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To What Extent is it right to call the Plains Indians Savages?

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Assignment "He is dishonourable - vile and treacherous, and hateful in every way. Not even imminent death can startle him into a spasm of goodness. The ruling characteristic of all savages is a greedy and consuming selfishness, and in our Noble Red Man it is found in its amplest development. His heart is a cesspool of falsehood, of treachery, and of low and devilish instincts. All history and honest observation will show that the Red Man is a skulking coward and a windy braggart, who strikes without warning-usually from an ambush or under cover of night, and nearly always bringing a force of about five or six to one against his enemy; kills helpless women and little children, and massacres the men in their beds; and then brags about it as long as he lives, and his son and his grandson and great-grandson after him glorify it among the "heroic deeds of their ancestors." Mark Twain, The Noble Red Man, 1870 But the Indians are children. Their arts, wars, treaties, alliances, habitations, crafts, properties, commerce, comforts, all belong to the very lowest and rudest ages of human existence. Horace Greeley, Letter 13: Lo! ...read more.


Another way in which they weren't selfish, contrary to what Twain had suggested. Perhaps they could have become a more advanced society, but there was no need, as their simple way of life provided everything they needed. They were obviously happy with their lifestyle, as Catlin said: 'Nor am I sure they are entitled to the name of "poor", who live in a boundless country... indulging in the pleasures and amusements of a lifetime... With no notes in bank or business hours to attend to or other debts to pay.' Plains Indians' traditions such as scalping may seem barbaric to us, but to them it is part of religion. The death penalty coldly employed in Europe at the time may have seemed barbaric in the eyes of a Plains Indian. George Catlin spent time with the people of the plains and learnt about their culture and beliefs. He found the Plains Indians far from savage, a welcoming and hospitable people. General Custer brought his dragoons and Catlin to meet the Comanche tribe to establish peace. "... and, to the everlasting credit of the Comanches, whom the world had always looked upon as murderous and hostile, they had all come out... ...read more.


When before the United States Congress in his report of the conduct of the war, he recounted the savagery during "The massacre of Cheyenne Indians of Sand Creek". "There was one little child, probably three years old... the Indians had gone ahead, and this little child was behind, following after them. I saw one man get off his horse, at a distance of about 75 yards, draw up his rifle and fire - he missed the child" This carries on for some time until one soldier eventually hits the child and "the little fellow dropped". They were also savage in the way they hunted the buffalo in an attempt to exterminate the Plains Indians' food source. "Oh insatiable man... wouldst thou tear the skin from the back of the last animal of this noble race, and rob thy fellow man of his meat?" - Catlin. In conclusion I think that those who regarded the Plains Indians as savages were wrong in their reasoning. Those who spent time understanding the ways of the indigenous people of America, such as Catlin, realised that they were not savage, they were civilised and only took what they needed from the land around them. Their arts and crafts were not those of "children" and their way of living was one highly suited to the natural environment they depended so heavily upon. ...read more.

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