Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Bury My Heart


I just finished a book called Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee which chronicles how the USA treated the Native Americans as it expanded westward. It is a heart wrenching look at our history, but it is a very valuable one as we think about how different cultures treat each other around the world even today. One of the best things about this book is that is the use of primary source materials. You often hear what the Native Americans, US Soldiers, Politicians, or Commissioners of Indian Affairs are thinking in their own words through documented testimonies or journal entries. I will leave you with a few quotes:


The whites were always trying to make the Indians give up their life and live like white men-go to farming, work hard and do as they did- and the Indians did not know how to do that, and did not want to anyway…. If the Indians had tried to make the whites live like them, the whites would have resisted, and it was the same way with many Indians.

-Wamditanka (Big Eagle) of the Santee Sioux

Although wrongs have been done me I live in hopes. I have not got two hearts….Now we are together again to make peace. My shame is as big as the earth, although I will do what my friends advise me to do. I once thought that I was the only man that persevered to be the friend of the white man, but since they have come and cleaned out our lodges, horses, and everything else, it is hard for me to believe white men anymore.

-Motavato (Black Kettle) of the Southern Cheyennes

Whose voice was first sounded on this land? The voice of the red people who had but bows and arrows….What has been done in my country I did not want and did not ask for it; white people going through my country….When the white man comes in my country he leaves a trail of blood behind him….I have two mountains in that country-the Black Hills and the Big Horn Mountain. I want the Great Father (US President) to make no roads through them. I have told these things three times; now I have come here to tell them the fourth time.

-Mahpiua Luta (Red Cloud) of the Oglala Sioux

I don’t want to run over the mountains anymore; I want to make a big treaty….I will keep my word until the stones melt….God made the white man and God made the Apache, and the Apache has just as much right to the country as the white man. I want to make a treaty that will last, so that both can travel over the country and have no trouble.

-Delshay f the Tonto Apache

If it had not been for the massacre, there would have been a great many people here now; but after that massacre who could have stood it? When I made peace with Lieutenant Whitman my heart was very big and happy. The people of Tucson and San Xavier must be crazy. They acted as though they had neither heads nor hearts…they must have a thirst for our blood….These Tucson people write for the papers and tell their own story. The Apaches have no one to tell their story.

-Eskiminzin of the Aravaipa Apaches

No white person or persons shall be permitted to settle upon or occupy any portion of the territory, or without the consent of the Indians to pass through the same.

-Treaty of 1868

The Great Father told the commissioners that al the Indians had the rights in the Black Hills, and that whatever conclusion the Indians themselves should come to would be respected….I am an Indian and am looked on by the whites as a foolish man; but it must be because I follow the advice of the white man.

Shunka Witko (Fool Dog)

The whites told only one side. Told it to please themselves. Told much that is not true. Only his own best deeds, only th worst deeds of the Indians, has the white man told.

-Yellow Wolf of the Nez Perces

I did not know then how much was ended. When I look back now from this high hill of my old age, I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with my eyes still young. And I can see that something else died therein the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people’s dream died there. It was a beautiful dream…the nation’s hoop is broken and scattered. There is no center any longer, and the sacred tree is dead.

-Black Elk