Friday, September 9, 2011

WHAT AN INDIAN THINKS OF IT: Loafer Redhorse at Standing Rock

The writer of this letter is Loafer Redhorse, a son-in-law
of the Titon Chief, Swift Bear, whose band have colonized
as homesteaders along the Niobrara River near the mouth of
Keya Paha River. 

Their colony is one hundred and thirty miles from
Rosebud Agency, to which they belong.Their settlement
we call Burrell Station in honor of Dea. Burrell, of Oberlin,
who gave the money to build the school-house and home
for the teacher. Mr. Francis Frazier, son of Pastorof Santee,
has now been their teacher two years.


Loafer Redhorse

Loafer Redhorse is anything but a loafer. He is one of the most industrious men. He is one who would naturally be first in war, as he says, and now also is first in following the plow, and learning the ways of the white man. Among other things it is interesting to know what he thinks of prohibiting the use of the Dakota language. 
MY FRIENDS: Let me speak now. I am sad because of one thing which I will now speak of. Since our school-house (the Burrell station school) was built, I, with my children, have attended with a glad heart just as if it were my own. And now I hear that it is likely to be closed, and I will speak about that. And this is why I have something to say.

The scholars who go out from the Brules to go to school, come back without knowing anything, for the reason that they don't teach them anything except to work. That is the reason they don't know anything, I think. And I will tell how it was with us under Indian customs since the time I had understanding. 
Then the Indian tribes were happy. Into whatever country was good they roamed just as they pleased. At that time, although there were many Indians on all sides, there was a great country in between full of buffalo. It seemed to be the buffalo's country. 

And the Indian people were made happy because of the buffalo.
The people would move their camps and pitch their tents again and the buffalo would come right in among their tents with a great noise. Then it was that the people had great joy. And there was another thing that the people rejoiced in greatly. I will speak of that also. That was in war. When they went to war and came near the enemies' dwellings and saw the enemy there they would choose out about ten of the bravest young men and dispatch them to kill some of the enemy. Then they would draw near to the houses, and soon though there might be five whose hearts were not able for it, the others would go on and kill a man at his house. And the great joy that I spoke of was thus: of the five who had killed an enemy but only four of them could take the glory, but their names would be praised throughout the whole Indian nation; they would be glorified and considered as chiefs. But most of all, he who first killed the enemy he would be the chief. And then when they had returned home even the women would rejoice greatly. They would dance night and day, all of them. And as I, myself, was chief, I considered this the very greatest joy. Such were our customs.

But now from the place I now occupy, I look back and remember these things. And though the Indian people had all of these customs, I know not one of them that made the people prosper or brought life to them. I have not seen that brought life to the people. And thus from where I am now, I am always looking to the future. On this account I am looking forward. The Indians have been told the words of the Grandfather, (the President). And they tell us that by these words the people will prosper. "Plant; by that you shall live," the Grandfather told them. And now I know a little that the Grandfather spoke the truth.

The Grandfather gives me food for six days, but even though I eat a very little each day, in three days I have eaten it all up. But now I have raised corn and though I abide here eating nothing else, by it I live. And also to go from my place to where the Grandfather gives me rations takes one week to go and the same to come back and I stay over a few days to rest when there, and so it altogether covers over three weeks or more. Therefore, though I have settled here and desire to busy myself in all the white man's ways that I am able, I have not yet become independent. And therefore, I earnestly wish, if it were possible, that the Grandfather would enable us to receive a year's rations at a time, and then we would make speedy progress in the white man's way. And because of this also, the children do not advance much in their learning. For when we go after the food they also go along. If they should stay behind, food is scarce, therefore they go along.

And now I hear it said that schooling in the Dakota language is to be altogether stopped, and on this account I am sad. For in the school-house here they learn well and also they pray. It is because they do these things in the Dakota language that we have been brought to understand them and to love them, and gladly live in accordance with them. Then also if it was all done (the teaching and praying) by a white man we would understand nothing about it, and so I do not think it would be well. And now this is the last thing I want to say. 
The Grandfather has for his own the Indians all over the land, and he always helps them according to what may be for their welfare. Now he is measuring off the land for them, but I hear it said that he measures it very, very small, and I am sad about that.

If only he would have mercy and measure it off for them largely, that is what I think. A good while ago the Grandfather made a treaty with the Indians and promised to give them three hundred and twenty acres, and according to that I have chosen my homestead and that suits me. Therefore I prize the Grandfather's word and measure myself by it. And thus I possess myself and my children. 
Although we are not many people here, yet I always command them to give heed to the words of the Grandfather. And I bear witness to their constant attendance at the house (the school and church) that stands here. Although I am wholly an Indian, yet these are my judgments and so I tell them. And I write them in order that some may think about the Indians. My friends, I wish you to hear these words and so I write them. I shake hands with a good heart.
                                   LOAFER REDHORSE.Burrell Station, Rosebud Agency, D.T.

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