Chapter XXVI. Of the Future of the Pueblo, if He Has Any


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IF the Pueblo Indian has a future, it rests with the rank and file of the people of the United States to assure it to him. New Mexico and Arizona ought to do it, but they are too busy with mining and sheep-herding to bother about an Indian who scalps nobody and steals no horses. Congress, as at present enlightened, cannot be expected to do it; for it is not in evidence that Congress ever heard of a Pueblo Indian. The Indian Office will not do it; for that Office is a machine grinding out a traditional cut-and-dried policy.1 Strange Juggernaut of our boasted


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free republicanism, this Indian policy of ours! Though our literature is full of denunciation of it, though ethnologists, even, of the Government, deplore the stupidity of it, though our text-books record its inhumanity, it goes stolidly on in its deadening work, and our complacent nation clips coupons, goes to church, and lets it!

Yet, while the Indian betrayed by his Great White Father at Washington and dispossessed of his heritage is a stock figure of American history, and jeremiads a-plenty have been written bewailing an irevocable past gone to judgment, the nation has, in the Pueblos, one last chance to save a fine remnant of aboriginal life before the whole fabric is utterly gone. The procedure is simplicity itself: Stop our education of them; or, if we must teach something, let it be only at day schools


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within the pueblo, in the simplest rudiments and without interference in the native ways.

Coincidently, the present wise law of exemption from taxation should be continued; for it will take a long time for the Pueblo mind, used to communal ways, to assimilate the Caucasian theory of taxation, and meantime inevitable delinquencies would speedily result in the Sheriff's sale of every pueblo in the South-West. Surely, the country has gotten land bargains enough out of its aborigines to warrant this item of generosity. Moreover, the matters of medical supervision and liquor regulation should continue increasingly to be of Government concern.

This will not make good the harm already done to the Pueblos, but it will enable a naturally capable and contented people to work out their destiny in their natural way, which interferes with that of nobody else. They are a people worth saving and their arts are worth fostering, which, it is to be observed, does not mean Americanising.

Unfortunately, many of their communities are hopelessly demoralised by this time, and can only be left to their fate; but others, where a


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considerable conservative element yet remains—such, for instance, as the large pueblos of Zuñi, Santo Domingo, Isleta, Jemez, and Taos in New Mexico, and the smaller but still virile Hopi villages of Shimópovi and Hotavila in Arizona—can still be helped, if left to the inherent strength of their native institutions. Instead of consigning them to the educational mill to be ground away between the upper and the nether millstones of school-teacher and field matron, it would seem a truer philanthropy to make easy for them the path of development along native lines—a tried pathway on which they had themselves started before Washington took charge of them, and upon which they had wonderfully progressed.

In that vast region of sunshine, desert, and elemental majesty where the Pueblos dwell, they supply a feature of contemporary human interest unique in the world. Their country, like our National Parks, is already part of our nation's holiday grounds and will be increasingly so used. We are intent enough, down there, upon exploring and protecting from desecration the remains of a remarkable prehistoric civilisation which once flourished where the Pueblos now live;


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New Mexico has established a well equipped Institute of Archæology and is spending money to maintain the crumbling homes of her ancient Cliff Dwellers; yet both nation and state have been incredibly blind to the greater living wonder of this Pueblo race, which is made up of descendants of those vanished denizens of the cliffs and is pursuing to-day, in all essentials, the same kind of life. While we are thus busy conserving the material evidences of humanity dead and gone, is it not a better work to save a living people from extinction?


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Notes

1. ‘‘

The Office appreciates the fact that, in their contact with modern civilisation, much of the value of the Pueblos as a picturesque factor in the national life is being sacrificed. Regarding their ancient laws and customs, although in some respects admirable, those which do not coincide with the national laws must inevitably give way. To the older Indians, who cling to these customs, this may seem a hardship, at times bringing them into more or less conflict with the representatives of the Government. But these matters are being gradually adjusted with as much tact and diplomacy as is consistent with a positive attitude towards the situation.

Thus the Office is confronted with conditions not altogether of its own making, and however desirable from an æsthetic point of view it might be to maintain this quaint, old, semi-civilisation in our midst, it is not altogether practicable.

’’

(From a letter dated September 29, 1910, from F. H. Abbott, Assistant Commissioner of Indian Affairs, to the author. This may be considered official notice that the death-warrant of Pueblo life has been signed.)

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