Indian and White
In the History of the Northwest
By Holice and Pam
Extra special thanks to Holice B. Young for transcribing this book. The excellent work she does continues to help many researchers! Thanks also, to Pam Rietsch, for sharing her books with genealogists!
EDUCATING THE INDIAN.
I. Mission and School Work.
The poverty of the Indian Missions and the small number of laborers in the field had compelled the Fathers to limit themselves at first to essentials, that is, to strictly missionary work. Proper training of he Indian children, except in some few individual cases, was practically impossible under the circumstances.
By the year 1863, however, St. Ignatius Mission had attained a degree of comparative prosperity. The opening of a boarding school for Indian children was now resolved upon by Father Giorda, the general Superior of the Missions, and Father U. Grassi, who had succeeded Father J. Menetrey as local Superior of St. Ignatius. Accordingly, whilst suitable buildings for the purpose were under construction, steps were also taken to secure competent teachers. These were to be a colony of sisters of Providence from Montreal, who, as we shall see, arrived at St. Ignatius a year before, 1864, when the school, first of the kind in the Northwest, was opened.
The funding of a boarding school for the education of Indian youth marked a new era in the cause of the red man's civilization. But to understand fully the importance of the new undertaking, we must here enter at some length upon the subject of Indian education. this becomes the more necessary, because Indian schoolwork is to engage henceforth much of our attention. Leaving therefore aside for a while the thread of our narrative, we shall speak first of the necessity of educating the Indians; and secondly, of the methods best suited, in our opinion, to attain the object in view.
We need hardly say that public interest in Indian school problems, at present accentuates the timeliness of the subject.
II. Necessity of Moral and Physical Training.
The Indian, before the advent of the whites, was a wild creature, steeped in moral and material barbarism. Now, to attain an end, proportionate means are necessary; consequently to better the condition of the Indian, morally and materially, means moral and material are indispensable. Without moral civilization, the red man will be no more than a white-washed savage; without the means and helps of material culture, he cane no more emerge from his material barbarism than things without legs can walk.
All this follows from the dualism of man's nature, composed as it is of spirit and matter, soul and body. Whence arises the utter impossibility of civilizing any human being without the proper culture of both what is spiritual and what is material in him. No doubt, body and soul being here intimately united in one and the same subjects, the culture of either will rebound to the benefits of the other. But as neither nature is substantially changed by the union, body and soul, though united in one and the same individual, will ever demand a distinct and different culture. A process for keeping up the animal system on spiritual food, or feeding the mind on bread and beefsteak, so far as we know, has not yet been discovered, nor is it likely to be. Hence the necessity of moral and intellectual, as well as of material means and helps, for the civilizing of the red man.
This holds true for all men. Man, at birth is but a blank, helpless little savage, the scion of royalty, in this wise, being not a whit better off than the rude savage of the rocky Mountains. Take, if you please, civilization's most favored surroundings of the wigwam--do you think his intellectual, moral and material condition will be one bit above that of the wild children of the forest? whence then the difference? Because of education. It is therefore evident, that the Indian, as the rest of mankind, if he is to be civilized, must needs be educated.
Further, it is evident that in the natural order of things grown-up people, being set and, so to say, crystallized in their ways and habits, cannot be easily moulded anew. Theirs is the case of the aged, knotty tree; no ordinary force can give it or make it retain a shape contrary to its natural bent. Plastic
youth, then, not irresponsive, callous, old age, is nature's period for education.
But, can the youth of the race be formed to civilized habits if the grown-up portion remains uncivilized. Both nature and common sense give a negative answer to the question. Since youth is a subject to be educated, it is manifest that it cannot educate itself. Moreover, nature's course in educating it from age to youth, since he has grown in barbarism, with age. Far from being a factor in the child's civilization, the parent, positively an uncivilizing agent and a genuine obstacle in the way of their advancement.
This seems s clearly the case that the advocates of mere secular education for the Indian must choose between abandoning the task in despair, or wresting the children from their parents to carry them thousands of miles away, in order to educate them. This latter is the plan actually adopted. We ask the fair-minded reader whether such a system can offer a proper solution of this problem. Mere secular education cannot bring about the betterment of the Indian races, simply because it has power to educate neither the adult savage nor his offspring. Not the former; because he lies beyond the efficiency of the means at its command. Not the latter; by reason of insurmountable obstacles thrown in the way because of the uncivilized condition of the patent.
If this be true, you will say, the civilization of the Indian races becomes impossible. It is indeed, utterly so, unless some element of greater efficacy than mere natural causes can be introduced to do the work. Thank God, such an element not only exists; it is at hand. The Creator of all things "made the nations of the earth for health"--sanabiles fecit nationes (Wisd. I. 14); and out Divine Redeemer could not have bestowed a greater boom on mankind than to make Christianity obligatory on all the children of Adam; since He could not make it obligatory for all, without at the same time adapting it to the capacities of all.
We say, then, that all human beings, whatever be their race
Or color, and howsoever degraded, all, without exception, can be civilized, because all can be Christianized. To maintain that any people cannot be Christianized would be to restrict the work of the Redeemer, who pro omnibus dedit, quantum dedit. To say that, while all can be Christianized, not all can be civilized, would be to assert a contradiction; since as day excludes the darkness of the night, so does Christianity exclude barbarism.
Thus, while mere natural culture is impotent, as demonstrated above, to mould the grown-up savage, and incapable of training savage youth without carrying it off to distant captivity, the case is entirely different with Christianity. For endowed as it is by its Divine Founder with a fund of supernatural energy, it is suited to the capacity of all; it brings both the adult and the youth under its benign and civilizing influence. The parent, transformed by religion into a morally civilized being, ceases to be an obstacle to the training of his children, while the educating of the children under the very eye of the parent becomes, in turn, greatly beneficial to the parent himself.
Mark you well, however, that though Christianity does not aim directly at the material culture of man, it is not for that any less a most potent factor in his material civilization also. For by condemning, reproving, checking whatever is morally bad, as well as what is morally excessive or defective in men's lives, religion attacks barbarism at its very roots. On the other hand, by positive commendation of all that is morally good and honest, it stimulates man's faculties to industry, labor, study, diligence and refinement.
It does more. All the ordinary means of mental and material culture, in the hands of Christianity, derive there from, as the chisel and brush from the consummate skill of the artist, additional efficiency for good.
It should be hardly necessary to remark that wheat we here predicate of religion, as the most indispensable of all means to civilize the Indian, is to be understood of true, sterling Christianity alone, not of any counterfeit or bogus substitute. Grapes are not gathered from thorns, nor figs from thistles; and s spurious coin is really no coin, no matter how clever an imitation of one be may.
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