Left: (a) George Armstrong Custer (December 5, 1839–June 25, 1876). Known as an American Civil War hero, cavalry commander, and Indian Fighter. His father was a blacksmith who anglicized the German family name Küster, an occupational name for a church sexton or churchwarden, to Custer. He was the last in his class as a cadet at
(b) Lakota holy man Tȟatȟaŋka Iyotȟaŋka or Ta-Tanka I-Yotank aswe known to us as Sitting Bull. He led the Battle of Greasy Grass Creek or the
(c) 1848 painting of orator Tecumtha or Tekamthi or Tecumseh"Shooting Star” (
(d) 1835 lithograph from a painting of Red Jacket or Sagoyewatha (Seneca)1750-January 20, 1830. Orator and war chief of the Wolf clan.
(e) Painting of the Native American Battle of Greasy Grass Creek known as the Battle of the Little Bighorn or Custer's Last Stand. Fighting for their homeland, Lakota and
civilization n. from the Latin civis, a citizen or townsman governed by the law of his city. 1. places where people live, rather than uninhabitable areas. 2. a society that is marked by complex social and political organization, and material, scientific, and artistic progress.
Indian fighter n. 1. someone who fought against Native Americans and who believed that Indians should be punished, put on reservations, and forced to stay there. 2. arrogant military men who fought against Native Americans with the intent to subdue or eliminate the enemy.
arrogance .n. 1. a strong feeling of proud self-importance that is expressed by treating other people with contempt or disregard.
One day I visited the
“The white race might fall into a barbarous state, and afterwards, subjected to the influence of civilization, be reclaimed and prosper. Not so the Indian, He cannot be himself and be civilized; he fades away and dies.”
“To those who advocate the application of the laws of civilization to the Indian, it might be profitable study to investigate the effect [that] such application produces upon the strength of the tribe as expressed in numbers. Looking at him as the fearless hunter, the matchless horseman and warrior of the Plains, where Nature placed him, and contrasting with the reservation Indian, who is supposed to be reveling in the delightful comforts and luxuries of an en1ightened condition, but who in reality groveling in beggary, bereft of any qualities which is in his wild state tended to render him noble, and heir to a combination of vices partly his own, partly bequeathed to him from the paleface, one is forced even against desire, to conclude that there is unending antagonism between the Indian nature and that with which his well-meaning white brother would endow him. Nature intended him for a savage state; every instinct, every impulse of his soul inclines him to it. The white race might fall into a barbarous state, and afterwards, subjected to the influence of civilization, be reclaimed and prosper. Not so the Indian, He cannot be himself and be civilized; he fades away and dies.
Cultivation such as the white man would give him deprives him of his identity. Education, strange as it may appear, seems to weaken rather than strengthen his intellect. Where do we find any specimens of educated Indian eloquence comparing with that of such native, untutored orators as Tecumseh, Osceola, Red Jacket, and Logan; or, to select from those of more recent fame, Red Cloud of the Sioux, or Sa-tan-ta of the Kiowas?”
What are the benchmarks of a civilized society? In Custer’s mind, was the level of oratory of some Native leaders even a tiny indication of a civilized people? Apparently not. For him the “civilized white man” was the only one able to temporarily sink into the barbarism of a Civil War and afterwards, the attempted annihilation of an indigenous people, and rise again to gain his unblemished position among the civilized societies of the world.
“You have the liberty to return to your own country ... you wish to prevent the Indians from doing as we wish them, to unite and let them consider their lands as common property of the whole ... You never see an Indian endeavor to make the white people do this ... Sell a country! Why not sell the air, the great sea, as well as the earth? Did not the Great Spirit make them all for the use of his children? How can we have confidence in the white people? ” --Tecumseh to Governor William Harrison (he later became the ninth president of the
Red Jacket’s speech on the Religion of White men and the Red
“Brother, listen to what we say. There was a time when our forefathers owned this great island. Their seats extended from the rising to the setting sun. The Great Spirit had made it for the use of Indians. He had created the buffalo, the deer, and other animals for food. He had made the bear and the beaver. Their skins served us for clothing. He had scattered them over the country and taught us how to take them. He had caused the earth to produce corn for bread. All this He had done for His red children because He loved them. If we had some disputes about our hunting-ground they were generally settled without the shedding of much blood. But an evil day came upon us. Your forefathers crossed the great water and landed on this island. Their numbers were small. They found friends and not enemies. They told us they had fled from their own country for fear of wicked men and had come here to enjoy their religion. They asked for a small seat. We took pity on them, granted their request, and they sat down among us. We gave them corn and meat; they gave us poison [alcohol] in return.
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 from 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 in that way. It teaches us to be thankful for all the favors we receive, to love each other, and to be united. We never quarrel about religion.” --Excerpt from Red Jacket’s 1805 speech on the Religion of the White Man and the Red
The epitome of arrogance or differences in values?
Today some Native American T-shirts display the saying, “Custer died for his sins.” Or, “Custer was Siouxed.” Custer, however, typified the arrogance of his time, a malady first encountered in Christopher Columbus’ writings.
Columbus’ 1492 first impression of the Taíno
“It seemed to me that they were a people very deficient in everything. They all go naked as their mother bore them, and the women also… They did not bear arms or know them, for I showed them swords and they took them by the blade and cut themselves through ignorance. They have no iron.”--
Columbus’ 1492 second impression of the Taíno
[The houses of
The first houses that some Spanish conquistadors felt lucky to buy in the
A change in the times
Europeans who came to the
Yet in the
Barack Obama was the first presidential candidate who repeatedly included Native Americans in his speeches. In the spirit of his emphasis on education in his first speech to Congress, we can go one-step further. “Change”, our educational system to include instruction indigenous American contributions to other world civilizations, as an integral part of the school curriculum. National Native American Heritage Month (November) should be treated equally as is Black History Month (February) where even the television stations use their “bully pulpit” to enlighten us. If we do not give credit where it is due, our children will continue the Custer fallacy of having a one sided view of their inherited history in the
Red Jacket’s 1804 speech in its entirety: http://www.bartleby.com/268/8/3.html#txt1
Maya Trade & Economy http://www.authenticmaya.com/maya_trade_and_economy.htm
Ancient and modern uses of obsidian http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obsidian