Indian Removal, by Grant Foreman, Muskogee, Oklahoma, 386 pp., Ill., University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma. $4.00.
Reviewed by John Bartlett Meserve.
A contribution of absorbing interest and enduring worth is Indian Removal, the Emigration of the Five Civilized Tribes of Indians, from the trenchant pen of Grant Foreman, Oklahoma's premier historian. As the title suggests, the work has relation to the enforced removal of the Choctaw, Creek, Chickasaw, Cherokee and Seminole Tribes, by the United States Government, from their ancient homes in the southeastern states to the old Indian Territory. It offers an interesting sequel to some phases of Theodore Roosevelt's Winning of the West as the author resumes currents of Indian history where Mr. Roosevelt abandoned them.
At the threshold of the last century, the government engaged itself to extinguish the Indian title to lands occupied by the members of the tribes, in these rapidly expanding commonwealths. Obviously, this engagement necessarily carried with it the deportation of the Indians or, in lieu thereof, an abdication by the government of its responsibility for the personal welfare of its red proteges. The latter policy would have provoked a vicarious sacrifice or human bondage and, apparently the white settlers were uninterested in eventualities so long as the Indian was dispossessed and his tribal domain yielded for settlement. A defined National policy was inaugurated by Congress under the inspiration of President Jackson in 1830, which committed the government to the removal of these Indians to lands beyond the Mississippi. Andrew Jackson was ever a Nemesis of the southern tribes. Treaties were made with the unwilling tribes, touching the disposition of their eastern lands in exchange for lands in the West. These so-called treaties embraced many vital provisions which were broken or unenforced by the government and yet the grass still
grew and the placid rivers of Georgia and Alabama continued to the sea, just as they had ever done. The states assumed a militant posture toward the Indians and by legislation inhibited self government by the tribes, denied to their members the equal protection of the laws and divested them of all rights of citizenship. A Chinaman enjoyed greater rights and immunities in Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi than did the most accomplished Indian who became an alien in the land he had possessed for ages. The Indians were completely whipped, humane considerations thrust aside and in the early 30's of the last century the actual deportation of the southern tribes began and engaged the attention of the War Department for upwards of a decade. It was the enforced deportation of an unwilling people en masse from their ancient and hereditary homes. Each of the tribes was removed separately and for years caravans of these disheartened folk crossed the Mississippi to mingle their fortunes anew in the West. Mr. Foreman with painstaking detail, tells us of these removals. We are told of the treaties, of the preparations for the journeys, of the hostile posture of the white settlers in the East, of the long, tedious treks entailing hardships, hunger, sickness and death and of the arrivals in the old Indian Territory. The facts are graphically related. Says Mr. Foreman, "The forcible uprooting and expulsion of sixty thousand such people over a period of more than a decade, developed a story without parallel in the history of this country and resulted in the accumulation of manuscript material from which this account is written." The author has assembled from scraps of manuscripts, from old musty records and from letters and journals of officers in charge of various groups of emigrating Indians, his material for one of the most interesting narratives in our history. He assumes nothing, omits no detail and supports the text by copious notes and references. Accuracy has been the author's desideratum and this has been accomplished. The work is splendidly illustrated and the maps are of great value to the reader. Nothing is wanting in the literary grace of Mr. Foreman and this effort is well up to the high standard which he heretofore has established. He has made a wonderful contribution to the preservation of the annals of the Five Civilized Tribes and of the State of Oklahoma. The people of this
State as well as of the entire country are greatly indebted to him for his painstaking research and survey.
The emigrant Indian of whose vicissitudes Mr. Foreman writes, has long since crossed to the Spirit Shore. Of the heartaches, homesickness and exhaustion of soul, the author declines conjecture and abjures the realm of the imaginative. He purposely and very properly suspends all opinionated notions and resigns to the reader all formations of judgment, but in hushed moments at twilight, beside the happy firesides of a new day in Eastern Oklahoma, descendants of those grim argonauts of a century ago whisper the gruesome story as it has been handed on down to them through the ebb of years.
Sitting Bull: Champion of the Sioux. A biography of Stanley Vestal. 350 pp., illustrated. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. $3.50.
Stanley Vestal's latest contribution to western literature may be read as a history of the Sioux and their friends and enemies on the Plains from 1831 to 1890. The author consulted critically and impartially the records and the printed sources concerning events which had to do with the life of the great Sioux chief as a basis for this volume, yet the main facts of the story were given by the Indians themselves. In the preface of his book, Mr. Vestal has written of this part of his work as follows:
"For the first forty-five years of Sitting Bull's life there is only one reliable source—the memories of old Indians of high reputation. To these I owe whatever is fresh in my presentation of the man's life and character. They have given unselfishly of their time and effort to make my study a success, and some of them I shall always count among the dearest of my friends—real men, from moccasin to scalplock. They were happy in their past, and are proud of it. They like to live it again, and for decades have thought of little else. Very few of these old-timers could be induced to repeat hearsay; I have often been compelled to drive half a day to visit some eye-witness to an event with which my first informant was perfectly familiar, but of which he would not speak because he had not first-hand knowledge.
And in all matters of warfare, old warriors generally insist on having two witnesses present to attest their statements, so important are battles in their eyes."
This proves something many persons including the Indians have long known: contemporary printed accounts and Government documents reported to Washington, having to do with Indian affairs, many times in the past were colored by the personal interests and prejudices of the writers. As one old Indian has said, "Whenever you look into Indian reports at Washington, you have to read between the lines!" Mr. Vestal went further, he proved what he saw "between the lines" for the Sioux.
But Mr. Vestal's book is more than history, it is the faithful portrayal of a great man, an American Indian and a hero. Sitting Bull was of the Stone Age Culture, a brave warrior with a heart and an eye single to the welfare of his people; a pagan with spiritual insight and a reverence for Wakan Tanka, "The Great Mysterious," which he poured forth in song.
Stanley Vestal's "Sitting Bull: A Champion of the Sioux" will remain a lasting monument not only to the great chief of the Hunkpapa Sioux but also to the American Frontier.
—Muriel H. Wright.
The Fighting Norths and Pawnee Scouts, Being Narratives and Reminiscences of Military Service on the Old Frontier, By Robert Bruce, mainly from extensive correspondence with Capt. L. H. forth, 1929-32. Published with the co-operation and approval of the Nebraska State Historical Society, Lincoln, Nebraska. Copyright 1932, by Robert Bruce, Box 76, Wall Street P.O., New York City; 4 to, 72 pp., ill., maps, paper.
This document, which appears in unconventional form, is packed with detailed information relative to military campaigns in the Indian wars of central and western Nebraska and neighboring states and territories between 1864 and 1877, inclusive, centering chiefly about the services of Major Frank North, organizer of the battalion of Pawnee Scouts, in the United States service against Indians who were hostile and in guarding and protecting the work of construction of the first railway line across the Great Plains (Union Pacific), and of his brother and chief coadjutor Capt. Luther H. North, who
still survives in possession of all of his faculties, with a remarkably clear memory as to details. This organization of Indian Scouts and the service which it rendered are unique in American frontier military history and it is fortunate that the compiler has seen fit to gather and preserve in such full detail. Other writers have written about it but no one, not even Captain North himself, had gone into the subject as fully and thoroughly as has been done in this instance. It is richly illustrated with over fifty photo-halftone engravings, including military commanders, Pawnee Indians—both portraits and groups—with reproductions of contemporary prints, a dozen maps and numerous documentary halftone reproductions. It will be a valuable reference work for every student of Plains history of that period. The compiler has long been recognized because of his enthusiastic interest in the frontier history of the whole of the Plains region and he has surely proven his devotion by his works in the present instance.
—Joseph B. Thoburn.