Select Page

Stand Up for the Poor Indian 

1860 — 23rd Annual Meeting of the Aborigines’ Protection Society of London, London, England

 

I felt rather a little cast down when I heard that in this large place, when you have a public meeting of this kind, a very few went; but I am glad to see with  my own eyes there are such a number; and I am glad to find that there are friends to the poor Indians, to those that can’t help themselves — that people will rise and be the friend of the poor Indian, the poor destitute people that cant’t help themselves. May God bless you. When I was first chosen by the council, my people thought that I had better dress in an Indian style; and they talked it over amongst themselves, and though it was best I should come as a fully dressed Indian. But I told them, if they had chosen me to go, I was not going to go back to paganism after the Missionary had tried to civilized the Indians, and to make us like white people: and was I to go back and dress like pagan Indians, and come over here to shew myself? I told them I was not going to do that; and some said, “It is best to let her go in her simple Christian dress and the Queen will know that we are civilized.” And I have been asked by different people why didn’t I fetch my Indian dress. I tell them I had not, this was my dress; this is the way we dress. I tell them we are not pagan, that we try to be like white people — to be clean and decent, and do what we can to be like the civilized people. Well can I remember the time they could not speak a word of English; but the Missionaries have tried to civilize our little Indian children, and have even them under their own roofs. For many a time Father Cook, who was the first Missionary to come among the Indians — I think he came from the States — and he brought with him a school mistress, her name was Sophia Cook; she was the first one who taught us to say the ABC. She taught me the first English words I learned and she ahs prayed for me. And now I was once a little poor pagan child, but see what Christianity will do, and civilization will do, for the poor heathen children. And now I stand before you, that you may see what the Gospel has done for the poor Indian; and whilst the Missionary is working, the great head, the Indian Department, is striving to do their best to make the Indian civilized. But how can the poor Indian be civilized? As soon as he makes his land valuable then he is driven further back, and the poor Indian has to begin now again. It is said that the Indian is lazy; but he is lazy because he has also to go further back; he is only clearing the land for the white men, and making it valuable for the Indian Department; and so he has to go further back. And they know that the work they put on their land, that their children won’t see the benefit of it; and since I have been over here I have made known what my people wished to have make known, and God has blessed me with great friends; he has opened the way, and I have found that there are many who stand up for the poor Indian; and I hope, by the blessing of God, they will not give it up, although I am now in my own home. But the interest they have taken may still grow, though the poor Indian has nothing to give in return but look there [pointing to the inscription on the wall], “Do good and lend, hoping or nothing again, and ye shall e the children of the Highest.” Now my Christian friends, I hope that whilst the poor Indians are away off in their native country, that those who have taken up an interest in the poor Indian will not let it drop, but that many will e stood by and do what they can. Thought since I have been here and made known our grievances to our dear Mother, the Queen, and she has been very kind, and received me very kindly, and have listened to the poor Indian that has been sent to her; and whilst all this is very good, and the Queen herself has promised her aid and protection; but still what can she do if all is against us? No; we want the people to help us, that know more than we know; we want people to help the poor Indian because they have been driven from one place to another. But now we are getting to the end of the peninsula, and where to go next we do not know. Since I have been in this country I have been told the Indian can purchase the land of that country, like the white people, and before I left home we could not purchase land; but since I have been here I have had a letter from my husband saying that we can purchase land — but on what conditions? Why, the Indian must be civilized; he must talk English, talk French, read and write and be well qualified for every thing before he can purchase land. Why, the poor Indians, none of them can go there. Poor things, how are they to get their education? And is that the way they do with your own people? Why, I can tell you something. I have seen some people in our country that came from your country that neither read nor write; and they came to buy Indian land. But the poor Indian must be so well qualified before he can have a house of his own! No, we want people to stand up for the poor Indian, and may God help us do what is right and do what is good, and we should do to others as we should others do to us. May God bless you, and may God bless my poor people, who are now merely a handful. These people they call monkeys: I know them well, and I think very few men that can stand equal with them. They are many of them noble-looking men; well, you would be surprised at what they can carry, and you would be surprised how many fish they will kill in an hour. If they were monkeys they would not do this.

 

 

Source: The Colonial Intelligencer, or, Aborigines’ Friend, 1859-1866, Vol. 2 (London: W. Tweedie), pp. 156-157.

 

Also: Documenting First Wave Feminisms, Volume II, Canada — National and Transnational Contexts, ed. Nancy M. Forestell and Maureen Moynagh (Toronto: University of Toronto Press), 2014, pp. 162-163.