The Settlement of America and Attitudes Toward Native Americans
Indians were first introduced to Europeans in the late fifteenth century. The Native Americans were referred to as the "noble redman" at the time. The Native Americans were very helpful to the Europeans and they guided them around what is now America. The Europeans became very curious of this "new land" and they began to settle it. The settlement of America brought conflict and disease to the Native Americans. Conflict over land ownership soon became a problem and there were harmful side effects. Perhaps one of the most harmful side effects was the proverbial slurs and attitudes towards the Native Americans. These vulgar comments and attitudes made back at the beginning of the coexistence of the Native Americans and the Europeans are found amongst us still today. The early concepts of the "good Indian" or "noble savage" quickly were replaced by reducing the native inhabitants to "wild savages" who were standing in the way of expansion under the motto of "manifest destiny." Proverbial invectives have been hurled against the Native Americans ever since Christopher Columbus and later explorers, settlers, and immigrants set foot on the American continent. The Native Americans suffered terribly in the name of expansion and progress. Native Americans were deprived of the homeland, killed mercilessly or placed on reservations. On these reservations the Native Americans were forced to assimilate the rules and lifestyle of the white conquerors and settlers or die. In essence, Native Americans had to give up their identity or be killed (Mieder). Few can comprehend the tragedy inflicted upon Native Americans. During the 1850's the government negotiated a series of treaties with Plains Indian tribes, Southwestern Indian tribes, and the tribes of the Pacific Northwest. These treaties were made only to fulfill Thomas Jefferson's dream of an American Empire stretching from coast to coast. These treaties took advantage of the Native Americans. The general population saw the Indians as "stupid people who were easy to control." Treaties kept appearing in front of the Indians that reduced the land that they held. The takeover of their land and the slaughter of the buffalo herds brought much anger. This anger soon led to action and the Indians were fighting for their land (Hoggatt).
After the end of the American Civil War, soldiers joined bigoted frontier settlers in a mission to kill off the native population of the land. The soldiers' ruthless execution of the Native Americans needed a slogan that would justify the inhuman treatment of their victims. That slogan which was popular at the time and can still be heard today is: " The only good Indian is a dead Indian." This proverb has shown up in numerous short stories, novels, and magazines. References to this frontier proverb were made in early books such as Major William Sheperd's Prairie Experiences (1884).
Not yet, I think, are white men...