Saturday, September 01, 2007

My Favorite Red Jacket (A speech by the Chief)

Text of Chief Red Jackets speech, given in 1805 in Seneca Falls, NY. to a group of Christian missionaries:

"Friend and Brother: It was the will of the Great Spirit that we should meet together this day. He orders all things and has given us a fine day for our council. He has taken His garment from before the sun and caused it to shine with brightness upon us. Our eyes are opened that we see clearly; our ears are unstopped that we have been able to hear distinctly the words you have spoken. For all these favors we thank the Great Spirit, and Him only."

"Brother, this council fire was kindled by you. It was at your request that we came together at this time. We have listened to attention to what you have said. You requested us to speak our minds freely. this gives us great joy; for now we consider that we stand upright before you and can speak what we think. All have heard your voice and all speak to you now as one man. Our minds are agreed......."

"Brother, listen to what we say. There was a time when our forefathers owned this great island. Their seats extended from the rising sun to the setting sun. The Great Spirit has made if for the use of Indians. He has created the buffalo, the deer, and other animals for food. He has 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 of He had done for His children because He loved them. If we had some disputes about our hunting ground they were generally settled without the shedding of 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 in return."

"Brother, our seats were once large and yous were small. You have now become a great people, and we have scarcely a place left to spread our blankets. You have got our country, but are not satisfied; you want to force your religion upon us."

"Brother, continue to listen. you say that you are sent to instruct us how to worship the Great Spirit agreeably to His mind; and. if we do not take hold of the religion which you white people teach we shall be unhappy hereafter. You say that you are right and we are lost. How do we know this to be true? We understand that your religion is written in a Book. If it was intended for us, as well as you, why has not the Great Spirit given to us, and not only us, but why did He not give our forefathers the knowledge of that Book, with the mean of understanding it rightly? We know only what you tell us about it. How shall we know when to believe, being so often deceived by the white people."

"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....."

"Brother, we do not wish to destroy your religion or take it from you. We only want to enjoy our own."

Editorial Comment by borgo - With very simple words and in a very simple style -Chief Red Jacket conveyed his message that I think should last for the ages...



RED JACKET'S SPEECH[Communicated.] -1822

The Chiefs of the Seneca Nation of Indians lately held a Council in this village, (Batavia) and requested several of the citizens of this place to attend; when their celebrated chief and orator, Red Jacket delivered the following eloquent address. The publications which lately appeared in the Niagara Journal, and several other papers, signed by five Indians of the Christian party, Jasper Parish and H. Jones, it appears called forth from Red Jacket the following justification of himself and nation. He addressed himself particularly to Judge Ross, of this village, who happened to be present:--

My Brother and Friend--The Great Good Spirit who governs the world, and who knows our thoughts and actions, whether they are good or bad, has placed within the Indian bosom and the white man's bosom, a certain monitor which regulates our conduct, which prompts us to do good, and makes us sensible of our crimes when we do wrong, now tell me to speak to you.
I have lived many years, and have always been beloved and respected by my red brethren, for my love of peace and justice; a sincere honor and happiness, and an upright and honorable opposition to my change in those manners and customs which it first pleased the Good Spirit to give to us, his red children. I have from my youth up to the time that I now address you, always been considered as the friend of the white man, and I say it without the fear of contradiction, (and the Great Good Spirit knows without vanity, or any desire to make the world believe that I have more influence with my red brethren, than I in reality have,) that I have at all times had it in my power, (for such is their belief in my honesty and attachment to their interest,) to control their passions and their feelings, so as to excite their love or indignation for their white brethren, or to abide by or breach the treaties made by us with the people of the United States. But I now feel hurt, and grieved at heart, to think I know that my character and reputation has been so wickedly and wantonly assailed-that it has been represented to be a compound on everything that is vile and wicked, and published in papers, which I am told are sent not only through the whole United States, but even over the great waters to Europe, and that too by parish and Jones, men that we have always loved until we found they were unfriendly to us; men who had every reason to love us, and be true to our interests. They were nursed and fed by us in the wilderness. We protected them in their infancy, we educated them like their white brethren, that they might not feel themselves or appear to their white brethren like the wild Indians of the forests; we gave them lands and made them rich, yes richer than any of their white brethren, and for what? because we loved them, they were dear to us, yes, dear to us as the parent to the child that loves him. They were adopted parents, and to them we looked for counsel and advice, in all our difficulties.

But they have been grateful to us for all favors and presents? No, gratitude is a stranger to the white man's bosom. Like the cruel and ferocious Panther of the forest, when a whelp, it is feeble and helpless as the Puppy. The Indian takes it to his hut. He feeds and nurses it with the food he has provided for his children. It acquires strength, vigor and activity, and unmindful and ungrateful for what has been done for him, he falls upon and devours his benefactor and helpless infants.
But my friend, let us see if we can find any excuse or justification for their conduct. They accuse me of drunkenness and lying, and say that I was drunk 2 days during the Great Indian Council held at Tonnawanta. I say this is false, and I again repeat it, that the whole of the facts which have been published by me and the Chiefs assembled at that Council, are true; whereas the statements made by Parish and Jones in the piece printed by them, are false, and I will prove it.

True it is, that I sometimes drink, and perhaps too much for my own good. But ought this to be published to the world? is this a public act? does it interfere with the treaties made between us and the people of the United States? No, it is only a private act. It concerns no one except myself and the Great Good Spirit, who, I know, will not approve, but knows of it. And here I wish to say that I myself know it is wrong. That in doing so, I set a bad example before my red brethren. But it is a habit which I unfortunately, with too many of my red brethren have caught from the white men, before we knew the fatal wicked and pernicious effects of this too delicious but strong water. But let not my Red Brethren follow my examples. Let my conduct in this respect be to them like the blaze emitted by an hundred dry hemlocks on the heights of the Allegany, to the wild beast of the forest warning them to fly far away,, and avoid danger and death. Examine then my public conduct through life, and see if you can find one blot or one stain to blacken my character. Look at the treaty made by me in behalf and for the Six Nations of Indians, with General Washington. Look at the treaty made between myself and Pickering at Canandaigua, examine them closely, and see if I have ever broken any agreement made by me in these treaties or any treaty made between the Indians and the President of the United States, wherein my name was signed to such treaty, or my faith was pledged for any tribe or any nation of the Six Nations of Indians, although I again repeat it. I have had at all times sufficient influence to persuade my red brethren to break them.

I have round my neck a silver plate, presented to me by General Washington, which he told me to preserve and wear so long as I felt friendly to him and the United States, as an evidence of his friendship for me. If I have ever violated any treaty or any agreement made by me, why has this not been taken from me. You see it here yet. I say I never have so done.

But as Parish and Jones, are not contented with what they have said about my private character, they say that the Indians are opposed to them because they are friendly to the christian religion. This is not true, because he has told me repeatedly that the "Black Goats did us more hurt than good, and that we ought to drive them away." When the Great Good Spirit made the world, he put in it the trees of the forests, the birds of the air, all kinds of animals, and fishes that live in the waters. To all these he gave their respective shapes, colours, natures, actions, &c. Although those are all fixed you see and are immovable. They cannot change, colour, nature or their actions or customs. He also at the same time made the White Man, the Red Man, and the Black Man. To the White Man he gave one way to worship him and certain customs; to the Red Man another, and his customs and way to live; and to the Black Man others still. Now I say we can't change our religion or custom, because they are fixed by the great good Spirit, and if we attempt to do it we shall offend our Great Spirit and he will punish us for it.

From the rising to the setting sun examine all the different tribes of Indians, and see in what a condition you find them. I have travelled far. I have been from the Atlantic to the shores of the Pacific, and I know the habits, customs and situation of almost every tribe and nation of Indians. And I say that it is a fact, that whenever you find a tribe of Indians that have been christionized and have changed their custom or habit, which the Great good Spirit gave them, you will see that they are a poor, worthless, lying, ragged, miserable and degraded set of beings; and instead of becoming white men, as they expected to have become by changing their customs and habits, they have formed connections with the blacks, and have become black men in their actions and conduct. I say, therefore, that the Great Spirit will not suffer his Red Children to change their religion or custom. But when they attempt to do it punishes them by turning them into Black Men. It is not because the White Men love the Indians that they want to make them christians, it is because they want to cheat them out of their property. The Black Coats that they send among us with honey on their tongue, have always proved themselves to be dishonest; they are an ignorant, idle set of creatures, incapable of getting a living amongst their white brethren, and are therefore sent amongst us to get a living. They bring along with them a worthless set of White Men who steal our horses and seduce our Squaws.

One thing more my Brother. Parish and Jones since they have become such good christians and pretend to do so much honesty, before they accuse me of being dishonest _ them clear themselves of the charges which we have brought against them, and not answer our statements which are true by abusing me. Let Jones return to the Indians the lands which he cheated Little Beard out of or at least give them to his Indian on, which he had by Little Beard's Squaw, after he had cheated his father. I have before stated, I am dissatisfied with the conduct of both Parish and Jones, and wish that Parish may be turned out of his office, and in saying this I am not alone, it is the voice of the whole Six Nations of Indians. We have put up with the _ treaties from these men for three years past. We have watched them narrowly and never have made any complaint until the whole matter had been submitted to a full council on the whole Six Nations of Indians held at Tonawanta. When the proceedings of that meeting were made known Parish instead of proving the accusations made by us as false as he ought to have done if it was not true, got four or five Indians who hold no place in our Councils to sign a false and abusive piece about the private reputation of the Chiefs who signed the proceedings of that Meeting and then published it to the World.
He thought by this course, to frighten me into silence and subservience to his measures. But in this he is mistaken--so long as the Great Good Spirit will suffer me to live among his red children, I know it is my duty, (for a certain something within me tells me so) to watch over their interest, and as far as I am capable to protect them, from the cunning and avarice of the white men.

I have only one thing more to say, and it is this:--We wish the President would appoint as our agent in the room of Mr. Parish, (for we are determined that he shall no longer be our agent,) either James Gnash, Mr. Joseph Annin, Mr. John Z. Ross, or Ethan B. Allen, Esq. With the appointment of either of the above gentlemen we shall be satisfied, and wish to have it done immediately.

Source: Republican Advocate, Batavia: November 15-1822

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