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Good-for-Nothing Indians

Some quotes on those "shiftless" Indians

The redskinned Indians are naturally lazy and vicious, melancholic, cowardly, and in general a lying, shiftless, people.

Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo y Valdes, 16th century

By nature Indians are very lazy and sworn enemies of work. They prefer to suffer hunger than to fatigue themselves with agriculture. Therefore, they must be forced to do this by their superiors. With six industrious Europeans one can do more in one day than fifty Indians.

Joseph Och, Missionary in Sonora: Travel Reports of Joseph Och, S.J., 1755-1767

Can any one call the name of a single pure Indian of the Barbarous tribes who--except in death, like a wild cat--has done anything worthy of remembrance?

Josiah C. Nott, "Types of Mankind: Or, Ethnological Researches," 1854

[E]very redskin must be killed from off the face of the plains before we can be free from their molestations. They are of no earthly good and the sooner they are swept from the land the better for civilization....I do not think they can be turned and made good law abiding citizens any more than coyotes can be used for shepherd dogs.

Major John Vance Lauderdale, US Army surgeon, 1866

The only good Indian is a dead Indian.

Attributed to General Philip Sheridan, US Union Army, 1868

The Indians should be treated in just the same way that we treat the white settlers. Give each his little claim; if, as would generally happen, he declined this, why then let him share the fate of the thousands of white hunters and trappers who have lived on the game that the settlement of the country has exterminated, and let him, like these whites, who will not work, perish from the face of the earth which he cumbers.

Theodore Roosevelt, Chapter I:  Ranching in the Bad Lands, Hunting Trips of a Ranchman, 1885

With [Sitting Bull's] fall the nobility of the Redskin is extinguished, and what few are left are a pack of whining curs who lick the hand that smites them. The Whites, by law of conquest, by justice of civilization, are masters of the American continent, and the best safety of the frontier settlements will be secured by the total annihilation of the few remaining Indians. Why not annihilation? Their glory has fled, their spirit broken, their manhood effaced; better that they die than live the miserable wretches that they are.

L. Frank (Wizard of Oz) Baum, Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer, Dec. 15, 1890

It was perhaps fortunate for the future of America that the Indians of the North rejected civilization. Had they accepted it the whites and Indians might have intermarried to some extent as they did in Mexico. That would have given us a population made up in a measure of shiftless half-breeds.

History book published shortly after 1900, quoted in Custer Died for Your Sins by Vine Deloria Jr.

The good-for-nothing stereotype
Anglo-Americans have long viewed Indians as lazy, shiftless, and good for nothing. The reasons for this should be obvious. Indians refused to "get with the program" and join white civilization. They refused to give up their religions, their languages, and their cultures. They refused to cut their hair, put on coats and frocks, and become farmers and merchants.

In short, they refused to become good Americans dedicated to the American dream: progress and development and self-enrichment. They stood fast and declined when we demanded they get to work. That made them seem lazy and shiftless to prejudiced Americans.

This attitude persisted for decades after the end of the Indian Wars. It's arguably still with us. Some recent examples follow.

"Indian Hunting Season"
The following is the text of an "Indian Hunting Season" flyer that was distributed a few years ago in South Dakota. (You need a strong stomach for this one.)

State of South Dakota
Game, Fish and Parks Department
Pierre, SD
(605) 224-0000

RE: Indian Hunting Season hunting fees: Free to first 7,683 hunters/$1.00 thereon.

Dear South Dakota Hunters:
The 1999 Big Game hunting season in the state of South Dakota has been canceled due to shortages of Deer, Turkey, Elk and Antelope. However, this does not mean there will be no hunting. In the place of the big game animals this year we will have open season on the Sioux Reservations. This will entail the hunting of Americans Worthless Siounis Pyutus, commonly known as "Worthless Red Bastards," "Dog Eaters," "Gut Eaters, "Prairie Niggers" and "F--- Indians." This year from 1999-2000 will be an open season, as the f--- indians must be thinned out every two to three years.

* Hunt in a party of more than 150 persons.
* Use more than 35 bloodthirsty, rabid hunting dogs.
* Shoot in a public tavern (Bullet may ricochet and hit civilized white people).
* Shoot an Indian sleeping on the sidewalk.

* Traps may not be set within 15 feet of a liquor store.
* Traps may not be baited with Muscatel, Lysol, rubbing alcohol or food stamps.
* All traps must have at least 120 lb. spring strength and have a jaw spread of at least 5'3".

* Shooting length-wise in a welfare line is prohibited.
* It will be unlawful to possess a road-kill indian, however, special road-kill permits shall be issued to people with semi-tractor trailers and one-ton pickup trucks.
* With such a permit you may bait the highway with Muscatel, Lysol, rubbing alcohol or food stamps

* disposable diapers litter the street.
* Large lines in front of the welfare office and for free cheese.
* Trails of empty wine bottles leading from the city parks to all city alleys.
* Empty books of food stamps thrown all over.
* Car-loads of Indian children waiting outside liquor stores.


Response to the flyer

Winter 1999/00

Campbell Calls for Federal Investigation of "Indian Hunting Season" Flyer

Washington, DC—U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell called on the Department of Justice to launch a hate-crimes investigation into a newspaper ad announcing the start of "Indian Hunting Season."

Campbell received a copy of the ad, which ran in a South Dakota newspaper, that is intended to look like a real hunting season announcement. The ad declares open season on the Sioux reservations, sets a limit of ten kills per day and other regulations for where and in what manner Indians may be killed.

Campbell, Chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, wrote Attorney General Janet Reno that "when such an ad authorizes hunting season on human beings and places a limit on how many can be killed, surely it is reason for law enforcement to take action. Such a solicitation to commit mass homicide must run afoul of federal law. I am requesting that you direct an investigation by the appropriate hate crimes office within the department."

He also pointed out that in the 1800's, some Coloradans expressed support for the Sand Creek Massacre.

"For those that think anti-Indian sentiment and feelings are a relic of the past, I urge them to read this product of a twisted and hateful mind," Campbell said in a Congressional Record Statement last week. "At the turn of the millennium here in the greatest nation on earth, there are pockets of hate that continue to thrive. After my tenure here in Congress, I know full well the limits of government. I know we can pass no law forcing people to respect each other, or forcing them to be tolerant. But this ad goes beyond mere hurtful words and actually advocates murder and I condemn it in the strongest possible terms."

Another charming example

On Saturday, November 10, 2001, between 1:00-2:00 p.m., a racist note was left on our car in Sam's Club parking lot in Florence, Kentucky.

The car is a station wagan and has signs and bumper stickers that read "Frybread Power," "Honor Native Treaty Rights"—and "Indians are People, Not Mascots."

When we returned to our car, we found the following note:







Alice and Randy Huffman

American Indian Movement Support Group of Ohio and Northern Kentucky

"How smooth must be the language of the whites, when they can make right look like wrong, and wrong like right."

Black Hawk (Sauk)

Rob's comment
Nice to see Americans prove how deeply embedded hate and prejudice are in our culture. Not to mention stupidity. Too bad we can't erase racist idiots from our collective memory.

As for the "loser" charge, I think Apache fighter General Nelson A. Miles addressed it well in a 1912 letter:

History can show no parallel to the heroism and fortitude of the American Indians in the two hundred years' fight during which they contested inch by inch the possession of their country against a foe infinitely better equipped, with inexhaustible resources, and in overwhelming numbers. Had they even been equal in numbers, history might have had a very different story to tell.

For more on the subject, see Was Native Defeat Inevitable?

Of course, we could ask the conquistadors, the Pilgrims, and the fur-trappers what they thought of their Native peers—but, oops, these people and their empires (Spanish, British, French) are long gone. Indians are still with us, still practicing their age-old arts and traditions.

For a modern variation of the "good-for-nothing" stereotype, see Indians as Welfare Recipients.

Related links
Savage Indians
Uncivilized Indians
America the warrior society
Violence in America
Right-wing extremists:  the enemy within

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Original text and pictures © copyright 2007 by Robert Schmidt.

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