Once an Indian, always an Indian. That’s one way of expressing the white view of the Red Man. There was an inexorable, irradicable wildness in an Indian, so it seemed to whites. Whether this is true or not is beside the point. In today’s crowded world, it is necessary to know what someone else thinks about you.
Over a century ago, Andrew “Old Hickory” Jackson had some interesting thoughts about Indians, eastern woodland Indians anyway. He isn’t known for having a positive regard for them, but, his views should be understood in context. He did in fact have a positive view, depite his political actions. Michael Paul Rogin has an interesting work on Jackson, Fathers & Children: Andrew Jackson and the Subjugation of the American Indian (Vintage, 1975). Very much a wild man himself, Jackson had a psychological affinity with Indians. He adopted one in 1813.
“Lincoyer,” Jackson called the toddler. It happened during the Creek War, in 1813-14, before the Battle of Tohopeka (“Horse Shoe Bend”) to be exact, in Alabama. The British had managed to seduce the Creek into alliance, and Jackson was determine to route out the Brits, and every Indian who stood with them. The US military won out, and among the Indian survivors was a small child, pressed against the bosom of its dead mother. The Creek women had intended to kill the child, since all its relations were dead, but Jackson intervened. He became the protector and vindicator of the child.
Andrew “Old Hickory” Jackson, from a lithograph
made in 1856, from Mathew Brady’s daguerreotype.
Rogin notes that Jackson saw himself in that little orphaned child. According to Rogin’s psychological biography (a take en vogue in the ’70′s), Jackson was becoming the father of all the Indian tribes. He began to assume a parental role, personally, as well as presidentially. He did not invent the perspective, but, Jackson followed an established trend of white thinking in Washington toward Indians. Indians were children. The white man was the parent. (Of course, BadEagle.com interprets history in just the opposite view–the Indian is the father, and the white man is the adopted child, grown into a giant, but still an adopted child.)
Jackson revealed some of his attitude about Indians in a letter to his wife Rachel at their plantation, The Hermitage:
Keep Lincoya in the house–he is a savage [illegible] that fortune has thrown in my [illegible] his own female matrons wanted to [illegible] because the whole race and family of his [illegible] was destroyed–I therefore want him well taken care of, he may have been given to me for some valuable purpose–in fact when I reflect that he as to his relations–is so much like myself I feel an unusual sympathy for him.
Unfortunately, Lincoyer died of tuberculosis at the age of 16.
The idea was that, to keep an Indian from his natural savagery, he must be keep from his natural environment. Indeed, the early Christian missionaries also insisted on changing the Indian’s clothes. The missionaries believed that the Indian’s clothing was replete with superstition, animals, gods, powers, spirits, etc., and all this must be removed if the Indian was to understand a new view of life.
Keep Lincoyer in the house. Keep him well dressed, in fine black silk and starched white shirts. Keep him looking, acting, and thinking “white.” Of course, the American whites didn’t think of it as “white,” but simply as better, higher, or, “Christian.” The Indian had to be delivered from his heathenisms.
The Battle of Tohopeka
Well, one thing is certain: there will be no return to the old Indian ways. The present world will not allow it. Those days are gone, forever. Not even the Ghost Dance could bring them back. Indians have no messiah.
But, are we still wild inside? I would bet that most Indians would answer most definitely “Yes!” Today, savagery comes out in our competition and frustrations with one another, unfortunately. We’re corralled now. We’re in each other’s face. This is particularly painful among the Plains Indians, so used to the wide open space, the freedom, and the wind. I think perhaps the Comanches suffered more, psychologically, than any other tribe. Some military records describe the incredible depression among newly “imprisoned” Comanche people.
Tom Torlino, a Carlisle School student, before and after attending the school. Courtesy Denver Public Library
So how do Indians live in a new world? How are Indians supposed to get along in a foreign country–imposed on our own land?
BadEagle.com has always advocated the acceptance of new enemies. New challenges. New competitions. Alcohol is the number one enemy to be vanquished. Infidelity, immorality, malicious lying, theft, and hatred horde themselves among the Indians. These enemies must be driven out. But, we need warriors who are willing to recognize these things as enemies, first. Then we can war against them.
A warrior without an enemy will kill himself. He has to kill. That’s a fundamental part of what it means to be a warrior. And that’s what’s wrong with us. We are warriors, forever. But we don’t see our enemies now. We gone a long. long time without being willing to accept new enemies. We fear that fighting them will change us from being Indian, somehow. I say no. Nothing will change us. New enemies will keep us alive–as what we really are, warriors.