|The most famous Indian response to the behavior of white Americans in the West was, and probably still is, the Nez Percé Chief Joseph's "Indian's Views of Indian Affairs," originally published in the North American Review 128 (April 1879). The Indian from Montana's Flathead tribe speaking below may have been Charlot. The immediate actions he is protesting were the attempts to tax the tribe and at the same time remove them from their ancestral land in the Bitter Root Valley.|
Yes, my people, the white man wants us to pay him. He comes in his intent, and says we must pay him--pay him for our own--for the things we have from our God and our forefathers; for the things he never owned and never gave us. What law or right is that? What shame or what charity? The Indian says that a woman is more shameless than a man: but the white man has less shame than our women. Since our forefathers first beheld him more than seven times ten winters have snowed and melted. Most of them, like those snows, have dissolved away. Their spirits went whither they came; his, they say, go there too. Do they meet and see us here? Can he blush before his Maker, or is he forever dead. Is his prayer like his promise--a trust of the wind? Is it a sound without sense? Is it a thing whose life is a foul thing? And is he not foul? He has filled graves with our bones. His horses, his cattle, his sheep, his men, his women have a rot. Does not his breath, his gums stink? His jaws lose their teeth and he stamps them with false ones; yet he is not ashamed. No, no; his course is destruction; he spoils what the spirit who gave us this country made beautiful and clean. But that is not enough; he wants us to pay him besides his enslaving our country. Yes, and our people, besides, that degradation of a tribe who never were his enemies. What is he? Who sent him here? We were happy when he first came. We first thought he came from the light: but he comes like the dusk of the evening now; not like the dawn of the morning. He comes like a day that has passed, and night enters our future with him.
To take and to lie should be burned on his forehead, as he burns the sides of my stolen horses with his own name. Had Heaven's Chief burnt him with some mark to refuse him, we might have refused him. No; we did not refuse him in his weakness. In his poverty we fed, we cherished him--yes, befriended him, and showed him the fords and defiles of our lands. Yet we did not think his face was concealed with hair, and that he often smiled like a rabbit in his own beard. A long-tailed, skulking thing, fond of flat lands, and soft grass and woods.
Did he not feast us with our own cattle, on our own land, yes, on our own plain by the cold spring; did he not invite our hands to his papers; did he not promise before the sun and before the eye that put fire in it, and in the name of both, and in the name of his own Chief, promise us what he promised--to give us what he has not given; to do what he knew he would never do? Now, because he lied, and because he yet lies, without friendship, manhood, justice, or charity, he wants us to give him money--pay him more. When shall he be satisfied? A roving skulk, first; a natural liar, next; and withal a murderer, a tyrant.
To confirm his purpose; to make the trees and stones and his own people hear him, he whispers soldiers, lockhouses and iron chains. My people, we are poor; we are fatherless. The white man fathers this doom--yes, this curse on us and on the few that may see a few days more. He, the cause of our ruin, is his own snake which he says stole on his mother in her own country to lie to her. He says his story is that man was rejected and cast off. Why did we not reject him forever? He says one of his virgins had a son nailed to death on two cross sticks to save him. Were all of them dead when that young man died, we would all be safe now, and our country our own.
But he lives to persist; yes, the rascal is also an unsatisfied beggar, and his hangman and swine follow his walk. Pay him money? Did he inquire, how? No, no, his meanness ropes his charity, his avarice wives his envy, his race breeds to extort. Did he speak at all like a friend? He saw a few horses and some cows, and so many tens of rails with the few of us that own them. His envy thereon baited to the quick. Why thus; because he himself says he is in a big debt, and wants us to help pay it. His avarice put him in debt, and he wants us to pay him for it and be his fools. Did he ask how many a helpless widow, how many a fatherless child, how many a blind and naked thing fare a little of that little we have? Did he--in a destroying night when the mountains and the firmaments put their faces together to freeze us--did he inquire if we had a spare rag of a blanket to save his lost and perishing steps to our fires? No, no; cold he is, and merciless. Four times in one shivering night I last winter knew the old one-eyed Indian, Kenneth, the gray man of full seven tens of winters, was refused shelter in four of the white man's houses on his way that bad night; yet the aged, blinded man was turned out to his fate. No, no; he is cold and merciless, haughty and overbearing. Look at him, and he looks at you--how? His fishy eyes scan you as the why-oops do the shelled blue cock. He is cold, and stealth and envy are with him, and fit him as do his hands and feet. We owe him nothing. He owes us more than he will pay us, and yet he says there is a God.
I know another aged Indian, with his only daughter and wife alone in their lodge. He had a few beaver skins and four or five poor horses--all he had. The night was bad and held every stream in thick ice; the earth was white; the stars burned nearer us as if to pity us, but the more they burned the more stood the hair of the deer on end with cold, nor heeded they the frost bursting bark of the willows. Two of the white man's people came to the lodge, lost and freezing pitifully. They fared well inside that lodge. The old wife and only daughter unbound and cut off their frozen shoes; gave them new ones and crushed sage-bark rind to keep their feet warm and smooth. She gave them warm soup; boiled deer meat and boiled beaver. They were saved; their safety returned to make them live. After awhile they would not stop; they would go. They went away. Mind you; remember well; at midnight they returned, murdered the old father and his daughter and her mother asleep, took the beaver skins and horses and left. Next day, the first and only Indian they met, a fine young man, they killed, put his body under the ice and rode away on his horse.
Yet they say we are not good. Will he tell his own crimes? No, no; his crimes to us are left untold. But the Desolater bawls and cries the clangers of the country from us, the few left of us. Other tribes kill and ravish his women and stake his children, and eat his steers, and he gives them blankets and sugar for it. We the poor Flatheads who never troubled him, he wants now to distress and make poorer.
I have no more to say, my people; but this much I have said and close to hear your minds about this payment. We never begot laws or rights to ask it. His laws never gave us a blade, nor a tree, nor a duck, nor a grouse, nor a trout. No; like the wolverine that steals your cache, how often does he come? You know he comes as long as he lives, and takes more and more, and dirties what he leaves.