The Government and the Indians

On the 13th of March, some of the Secretaries of the missionary societies, and others interested in the welfare of the Indians, had an interview with President Harrison and with Secretary Noble, of the Interior Department. We were kindly received, and the Secretary solicited information from us as to the methods in which he could aid in furtherance of Indian civilization. A number of suggestions were made in response, and the following outline is given as a summary of the points presented to the Secretary:

  1. That the appointment or retention of all officers and employees in the Indian service of the Government shall be on the sole ground of fitness—that ability, integrity and an interest in the welfare of the Indians, shall constitute the only required conditions. We are not ignorant of the difficulties involved in securing such persons, especially with the low salaries paid to some of these employees; and we shall be abundantly satisfied with the purpose of the Government to reach the nearest attainable success in this direction.
  2. That the Government shall make adequate appropriations for the establishment and maintenance of suitable schools for the education of all Indian pupils—whether these schools be sustained and controlled wholly by the Government or in cooperation with missionary societies. The millions of dollars now due to the Indians by treaty stipulations, for educational purposes, should not be idle in the National Treasury, but should, as rapidly as possible, be devoted to their legitimate purposes, and they should be supplemented as far as need be by direct grants from the Government.
  3. That the cooperation of the Government with the missionary societies in what are known as Contract schools should be continued and enlarged. We believe that no better teaching has been afforded to the Indians than that given in these Contract schools. The educational qualifications of the teachers, together with their disinterested and self-denying characters and their religious influence and instruction, render them pre-eminently fit for their places and successful in their work. The experience of the past and the testimony of all unprejudiced persons bear witness to this fact.
  4. That compulsory education of Indian pupils be enforced, with liberty of choice to the parents in the selection of the schools to which their children shall be sent. The Indians are generally averse, or indifferent, to the education of their children. The withholding of rations in case of failure or neglect is usually an all-sufficient motive for prompt compliance. Then, too, the parent, if a Christian and intelligent, should be allowed to select the school for his child, and not be compelled to send it to a Government school simply because that may happen to be nearest.
  5. The Government should adopt a liberal policy in regard to the use of the vernacular in the Indian schools. We are all agreed that the English language should be brought into use among the Indians at the earliest practicable period. But the experience of all the past, in Indian civilization among the ruder tribes, has shown that Christian influences have been most successfully brought to bear by the use of the vernacular, in giving them the knowledge of the Word of God, in teaching them a practical morality, and in preparing them for civilized life. We ask, therefore, that no restrictions be placed upon Christian people in their efforts for this great object.
  6. We ask that the Government exercise an absolute impartiality in dealing with the different denominations of Christians, in the distribution of appropriations, in the granting of lands for missionary uses, and in the appointment of officers, agents, teachers and employees. We ask no favors in these respects, and we desire that none shall be granted to others.

Various. The American Missionary, Vol. 43, No. 8, August, 1889.

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