He Has to Have Bread and Butter
c. October 12-17, 1911 — First Annual Conference, Society of American Indians, Ohio State University, Columbus OH
Whether he is a citizen or not, or whether he has lands or not, whether his trust funds continue or not, whether he is educated or ignorant, one thing remains unchanged with the Indian: he has to have bread and butter, he has to have a covering on his back, he has to live.
Of all the phases of our national problem, none other seems so immediately important to me as our industrial status. It at once decides whether we shall become degraded toward pauperism or whether we may secure to ourselves permanent independence. Whatever our political or social status may be, we are and always will be tried and judged on our ability individually to maintain our selves, indeed our very integrity depends upon it. I repeat what I have said elsewhere, that this country does not set aside the Indian because he is brown or because he wears beads around his neck. It is more often a question of soap and water, a lack of fitness to turn a good furrow in a field, or to labor by the sweat of his brow for what he eats. Now I am not saying that he shall be as clean as the man with a porcelain bath tub in his house, when the Indian has to haul water in a cup or an olla from a mile away. No! What I do say is: the bath tub and the pipes must move to the Indian, and that he must make them move to him in a system. Not only this, but he must produce adequate supplies out of his own environment. He must labor — and he must labor to the best advantage for himself and not to the exploiter.
It is upon this conviction that I shall proceed in this paper. The good things of life must move to the Indian by a system. Instead of wasting what he already has, and looking for himself in the outside world, he must make his own world at home. This point of view is the result of some years of close economic study of the industrial conditions not only in this country but those of Europe, and a study, too, of the Indian himself.
Realizing that he was turning his face toward Caucasian institutions as his ultimate good, I have looked into them critically, with his advantage uppermost in my mind, and I have become convinced that he cannot copy everything the white man does with advantage. Certainly is it a mistake in some important phases of his industrial life to follow him exactly as he is to-day.
This imitation is on the part of the Indian an indication of our own weakness and inability to present a better program than his own. I do believe much of this is born of our growing disbelief in ourselves due to our having been misrepresented so long, and in deferring everything to the white man’s opinions of us.
Under the heading “Industrial Organization for the Indian,” then, I wish at once to suggest that the way out for the Indian, of his present situation, is along the lines of organization for himself and by himself — organization of those things which shall control his livelihood and which shall be based on a special consideration for his needs. In the present space allotted to me for this subject I can but briefly pass over a great many phases I should like to dwell upon at length, leaving out much of the detail.
Before I proceed further I wish to be understood as to my attitude toward the “Pratt Ideal.” I am wholly in accord with its idea of equal opportunity for the Indian, its belief in the ability of the Indian and the need of a proper environment for demonstration. And I am just as strong against Paternalism and Ward ship and Reservations as a regime as any self-respecting Indian or educator can be. But I do not agree with certain failures on its part to calculate upon the possibilities of the Indian on the reservation, neither do I believe we can overlook the influence of human ties. A good majority of the Carlisle students, who have been taught to leave the reservation to establish themselves outside, come back to it even after they have learned trades. From unbiased observation this seems to point to the fact that the Indian’s ties are very strong. He is naturally clannish, he does not seek to mix with the paleface either in interests or blood, down deep in his heart he feels superior to the ordinary white man, — and the real Indian is. A proof of that is that after he has been surrounded by whites on every reservation for several hundred years, he has not amalgamated enough to have changed the face of his racial problems. What I do not see is the necessity of crowding him to become a white man, when opportunity is all he needs. I do not wish to be understood to mean, when I speak of the Carlisle students going back to the reservation, that he is a failure. Far from it. I have been careful to observe certain localities upon this point, and I have found that Carlisle has no more failures than high schools in the outside communities, and in some instances less, in proportion to the population, than the outside.
A second factor, aside from the ties of home, is his interests in the way of allotments and inheritances on the reservation. The Indian naturally comes back to these if it is no more than to look at them.
This being the case, there seems the need of a complement to the Pratt Ideal. It is this I propose to meet. Instead of forsaking what we already have in holdings, to go away to the white world of industry to be there too often wage-earners for life (I am taking into account the majority rule), instead of being fixtures in an industrial world, which is itself still largely problematic for the white man, I maintain that the line of least resistance to the greatest possible good under our present circumstances is to citizenize the possibilities and to reorganize the opportunities of the Indian at home; to organize the Indians’ holdings into a system of economic advantages; to convert his large wastes into industrial centers which he can take care of to modernize his affairs and to assure him at least a comfortable maintenance if he will work. I believe in struggle and in competition in whatsoever vocation he shall prefer. I believe in struggle and in competition with the out side world. I am one who knows at first hand what the knocks in it are. I am a product of almost every institution of the outside except the insane asylum and Tammany Hall. Struggle is the making of men, but I do not believe in thrusting the weak, without due preparation, into the intense and unfavorable industrial strife of a foreign world. Awhile ago I said that I did not believe in copying everything the white man did, if we could improve upon it. I want to explain what I mean by that.
Some of the gravest problems in this country to-day are to be found in the industrial world of the white man. With all his acumen, with all his advantages, with all his training, the great masses of labor (who make the things he wears and the things he eats, and who serve the money despots) are by no means rewarded for their toil or taken care of when they need care, much less have they the leisure or the means or the energy for higher education. Why?
The social conscience in this country is not generally enlightened, and it is far from being ethical. Those that are enlightened are in a very small minority, and they have their difficulties in effectively bringing about legislation to the protection and betterment of labor, because public sentiment has to be educated first before it will move to anything, and it isn’t so easy to educate it in a land where politics would control. There is something in the social order that is responsible for this. The development of intense individualism and the age of unprecedented prosperity no doubt are largely responsible for the selfishness of the American people.
Look about you into the working world outside and see that first of all there is no uniform and happy adjustment between labor and capital in this country. For while the conditions of labor differ between the country and the city, between different localities between cities themselves, they all come under one grand general wage system and modern capitalism. The wage system is a product of the nineteenth century and has not yet triumphed altogether above slavery and serfdom (the two conditions it aims to escape) for the reason that it is dependent upon capital, and capital in this land is suffering from acute despotism.
In order to save the cost of production, and to supply the growing demand of civilization (and in this it is evolutionary), capital has taken the work originally done on a small scale and put it into big machines; hence the factory system. The factory system is then at once responsible for some of the biggest problems for the Caucasian mind. Here are some of the evils to which it has given birth: child labor, employed in place of adult employment, with light-running machinery, because it is cheaper; industrial accidents, due to large machines without protective appliances, because protection is an item of expense to the employer and the laborer himself is still too ignorant to demand protection before he takes the work that at any moment may take his limb and life; factory regulation and unemployment ; unsanitary conditions and long hours — though the last two have been improved by legislation in the past few years, they are by no means above reproach to-day. Unemployment is the result of the invention of labor-saving machines and the unsettled condition created by differences between labor and capital.
The fact that capital is such a terrific power in the hands of the civilized but unenlightened is producing a class struggle in this democratic country of ours where they shout, “equal opportunity for all men,” and then thieve it. The wage earner to-day is a wage earner always. Once he gets into it he cannot get out of it. Let me quote one of the biggest economic authorities in this country, who says : “The great majority of men do not possess the abilities or the opportunities to secure the large capital necessary for the successful conduct of a modern business. For the masses, indeed, it is true and increasingly true that once a wage earner always a wage earner.”
Take particularly the wage earner in the city where the most of the population of the country is congested. Even a casual look at the labor market there is enough to show that the conditions of the white man’s toil are far from being happy or equitable, indeed, they are tragic; look at the wan faces of the ill-nourished multitude closely packed, like a lot of cattle, in a foul car hurrying to their work in the city. Follow a hollow-chested bent old man at forty- five years into the close shop where the wind never made a clean sweep, where the sun never had a chance to creep in through the high walls of the neighboring buildings; listen to the story of the boy to earn and save enough to buy his mother a home, — he never did. Watch him go out of the dingy shop at six o’clock, a bent and sick old man, he would like one day off to-morrow, but he would lose his place and his means of support. He is still dependent upon to-morrow’s toil for to-morrow’s bread. Follow him into the old and dismal quarter of the city where rent is cheap and where the noises never cease. Follow him up the rickety old steps into the rented rooms, damp, sickly smelling dark rooms, whose windows closely face another wall, stay and hear him ask for a good sirloin, and see him get a red sausage and a dill pickle; hear him cough and remember that he helps to make the clothes you buy in the shops. No, I cannot see that everything the white man does is to be copied. The tragedy of young hopes and healths crushed out by the heavy heel of money despotism in the industrial world is not an unusual thing in this country. The average man in the white labor markets lives a miserable existence to-day that he may live another miserable day to-morrow, and so on till disease or accident take pity upon him. I do not look with optimism upon these conditions, not for any race of people under the sun. You may argue that the sweatshop is not the only industry into which the Indian can turn, and that there is legislation now against this evil. It is true there is legislation and there is factory inspection, but here is what a thorough investigator of the particular problem says: “The effects of this legislation have been beneficial where they have been enforced, but with a shifting irresponsible population and a lack of public sentiment in favor of the law in the very quarters where it is most needed, it takes an almost superhuman vigilance to secure its enforcement, of the large cities where sweating has gained a foothold. Boston is the only one which may be said to have the system under control, and as a consequence of this control a great part of Boston’s clothing business is said to have been transferred to New York. The exact extent of the evil is not fully determined. The statistics are compiled from returns made by the manufacturers themselves, and many small establishments escape census enumeration, but at that there are 5,308,400 employees in the sweatshops in the United States.”
I have given the sweatshop as only one of the evils of the white industrial world. Skilled labor has better conditions, of course, but outside of the agricultural pursuits skilled labor, too, is confined to indoor life.
The Indian does not realize that under proper sanitation he is a superior man to any other class in this country, physically. The fact that he is an outdoor man is perhaps the chief reason why he has sustained himself and survived conditions of housing which is killing the white man, only he doesn’t acknowledge it. His tendency to the great white plague is not so inherent as it is a matter of environment. With proper conditions thrown about him, which means returning to the observance of his original laws of health, the Indian would eradicate this tendency toward tuberculosis. The great white plague thrives in the indoor shop. Several years ago I had the pleasure of breaking the record in the investigation of the causes of tuberculosis in the city of Milwaukee. In this particular investigation we found that the average working family numbered five members, and the heads of families were earning nine dollars a week. When the rent and the fuel were taken out it left ninety-four cents for each one to live on per week. As a consequence the laboring population was dying from tuberculosis. These people represented not only the sweat shop but the general conditions of city employment. The white man laborer cannot earn enough to feed him properly, and, as for the sanitation of his house, the Indian tepee isn’t a circumstance to the cheap tenement house. I have never forgotten the smells of the closed parlors with their heavy draperies and the dismalness of drawn shades. The tenement house of the city has since become a dread to me, and I fear some Indians who have an undue worship of Paleface ways will likewise follow closed windows and drawn shades. I may be departing a little when I dwell upon this beyond a passing mention, but when I have looked over the white man’s conditions of living with the idea of putting the Indian into it I have seen things that we do too often pass over without due consideration.
Wherever there is intelligence in the land, there is a return to the Indian’s habit of living out of doors. And when you stop to think that out of twenty-four hours each one of us is taking 25,000 breaths it is easy to see that one of the reasons why we have been particularly free from the white man’s foul diseases before he contaminated us is because we drew in health 25,000 times instead of poisons. An indoor race cannot have the reddest of blood.
It is a matter of statistics that as soon as a people have had long experience with tenement life and city employment they return to the country. Now then my plea is that we avoid the things that are killing off the majority of the laboring population in the country among the whites.
It has been agreed by all thinkers that the ideal life is the small community life, which combines the advantages of concentration with the health of the uncongested freedom. Before I go into the details of the organization I here propose let me sum up the reasons why the Indian should seek to organize something different and better for himself than already exists.
1. He has lands, a valuable asset in the business world. He does not need to buy sites for the construction of industrial centers.
2. He has funds which could be called out for organization expense — enough of it to cover the whole Indian population with organization.
3. Certain ideas of his own way of living; namely, the devotion to simplicity and outdoor life, and he ought to insist upon their being reinstated.
4. The conditions of labor in the outside world are inferior to the conditions which he can establish for himself.
The organization which I believe to be most effective for our uses is called the Garden City. In this country it has triumphed in the experiment on Long Island. In Europe it has triumphed generally wherever it has been tried and it has been tried extensively — the most modern examples being found in England and Germany and France. The kind I propose for the Indian I prefer to call the Industrial Village, for the simple reason that it has been suggested to me that the name Garden City sounds too much like an Utopian idea, or a soft notion of philanthropy. This thing I propose is a hard-headed, practical scheme which is not dependent upon charity to carry it out.
In distinction from the experiment in New York, the industrial village is not a relief from the congestion of population, but it is a planned concentration of population.
The tendency in the cities to move back to the small community life is a sign of progress, and quite logical. Here are some of the chief reasons for it:
1. The social nature of man is more satisfied in a village than on isolated farms, and the isolation of city life where families side by side do not need to know each other.
2. The advantages of systematized life can be readily and more economically secured. Sewage, lighting, and water-works can be had by a group of people of moderate means when the same people individually cannot have them at all.
3. The enforcement of regulations for the public good can be more effectively carried out. This includes not only the purely ethical institutions, but sanitation and education and amusements.
4. Facilities of transportation can be more easily secured.
5. The successful carrying out of commerce in modern times requires concentration of population. There is greater economy of manufacture and running business in the organized community. In this it is a practical school for wholesome citizenship and it develops municipal efficiency.
With the installment of the industrial village, there must be instituted at the same time the industry which shall be the source of revenue for the villagers. This industry among our Indians need not be the same for the different localities. We have among our selves the consideration of the different stages of anthropologic culture to consider. There are four stages in the development to conventional civilization of any primitive people; first, the hunting and fishing stage; second, the pastoral or the keeping and tending of flocks; third, the agricultural ; fourth, the horticultural stage. All these stages the Indians of the United States had at the time of the advent of the Caucasian.
Some of them fished and hunted only, some of them herded the buffalo, some of them planted maize enough to trade or make it a tribute to their conquerors among themselves. The Cherokee actually knew and practised the art of raising orchards and even of grafting. There is nothing more densely ignorant than the white man on these various stages of the American Indian’s development, as is evident in the Indian policy. The Navajo is in the height of the second stage. The Nez Perce and the Oneida are in the height of the third stage. I might enumerate at length. It would be nothing short of folly to impose upon the Navajo a change of industry. The thing to do for him is to place his industry on a modern business scale and to go one step beyond — eliminate the middle man’s interference with him. Instead of the white trader getting the 60 per cent of the profits as he does in the white man’s world of commerce, let the Navajo so organize that he can sell his wares to the consumer direct and get 90 per cent of the profits.
In Oneida, Wisconsin, where soon every individual Indian will became a full-fledged citizen, the organization of the village we hope to make along lines which combine the foreign Garden City with the Mormon idea of communistic cooperation.
The point of improvement on the foreign Garden City plan is a triumph over the white man’s institutions of to-day the world over. The foreign and the American city both are corporate institutions, capitalized by money. Every member of the corporation holds so many shares of stock, which represent tangible assets. The man then who enters into the corporation must be represented by some form of money. If he have not this, he either cannot become a member of the organization or else he must go in debt for it. Now there is nothing under the sun that is more unproductive than gold itself. Money is merely a medium of exchange for the products of the earth. That saying that ” it takes an ounce of gold to get an ounce of gold out of the mine ” illustrates my meaning. Money represents an exchange of values, and when you trace these values to their sources they are soil and labor. In other words, the wealth of a country is in her soil and her men. Gold lies dormant in the earth till man comes along and handles it, and the only thing that never fails to produce is the soil. Herein is the failure of the mod ern systems of business to become at once equitable, in the fact that money represents the worth of a man. Now what did the Mormon do? How did he go into the desert with his destitute colony and establish economic freedom to every individual man the way it has never been done in the history of the white man in Western civilization? How did he keep from starving in the desert where there was neither water, markets, nor money? Some one among that Colony had the right inspiration about organization. Some one reckoned out this defect in relying upon capital for everything. He had men and he had the soil. What did he do?
He saw that he needed water on the sand to make things grow. The Colorado river must be tapped. How was it possible to do it? Labor must do it, and it did. The Mormon practised irrigation twenty years before the rest of the country did. He did it without money because he capitalized labor. Men were worth just exactly what they will always be worth when the estimate is right: men were worth just what they could do for the community. They brought that water from the Colorado by the labor of their own hands, and whether they were educated or ignorant. How were they paid? Each man was paid in shares of stock in the cooperative store and he received the best the community had for a living.
As soon as they established the water system, they put the seed in the ground, and they divided their labor so that no one man had more than twenty acres to look after. They placed every man at the oversight of a competent man who knew land values and the secrets of cultivation. They took no risks. Wherever their colonies went, they sent with them the expert who oversaw to the quality of industry, and to the economy of energy and space; their traveling missionaries were men more bent upon learning the local conditions, the proper methods, the secret of successes, the market requirements, the development and advancement of every locality, than upon converts. They took no risks.
And note how they understood the meaning of economy. They had to build a reservoir, for example. They did it with their own hands and thus avoided the rake-off to the contractor, the banker, the bonding company, and the promoter. They had 90 per cent of their value at home, and when they established their cooperative stores this is the way they did it: They sent their wool, their hides, their grain, their mutton and their beef to the market and traded them in goods. They paid for the hauling of these in shares of Community stock. Now being one Community, every one was in the family. If a hard, lean year came along, he had credit given on his shares of stock, — this being appropriable for payment.
At Woodruff, Arizona, 150 people used less than 600 acres making a distribution of 20 acres for adult labor per capita. The re duction of space to intensive use of the soil did away with too broad a distribution of one man’s energy. This resulted in a greater success from 20 acres than outside individual farmers made on three and four hundred acres. At St. Joe, Arizona, there are two farms not larger than 20 acres that have amassed a fortune of $50,000 each for their owners, showing that men in the Mormon Commune may prosper individually according to their ability, which is the great note in the New Socialism. When men are equal in their opportunities they receive the maximum of economic advantage.
Where Socialism fails to triumph in this country is because under the present form of corporate rights, the individual has as many votes as he has shares of stock. A man, therefore, who has 51 per cent of all the stock decides and rules. And he may outdistance the small share holder who may be a superior man to the organization. There are two remedies I would suggest for this:
1. Apply the Rochdale system of “one man, one vote,” regardless of the number of shares of stock, or,
2. Provide against 51 per cent control in the hands of any one individual.
The foreign American and European idea of the division of dividends to the share holder is a communistic idea of capital and not of men. The Mormon idea is a communistic idea of men. In his institution every man draws his proportion performed. Each man in it shall own lands, but the work and the advantages are communistic. The Mormons to-day are the richest people per capita in the world. There is one precaution they took among other things. And that is they fortified themselves against the lazy man. If he could not perform a fixed minimum of labor he had to get out of the Community. The Community might take his property at its own price.
The principle of intensive cultivation as carried out by the Mormons has been carried out in other countries to a remarkable extent. Denmark, for example, is one-fourth the size of the State of Wisconsin, yet she supplies all Europe with butter and eggs.
The American scientific agriculturist is realizing that space is not necessary with soil for returns. The great note in Western civilization to-day is toward practical science.
Awhile back I said that we had four stages of anthropologic culture to consider in our organization. Let me reiterate in conclusion that no one industry can be uniformly installed on the Reservations if we would intelligently handle every locality and group. Expert service must be secured to look over Indian territory, to judge for what the locality is best adapted, and to find the market. The town-site for the Industrial Village should be chosen after determining these. In short, I believe that were the Indus trial Village organized with the Mormon idea of capitalization, combined with the European and American idea of the market, that we would secure the maximum advantage. That we must calculate to meet and to use modern business methods goes without saying, but the great distinction I wish to impress upon your minds is that to reach a state of economic equity we must follow the Mormon idea of making men the capital of the community.
In these pages I have not berated white institutions because they are white, but because all economists have agreed already that they are neither as economic nor as equitable as they hope to be. Let us take the natural advantages the race already has in its possessions and make for ourselves Gardens and teach the white man that we believe the greatest economy in the world is to be just to all men. It is my belief that the old saying, ” Be good and you will be happy” is fast coming to mean “Be happy and you will be good.” Man is only a creature of circumstance after all.
Source: Report of the Executive Council on the Proceedings of the First Annual Conference of the Society of American Indians, (Society of American Indians), 1912, pp. 43-55.