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Orators  - There have been many great Indian orators.  While deeds in time of war were important to the standing of the Indian in his community, most of the important chiefs ruled only through their persuasive oratory.

Since the early days the white man has been impressed by the ability of Indian leaders to express themselves.  Even when the colonists could not understand the language, they were struck by the poise and dignity and delivery of the Indian speaker.  When translated many of these speeches were masterpieces of oratory and have found their way into literature and textbooks.

Logan's speech is one of these.  After white men had murdered some of his followers, including members of his family, he spoke as follows.

"I appeal to any white man to say if he ever entered Logan's cabin hungry, he gave him not meat; if he ever came cold and naked had he clothed him not. During the course of the last long and bloody war, Logan remained idle in his cabin, an advocate of peace.

"Such was my love for the white man that my countrymen pointed as they passed, and said" "Logan is the friend of the white man.'  I have even thought to have lived with you, but for the injuries of one man, Colonel Cressap, who last spring, in cold blood and unprovoked, murdered all the relations of Logan, not even sparing my women and children.

"There runs not a drop of my blood in the veins of any living creature.  This called on me for revenge.  I have sought it; I have killed many; I have fully glutted my vengeance.

"For my countrymen I rejoice at the beams of peace.  But do not harbor a thought that mine is the joy of fear.  Logan never felt fear!  he will not turn on his heel to save his life.  Who is to mourn for Logan?  Not one."

The Indian spoke simply and drew on his knowledge of nature in making his comparisons.  He was familiar with the birds and beasts, the forests and the plains, and the winds and the storms - and he seemed to know how men felt in their hearts.  He took advantage of everything around him to illustrate the point he was making.

One Indian, a Wichita chief, after listening to the arguments of some white commissioners, reached down and took up a handful of dust and threw it into the air.  As it blew away in thousands of particles, he said: "There are as many ways to cheat the Indian."

Canonchet, the Narraganset chief, an ally of King Philip, when sentenced to death said proudly:  "I like it well, for I shall die before my heart is soft, or I have spoken anything unworthy of myself."

Red Bear, a Sioux chief, on a visit to New York spoke thus: "The Great Spirit told me when a chief, 'If you get strong and become rich, you cannot take your riches with you when you die.'  he must have told a different thing to the white man, who is grasping, and who piles up his money.  he must have told him, 'When you die, you can take all into the next world.'"  Another time he said" "When the Great Father sent out men to our people, i was poor and thin; now I am large and stout and fat.  It is because so many liars have been sent out here, and I have been stuffed full of lies."

Red Cloud, the great Sioux chief, speaking at Washington said:  "You promise us many things, but you do not perform them.  You take away everything, yet if you live forty or fifty years in this world, and then die, you cannot take all your goods with you....The Great Spirit raised me naked and gave me no weapons.  This is the way I was raised (pulling aside his blanket, and exposing his bare shoulder) .... I do not ask my Great Father to give me anything.  I came naked, and will go away naked."

Chief Joseph of the Nez Percé, one of the greatest Indian orators, said when he surrendered after the nez Percé outbreak of 1877:

"I am tired of fighting.  Our chiefs are killed.  Looking Glass is dead.  Toolhulhulsote is dead.  The old men are all dead.  It is the young men who say yes or no.  He who led on the young men is dead.  It is cold and we have no blankets.  The little children are freezing to death.  My people, some of them, have run away to the hills and have no blankets, no food.  No one knows where they are - perhaps freezing to death.

"I want to have time to look for my children and see how many of  them I can find.  maybe I shall find them among the dead.  hear me, my chiefs.  I am tired.  my heart is sick and sad.  i will fight no more forever."

Chief Washakie, of the Shoshoni, spoke at a conference in this fashion: "The white man, who possesses this whole vast country from sea to sea, who roams over it at pleasure and lives where he likes, cannot know the cramp we feel in this little spot, with the undying remembrance of the fact, which you know as well as wee, that every foot of what you proudly call America not very long ago belonged to the Red man.  The Great Spirit gave it to us.  There was room enough for all his tribes, and all were happy in their freedom.

"But the white man had, in ways we know not of , learned some things we had not learned; among them how to make more superior tools and terrible weapons, better for war than bows and arrows; and there seemed no end to the hordes of men that followed them from other lands beyond the sea.

"And so, at last, our fathers were steadily driven out, or killed, and we, their sons, but sorry remnants of tribes once mighty, are cornered in little spots of the earth, all ours by right - cornered like guilty prisoners and watched by men with guns who are more than anxious to kill us off.

There were many great Indian orators.


Related Information within this Site
[ Cornplanter ][ Indian Language ][ Joseph ]
[ Keokuk ][ King Philip ][ Logan ]
[ Narraganset ][ Red Cloud ][ Red Jacket ]