When slavery was the better alternative

This next part of Carpenter’s story brings up an important issue.  Indenture amounted to legal slavery, but it appears that even some Natives pursued this option over being imprisoned on a reservation.  Reservations were notoriously dangerous places, where Natives were dependent on incompetent and downright abusive Indian agents for food, shelter and protection.  Ironically, they also became collecting spots for Indian traders.   The concentration of Natives on a reservation made it easier for men to gather children and young squaws without the trouble of hunting them down.  Natives who attempted to leave the “protection” of the reservation were sometimes shot, even if they were starving and in search of food.

I believe there were quite a few settlers that offered asylum to the Natives through indenture.  It was a scary time to be Indian, and for some, falling under white protection, even if as a slave, may have been their only hope.

Continued from 8/31/09 post


… About this time the Department of Indian Affairs ordered all Indians living in their tribal relations to the reservation. Many of them had been there, and not liking the treatment they received, preferred rations of acorns a part of the time and starvation afterwards to going under Uncle Sam’s protection.

An attempt was made to force them to the reservation, but they fled to the hills and did not return until the officers were at a safe distance. The local story runs that then a learned judge of Cal- pella in his blandest tones tried persuasion. ” Now, boys,” he said, addressing them, ” I have been here among you a long time, and you all know I am ami- cus humani generis, or I wouldn’t be talking to you today; and I am thoroughly convinced that it would be to the interest of every one of you to go sine. mom. Of course you would be kept sumptibus publicis, and if everything didn’t go adgustus, it certainly is the great desideratum. We do not intend to force you to go nolens volens, but as I have tried to make you understand, it most assuredly is commune boiium.”

O, why did n’t he say ” nix cum rouse,” and give them a certain time in which to guess the puzzle ! [Lynette’s note… this is completely lost on me… anyone that can explain this is encouraged to try]

Before the second appearance of the officers, determined to enforce the governmental order, many of the Indians took advantage of the State law, and obtained guardians,— whole families being bound to one person. The rest again sought shelter in the mountains. Conspicuous among the latter were Captain John and family.

In Little Lake Valley some persons were bitterly opposed to Indians, and aided the officers in getting them to the reservation. A little later some of the exiles returned to their homes and were shot down like wild animals. Two old blind squaws escaped in the brush and were soon several miles from their murdered companions; but it was not long before hunger overcame their discretion, and their piteous howls attracted the attention of some hunters, who kindly took them to a neighboring valley. From that day to this, Little Lake Valley has had no resident Indians.

The Indians were quiet and well-behaved, and made their guardians no trouble ; but to the shame of some of the guardians, the same cannot be said of them. In many cases a great mistake was made as to the party that needed restraint. A few of the Indians were allowed to remain in the rancheria, were paid for all labor as before, and kindly treated, but the majority were forced to come and live on the ranch and work without remuneration. Some complained that they did not even have enough to eat. Some guardians were so exacting that if an Indian was wanted for work he must come, unless his excuse was as good as that once given for a witness who did not appear in court. There were nine reasons why the witness was absent. ” State them,” said the Judge. ” In the first place he is dead.” Just so with the Indian who would remain at home in harvest time; to do so with impunity he must be dead. Once an Indian who refused to work had his hands tied behind him with one end of a lariat, the other being securely fastened to the horn of the rancher’s saddle; thus the trio started for the harvest field. The horse bucked his rider off, and dragged the Indian some distance. When he was picked up, both arms were dislocated at the shoulder, having been turned from back to front. This of course was an extreme case, and did not meet with general approval. A more common method of correction, as an Indian expressed it, was to be ” whipped with a picket fence.”

Many times, under the cover of night, the rancheria has been surrounded by human monsters, armed with knives and pistols. The poor creatures, afraid of their very lives, have many, many times left their beds and fled for protection to a neighboring farmhouse. If an Indian dared attempt a defense of his wife or sister, he was fortunate indeed if he escaped a shot or stab, in connection with a sound beating.

The kind farmer who gave the Indians permission to come and sleep in his barn at such times was a good Samaritan on many occasions, and is still able to laugh over his great surgical feat of putting in place Sam’s protruding liver, and stitching a knife wound of several inches in length, which was inflicted by a boy still in his teens.

Once, a boy on his way home from school threw a stone at some majellas. and killed a baby that hung in a basket on the mother’s back. It was the expressed opinion that he was a bad boy. but no complaint was made ; probably his parents never even heard of the circumstance.

To be continued …

More happy stuff, I know, but I think the perspective of a first hand witness is invaluable to the study of this time period.


4 Responses to When slavery was the better alternative

  1. lynette77 says:

    There isn’t much to say to this, is there?

  2. Kym says:

    no, there isn’t. Where do we find a way to see our own horrors as clearly as we can see those of the past? Reading this it seems so obvious that the “good” people should have fought to protect the Indians. What will our descendants think we should have seen?

  3. lynette77 says:

    Oh geez… that is such a frightening thought.

    Though I think if we are objective… there are so many human rights violations and cruelties happening every day (I don’t know if you saw my post about what is happening in the Congo
    But I think we do know what is wrong, and what we tolerate anyway… this is such a big topic…

    It brings up the question of what we should do, and what we can do, realistically…

    Which is probably EXACTLY the questions folks here faced back then

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