- The Hopi Way
- Traditional Values and Visions of A Hopi
May our Spirits take fire form this never-ending courage
Before the end of 1924, the Speaker of the Six Nations Council had returned to the United States, a disillusioned and discouraged man. An exile from Canada and from the nation he thought he had failed. This speech is a written record of the hardships and challenges all of our Traditional Elders and Spiritual Leaders over the decades have endured. We present it to you here at the Hopi pages in honor Six Nations Council and the Great Deskaheh. As you read the speech you will not help being reminded of Chief Yukiuma, Chief Dan Evehema, a few of the Great Spiritual Leaders of Hotevilla and countless others, too many to name, from tribe to tribe.
(On the Evening of March 10, 1925, suffering from a serious attack of pleurisy and pneumonia, he made his last speech. It was before a radio microphone in Rochester. Once more, and more forcefully than ever, he hurled defiance at the big nations who disregard the claims of smaller people.)
Here is the speech itself:
Nearly everyone who is listening to me is a pale face, I suppose. I am not. My skin is not red but that is what my people are called by others. My skin is brown, light brown, but our cheeks have a little flush and that is why we are called red skins. We don't mind that. There is no difference between us, under the skins, that any expert with a carving knife has ever discovered.
My home is on the Grand River. Until we sold off a large part, our country extended down to Lake Erie, where, 140 winters ago, we had a little sea-shore of our own and a birch-bark navy.
You would call it Canada. we do not. We call the little ten-miles square we have left the "Grand River Country". We have the right to do that. It is ours. We have the written pledge of George III that we should have it forever as against him or his successors and he promised to protect us in it.
We didn't think we would ever live long enough to find that a British promise was not good. An enemy's foot is on our country, and George V knows it for I told him so, but he will not lift his finger to protect us nor will any of his ministers. One who would take away our rights is, of course, our enemy.
Do you think that any government should stop to consider whether any selfish end is to be gained or lost in the keeping of its word?
In some respects, we are just like you. We like to tell our troubles. You do that. You told us you were in great trouble a few winters ago because a great big giant with a big stick was after you. We helped you whip him. Many of our young men volunteered and many gave their lives for you. You were very willing to let them fight in the front ranks in France. Now we want to tell our troubles to you.
I do not mean that we are calling on your governments - we are tired of calling on the governments of the pale-faced peoples in American and in Europe. We have tried that and found it was no use. They deal only in fine words - we want something more than that. We want justice from now on. After all that has happened to us, that is not too much to ask. You got half of your territory here by warfare upon Red men, usually unprovoked, and you got about a quarter of it by bribing their chiefs, and not over a quarter of it did you get openly and fairly. You might have gotten a good share of it by fair means if you had tried.
You young people of the United States may not believe what I am saying. Do not take my word, but read your history. A good deal of true history about that has got into print now. We have a little territory left - just enough to live and lie on. Don't you think your government ought to be ashamed to take that away from us by pretending it is part of theirs?
You ought to be ashamed if you let them. Before it is all gone, we mean to let you know what your governments are doing. If you are a free people you can have your own way. The Governments at Washington and Ottawa have a silent partnership of policy. It is aimed to break up every tribe of Red men so as to dominate every acre of their territory. Your high officials are the nomads today - not the Red People. Your officials won't stay home.
Over in Ottawa, they call that Policy "Indian Advancement." Over in Washington. they call it "Assimilation." We who would be the helpless victims say it is "Tyranny."
If this must go on to the bitter end, we could rather that you come with your guns and poison gases and get rid of us that way. Do it openly and above board. Do away with the pretense that you have the right to subjugate us to your will. Your governments do that by enforcing your alien laws upon us. That is an underhanded way. They can subjugate us if they will though the use of your law courts. But how would you like to be dragged down to Mexico, to be tried by Mexicans and jailed under Mexican law for what you did at home?
We would be happier today, if left alone, than you who call yourselves Canadians and Americans. We have no jails and do not need them. You have many jails, but do they hold all the criminals you convict? Ad do you convict or prosecute all your violators of the thousands of laws you have?
Your governments have lately resorted to new practices in their Indian policies. In the old days, they often bribed our chiefs to sign treaties to get our lands. Now they know that our remaining territory can easily be gotten from us by first taking our political rights away and forcing us into your citizenship, so they give jobs in their Indian offices to the bright young people among us who will take them and who, to earn their pay, say that our people wish to become citizens with you and that we are ready to have our tribal life destroyed and want your governments to do it. But that is not true.
Your governments of today learned that method from the British. The British have long practiced it on weaker peoples in caring out their police of subjugating the world, if they can, to assume to govern other peoples too weak to resist your courts. There is no three-mile limits to strong governments who wish to do that.
About three winters ago, the Canadian Government set out to take mortgages on farms of our returned soldiers to secure loans made to them intending to use Canadian courts to enforce these mortgages in the name of Canadian authority within our country. When Ottawa tried that, our people resented . We knew that would mean the end of our government. Because we did so. the Canadian Government began to enforce all sorts of Dominion and Provincial laws over us and quartered armed men among us to enforce Canadian laws and customs upon us. We appareled to Ottawa in the name of our right as a separate people and by right of our treaties, and the door was closed in our faces. We then went to London with our treaty and asked for the protection it promised and got no attention. Then we went to the League of Nations at Geneva with its covenant to protect little people and to enforce respect for treaties by its members and we spent a whole year patiently waiting but got not hearing.
To punish us for trying to preserve our rights, the Canadian Government has now pretended to abolish our government by Royal Proclamation, and has pretended to set up a Canadian made government over us, composed of the few traitors among us who are willing to accept pay from Ottawa and do this bidding. Finally, Ottawa officials, under pretense of a friendly visit, asked to inspect our precious wampum belts, made by our Fathers centuries ago as records of our history, and when shown to them, these false-faced officials seized and carried away those belts as bandits take away your precious belongings. The only difference was that our aged-wampum keeper did not put up his hands --- our hands go up only when we address the Great Spirit. Yours go up, I hear, only when some one of you is going through the pockets of his own white brother. According to your newspapers, they are now up a good deal of the time.
The Ottawa government thought that with no wampum belts to read in the opening of our Six Nations Councils, we would give up our home rule and self-government, the victims of superstition. Any superstition of which the Grand River people have been victims are not in reverence for wampum belts, but in their trust in the honor of governments who boast of a higher civilization.
We entrusted the British, long ago, with large sums of our money to care for when we ceded back parts of their territory. They took $140,000 of that money seventy-five winters ago to use for their own selfish ends, and we have never been able to get it back.
Your government of the United States, I hear, has just decided to take away the political liberties of all the Red men you promised to protect forever, by passing such a law through your Congress in defiance of the Treaties made by George Washington. That law, of course, would mean the breaking up of the tribes if enforced. Our people would rather be deprived of their money that their political liberties -----so would you.
I suppose some of you have never heard of my people before and that many of you, if you ever did, supposed that we were all long gone to our happy hunting rounds. NO! There are as many of us as there were a thousand winters ago. There are more of us than there used to be and that makes a great difference in the respect we get from your governments.
I ask you a question or two. Do not hurry with your answers. Do you believe-------really believe-----that all people are entitled to equal protection of international law now that you are so strong? Do you believe ------really believe-----that treaty pledges should be kept? Thin these questions over and answer them to yourselves.
We are not as dependent in some ways as we were in the early days. We do not need interpreters now. We know your language and can understand your words for ourselves and we have learned to decide for ourselves what is good for us. It is bad for any people to take the advise of an alien people as to that.
You Mothers, I hear you have a great deal to say about your government. Our Mothers have always had a hand in ours. Maybe you can do something to help us now. If you white mothers are hard-hearted and will not, perhaps you boys and girls who are listening and who have loved to read stories about our people---the true ones. I mean ----will help us when you grow up if there are any of us left to help.
If you are bound to treat us as though we were citizens under your governments, then those of your people who are land-hungry will get our farms away from us by hooks and crooks under your property laws in your courts that we do not understand and do not wish to learn. WE would then be homeless and have to drift into your big cities to work for wages, to buy bread, and have to pay rent, as you call it, to live on this earth ant to live in little rooms in which we would suffocate. We would then be scattered and lost to each other and lost among so many of you. Our boys and girls would then have to intermarry with you, or not at all. If consumption (tuberculosis) took us off or if we brought no children into the world , or our children mixed with the Ocean of your blood, then there would be no Iroquois left. So boys and girls, if you grow up and claim the right to live together and govern yourselves--- and you ought to ---- and if you do not concede the same right to other people --- and you will be strong enough to have your own way. you will be tyrants, won't you? If you do not like that word, use a better one, if you find one, but don't deceive yourselves by the words you use.
Boys, you respect your fathers because they are members of a free people and have a voice in the government over them and because they helped to make it and made it for themselves and will hand it down to you. If you knew that your fathers had nothing to do with the government they are under, but were mere subjects of others men's wills, you could not look up to them and they could not look you in the face. They would not be real men then. Neither would we.
The fathers among us have been real men. They cry out now against the injustice of being treated as something else and being called incompetents who must be governed by other people---which means the people who think that way about them.
Boys ----think this over. Do it before your minds lose the power to grasp the idea that there are other people in this world beside your own and with and equal right to be here. You see that a people as strong as yours is a great danger to other peoples near you. Already your will comes pretty near to being law in this world where no one can whip you. Think then what it will mean if you grow up with a will to be unjust to other peoples , to believe whatever your government does to other peoples is no crime, however wicked. I hope the Irish Americans hear that and will think about it ---they used to when that shoe pinched their foot. This is the story of the Mohawks, the story of the Oneidas, of the Cayaugas---I am a Cayuga, of the Onondagas, the Senecas, and the Tuscaroroas. They are the Iroquois. Tell it to those who have not been listening. Maybe I will be stopped from telling it. But if I am prevented from telling it over, as I hope to do, the story will not be lost. I have already told it to thousands of listeners in Europe---it has gone into records where your children can find it when I may be dead or be in jail for daring to tell the truth. I have told this story in Switzerland ---they have free speech in little Switzerland. One can tell the truth over there in public, even if it is uncomfortable for some great people.