75. Indian Commissioner Taylor on Indian Civilization: Extract from the Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, November 23, 1868
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122 functions of civil government to the military organization. . . . [House Executive Document no. 1, 40th Cong., 3d sess., serial 1366, pp. 467–74.] 75. Indian Commissioner Taylor on Indian Civilization Extract from the Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs November 23, 1868 Commissioner of Indian Affairs Nathaniel G. Taylor was an ardent promoter of civilian control of Indian affairs and of programs for the civilization of the Indians. In his annual report of 1868 he included a forthright statement of his belief in the feasibility of such programs. Shall our Indians be civilized? and how? How can our Indian tribes be civilized?— Assuming that the government has a right, and that it is its duty to solve the Indian question definitely and decisively, it becomes necessary that it determine at once the best and speediest method of its solution, and then, armed with right, to act in the interest of both races. If might makes right, we are the strong and they the weak; and we would do no wrong to proceed by the cheapest and nearest route to the desired end, and could, therefore, justify ourselves in ignoring the natural as well as the conventional rights of the Indians, if they stand in the way, and, as their lawful masters, assign them their status and their tasks, or put them out of their own way and ours by extermination with the sword, starvation, or by any other method. If, however, they have rights as well as we, then clearly it is our duty as well as sound policy to so solve the question of their future relations to us and each other, as to secure their rights and promote their highest interest, in the simplest, easiest, and most economical way possible. But to assume they have no rights is to deny the fundamental principles of Christianity , as well as to contradict the whole theory upon which the government has uniformly acted towards them; we are therefore bound to respect their rights, and, if possible, make our interest harmonize with them. This brings us to the consideration of the question: How can the Indian problem be solved so as best to protect and secure the rights of the Indians, and at the same time promote the highest interests of both races?–This question has long trembled in the hearts of philanthropists, and perplexed the brains of statesmen. It is one that forces itself at this moment upon Congress and the country, for an immediate practical answer. The time for speculation and delay has passed; action must be had, and that promptly. History and experience have laid the key to its solution in our hands, at the proper moment, and all we need to do is to use it, and we at once reach the desired answer. It so happens that under the silent and seemingly slow operation of efficient causes, certain tribes of our Indians have already emerged from a state of pagan barbarism , and are to-day clothed in the garments of civilization, and sitting under the vine and fig tree of an intelligent scriptural Christianity. Within the present century their blanketed fathers struggled in deadly conflict with our pioneer ancestors in the lovely valleys of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi; among the mountain gorges and along the banks of the beautiful streams of western North Carolina and East Tennessee, and in the everglades of Florida; and made classic the fields of Talladega, Emuckfau, and the Horse-shoe, which gave to history and fame the illustrious name of Andrew Jackson. Within the memory of living men, their tomahawks reflected the light of the burning cabins of white settlers on the Nolachucky and French Broad, the Hiawassee and the Tennessee rivers and their tributaries; their scalping-knives dripped with the blood of our border settlers, and their defiant battle-yells woke the echoes among the green savannahs and vine-tangled forests of the south. But behold the contrast which greets the world to-day! The blanket and the bow 123 are discarded; the spear is broken, and the hatchet and war-club lie buried; the skin lodge and primitive tepe have given place to the cottage and the mansion; the buckskin robe, the paint and beads have vanished, and are now replaced with the tasteful fabrics of civilization. Medicine lodges and their orgies, and heathen offerings, are mingling with the dust of a forgotten idolatry. Schoolhouses abound, and the feet of many thousand little...