert this state of things, I have addressed the Leg-
islatures of the several States. I love peace — I am for

7. The Indians in their present distinctive position —
in the isolated condition in which they are found — will
perpetuate the peculiarities which characterize them as
a nation apart from others. The Sioux, the Winneba-
goes, the Pottawatamies, the Osages, and the rest of the
Indians have their several peculiarities, but when you
come to throw their interest in the centre, the effect will
be to unite the one tribe to the other — an interest which
the United States alone is capable of giving and control-
ling. What, I ask, would be the natural results of such
an arrangement, if carried into operation ? In the first
place, there would be a perceptible improvement in the


physical, intellectual and moral condition of the Indi-
ans. Their seminaries of learning would be permanent
There is now annually appropriated by the generosity
of the people of the United States, for the purpose of
educating the Indians, the sum of $10,000 and that is
so divided in the West, that some times two or three
dollars of it come to us at the head waters of the Mis-
sissippi and the Lake Superior. The money, in short,
is so scattered along the banks of the Mississippi river,
and the banks of the great Northern Lakes, as not to
be of any perceptible advantage to those for whom it
is intended. The small sum of $10,000 circulated
over so extensive a country, and intended to be used
in paying teachers to educate the Indians, does little
or no good.

Suppose you were to go and sow seed on the ground,
putting two grains there, and one here, and another
yonder, when the ground was rich to produce fruitj
and, in the spring of the year, on going to it, you would
find but a ver}^ sparse crop — a little stick here and an-
other there only — the little birds having had access to
the seed at all times, and much of which Avould be de-
stroyed by disease. This by way of illustration. But,
gentlemen, put the Indians on one territory, in a cen-
tral position, and use the fund now set apart for school
purposes and you w411 have schools and seminaries of
learning that shall reflect credit alike upon the Indians
as the government of the United States, the benefits and
good effects of which will be felt for ages to come.
Wherever the government and the missionaries have
succeeded in educating the Indians, they have become
an industrious, moral, and well-behaved people. We


have learned to read and write. We have tried to be-
come like the white people, but when the Indian sees
the deer bounding before him, he will let drop all his
implements of hiisbandrj^, and follow the chase.

But no sooner have the Indians gone on and made
improvements, and our children began to like to go to
the school houses which have been erected, than we
hear the cry of the United States government, 'We
want your lands j' and, in going from one place to an-
other, the Indian looses all tbat he had previously learn-
ed. But weie they to be placed in a position, where
they would forever be free from molestation, then they
would profit by the establishment of schools among
them, and religion and piety would increase and flour-
ish among that people. The disastrous effects of re-
moving the Indians has been shown on the banks of
the Ohio and the Sandusky, and in Georgia and New
York, where the Presbyterians, labored hard to make
the Indians what they were twenty-five or thirty years
ago. And no sooner did the tree of piety begin to ex-
pand its limbs, than comes the request, 'We want
you to go Westward. We want your lands.' The In-
dian reluctantly gives up his land to the American gov-
ernment, not believing, at first, that they were in earn-
est j but, when he was convinced of the fact, and his
soul being almost teased out of him, and the soldiers
having dug up the tree, and taking it to the woods of
Arkansas, there to plant it, he surrendered.

We have ever been told that while the eye of philos-
ophy has ever looked on, that under all favorable cir-
cumstances, the Indian would be Indian still. And,
1 would ask, who, under such circumstances, would


improve 1 We cannot find institutions of learning,
even among the whites, cherished though they may be
to a greater extent, always patronized according to
their worth.

2. When the Indians have a permanent home given,
then what they did on their plantations would of course
be permanent. When you give them a home, you will
find contentment around their firesides ; but, if they
see a probability of their being removed still further
westward, the Indians will act as they have always
done, showing that they have no faith in the govern-
ment of the United States.

Yes ! when I went to Washington last April, I saw
there a Chief from Green Bay, whose name was John
Quincy, to whom I opened my heart as to what I in-
tended, if possible to accomplish. No sooner did he
learn what my object was, than he rose from his seat,
and stretching forth his hands — the tears running from
his eyes — he said, 'I hope the Great Spirit will pre-
serve your life till you accomplish this object, for if
the day shall come when the United States shall grant
to the Indians a country to the West, I will be the
first one to move there, for I am tired of moving about
from place to place ; for, when we came from the State
of New York to Green Bay, w^e were told that we
should not have to remove again ; and now, again, Col.
Medilly will not settle with us for $7,000, in order
that we might sell our lands again, as we did several
years ago.' The poor man then sat down.

Ah, my dear friends, if there be any one here who
calls himself a man, I would ask him if he would not
feel for any one placed in such circumstances as t.hese.


3. By circumscribing the domains of the Indians, you
will make agriculturists of them. Twenty-five years
ago, in Canada, we were all hunters' and it is now 17
or 18 year since we become agriculturists. So long, as
there was a deer to hunt, within a range of 18 or 20
miles, we did not regard agricultural pursuits ; but no
sooner was the country cleared and settled, than we be-
came agriculturists. No sooner did they find that they
could raise grain in the quantity of 1,000 bushels a
year, than they were encouraged to labor.

4. The Indians are a social race. They are social
among themselves, and were they to be placed in
a central position, the intimacy between the several na-
tions would soon become strong, and they would be on
the most friendly terms. Their respective nationalities
would, before the lapse of many years, be lost, and they
would become social and kind towards each other, and
thus would be brought about a peaceful state of society
which is necessary in order to their improvement.

5. Contentment would be followed by all its atten-
dant blessings. The missionary societies would have
great influence, and one school teacher can be employed
in educating hundreds ; but, v\hile the Indians are in a
separate and isolated condition, they cannot avail them-
selves of these advantages. So that in forty or fifty years
hence, the condition of the Indians will be greatly ame-
liorated and improved. I say it is impossible for you,
according to your present system, to succeed in conver-
ting the whole of the North American Indians.

6. You must convince the Indians that it is for their
good and their salvation — that it will be just and right.
The Indian is not a stupid being. When he is to be


convinced by the advice and arguments of some kind-
bearted man, that his home is never to be touched again
— that his children are never to be removed, and that
the fruit of his labor is never to be blasted as heretofore,
— then will he accej^t it and 9ct upon it.

7. The improvement of which I speak cannot be ac-
complished in one day, or in one year, or five years. The
elements are now ripening in the far West. If the
government of the United States would look to the ex-
ample of Wm. Penn, and assure the Indians that their
new home should be permanent, then they need never
fear that one arrow is ever to be directed against it, or
the people of the United States. So long as the people
follow the example of that kiiul and good-hearted man,
William Penn, towards the Indians of Delaware, when
he first came to this country, they need never be at war
with the Indian tribes.

8. Emulation would spring up all around them.
Some may do well, and thus set an example to those who
are not doing well. We do nut expect much frum the
old men, but after they shall have passed away — liave
ceased to exist — their children will imbibe a different
spirit from them. Tliey will be guided and governed by
Christianity on the one hand, and education on the other.

9. Your government expenses would become less.
Now you are trying to fortify the whole of ihe West by
means of barracks and garrisons. -You have spent thou-
sands upon thousands and millions upon millions of dol
lars, for the last 40 or 50 years, and what has it been for 1
Because, it is said, it is necessaryto defend the frontier set-
tlements from the encroachments of the Indians. There-
fore it is, that you have sent your soldiers to your gar-


sons from Arkansas away down to the North. Now all
that we have to ask is to have but one garrison in the
central part of the territory. If^here is any bad feeling
among the Indians, that will be a check upon them, in-
stead of incurring so much expense and trouble in un
dertaking to fortify the entire far West with barracks
and garrisons. 1 would ask the government to give us
four or five hundred soldiers, to go (not as a great many
have done to break down and overawe the Indian spirit,
under pretext that they are encroaching upon the white
people) to ward off the hard-hearted white men, who dis-
turb the peace of the Indians by selling them liquors —
for many of them are worse than the worst kind of Indi-
ans I ever did see. (^^ipplause and Laughter.)

10. In buying up the country which lies on this side
of the Rocky Mountains, I would have given but one
price for it — for, according to Col. rlcKenney's state-
ment, you have given a quarter of a cent per acre for
the land to the Indians, who have afterwards sold it
to the government for half a cent, by having to pur-
chase it so often.

11. The expense of sending agents to reside among
the Indians, has become a loss on the part of the gov-
ernment, for we would ask but one or two. You have
got ten or fifteen among the Chippewas, and ten or fif-
teen among other nations, and consequently you have
expended thousands of d(dlars needlessly. And some
of these agents do not know the Indian character, and
are, therefore, unfit to be agents. We want agents
who wo. lid keep the door, and all the whites that
should come aiaong us, w^ould have to come through


them. By this means we would ward off a great
many wicked men ; and when there are any offenders
against the laws of the United States, we will hand
them over for punishment, and when also, there should
happen to be any offenders against our own laws we
will punish them. If there is any misunderstanding
between the Indians and the agents, then tho difficulty
can be adjusted between the parties.

.12. The expenses of transporting the Indians has
been great to the government, but as soon as you give
a country to the Indians, you v*411 be relieved from the
trouble of removing them, for they will go there of

13. The missionary labors there would become per-
manent, which has not been the case since their labors
have been broken up. And the Indian has always been
the sufferer.

14. Gentlemen, in conclusion, I deem it necessary
to give the reasons why the Indians have decreased
and not improved — why they have decreased in a vast-
ly greater proportion since the introduction of the
white race on this continent, than before. Prior to their
landing on these shores, the small pox and many other
virulent and noxious diseases, were unknown among
the Indians.

The wars that have raged among themselves. Before
the discovery of America, and before the introduction
of fire-arms from Europe, the wars among the Indians
were not so fatal and destructive as they are now.
They have been taught to handle fire-arms with a
groat deal of skill. The history of Pennsylvania — the


history of the New England States, and the history
of the South, all tells in what manner those wars
were conducted. Champlain, in 1612, supplied the
the Indians in the North with fire arms, to oppose the
Six Nations in that part of Canada, now composing
a portion of the State of New York, who at length be-
came so reduced in numbers, that they were compelled
to give up the contest. And so it was with the Span-
iards in the South, w^ho, as well as the French and
English, also furnished arms to the Indians. In all
the wars that have been waged in this country among
the European powers, the Indian was always asked
to show his fearless nature on the battle field, in be-
half of the English, French, Spaniards and Americans.
And when the Indian has received these weapons of
war from them, his heart has bled, and he has suffer-
ed. Yes ! look towards the South. In 1763, the Span-
iards were A^Tiging war against the French. Look in
the state of New York, among that class of people, who
were of German descent, who encouraged the Indian to
war against each other. Look, too, among the people
of the North, in Canada, where the British govern-
ment furnished the Indians with munitions of war,
and encouraged them to fight against the North Amer-
icans. Sometimes the Indian has been called a sav-
age, because he has been called upon to go and show
his bravery in the field.

I ask you, gentlemen, as intelligent men — men who
live m an enlightened age, which was the most sav-
age, the ones who knew not the origin of these wars,
or those who did 1 Spirituous liquor has been the
great cause of the decrease of the Indians of this coun-


try. Disease, war, and famine, have alike preyed up-
on the life of the Indian. Bnt, ah, alcoholic spirits
have cut off the existance of those nations who have
left the records of their existance upon their rivers
and their mountains. I remember well when 1 was
but a child, that my mother related to me the intro-
duction of liquor on the shores of Lake Superior.
Some young men (said she,) were urged to go down
to Montreal. They went, and returned late in the
year ; a council of the nation was called, and one of
the men seized a war club and knocked down another.
He then fled into the woods, and his brother took the
place of the murderer, ordered the men to make two
fires, and place a post behind him ; then to paint his
bare breast black, and put a white spot near the place
where he felt his heart beating. And when all these
things had been done, twelve warriors came forth with
their bows and arrows to shoot him in the breast as
soon as he was ready. 'Don't shoot me,' he said, 'till
I have sung the death song.' When he was ready, he
called out to his brother, 'I am now reader to die in
your stead, and if you can live to endure the idea, that
the world shall look upon you as a coward, you will
not disgrace the clan to which you belong, by shrink-
ing from that which you merit ; and then he be-
gan to sing. The murderer now ran to him and push-
ing him aside, pointed to his breast, and made a white
spot where he felt his heart beating. He then ex-
claimed, 'I am not a coward — I am not afraid to die —
I went to the woods to get sober for I would not die
drunk.' After saying this, he commenced singing the
death song, and when he gave the signal that he was


ready to die, twelve arrows pierced his heart, and ho
fell, one of the first victims to alcohol.

'Ah! brandy, brandy, bane of life,
Spring of tumult, source of strife ;
Could I but half thy curses tell,
The wise would wish the safe in hell.'

[Here Mr. Copway read the series of resolutions
which had been passed, by the Legislatures of North
Carolina and South Carolina, respectively.]

Mr. C. resumed, saying — In conclusion, gentlemen,
I will say that I have detained you too long. I ask
nothing more than what is reasonable, and in asking
this of the people of the United States, I feel more
confident that my humble petition will be granted by
this Legislature, at least, on account of Pennsylvania's
early history, in connection with the Indians, 1 am
convinced that there has been friendly relations exis-
ting between the Indians and the people of Pennsyl-
vania particularly. Oh, when 1 think of that day when
peace reigned between the Indians and William Penn.
That was a glorious period, and he was a kind-hearted
and humane man.

I have ever venerated the name of William Penn,
and whenever I thought of the tree under which he
made his treaty, which never has been broken, I have
often thought if I had only been under the boughs of
that old elm tree, I should have been satisfied. I sent
to Philadelphia three or four years ago, to endeavor to
procure a little piece of that tree, but I failed to obtain
it. And 1 never succeeded in getting hold of any of it


until yesterday. Yesterday I received a card from a
lady in Philadelphia, requesting me to call at her house.
1 did so, and, on entering one of the rooms, I saw a

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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 12 of 15)