Friday, February 5, 2010


This is a passage from The Soul of an Indian,
published in 1911. It was written by Ohiyesa,
a Santee Sioux Indian from Minnesota, who took on
the white man's name Charles Alexander Eastman.
He knew traditional ways and believed in the workings
of the Great Mystery, yet also believed in Christ,
went to Dartmouth, and received a M.D. from
Boston Univ. He became an adviser to presidents,
and spent much of his life building bridges
between the two cultures.
Amazon lists a number of sellers who have his
writings in stock - all have been republished
in recent years.
I am an Indian;
and while I have learned much from
civilization, I have never lost my Indian sense
of right and justice.
When I reduce civilization to its most basic terms,
it becomes a symbol of life based on trade.
Each man stakes his powers, the product of his
labor, his social, political, and religious standing
against his neighbor. To gain what?
To gain control over his fellow workers,
and the results of their labor.
Is there not something worthy of perpetuation
in our Indian spirit of democracy, where Earth,
our mother, was free to all, and no one sought to
impoverish or enslave his neighbor?
Where the good things of Earth were not ours to
hold against our brothers and sisters, but were ours
to use and enjoy together with them, and with whom
it was our privilege to share?
Indeed, our contribution to our nation and
the world is not to be measured in the material realm.
Our greatest contribution has been spiritual and
philosophical. Silently, by example only, in
wordless patience, we have held stoutly to our
native vision of personal faithfulness to duty and
devotion to a trust. We have not advertised our
faithfulness nor made capital of our honor.
But again and again we have proved our worth
as citizens of this country by our constancy in the
face of hardship and death. Prejudice and racial
injustice have been no excuse for our breaking
our word. The simplicity and fairness has cost us dear.
It has cost us our land and our freedom, and even the
extinction of our race as a separate and unique people.
But, as an ideal, we live and will live, not only in
the splendor of our past, the poetry of our legends
and art, not only in the interfusion of our blood
with yours, and in our faithful adherence to
the ideals of American citizenship,
but in the living heart
of the nation.

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