WHEN we decided on our way to California, a few years ago, to stop off for a week in New Mexico's quaint old capital, we had, in common with most Americans, as little interest in Indians as in South Sea Islanders, and as little knowledge of them.
To be sure, we remembered in a general way from our school-books that the Indian had been a troublesome thorn in the flesh of our pushing pioneers; and that the Government now has him systematically in hand under an Indian policy operated from Washington, often with great injustice to the red man, we also thought we knew from Ramona and one or two less popular romances.
That there was any other sort of Indian, however, than the warpath-treading, scalp-raising stock of the novels and the Wild West shows, we did not know. We did not know that, in our South-West, there dwells a very different type of Indians—the Pueblos—who, even at the time of the discovery of America, were experienced stonehouse builders and town-dwellers, devotees of peace and order, with a fairly well developed civilisation of their own; who were then, and still are, industrious, self-governing agriculturists, and who have never been at war with the United States. It was a revelation to us when we learned that more than a score of these settled, picturesque Pueblo communities still exist in northern New Mexico and Arizona, striving to live on in their ancient way as well as our Government will let them.
With the hope goes the earnest prayer that something will be sympathetically done by the people of our great Republic to arrest the disintegration and sure extinction of these little Pueblo republics—an extinction towards which the present well-intended but misdirected governmental interference is inevitably tending. What John Fiske, in his preface to The Discovery of America, states of one section of the Pueblos—the Hopis—is true of them all:‘‘Some extremely ancient types of society [says this American historian], still preserved on this continent in something like purity, are among the most instructive monuments of the past that can now be found in the world. Such a type is that of the Moquis of north-eastern Arizona. I have heard a rumour . . . that there are persons who wish the United States Government to interfere with this peaceful and self-respecting people, break up their pueblo life, scatter them in farmsteads, and otherwise compel them, against their own wishes, to change their habits and
That very "cruel and stupid thing" is now being done and more, doubtless, is contemplated. If any steps to stop it are to be taken, they need to be taken quickly; for the native arts and customs of the Pueblos and their individuality as a people have suffered more in the last decade or two of Washington than during the whole three centuries of Spanish domination; and as a body going down hill goes the faster the nearer it gets to the bottom, so the Pueblo deterioration hastens with each returning year.