CHAPTER VIII: INVESTIGATING THE MISSION INDIANS


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INVESTIGATING THE MISSION INDIANS--THE MEEKER TRAGEDY--RAMONA AND UNCLE TOM'S CABIN

The disheartened little woman, Mrs. Jackson, in her modernized tepee at Colorado Springs, had written A Century of Dishonor, and was at that time wondering why it had failed to stir a Christian nation to action. She was brooding over what seemed to be the failure of its mission. She had repeatedly been to the capital of the nation, and there had met with a reception none too cordial. She was planning the story of Ramona, little realizing what a great work she was undertaking. Physically she was worn to a frazzle. Mentally she was well-nigh distracted. She had but recently completed a tour of Southern California, using carriage, wagon and burros, enduring all manner of hardships, since in all the vast empire traversed there were no suitable accommodations for a lady of her age, habits of life and refinement.


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In this mission she had taken nothing for granted. Wherever there were known to be gathered half a dozen Indians, there she repaired, to look into their condition and to see for herself what might be done for their immediate needs. Thus in turn she was driven to Saboba, Cahuilla, Warner's Ranch, San Ysidro, Los Coyotes, San Ysabel, Mesa Grande, Capitan Grande, Sequan, Conejos, Pala, Rincon, Pauma, San Pasquale, La Jolla, Pechanga, San Gorgonio, Camulos, Temecula, Santa Barbara, San Diego, the Desert Reservation, and other places.

It should be remembered that the Indian had not in every instance accorded yielding obedience to the white man's behest to ‘‘move on.’’ Occasionally he had demurred to the unreasonable demands made upon him. Upon a few occasions, indeed, he had gone upon the warpath and taken a few scalps. But these occasions were rare, and all told would scarce fill a page of history. On the other hand, the story of the wrongs inflicted upon his people by the whites would crowd many volumes to repletion. Sand Creek and like stories of the butcheries of Indians constitute the bloodiest pages of American border narrative. Unfortunately for Mrs. Jackson, the Northern Utes


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had, about this time, rebelled against the Government, murdered Agent Meeker and carried his wife, daughter Josephine and a companion, Mrs. Price, into the fastnesses of the mountains, holding them as hostages.

This incident gave the red man's enemies an unusual opportunity to demand the complete wiping out of Chief Ouray's band, although that brave and his immediate followers had always distinguished themselves as the friends of the whites. It counted for little that all three women are said to have become the willing consorts of braves of the Ute tribe; that Josephine Meeker had fairly to be torn away from her dusky lover, Chief Persune; that Mrs. Price reluctantly gave up Chief Jack, and that Mrs. Meeker was not willingly restored to her friends in Colorado. Such reports were currently circulated and generally credited. Mrs. Jackson, alone of all the people of Colorado, was left to defend the acts of the Utes, to the story of the provocation for which none but she willingly would listen.

Numerous writers have undertaken to compare the work of Mrs. Jackson with that of Harriet Beecher Stowe, but with very indifferent success. The works of the two gifted


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authors possibly may be contrasted, but not well compared. For Uncle Tom's Cabin, as all well informed persons must be aware, there was a ready-made public sentiment. For nearly a century human slavery had been a living and a burning issue. The Anti-Slavery Society had labored long and effectively in preparing the public for such a novel as finally came from the inspired pen of Mrs. Stowe. There long had been a regularly established and securely founded organization in every Northern State, and in not a few there was an ‘‘underground railway’’ prepared for the fleeing bondmen.

Mrs. Stowe's biographer, her own son, says of the immediate success of Uncle Tom's Cabin: ‘‘Neither she nor her husband had the remotest idea of the unique power and interest of the story that was being written. Nor, indeed, did it dawn upon either of them until after the publication of the first edition in book form. Professor Stowe was a very emotional man, and was accustomed to water his wife's literary efforts liberally with his tears; so the fact that he had wept over the bits of brown paper, upon which the first chapter was written, had for them no unusual portent. As to pecuniary gain, he often expressed


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the hope that she would make enough by the story to buy a new silk dress!’’

Although the public mind and heart were prepared for such a publication, it seems that Mrs. Stowe felt impelled to write to Fred Douglass, calling his attention to the fact that it was appearing as a serial in the National Era. Uncle Tom's Cabin was written at various places, at Brunswick, Maine, and at Boston and Andover; and although announced to run but three months, it was not completed for thirteen months, appearing in book form some weeks thereafter. Ten thousand copies were sold within a few days, and over three hundred thousand within a year, and eight power presses running day and night were barely able to keep pace with the demand for it. It was read everywhere, apparently, and by everybody; and the author soon began to hear echoes of sympathy from all over the land. The indignation, the pity, the distress, that had long weighed upon her soul seemed to pass off from her and into the readers of the book.

So successful had the book been that Mrs. Stowe at once set herself to the task of writing The Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin, followed by Dred, all upon the same theme,


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and all of these several works were translated into nearly every tongue and were widely read the world over. The fame of the author became so great that she felt compelled, after the publication of The Key and Dred, to accept the invitation of friends of the cause of emancipation in England to visit that country as their guest. This she did, extending her visits to France, Germany and Switzerland, everywhere received as a world character to be honored and feted, not alone by the poor and the lowly, but as well by royalty itself.

But a far different sentiment awaited the coming of Ramona. It was unlooked for and unwanted. It was most indifferently received. Nowhere was there sympathy for H. H. or ‘‘her Indians.’’ Mrs. Jackson's nearest neighbors were yet not proselytes to her mission. There was not a newspaper in Colorado that dared to champion her cause; not a man in public life who cared to assert that reason and justice and logic were on her side.

Friendly as the writer for years had been with Mrs. Jackson, a frequent and as he believes always a welcome visitor to her home, he yet recalls, with the deepest regret and


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remorse and mortification, the fact that he never employed the instrumentalities at hand to defend the woman and her work, save in a literary way and for a literary reason. The Leadville Chronicle and Leadville Herald-Democrat, which he owned and edited at the time, could have been his powerful weapons in her defense. His conversion came long after her death, the result of a re-reading of her many works upon the Indian question and a deeper and more analytical study of her noble purpose.

Coming late in life though it does, there is now nourished a sincere hope that some amends may be made for earlier mistakes and fatal errors of immature judgment.

Before coming to California Mrs. Jackson was aflame with sympathy for the Mission Indians. January 17, 1880, she thus wrote to one of her intimate friends: ‘‘I think I feel as you must have felt in the old Abolition days. I cannot think of anything else from night to morning and from morning to night. . . . I believe the time is drawing near for a great change in our policy toward the Indian. In some respects, it seems to me, he is really worse off than the slaves. They did have, in the majority of cases, good houses,


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and they were not much more arbitrarily controlled than the Indian is by the agent on a reservation. He can order a corporal's guard to fire on an Indian at any time he sees fit. He is 'duly empowered by the Government.'’’

RAMONA'S BEDROOM, CAMULOS

ARCADE ENTRANCE TO CHAPEL, CAMULOS

On September 4, 1884, Mrs. Jackson thus wrote Señor and Señora de Coronel: ‘‘I sometimes wonder that the Lord does not rain fire and brimstone on this land, to punish us for our cruelty to these unfortunate Indians.’’

Four days before her death Mrs. Jackson wrote the following letter to the President of the United States:

To Grover Cleveland,

President of the United States.

Dear Sir,--

From my death-bed I send you a message of heartfelt thanks for what you have already done for the Indians. I ask you to read my Century of Dishonor. I am dying happier for the belief that it is your hand that is destined to strike the first steady blow toward lifting this burden of infamy from our country, and righting the wrongs of the Indian race.

With respect and gratitude,

Helen Jackson.

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