American Native Press Archives and Sequoyah Research Center
Selected Works of Charles Gibson [a machine-readable transcription]
Charles Gibson was born near Eufaula, Creek Nation, on March 20, 1846, the son of John C. and Polly Gibson, a member of Tuckabatchee tribal town from whom Gibson derived his tribal identity. The family had emigrated from Alabama in 1832. The boat on which they traveled sank, and they lost everything they owned. Upon arrival in the Indian Territory, they settled on the Grand River near Fort Gibson and farmed.
Charles Gibson, who was self-educated, obtained what little formal education he had in the common schools of the Creek Nation and at Asbury Mission. He ran a store in the western part of the Creek Nation for a short time and then worked twenty years as head clerk and buyer in the Grayson Brothers store at North Fork Town. In 1896 he established his own store in Eufaula, a developing town in the southeastern part of the Creek nation.
It is difficult to say when Gibson began writing, but he was described by one of his contemporaries as "one of the best newspaper and short story writers among the Indians." His range of forms varied greatly: fables, biographical sketches, reminiscences, descriptions; but the thrust was always the same. His common theme was the old ways of the Creeks and the loss of their culture. In 1901 and 1902, his regular contributions to the Eufaula Indian Journal were published as "Gibsons Rifle Shots."
Wrote one Indian Territory editor in 1903: "Nearly everyone who knows anything of Indian Territory or the Creek tribe has heard of Charles Gibson. His fables, published at some time or other in nearly every paper of Oklahoma or Indian Territory, together with 'Gibsons Rifle Shots have made for him a name that could scarcely be obtained by any other achievement. Full of wit and humor, yet in all his writings there is imbedded a tinge of pathos, a mixture of humiliation and sarcasm, showing a spirit of never having been reconciled to some event where circumstances have ruled against his convictions. . . . His subjects strongly tend to the philosophical, yet at the same time showing a personal feeling no altogether in harmony with existing conditions. There are some who call Charles Gibson a pessimist but in the same breath emphasize the fact that he is 'a good Indian.'"
It is difficult to even estimate the numbers of works by Gibson. It was a common event to see two or three of his works in a single issue of a weekly newspaper. Many works were often reprinted in other papers as far away as Kansas City. A brief survey of his works, however, suggests that Gibson is one of the most prolific Native American writer of all times.
Here is a sample of his articles from 1901-1903, selected from the Eufaula Indian Journal and Twin Territories, published at Muskogee. They have been separated into three groups based on their content. In the Tradition section, Gibson writes of old Muscogee (Creek) ways that seem to be lost to his contemporary Indian and white peers. The Politics section, deals with his commentary on the silly ideas and laws that the United States government was attempting to impose (or not impose) on the Indians. The last section, Miscellaneous, is a sampler of his other styles of writing. Editing has been limited to correcting grossly misspelled words and minor typographical errors. Minor misspellings, coined phrases, regionalisms, and incorrect grammar have been left to reflect the "down-home" style and attitude that Gibson strived so hard to create towards the many serious subjects that he commented on.
About the last days of July of each year the Creeks have their "green corn festival." This is how it is done: In the first place, this is a very sacred festival, as it is dedicated to the Great Spirit on account of the harvest of new corn. These festivals were formerly carried on at the ripening of any and all fruits, but to-day all have been dropped save the Green Corn festival. The Creek people are numbered by "towns." Among these we will write up what is called Took-a-par-chee Town,1 which town, being more zealous and better equipped for the purpose, carries on the festival longer than others. One article they have which other towns do not possess is a lot of brass plates--say, about a dozen-- which are held in high esteem among the Creeks. Tradition tells us they were handed down out of the clouds to the Spo-ko-kees,2 who were then on the top of a very high mountain. This mountain--according to Creek tradition--we claim was the Andes of South America, between New Grenada and Venezuela, being the great hunting and camping-ground of the Creeks.
The Took-a-par-chee town has always been looked upon as the mother town of all other towns, being one of the original towns of the Creeks--there being several Creek towns of today, which were towns that were vanquished and became Creek towns by adoption. Now to the festival. The program runs as follows:
The first day after striking camp the women dance alone. The second day the brass plates are taken to the nearest stream and polished very bright, early in the morning by a picked band of young men. After having polished them the young men return to camp with great pomp. Then it is that the black drink in taken by all the men and youths of the town (which is an emetic.)3 After a cleansing of the stomach the dance goes on, with the brass plates, and also a long reed or cane switch loaded with white crane feathers. The second day and night closes with dances by male and female. The third day is commenced by eating food without salt and resting from the all-night dance of the previous night. The fourth day is taken up with a chase or a hunt, bringing into camp what is killed during the day, and which is converted into soup. On the fifth day at early dawn is danced the genuine War Dance, accompanied by a sham battle, engaged in by all the men and boys, after which all partake of food with salt. During the remainder of the day young and old practice ball-playing with sticks. The sixth and last day is commenced in drinking medicine and dancing, in which all take a part throughout the day and night, and which winds up the festival. New fire is built on the morning of the second day by the medicine man of the town who rubs two hard dry sticks together until the friction ignites the hole in a dry log that is used. All other fire on this morning is put out and the new fire is given to the entire camp. The Creeks were in the habit of taking a chunk of this fire with them, horseback, often a two days' journey, stopping and building fires along the road to get a new or fresh chunk of fire.
Concerning the brass plates of the Took-a-par-chee mentioned, others than the "wind clan"4 are not allowed to touch them, as they believe it will make them sick unto death, and may cause death. They have on one side letters which have never been interpreted by anyone, therefore they are held very sacred by the Creeks.
In early days the Creek "Medicine Man" went through many trials and endured numerous hard-ships in order to become a full fledged doctor. The examination lasted many days and was severe in the extreme. In those days the proposed doctor's chances to pass the examination seemed to depend more upon his physical powers of endurance than upon his ability mentally.
The first step towards becoming a "medicine man" is the young Indian's application to a board of old "medicine men," usually consisting of three, who have successfully passed through the ordeal and who are learned and experienced in their profession.
These old men take entire charge of the young applicant for several days. He is taken by them to their homes where they see that he has careful attention. Meanwhile he must place himself entirely at their disposal and completely under their control and instructions. They sing certain songs to him and otherwise entertain him. Then instructions follow. This consists of teaching the applicant the practical use of certain roots and herbs in curing certain diseases. He is shown the effect of various remedies and is told the secrets known only to medicine men. One of the most important of their instructions is, "never attempt to cure a patient unless your are thoroughly acquainted with his disease."
After the causes and remedies are learned, the test of manhood, or hardihood, as you may call it, is put. Fasting is the principal feature in this. Four days the young applicant is forced to fast, being allowed only a small quantity of "safky"1once a day.
The four days having passed, the ravenous fellow is allowed to eat anything his appetite may demand--for one day--then fasting begins again. Three times this four-day fast is repeated, with the one day of relaxation until the applicant has fasted for in all, sixteen days.
Enough, you say? 'Tis only the beginning for following this is what is termed the "eight-day fast," when the applicant fasts eight successive days, with only safky once a day, as in the preceding test. Only about one in fifty, we are told, has the fortitude and strength to undergo this sixty-four days of fast, but the one who does stand it is forever after looked upon as a man among men.
The wildest part of a forest is selected as the scene of this test. There a grave is dug, about two feet deep, in which the applicant is buried. A reed or piece of cane, saturated with salt water, is placed in his mouth. This extends quite outside of the grave and through it the applicant breathes.
The grave is covered over with leaves and dry brush, and in the dead of night, these are set afire. The salt on the cane prevents it from burning. After the fire, the applicant is resurrected with a great deal of ceremony, and is pronounced by his instructors as being a full-fledged Creek doctor. He is told that it is now in his power to cure such diseases as he has been taught and that he can begin "practicing" at once.
A gun-shot-wound doctor is taught in a different way from this. Their mode of treating a wounded person is to make the patient fast four days after being wounded, the doctor fasting with his patient. After the fasting is over, the doctor and the patient eat the same dishes until the latter is cured.
A cold subject for the white man, this, but it is no worse than to look over a newspaper filled up with the opening of some Indian reservation, some gusher, world's fair, or the commission to the five civilized tribes1 or the presentation of a bouquet to some high official, or some railroad that is aiming at every little village in the Indian territory, therefore we will try and cram down one more of the aforesaid traditions.
In good old days there was a being that resembled a man very much, though weighing some 400 or 500 pounds and was some eight or ten feet high. This being was always a male, there being no females among them and there was very few of these beings. In this story we have only one cannibal. He could talk any language that then existed. He had a habit of being very kind to any person; never cross at any time. He would approach any one and speak very kindly to them and always before leaving extended a very kind invitation to go with him and enjoy his hospitality. In those days, as it is now, there was always some Indian who had plenty of spare time and would follow this being off. That would be the last seen of this party with so much time. Perchance his bow and arrows would be all that would be left to tell the tale. He (the cannibal) would entice little children to go with him. Their little bones would be all that could be found of them. This thing of cannibalism became too common and a certain lot of young men fixed up a trap to lay this giant cannibal low. The giant came a certain road to a certain camp of Indians. Just before reaching camp there was a certain very deep creek to cross; this was the place picked out by the men to lay the trap. The young men climbed trees and cut long grape vines which were stretched across the creek. Then vines were interwoven until it resembled a suspension bridge; leaves and soil were thrown over the surface until any one could walk over the bridge nicely. When the thing was completed the young men built a man trap under it and had it arranged all right when they saw the cannibal coming. The young men enticed a couple of little orphan children out on the end of the bridge, where the little fellows would be safe and gave them some venison and rice2 to eat. While the little fellows were eating, the giant walked upon the bridge about half way and began to talk very pretty to the children, hoping to get them to follow him off. Just about this time the bridge gave way and the giant went down into the trap. The young men rushed out of the brush and began hurling down wood gotten for the purpose. After heaping a great lot of fuel on the giant, they set fire to the heap. After awhile there was a loud explosion which was caused by the giant's head or skull bursting. The fire burned down and the young men raked out the burned bones of the giant, and among other medicines that the medicine men have are some few pieces of this selfsame giant's bones, which they claim have great medicinal properties even to this day.
We know this is a very dull subject at this stage of the Indian's history, but we happen to know that there was such a thing once as a Creek war whoop. It was never given during a battle as some would have you believe. The war whoop of the Creek Indian was given more as a warning than as a summons to combat. When the enemy was close upon the Creek Indian he went at once to all the camps, giving, at intervals, three keen whoops as fast as he could draw his breath--short keen whoops. As he drew near the camps of his people the whoops were given oftener. He did not stop to report the cause but kept right on to the next camp or settlement, as the case might be. After the first one giving the war whoop gave out on his run, another took it up and carried it to other camps and settlements until all the Creeks were warned. They asked no questions but rushed to arms at once and formed scouting parties. The Arbekas1 were always detailed by the Creeks to do picket duty, for they were experts at the business. They were called the Gate Town. Chitto Harjo2 is a member of this town. Maybe that is why he is a little hard to conquer. He knows how to sound the war whoop of the Creeks, though he is not allowed to do so at this stage of the Indian game.3
Last summer we witnessed a fish killing. This is one of the real Indian sports, and when we saw the pleasure it afforded the old and the young, we felt that it was hard, if not wrong, to abolish1 it as an uncivilized custom.
A fish killing, when properly managed, not only affords much pleasure but also an excellent feast, which a civilized man would enjoy. It is one of the oldest Creek customs. It has been practiced in the Creek nation about seventy years, and there are as many fish in the streams today as there were before. The next day after a fish killing one can drop his hook in the water and get a bite just as if the stream had not been poisoned.2 The poison, drifting down the stream soon loses its strength and the fish recover their equilibrium. So the killing has to be done as soon as the poison is put in. Some have the idea that this method of killing fish is wanton destruction, but it is erroneous. It would not cripple civilization much to allow the Indian to indulge in a sport that is less cruel and wanton than the sport in which high explosives3 are sometimes employed. The government would not be out as many fish as dollars in permitting the poor Indians to continue the practice of their old custom.
The white man frets and fumes; gets bald and gray headed, and dies young, hoarding up money for his next of kin to fight and quarrel over. The Indian dies with old age, retaining his hair and its color, leaving his nearest of kin friendly.
The humblest, the greatest, the richest, the poorest all, all do it. Take a minister of the Gospel, take the good old deacons; in fact any Indian of the Five tribes--there is not one in 500 but what will take a little "sumthin" and one calls for two drinks, etc., and so on up to where they lose all respect and pride and of course are prone to go down under the weight of drink.
We often hear the white man preacher score the public for drinking. Not one in five whites get in the gutter while four out of five Indians will get to the gutter. Some of the ablest and best Indians of the Five tribes will make no halt at one or two drinks of whiskey. After getting one drink all of them [lose] their self respect and will get gloriously drunk. The first or second drink is taken with closed doors but after this they will take it where there is room to elevate the elbow and bottle. This thing of drink is a worse curse to Indians than any other race on the face of the earth to-day. Had it not been for Christopher Columbus and his four ten-gallon kegs of whiskey this U.S. would belong to the American Indians. This is a whole mouth full to say but Indian tradition tells us when Columbus was unable to get communication with the Indian he one night had a lifeboat landed on the beach with four kegs of whiskey with three or four dozen tin cups handily placed around the kegs and had the heads knocked out, in which shape Mr. Indian found things on the beach. He approached the kegs with caution, looked into the well filled kegs of whiskey with a great deal of pride. In fact he had all his pride with him. He stuck the end of his finger into the kegs and tasted each and saw that it was good not only to look upon but was fair to the Indian taste. He and others went from keg to keg tasting with the tips of their fingers until they were all feeling, as the fellow said, salubrious. Just there is where he lost his pride and each of them got a tin cup and drank with the white man's whiskey.
The next morning found several of the bucks in the gutter as it were, not able to stagger away. Then Columbus knew he had the ropes on Mr. Injun so he landed another yawl or lifeboat and proceeded to scoop Mr. Injun and dump him into his life boat previous to carrying him to his ships which he did on short notice. After getting him or them aboard it was no trouble to swap land, his friendship, his birthright or anything else that came handy for whiskey. Since which time the Indian has had a weakness for strong drink. If the Indians could, in making treaties with the U.S., have the U.S. to make a law to hang every white man who sells whiskey to Indians and to hang the Indian for drinking the whiskey it would settle the Indian problem, which problem has caused the U.S. no little trouble.
In case the Cherokees make another agreement we would suggest that this little hanging clause aforesaid be amended to their next agreement and all will be calm and serene in the Cherokee nation and we will try and have congress do likewise unto us.
Somewhere in the neighborhood of 240 acres of land each. And, again; isn't there a lot of money due us copper colored people in the U.S. Treasury? That might come in handy now. Also moneys for school purposes and some territorial form of government with a home rule, if we are not entitled to statehood.
It has been tampered with too much. It is like the Curtis bill.1 Every one in congress seems to have been experts with Indians. If the Indian is going to be taxed on 120 acres for five years before he can realize anything off it, of course he will oppose the treaty. Who could blame them for doing so. The Indians are poor and are not able, all of them, to pay the taxes and hold on to this 120 acres. Of course if we are U.S. citizens, the government has the right to tax her citizens on some of our property, yet it is forbidden by the same power, that the 120 acres must not be conveyed by contract otherwise.
Who ever heard of such laws. The taxes on 120 acres of good land will amount to something in five years. What fullblood is going to be able to pay taxes on say 720 acres for five years. Be it ever so small a tax it will amount to several acres of the 720 acres in five years which land will be sold for taxes, of course. Yet the Indian must not be allowed to realize anything on each 120 acres belonging to his family say of six.
We hear some little talk from the full-bloods. They say "why, the white people are trying to box us up so they can get a revenue on our lands, but do not let us, the owners, get anything out of it." Why not wait the five years and then make a treaty that will give us a deed to our lands at once. Why not give us a deed and allow us to dispose of say 80 acres for each one or our families. The proceeds of which might enable every Creek Indian citizen to build up and fence, in good shape, the remaining 80 acres to each Creek citizen man woman and child.
Is it not better to have 360 acres of well fenced and well cultivated land for six persons than 720 acres of unfenced and uncultivated land? The other 360 acres which the Indian will dispose of, will, or course, go into the hands of parties who will at once go to work to raise a revenue for Uncle Sam one way or another. It is not the object of the U.S. in making treaties with nations of Indians for the aforesaid lands to remain blank on the face of this North American continent. Any man can see that with his hands tied behind him. There has been too many Indian experts. They have the Indian problem in such a tangle that the U.S. is like the man who caught the wildcat. She would like for some one to help let go the cat.
We are not an Indian expert, but we believe if the five year clause had been left off of the Creek treaty, that it would have had easy sailing through the Creek council. Reserve the 40 acres for each individual Creek citizen and let them do as they please with the 120 acres as it was in the agreement and we will feel that it would be right and if nothing more, would have been according to the Creek agreement anyway.
1. The Curtis Act (1898) provided for breakup of the tribes and allotment of their land, with or without their consent. The Creeks, like the other tribes, negotiated an allotment agreement, or "treaty," which had to be ratified by the tribe's legislative body, or national council.
He is declared a citizen1 of the United States of America. Does he know what that means, does know what that is, being a citizen of this great U.S.? How will he know when his rights are being trespassed upon? Who will advocate his cause? Must he not speak for himself? As long as he does not say, I am a citizen of this great government and that the world of men must respect, his nose will be kept to the grind stone. As some old pelican said in olden times, "the watch word of all citizens of the Indian Territory should be 'give me statehood and liberty or give me home rule at least.'"
There are men, white, red and black, who are as able, in the five tribes, to look after the affairs of this country as they have in any little old state. But no, congress has rashly promised us more laws than any little province on the face of the earth. Here among the five tribes we have a slight touch of the Arkansas law;2 we have some Curtis laws, we have some Creek, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Seminole laws; we have no peace and order. That is what the Indian Territory is accused of at any rate.
What this country would need, right now, is statehood in short order. Get a new broom and foreverlasting sweep these half dozen remnants of disjointed rules and regulations off the face of the Indian Territory.
All the agreements and treaties go on to say we will endeavor by strict laws to keep all intoxicants out of the Indian Territory. Why have such stuff in a treaty? If there is anything that an Indian likes it is whiskey. And if there is any production that a white man loves to sell it is red whiskey. Whiskey selling to Indians is like hanging for murder--the idea of stopping either is preposterous. As the fellow said, that little thing can't be did, and furthermore, history repeats itself. It is always essential to have whiskey very handy when Indian lands are on the market. It makes an Indian feel rich enough to sell his land. It is whiskey that he wants then--it is not land or money--Mr. Injun is now a great pet. His fur is being rubbed down the right way. He is a bully good fellow now. A cigar and a social drink don't cost him anything. Just now he is gulping down great tubs full of flattery. Why? Well, you know. But say five years from now the place that knew him once will not be apt to recognize him any more because by that time he will have worried down his throat enough red whiskey to overflow his 160 acres of land. Then he will wake up to find himself a befuddled Indian pauper.
2. Establishment of a federal court system in Indian Territory in 1896 extended Arkansas Civil and Criminal law over the territory. The Curtis Act gave the United States authority over such matters as education and land battles. The tribal laws regarding tribal business and some other matters remained intact.
There is, or should be, another government office, but we suppose there is no one in congress with any poor relations that could fill the place;1 therefore, it has been overlooked. There is room, or would be, for three offices; that is, three interpreters for the three districts. Indians are being constantly tried, some for murder. This crime is one that consumes a great deal of the time of the court and the English language itself is put to the test in order to convict or release a prisoner, white or black.
Now, when we look at a case of a white or black man being tried in the United States court we wonder what chances there is for hearing an Indian case where all parties are Indians. This thing of interpreting a murder trial is not the interpreting of a sermon, or a contract, or a conversation between Indians and whites.
We have lived long among the Indians and whites, understand the Creek language perfectly and know some English, and we know that it takes one knowing both to know what awful mistakes can be made in trying to convert English into the Creek language, and what a job it is to convert Creek into English. A mistake is made so easily, but one who is interpreting is never allowed to go back and explain the mistake on the account of rush of business of the court. Being a court of justice it cannot be too careful in having a first class interpreter, which animal is a very rare article, in other words, good interpreters in any of these five nations are very scarce. You can take our best educated Indians as a general thing, and they will tell you that they are very poor interpreters.
We believe congress, or someone who has the power, should have as a regular salaried officer, a good interpreter, who should be paid enough to leave his home and attend the courts. In all of these nations the government pays out a great deal of money to parties undeserving, yet she spends no money on an interpreter for her courts, which, we think, is very essential. He is allowed very little pay for his work.
Some time ago there came to town from the mountainous district of the Creek nation one of the knowing ones, as he is called, or in other words, a bad medicine man. He proceeded to tank up on what Bill Shakespeare calls "that which cheers, the sad revives, the old inspires, makes merriness forget her toils and furor her danger." He was of the kind that can track his enemy at night and make himself visible or invisible at will in battle. He was all this, yet he had a weakness for the white man's red whisky. Now, the presence of this thing, whiskey, in the Indian Territory is contrary to all treaties the U.S. government has rashly and without aforethought made with the Indian people. So the great medicine man in question got a little more than the law allowed him to stand up under and was summarily placed behind the bars. But, by virtue of his great knowledge of medicine, he escaped and got a citizen of the town to make bond for him. Then he left and, of course, his bondsman had to foot up for his bond.
Now, we don't know how this whiskey business is handled by the authorities, but it seems they handle it very carelessly. In fact, it is getting so far along that red whiskey can be bought in any territory town by the drink, bottle or jug; and the men who introduce, sell and give it away go scot free.
For years Congress has been bombarded with petitions for more laws, more courts, etc. And these have been promised. Now, whether or not Congress will impose a tax on red whiskey and make the sale of same legitimate business in the Territory remains to be seen.
He does not believe there is a happy hunting ground for him or any other race; but he does believe that people bob up after death in another state. He believes that the individual enters a new life in some shape or fashion--maybe as a deer. He does not believe that there is a heaven or hell; but he does believe that there is a supreme law, being or power to be adored and which he has named, The One Looking Over the Indian.
There is no natural Indian an infidel. He believes that when he has committed a wrong he shall in some way suffer for it, but he does not believe in expiating his misdeeds in jail. Nor does he believe that he should suffer for crimes committed while intoxicated, or be called to account for handling intoxicating liquors, having had nothing to do with its manufacture.
The Indian believes that all treaties which he has made with the general government have been highly detrimental to his welfare. He believes that the white man is quick to promise but slow to fulfill; that he himself is quick to follow the vices of the white man but slow to take on his virtues.
He does not believe that it is right for monied men to rule the country. He would rather that a committee of good men, well-tried and worthy, be delegated to say who shall be ruler. Money or no money, he believes in the equality of men before the law.
He believes that his country is too good a place for broken down politicians from the north and the east. He believes that affairs in this country would prosper just as well without so much out side help.
He believes that if the Territory was annexed to Oklahoma or Arkansas, or to a chicken coop, some rooster would be governor and that the old hens would gobble up all the offices before the Indian could say scat!
It is an old saying that politics makes strange bed fellows. However that may be, most of the newspapers of the B.I.T. seem to have lots of politics on hand. Some want single statehood and others hunger for double statehood.1
Now, all this sort of business is entirely new to the Five Civilized Tribes. They are rushing along so swiftly in the full current of progress that the majority of them have never given a single thought to the affairs of the white man. But it seems to us that the actual owners of this Indian Territory ought to be allowed a word in the matter of single or double statehood when the proper time comes, which is not soon--1906. To a raw recruit, all this scramble to get in the statehood band wagon seems a little premature. For if the Indian Territory has as much trouble getting statehood as other territories that have been admitted into the union, fifteen or twenty years hence will be time enough to tackle this great question.
It is said that all citizens of the Indian Territory are United States citizens, but when the claim is tested things are not what they seem. For instance, an Indian cannot sell a foot of his allotment, deed or no deed, price or no price, without the consent and approval of the secretary of the interior. Go way back yonder in Newton county2 and buy a bed of flint rocks or red clay from a citizen of that county and see if he asks the approval of any body but Liza Jane3 to consummate the trade. The citizen of Newton county is a citizen of the United States. He has a deed to his land and a right to sell it whenever he feels like it without anyone's consent except Liza's. When she touches the pen, that settles it. But that practice does not obtain it in the Creek nation. Any Indian can touch the pen, but it is no go. So it can be seen that there is a great gulf yawning between the citizen of Newton county and the citizen of the Creek nation.
The citizens of the Five Civilized Tribes are not allowed to exercise their rights as United States citizens. In fact, we are allowed nothing but a small slice of self government and that for only a limited time. Yet, however small the slice, it might not mix well with single or double statehood. One fourth of our lands are non-taxable and that would not, perhaps, suit either Oklahoma or Arkansas. We cannot pool school funds with either of these counties as yet. Our agreement says no moneys belonging to the tribe shall be appropriated without the approval of council, and the agreement provides that the council shall live until 1906. So it seems to us that it will be time enough to talk statehood when we are United States citizens for keeps. Then we are not acquainted anyway with those fellows on our borders.
It also appears to us that after five years there will be no room for a scramble; for by that time all the people from our border states will have flocked into the Indian Territory and taken up permanent abode. Annexation then will be useless. The wants of all will then have been satisfied and any kind of statehood will do--single, double or treble.
2. The mountain counties of Arkansas, such as Newton, produced the largest number of poor, illiterate whites who overran the Indian Territory in the 1880's and 1890's. Tribal writers like Gibson often stereotyped them as the epitome of ignorance.
The great powwow of the Five Civilized Tribes at Eufaula1 came to an end last Saturday evening just as the sun went down. To an outsider, it looked like the last grand and final rally of the Indians of the Territory.
We looked over the representative body at roll call and were somewhat at a loss to locate the Choctaws, the Indian blood having been about bleached out of them. It looked to us like a convention of white Indians. But upon a second survey we succeeded in seeing a few old faces that said Indian to the core--the faces of Col. Kacher Homahtee2, Old Soggy3 and perhaps three others, who could lay claims to being full blooded American Indians without objection.
Now, these delegates from the different nations were very able men, however white or red their complexion. They did good work for their constituents. But they had so much to look after in so short space of time that we of the ignorant class regret that they did not give enough time and thought to one little resolution that was offered and turned down.
This little resolution proposed that since there is an element of whites and blacks among the Indians opposed to being hooked up in the traces with Oklahoma, let us see how much of this element we can get to help us in warding off the threatened blow of annexation.
Now, we believe in union; that is, we like lots of help. In fact, if we can get the other fellow to go ahead and do the necessary work in our stead we are for enjoying the fruits of his labor. But the convention did not look at it that way and so turned the little resolution down as we have stated.
In our judgement, it should not have been done. These whites and blacks who are in sympathy with the Indians in opposing annexation with Oklahoma or any other country are good people and believe that the Indians' interests are theirs also. They have friends in congress as well as those that seek union with Oklahoma. They would help put up a strong fight. How much more effective would have been the work of the convention had it invited the help of these people! Especially when some of our own people are taking sides against us and appear to be on the winning side. We believe the convention made a great mistake in not extending an invitation to outside friends to join hands with the Indians in the struggle.
Once upon a time we were down back yonder rambling around over the country, looking for a sand rock for a relic. We failed in this but found lots of flint rocks. While there the good neighbors got up what they called a rag for our benefit.
The first man on the ground was the neighborhood doctor. Instead of pills he had a bucket of pine tar and for surgical instruments he had a 10 cent pair of tweezers. He gave the order, or as it were, touched the button, and each couple took their places, no shoes was the order of the day, the fiddler started in with three strings and wound up with one. When recess was taken each couple pranced up to the bar where refreshments were liberally distributed which treat consisted of squirrel gravy and gash. This it seems was the toney dish of the season. When the recess was called and refreshments were over then came the doctor and extracted the splinters and tarred up the wounds. Then on went the dance and joy was unconspired until the next morning when the main feast came off. This consisted of the following delicacies, corn bread, cold corn and sassafras1 tea. Oh, yes you want to know what is meant by gash in Arkansas. We will lead you into the dark recesses of the conglomeration of Arkansas gash, it is bran peas, coon gravy, corn meal, green mustard a little cabbage, then more corn meal, then a little sweet potatoes, a little sorghum,2 and just a little rabbit and squirrel gravey for seasoning. Here we are at sea, this is fully one-half of what Arkansas gash is made out of. It was a very popular drink especially [for] the girls. Rabbit and squirrel gravy is very nutrious, that is why you see in traveling back yonder such rosy cheek girls. The above dish will fatten girls as soon as baughnough will pigs.
He was monarch of all he surveyed. He wanted for nothing. Food was at his disposal. He had the pick and choice of such game as his appetite craved. In short, he subsisted on the fat of the land. Having a boundless country to roam over and stretch his tepee where he pleased, he knew nothing of confinement. He owned the earth and enjoyed the freedom thereof. He was a man and rejoiced in his physical strength. He was not savage when his rights were respected. He was even humane; especially in the matter of killing game. He did not destroy game wantonly. What game he destroyed was for food, not for the sport of it. The twang of his bowstring did not make the game wild. He could approach a bear or deer without scaring it out of the country. He did not have the quality termed "game hog" of nowadays. When he sent an arrow home in one deer , he did [not] look for a whack at another. He took his split cane and proceeded to cut the hide loose from the legs, breast, etc, oblivious to what went on about him. He was very careful not to give the living deer a scare. He hunted only when he needed food and killed no more game than was actually necessary. When he thought he needed a change of meat, he poisoned1 the streams in the summer for fish. The sport was free to all, likewise the fish. The poisoning of the stream did not shorten the fish crop.
With the ripening of the corn came his annual festivity. This event was celebrated with great pomp. He looked upon the corn as being over half of his living. The festival season was religiously observed by his entire tribe for eight or ten days. There was no hypocrisy, only pure simple religion.
During this festival all lost property found was displayed for identification. Such trivial effects as handkerchiefs, ropes, bells, bows and arrows were hung up and a talk made notifying all present that this or that was lost property subject to claim by the owner. Stray horses and hogs were described and located and the owners thereof went and got their stock without a cent of cost to themselves. One of the headmen was always delegated to make a long talk to the young men, admonishing them to lead up-right lives. There was, also, a renewal of good friendship and brotherly love. The camps were filled with rejoicing. Now and then a tear was shed for some dead leader of the dance, or singer, or medicine man, or fire maker. The widows and orphans were special guests at the festival. The sympathy of the tribe was extended to them. Their relatives were admonished to look after them and make them comfortable.
The young men on these occasions were called up before their elders and given their war names. The Creeks were all known by their clans. For instance, a young man of the deer clan was called and when he came up before the namers he would probably be named Echo Micco, or King Deer. Each was called and named according to his clan. He was presented with a piece of tobacco duly cured and wrapped in pawpaw or hickory bark. The young men so named discarded their old names forever. There was no hunching, no laughing, no foolishness. The ceremonies were conducted as sacredly as in any church.
He is like a stray horse--everybody is wanting to use him. There is no Indian today but what is attractive and full of interest. All eyes are turned on him. Why is it? He is not a solon, nor a railroad magnate, nor a merchant prince, nor a John Pierpont Morgan. He is not a great evangelist, nor a person of royal rank, nor a high official of the United States government. He is only a poor lo.1 Yet, in popular parlance, he seems to be of a great lot of consequence. Well, the reason of his popularity is because he is land poor. This is what is the matter with him. He has more land than he knows what to do with. He is living at the top of the pot. But friendly strangers have sought abode with him, volunteering to take care of his surplus domain; and in the shuffle the Indian has been caught up in the whirl of an everlasting picnic. Thus is carried out the old sayings, come easy, go easy; let each day provide for itself. His money is all in large bills and he has to mortgage twenty dollars to get fifty cents worth of change. He is patted on the back and told to go in and blow himself.2 He is put next to the fact that not every man in the United States can boast of 160 acres of terra firma;3 that there will be lots of land left after he is done with; that it is no use to be a hale fellow well met unless one is a hell of a fellow.
The Indian long ago cared but very little for money. He could do without and not feel inconvenienced. But the Indian of this enlightened age, being more civilized, has learned that the rattle of silver in one's jeans commands respect. So he lets go of a few acres of land and is happy. Nothing like putting on appearances. It is American to do so. Why can't he, the most genuine and uncompromising American.
There are a few Indians who are holdbacks--that is, not selling any land and depriving themselves of high living. They seemed to have forgotten that they are liable to drop off any minute; that there is but one life to live on this earth.
This sort of talk may be all right, be we are not heeding it, because we are also told that there will be plenty of land left when we are dead and gone. So we are taking the money offered for our land and having a good time, for tomorrow we may die and leave a lot of land for our poor kinfolks to wrangle over in the courts, causing the legal fraternity no end of bother.
1. A term often used in satire or sarcasm to refer to the "ordinary" Indian, usually fullbloods. It was derived from Alexander Pope's Essay on Man (Epistle i, l. 99). "Lo, the poor Indian! whose untutor'd mind/ Sees God in clouds, or hears him in the wind." Also see Gibson's article, "Passing of the Indian's Religion."
Looking back we see him despised because he is a savage and a shade darker than the pale face. He is not given to work, cares little for progress and is without love for money. Is he to be blamed? For all these faults, if faults they be, he believes that the One looking over him did not intend that he should work; that had the pale face stayed on his own side he would to-day be happy.
On the shores of the Atlantic he stood a giant. The little waves came and went, but came oftener and higher as he stood till finally the giant was forced to retreat from them, seeking safety on the banks. But the waves followed him there and he retreated still further. He climbed the mountains, but the waves sought him out, submerging the mountains. Then the giant set his face unto the setting sun and climbed higher, yet did the waters follow him. Weakened finally by his march, the giant stopped and tried to stand his ground, but stumbled in the effort by selling a piece of American soil to William Penn.1 Then one stumble followed another until he was swept along with no landing in sight. He struggled in vain to get away from the waves. He became disgusted with his own weakness and man's inhumanity to man. He saw nothing to encourage him to another effort. Meanwhile the waves rose higher.
One of these waves is called the Penn treaty, another the sale of Alabama, another the Georgia squabble, another the emigration west of the Mississippi, another the war of the rebellion whereby the giant lost most of his property, and yet another the misinterpretation of a treaty in 1866,2 giving the Negro about one-third of the giant's country without the consideration of one dime.
Did you ever stop to think over this case of our hero? Well, about one-half of our hero's countrymen served as soldiers during the late war. How much of the rebellion they put down is not recorded, but we find many old pensioners among the people of the giant. Now, the giant gets no credit for his loyalty to the union, although the war swept away about a third of his lost and only lands.
The old Indian, who came from Alabama, has told his young people, "Even the children of the pale face will call you bad names; kick you out and not see that you have your rights. You will only be Indians, the hated and despised people. If you are liked, it will be only while your land lasts. Then you will be a vagabond the balance of your miserable life."
Such is the prophecy of the old Indian, who concludes this: "The white man will say to you, who have sold your land and are begging food and shelter, 'you are stout and able to work.' The white man's religion teaches him that by the sweat of his brow shall he eat bread."
So will the noble red man of Cooper3 go down into his grave, if he has any, unhonored and unsung. So will pass one of the honestest, truthfulest, kindest, most charitable, hospitable, humblest, most religious, most wronged, most patient, forbearing, but most revengeful race of people that ever inhabited the earth.
2. Gibson refers here to Creek removal from Alabama, Cherokee difficulties with Georgians before removal to the West, and the treaties of 1866 that concluded hostilities between the U.S. and the Creeks, Cherokees, Chickasaws, Choctaws, and Seminoles, providing that the tribes adopt the former African slaves as citizens of their nations.
In this so-called free country of America, where a citizen can worship according to the dictates of his own conscience, or party, the Indian is fast losing his religion. In a few more years the religion whispered to him in the wind will be lost entirely.
The Indian's religion was a poor makeshift, but the Great Spirit1 was satisfied with it. When the wild vine and tree brought forth fruit, the Indians rejoiced saying, "It is well. He that looks over us has given us fruits to eat. Therefore let us gather at our Big House2 and rejoice, cleansing our bodies of the past year's impurities and our minds of the evil thoughts that we hold against one another."
Thus the Indians worshiped. There was nothing mean--nothing vulgar to mar the occasion. Good will prevailed. The young men were given good advice as well as the young girls. Everyone went away wiser and better. There was no thirst for red whiskey--no intoxication. There was no stealing.
The Indian is now asked, nay, almost compelled to discard this simple, wholesome religion for the religion of the white man. How pitiful is a race of people under the foot of the conqueror! Their customs, religion, everything that made their existence tolerable, wiped out as evils! They must not hunt; they must not fish; they must not be heathens; but they can drink red whiskey and indulge in all the vices!
2. Each tribal town had a town house or "big house" which was used for public and ceremonial purposes. The one at Tuckabatchee was known for its size and was the only one known to have replicated the town house abandoned in Alabama upon removal to the West.
We have heard of people raising the devil lots of times and we have come across accounts of the dead being brought to life by divine power, but we have never known until lately that common everyday cornbread-eating folks could raise the dead.
This land business in the Creek country has brought many things to light. For instance, it has leaked out that dead people are being held up in their graves by their kin folks and made to call for their pro rata share of land.1 They are made to say that they have not been dead long enough to be excluded from participation in the land distribution. When the papers are all fixed up they are allowed to slumber on, while their lands are sold to land sharks wanting dead Indian lands. This is no ordinary fable. The writer has been referred to several instances where dead Indians have received certificates of allotments. If the matter was investigated, many similar cases might be found.
A close friendship exists between Wakachee and another Creek full-blood of the name of Yahola Harjo,4 living somewhere between Muskogee and Tulsa, who is also given to ways that are dark and tricks that are vain. They visit each other frequently, and when they are together they hold council and indulge in "stomp" dances on their own square ground. Sometimes they sneak off to the woods or mountains and are gone for days.
Wakachee has a son and a stepson,5 both about grown. He has these boys under fine control and they are ready to do anything that he requires of them. Recently he had them assist him in building a bonfire of all his household goods, including his dwelling. There are eight in the family, himself, wife and six children. Among the things saved from the fire were three new Winchester rifles and a breech loading shot gun. His neighbors are scared within an inch of their lives. Some of them believe that the spells to which Wakachee and his friend Yahola Harjo are subject are contagious, while others are afraid of great bodily harm at the hands of the weakminded Indian, who is a strong Snake follower,6 but who now has no talk to make about politics.
Barney Riley says it is as good as a circus to see Wakachee and his side-partner go through their performances of entertaining imaginary friends on the "stomp" ground. Some nights they dance and yell till daylight, often continuing the performance several nights in succession. Wakachee's boys are believed to be similarly affected.
A certain doctor, we will call him Jones, for it is a short, an uncommon and a romantic name, ordered some drugs among other stuff that invigorates the mind, loosens up the joints and causes the individual to wake up notorious in the calaboose. Having such an uncommon name, Jones thought that there would be no trouble about the stuff coming through right-side-up-with-care and be delivered at the door O.K. But it turned out, about the time the stuff was due, that there was another man who was also named Jones and who was likewise engaged in the traffic of drugs. So, when Jones No. 2 called for some stuff that was due him, too, the station agent, not knowing any other Druggist Jones, of course, collected express charges nicely for his company and delivered the goods apparently in good order. Now, there was a day of reckoning ahead. Jones No. 1 waltzed into the express office and demanded what was coming to him. The agent was dumbfounded and said "Heaven help me, is your name Jones? Who would have thought it? I am surprised to find two Joneses all at one time in the same business at the same time. Now, how am I to know who's who?"
Jones No. 2 landed home safe and sound with the stuff. Among other things he discovered a few demijohns of a number one peach brandy, some sixteen years old and good enough to cause him to make trouble. It came in mighty handy about busk time.3
2. Prohibition that was supported by the tribes of Indian Territory but not by Oklahoma. Their allotment agreements (commonly called "treaties") under the Curtis Act of 1898 contained prohibition provisions.