Mr. John Lolorias, a Papagos Indian Speaks

Fourth session,
Thursday night, October 17.

Mr. John Lolorias, an Indian student from Hampton, was invited to speak

Mr. Lolorias. My being called on to speak before these great men and public speakers reminds me of a story. An old Indian was once invited to a prayer meeting, and the white men made him understand that they wanted him to pray. So the old Indian got up and said, “O, Lord, January, February; January, February,” and he kept on repeating those two names of the months till finally someone motioned to him to sit down. Then a white man said, “We have seen how honestly and earnestly our Indian friend has tried to take part in this meeting, and even if those two words which he spoke do not make us understand what is in his mind, we do understand that he no longer means to shoot anyone with his bows and arrows or to scalp anyone; that he is our friend.” So while I shall try to tell you in a few and simple words a little about my own people, I hope, in spite of the imperfection of my speech, you will catch some idea of what I shall try to tell you.

My people, the Papago, live in Arizona. Nothing was known about them till a few years ago, when they got into trouble with the Mexicans. They lived on their own land. I call it my home because I was raised there; but any white man has as much right to call that place his home as I have, because that land is open to him, and he can go there and build his house. The Indians used to have cattle, and when they wanted money for food or clothing they sold some cattle. Some who did not have any cattle would work in the mines. Ever since I can remember, the Indians have been writing to the Indian Commissioner to ask that they might have land that they could call their own, for their own homes; but he never has done anything yet. Not a loaf of bread, not a shovel, a hoe or a plow, or anything else, has been given to these Papago. What they have, they have earned it. All the help they have received from Government is the Indian school. As I think of my school days I can almost remember the exact words in which my teacher taught me to read, and my first teacher was a Hampton student. As we looked at the little book we saw the picture of a cat, and then a picture of the cat running, and then where it had caught a mouse. My teacher said to me in the Indian language, ‘The first row of black marks tells the color of the cat, the second what he can do, and the third what he has done.” Then she began to read: “This is a black cat. The black cat can run. The black cat has caught a mouse.” When I went home the first thing I did was to show the book and the pictures to my father, and I said, “The first row of black marks tell the color of the cat, the second what he can do, and the third what he has done.” And I read to him: “This is a black cat. The black cat can run. The black cat has caught a mouse.” My father said: “That is very interesting, my boy. Return again to the school and stay till you have learned to explain to me the man in the newspaper, tell me his color, what he can do, and what he has done.” I did not know then that to be able to explain the man in the newspaper was a step toward civilization, and that nearly everything in the newspaper was a description of the color of the man, of what he can do, and what he has done.

In 1894 I said to my father, “I can not learn much more in this school among my own people,” and he told me to go wherever I could learn most.

The same year others were asking to leave their homes and come East to “struggle for better things.” For this reason a meeting was called; the Indians came, smoked, and talked about the white man. Up rose an old man and said: ” It seems to me that our general opinion of the white people is that every one of them is great in some way. There is a man who performs many wonderful things; we see them with our eyes, and when we can not understand them we say, Here is a great man, let us follow. We allow ourselves and our children to try the white man’s tricks, and when one is successful we gather around him and amuse ourselves by seeing the tricks once performed by the white man and now by one of our own people.

“There is another man who writes, reads books, and makes pictures; we say, ‘Here is a great man, let us follow.’ We send our children away from home to learn these things. How many of them have returned and amused us, made our lives and our homes happier with the knowledge of those things for which we send them abroad?

“There is another man who comes and says, ‘This is right and that is wrong; you work today, rest tomorrow, and listen to the story of the Maker of all things, and of his Son who came here, worked, and died for you.’ We say, ‘Here is a great man, let us follow.’ We go into Mexico to learn the Mexican songs and prayers, and when we return home we sing and pray. Now, are we a better people than” we were years ago when we sang our own songs, when we spoke to the Great Spirit in our own language? We asked then for rain, good health, and long life; now, what more do we want? What is that thought so great and so sacred that can not be expressed in our own language, that we should seek to use the white man’s words?

We have seen men who seemed to be our friends, and we have told them our stories and our best thoughts. They said we will do this and that for you, but some unexpected time they are gone; we know then that we were deceived. Never did we say, ‘Here is a great liar, let us follow, but still we longed for a chance to come when we might return the same deceitfulness to that man, and make him feel as we felt when he deceived us.”

So the older Indians talked of what their children learned from the white man when they were sent away to school. It seems to me that the Indian teacher or missionary must know the thoughts that lie deep in the hearts and minds of the old Indians in order to be successful. W T e need not follow the white man just because he is white, and can be seen in the night as well as in the day. It is right that the Indian should amuse himself by the white man’s tricks. He who writes books and makes pictures is a great man, and the Indian must follow. But it is the part of the teacher to encourage the students to return to their homes and explain to their people those thoughts in Christianity that are so high, so great, and so sacred, which the old Indian does not yet know.



Board Of Indian Commissioners. Thirty-Third Annual Report Of The Board Of Indian Commissioners. Government Printing Office. 1901.

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