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In attempting to lay before the Public a sketch of the History of the Red Indians of North America, with a view to excite à general sympathy in behalf of an oppressed and suffering people, I am aware of the great importance of my undertaking, and sensibly feel my inability to stand forward as an advocate, in any degree equal to the task I have thus imposed on myself.
With but few exceptions, the American Indians have been abandoned by the Christian world, as a cruel, blood-thirsty, and treacherous race, incapable of civilization, and therefore, unworthy of that attention which the inhabitants of other barbarous climes have received from the zeal and devotion of many learned and pious members of society. Thousands have raised their voices against the wrongs of our black brethren of Africa. From one end of Europe to the other, the humane have been aroused to a sense of their injuries, and are now actively engaged in the prosecution of every measure calculated to alleviate their sufferings; while but few have been stimulated to similar exertions in behalf of the Red American Indians, from whose native soil the wealth of a great portion of the civilized world has been derived. The African is submissive; his patient endurance of labour renders his servile and debased state important to us; he is therefore, preserved. The North American Indian, on the contrary, prefers banishment, and even death, to slavery ; but his lands are serviceable to us, therefore his extinction seems to be desired. The one submits to the yoke,—we oppress and pity him : the other disdains to become the servant of man—and his whole race is devoted to gradual extermination ; for such must be the inevitable consequence of all those measures which have been, w still are in operation against him, though their in
fliction is marked by different shades of guilt. In a few ages, perhaps a few years, these sons of Edom will be so far removed from the reach
but those engaged in the work of destruction, that no trace will be left to posterity of the wrongs which have been perpetrated upon the Aborigines of the great. American Continent.
I confess that I had no other idea of an American Indian, than that he was the most ferocious of human beings. Whenever he became named, his scalpingknife, tomahawk, warwhoop, and thirst of blood, were at once associated in my mind; and hence I was led to concur in the almost universal opinion, that he was totally incapable of being rendered subservient to the arts of civilized life. In the course of my travels through the United States and Upper Canada, I met with several Indians, whose external wretchedness induced me to make inquiries as to their present condition; and although many persons to whom I addressed myself appeared to be perfectly indifferent on the subject, and spoke of them in the most degrading terms, I was led to seek for farther information respecting their character, in the pursuit of which I have been engaged for three years.
Little did I imagine, that one of the most interesting subjects that can present itself to the human mind, would open upon me; the full developement of which would require the united and extended labours of men of talent and research, the absolute devotion of their time and energies, to place before the world an impartial view of the Indians of North America, whose virtues, independence of mind, and nobleness of character, have procured from their oppressors, as a justification of those measures of severity which have been practised toward them, the most foul and unjust representations. They have been gradually wasting away from the effects of cruelty and oppression, unheeded and unpitied, until their aggregate numbers, it is conjectured, has been reduced to less than two millions
It has hitherto been the policy of those by whom the North American Indians have been most oppressed, to represent them as very contemptible in numbers; and although they have become nearly extinct on the borders, and in settled portions of the continent, it may be fairly presumed that the more warlike and active tribes have removed into the interior, as they have been found in numerous bodies by parties engaged in all the late expeditions. A sufficient number, however, yet remains to excite our sympathy. The wroogs which have been inflicted upon their whole race, have furnished ample regions for the occupancy of civilized man. And does not our past neglect of their suffering and abandoned state, loudly call upon us to make reparation for the ills they have endured to return to acts of justice, mercy, and kindness; and, though late, to recommend to the surviving Indians the religion we profess, by all those means which the gospel enjoins ?' In the earnest hope that many may be led to a serious contemplation of this great and glorious object-tbat many with the talents, energy, and benevolence of a Wilberforce, both in the United States and in Great Britain, may yet be found to interpose their power and energies in behalf of a race destitute of the use of letters—to vindicate their character, and to set forth some portion of their wrongs, I have been led to prosecute my inquiries respecting the North Anierican Indians.
While engaged in these pursuits, I learnt that the Historical Society of Philadelphia, actuated by a laudable desire to preserve an account of the Aborigines, had requested the Rev. John Heckewelder, a Moravian Missionary, to furnish a detail of the information he had acquired during a residence of the greater portion of his life among the Indians of Pennsylvania and the adjoining states. That gentleman, although seventy-five years of age, readily engaged in the arduous undertaking, and his “ Historical Account of the Indian Nations” has been published in the transactions of the Society, who have thus rendered an important service to science and to mankind; while the reverend
author has left on record an unparalleled example of benevolence, sympathy, patience, and self-devotion. From the fulpess of his work, I deemed the further prosecution of my labours unnecessary, lest my efforts might appear to many as a mere presumptuous display. I had therefore, abandoned all intention of placing nryself before the public ; but upon my arrival in London in the summer of 1820, having casually spoken of the interest I had taken in the present state of the North American Indians, it was suggested, that from my observations and researches, which extended to other tribes than those more particularly noticed by Mr. Heckewelder, together with extracts from such parts of his useful and interesting volume* as tend to confirm and illustrate the facts I had collected, or the views I had taken of the subject, the public might be presented with a work, in some degree calculated to facilitate the adoption of measures in favour of the Indians.
Under this impression, I have consented to place my humble labours before the Public, disclaiming the slightest pretension to merit as an author, and having no view to pecuniary advantage from the publication : yet I can with confidence state, that with diligence and zeal I have availed myself of every opportunity of collecting information from the most authentic sources, Many curious statements have been rejected, though perhaps true ; and the reader is earnestly entreated to keep in mind the fable of the Lion and the Panther, as lie will thereby be induced to view with jealousy, reports which may be prejudical to the Indian character. Let him also remember, that they have no historians, 10 record their wrongs, or plead their cause against their oppressors ;-yet they believe, as I do, that the Great Spirit hears their sighs and regards their sufferings, and that He will appear to the oppressor and the oppressed as a God of Justice.
* Mr. Heckewelder's “ Historical Account” exists only in the priniz ed transactions of the Philadelphian Society. It is, on this account, little, if at all, known among the British Public; and I have therefore been copious in my extracts from the Rev. Author's pages.