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Bad Eagle Journal

The Indelible Indian

by David Yeagley · March 16, 2009 · 11 Comments ·

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, 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? 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.

Posted by David Yeagley · March 16, 2009 · 5:35 pm CT · ·

Tags: American Indians · Bad Eagle Journal · White Race

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11 responses so far ↓

  • 1 David Yeagley // Mar 16, 2009 at 5:40 pm   

    Here’s another fine photo of the work at Carlisle. Note the children don’t look thrilled to death, or overcome with joy, in either photo, before or after. Why should they be? They are taken from their homes, families, and land, and taken far, far away. Apache kids, in Pennsylvania. Imagine.

    Well, the American government was so afraid of Geronimo’s influence that they kept him away from his people for nearly 25 years. A prisoner of war, he was.

  • 2 kschwantz // Mar 16, 2009 at 8:29 pm   

    Civilization kills the warrior.

    There’s a great Jap movie that really delves into this, albeit in a Jappy sort of way:

    Ronin Gai.

    Four used to be Samurai waste away at a local bar and brothel. All the Skills they possess, once revered are now useless; they are useless. Bums. The local Government wants to run the brothel out of town, and so these wild Ronin decide that this is their new fight. 4 against 100, etc, etc. Describes in a cinematic way this article to a tee. Warrior’s must fight. That’s what they do, that’s what they are, or else they have no purpose. Every Warrior must deal with this someway, somehow, at somepoint.

    The Indian, the Cowboy, and the Samurai, (sounds like a book title) Or maybe the Moutain Man. All got passed by. Even the Herbert McBride’s, modern by comparison, are dinosaurs this day and age. That is the way of things, but it all cycles around.

  • 3 David Yeagley // Mar 16, 2009 at 8:54 pm   

    I guess the next question is, How did Indians get like this? Ha, ha!

    Comanches were absolutely notorious. Plains Indians in general. Was it hunting big game? Was it enduring the violent weather?

  • 4 deadsteve // Mar 16, 2009 at 9:27 pm   

    Being Comanche has lost meaning to me or carries a false meaning. My only contact with the tribe is in November waiting for the casino check or securing a voucher to pay for my prescriptions.

    I see how I do battle with myself.

  • 5 Sioux // Mar 16, 2009 at 9:29 pm   

    Dr. Y- I appreciate how you try to put events into a context in keeping with the times. True enough, I am just an old white lady who searches for truth as best I can. I read the slams that people put out there about you, like “Coulda told ya”, and I try to find some specificis in the criticisms. Quite a dearth of ideas in these responses – just slam the messenger. Your critics must make you smile – you are worthy of being slammed!

  • 6 David Yeagley // Mar 17, 2009 at 9:11 am   

    Sioux, I do have to edit trollers now and then. I don’t know quite how to set the controlls for spammers and trollers just yet, but I’ll get there.

    DeadSteve has a said a lot, actually. There are many Indians who have such an experience. It is a deep thing. Indians really ought to talk about it, actually.

  • 7 David Yeagley // Mar 17, 2009 at 1:03 pm   

    Sioux, the person who several times has posted on the BadEagleJournal, without naming himself, his family, or even his tribe, is not to be considered Indian at all.

    I will not have such a manipulative coward stand as a representative of the Indian male. He (or more like she–a 12-year-old girl) thinks keeping herself hidden is a sign of great prowess and superior cunning. This is how juvenile and out-of-touch some people can get. This is most definitely not a warrior, but a socially very retarded person. This person thinks that attacking, as a ghost, he has an advantage.

    This person is not Indian. This person is a pathological sufferer of some kind. Now, he wants everyon to think he represents the Indian male? Are you kidding. He’s not even Indian. It’s probably a white female. Or a homosexual male

    I will not have this misanthrope represent anything but misanthropy. This is not an Indian person. I repeat, not an Indian person.

    I just don’t know how to ban yet, not completely.

  • 8 Sioux // Mar 17, 2009 at 6:08 pm   

    Thanks for straightening me out, Dr. Y – I have been reading faithfully, but my life at work has intensified substantially, so I am pretty pooped when I get home. I analyze data all day on the computer trying to figure out the health care world of Battle Creek. It is now 8:00 and I just got home…..whew…;o)

  • 9 David Yeagley // Mar 17, 2009 at 7:07 pm   

    Well, sorry to greet you with such a nasty message! I find intentional juvenility particularly offensive. I find intentional pretense even more offensive. There are many people like this on the internet, unfortunately. It comes with the territory–the opportunity to pretend, be offensive–with no fear of encounter, no fear of consequence. Brings out the coward in many a person, it does.

  • 10 Sioux // Mar 17, 2009 at 8:24 pm   

    You got me thinking about Man in general as Warrior, If it is innate, then what happened to our men? Alcohol and drugs and faux food help dull the pain of the inauthentic life, but come back to bite in the proverbial butt. Manliness (strong, protective spirit, warriors when necessary) seems to be thoroughly thwarted in our feminized culture. I see nothing good about women in charge or in men who pretend not to be men. I am babbling…good night for now…

  • 11 David Yeagley // Mar 17, 2009 at 9:22 pm   

    Babbling? You must be dangerous when you’re in gear.

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