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Guide to Life and Literature
THE LITERATURE on the subject of Indians is so extensive and ubiquitous that, unless a student of Americana is pursuing it, he may find it more troublesome to avoid than to get hold of. The average old-timer has for generations regarded Indian scares and fights as the most important theme for reminiscences. County-minded historians have taken the same point of view. The Bureau of American Ethnology of the Smithsonian Institution has buried records of Indian beliefs, ceremonies, mythology, and other folklore in hundreds of tomes; laborious, literal-minded scholars of other institutions have been as assiduous. In all this lore and tabulation of facts, the Indian folk themselves have generally been dried out.
Pueblo Indian -- Fat John of Taos, by Howard Cook
The Anglo-American's policy toward the Indian was to kill him and take his land, perhaps make a razor-strop out of his hide. The Spaniard's policy was to baptize him, take his land, enslave him, and appropriate his women. Any English-speaking frontiersman who took up with the Indians was dubbed "squaw man" -- a term of sinister connotations. Despite pride in descending from Pocahontas and in the vaunted Indian blood of such individuals as Will Rogers, crossbreeding between Anglo-Americans and Indians has been restricted, as compared, for instance, with the interdicted crosses between white men and black women. The Spaniards, on the other hand, crossed in battalions with the Indians, generating mestizo (mixed-blooded) nations, of which Mexico is the chief example.
As a result, the English-speaking occupiers of the land have in general absorbed directly only a minimum of Indian culture -- nothing at all comparable to the Uncle Remus stories and characters and the spiritual songs and the blues music from the Negroes. Grandpa still tells how his own grandpa saved or lost his scalp during a Comanche horse-stealing raid in the light of the moon; Boy Scouts hunt for Indian arrowheads; every section of the country has a bluff called Lovers' Leap, where, according to legend, a pair of forlorn Indian lovers, or perhaps only one of the pair, dived to death; the maps all show Caddo Lake, Kiowa Peak, Squaw Creek, Tehuacana Hills, Nacogdoches town, Cherokee County, Indian Gap, and many another place name derived from Indian days. All such contacts with Indian life are exterior. Three forms of Indian culture are, however, weaving into the life patterns of America.
(1) The Mexicans have naturally inherited and assimilated Indian lore about plants, animals, places, all kinds of human relationships with the land. Through the Mexican medium, with which he is becoming more sympathetic, the gringo is getting the ages-old Indian culture.
(2) The Pueblo and Navajo Indians in particular are impressing their arts, crafts, and ways of life upon special groups of Americans living near them, and these special groups are transmitting some of their acquisitions. The special groups incline to be arty and worshipful, but they express a salutary revolt against machined existence and they have done much to revive dignity in Indian life. Offsetting dilettantism, the Museum of New Mexico and associated institutions and artists and other individuals have fostered Indian pottery, weaving, silversmithing, dancing, painting, and other arts and crafts. Superior craftsmanship can now depend upon a fairly reliable market; the taste of American buyers has been somewhat elevated.
O mountains, pure and holy, give me a song, a strong and holy song to bless my flock and bring the rain!
This is from "Navajo Holy Song," as rendered by Edith Hart Mason. It expresses a spiritual content in Indian life far removed from the We and God, Incorporated form of religion ordained by the National Association of Manufacturers.
(3) The wild freedom, mobility, and fierce love of liberty of the mounted Indians of the Plains will perhaps always stir imaginations -- something like the charging Cossacks, the camping Arabs, and the migrating Tartars. There is no romance in Indian fights east of the Mississippi. The mounted Plains Indians always made a big hit in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. Little boys still climb into their seats and cry out when red horsemen of the Plains ride across the screen.
See "Apaches, Comanches, and Other Plains Indians," "Mountain Men."
APPLEGATE, FRANK G.
ASTROV, MARGOT (editor)
BANDELIER, A. F.
COOLIDGE, DANE and MARY
COOLIDGE, MARY ROBERTS
CUSHING, FRANK HAMILTON
DOUGLAS, FREDERIC H., and
GILLMOR, FRANCES, and
GODDARD, P. E.
HAMILTON, CHARLES (editor)
HEWETT, EDGAR L.
HODGE, F. W.
LUMMIS, C. F.
NELSON, JOHN LOUW
PEARCE, J. E.
REICHARD, GLADYS A.
SIMMONS, LEO W. (editor)
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