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EVERY age, every race, has its leaders and heroes. There were over sixty distinct tribes of Indians on this continent, each of which boasted its notable men. The names and deeds of some of these men will live in American history, yet in the true sense they are unknown, because misunderstood.
Indian Heroes and Great Chieftains PDF Book by Charles Eastman
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I should like to present some of the greatest chiefs of modern times in the light of the native character and ideals, believing that the American people will gladly do them tardy justice. It is matter of history that the Sioux nation, to which I belong, was originally friendly to the Caucasian peoples which it met in succession-first, to the south the Spaniards.
Then the French, on the Mississippi River and along the Great Lakes; later the English, and finally the Americans. This powerful tribe then roamed over the whole extent of the Mississippi valley, between that river and the Rockies. Their usages and government united the various bands more closely than was the case with many of the neighboring tribes.
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During the early part of the nineteenth century, chiefs such as Wabashaw, Redwing, and Little Six among the eastern Sioux, Conquering Bear, Man-Afraid-of-His-Horse, and Hump of the western bands, were the last of the old type. After these, we have a coterie of new leaders, products of the new conditions brought about by close contact with the conquering race.
This distinction must be borne in mind—that while the early chiefs were spokesmen and leaders in the simplest sense, possessing no real authority, those who headed their tribes during the transition period were more or less rulers and more or less politicians. It is a singular fact that many of the “chiefs”.
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Well known as such to the American public, were not chiefs at all according to the accepted usages of their tribesmen. Their prominence was simply the result of an abnormal situation, in which representatives of the United States Government made use of them for a definite purpose. In a few cases, where a chief met with a violent death.
Some ambitious man has taken advantage of the confusion to thrust himself upon the tribe and, perhaps with outside help, has succeeded in usurping the leadership. Red Cloud was born about 1820 near the forks of the Platte River. He was one of a family of nine children whose father, an able and respected warrior, reared his son under the old Spartan regime.
The young Red Cloud is said to have been a fine horseman, able to swim across the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers, of high bearing and unquestionable courage, yet invariably gentle and courteous in everyday life. This last trait, together with a singularly musical and agreeable voice, has always been characteristic of the man. Indian Heroes and Great Chieftains PDF Book
When he was about six years old, his father gave him a spirited colt, and said to him: “My son, when you are able to sit quietly upon the back of this colt without saddle or bridle, I shall be glad, for the boy who can win a wild creature and learn to use it will as a man be able to win and rule men.”
The little fellow, instead of going for advice and help to his grandfather, as most Indian boys would have done, began quietly to practice throwing the lariat. In a little while he was able to lasso the colt. He was dragged off his feet at once, but hung on, and finally managed to picket him near the teepee.
When the big boys drove the herd of ponies to water, he drove his colt with the rest. Presently the pony became used to him and allowed himself to be handled. The boy began to ride him bareback; he was thrown many times, but persisted until he could ride without even a lariat, sitting with arms folded and guiding the animal by the movements of his body. Indian Heroes and Great Chieftains PDF Book
From that time on he told me that he broke all his own ponies, and before long his father’s as well. Just before the daring war leader, Crazy Horse, surrendered to the military, he went down to the agency and roundly rebuked Spotted Tail for signing away the freedom of his people. From the point of view of the irreconcilables, the diplomatic chief was a “trimmer” and a traitor.
And many of the Sioux have tried to implicate him in the conspiracy against Crazy Horse which led to his assassination, but I hold that the facts do not bear out this charge. The name of Spotted Tail was prominently before the people during the rest of his life. An obscure orphan, he had achieved distinction by his bravery and sagacity.
But he copied the white politician too closely after he entered the reservation. He became a good manipulator, and was made conceited and overbearing by the attentions of the military and of the general public. Furthermore, there was an old feud in his immediate band which affected him closely. Against him for many years were the followers of Big Mouth, whom he had killed in a duel. Indian Heroes and Great Chieftains PDF Book
And also a party led by a son and a nephew of the old chief, Conquering Bear, whom Spotted Tail had succeeded at his death. These two men had hoped that one or the other of them might obtain the succession. Crow Dog, the nephew of Conquering Bear, more than once taunted Spotted Tail with the fact that he was chief not by the will of the tribe.
But by the help of the white soldiers, and told him that he would “keep a bullet for him” in case he ever disgraced his high position. Thus retribution lay in wait for him while at the height of his fame. Several high-handed actions of his at this time, including his elopement with another man’s wife, increased his unpopularity with a large element of his own tribe.
On the eve of the chief’s departure for Washington, to negotiate (or so they suspected) for the sale of more of their land, Crow Dog took up his gun and fulfilled his threat, regarding himself, and regarded by his supporters, not as a murderer, but as an executioner. Such was the end of the man who may justly be called the Pontiac of the west. Indian Heroes and Great Chieftains PDF Book
He possessed a remarkable mind and extraordinary foresight for an untutored savage; and yet he is the only one of our great men to be remembered with more honor by the white man, perhaps, than by his own people. The following story is told of him in his later days. He attempted one day to cross the first bridge over the Mississippi River.
But was not recognized by the sentinel, who would not allow him to pass until he paid the toll. Tamahay, who was a privileged character, explained as best he could, with gestures and broken English, that he was always permitted to pass free; but as the sentinel still refused, and even threatened him with his bayonet.
The old Indian silently seized the musket, threw it down into the waters of the Mississippi and went home. Later in the day a company of soldiers appeared in the Indian village, and escorted our hero to a sort of court-martial at the fort. When he was questioned by the Colonel, he simply replied. Indian Heroes and Great Chieftains PDF Book Download
“If you were threatened by any one with a weapon, you would, in self-defense, either disable the man or get rid of the weapon. I did the latter, thinking that you would need the man more than the gun.” Finally the officer said to them, “I see you are both partly wrong. Some one must be responsible for the loss of the gun.
Therefore, you two will wrestle, and the man who is downed must dive for the weapon to the bottom of the river.” Scarcely was this speech ended when Tamahay was upon the soldier, who was surprised both by the order and by the unexpected readiness of the wily old Indian, so that he was not prepared, and the Sioux had the vantage hold.
In a moment the bluecoat was down, amid shouts and peals of laughter from his comrades. Having thrown his man, the other turned and went home without a word. Sad to say, he acquired a great appetite for “minne-wakan”, or “mysterious water”, as the Sioux call it, which proved a source of trouble to him in his old age. Indian Heroes and Great Chieftains PDF Book Download
It is told of him that he was treated one winter’s day to a drink of whisky in a trader’s store. He afterwards went home; but even the severe blizzard which soon arose did not prevent him from returning in the night to the friendly trader. He awoke that worthy from sleep about twelve o’clock by singing his death dirge upon the roof of the log cabin.
In another moment he had jumped down the mud chimney, and into the blazing embers of a fire. The trader had to pour out to him some whisky in a tin pail, after which he begged the old man to “be good and go home.” On the eve of the so-called “Minnesota Massacre” by the Sioux in 1862, Tamahay.
Although he was then very old and had almost lost the use of his remaining eye, made a famous speech at the meeting of the conspirators. These are some of his words, as reported to me by persons who were present. “What! What! is this Little Crow? Is that Little Six? You, too, White Dog, are you here? Indian Heroes and Great Chieftains PDF Book Download
I cannot see well now, but I can see with my mind’s eye the stream of blood you are about to pour upon the bosom of this mother of ours” (meaning the earth). “I stand before you on three legs, but the third leg has brought me wisdom” [referring to the staff with which he supported himself].
“I have traveled much, I have visited among the people whom you think to defy. This means the total surrender of our beautiful land, the land of a thousand lakes and streams. Methinks you are about to commit an act like that of the porcupine, who climbs a tree, balances himself upon a springy bough, and then gnaws off the very bough upon which he is sitting.
Hence, when it gives way, he falls upon the sharp rocks below. Behold the great Pontiac, whose grave I saw near St. Louis; he was murdered while an exile from his country! Think of the brave Black Hawk! Methinks his spirit is still wailing through Wisconsin and Illinois for his lost people! I do not say you have no cause to complain, but to resist is selfdestruction. I am done.” Indian Heroes and Great Chieftains PDF Book Free
IT is not easy to characterize Sitting Bull, of all Sioux chiefs most generally known to the American people. There are few to whom his name is not familiar, and still fewer who have learned to connect it with anything more than the conventional notion of a bloodthirsty savage. The man was an enigma at best.
He was not impulsive, nor was he phlegmatic. He was most serious when he seemed to be jocose. He was gifted with the power of sarcasm, and few have used it more artfully than he. His father was one of the best-known members of the Unkpapa band of Sioux. The manner of this man’s death was characteristic.
One day, when the Unkpapas were attacked by a large war party of Crows, he fell upon the enemy’s war leader with his knife. In a hand-to-hand combat of this sort, we count the victor as entitled to a war bonnet of trailing plumes. It means certain death to one or both. In this case, both men dealt a mortal stroke, and Jumping Buffalo, the father of Sitting Bull, fell from his saddle and died in a few minutes. Indian Heroes and Great Chieftains PDF Book Free
The other died later from the effects of the wound. Sitting Bull’s boyhood must have been a happy one. It was long after the day of the dogtravaux, and his father owned many ponies of variegated colors. It was said of him in a joking way that his legs were bowed like the ribs of the ponies that he rode constantly from childhood.
He had also a common nickname that was much to the point. It was “Hunkeshnee”, which means “Slow”, referring to his inability to run fast, or more probably to the fact that he seldom appeared on foot. In their boyish games he was wont to take the part of the “old man”, but this does not mean that he was not active and brave.
It is told that after a buffalo hunt the boys were enjoying a mimic hunt with the calves that had been left behind. A large calf turned viciously on Sitting Bull, whose pony had thrown him, but the alert youth got hold of both ears and struggled until the calf was pushed back into a buffalo wallow in a sitting posture. Indian Heroes and Great Chieftains PDF Book Free
The boys shouted: “He has subdued the buffalo calf! He made it sit down!” And from this incident was derived his familiar name of Sitting Bull. It is a mistake to suppose that Sitting Bull, or any other Indian warrior, was of a murderous disposition. It is true that savage warfare had grown more and more harsh and cruel since the coming of white traders among them, bringing guns, knives, and whisky.
Yet it was still regarded largely as a sort of game, undertaken in order to develop the manly qualities of their youth. It was the degree of risk which brought honor, rather than the number slain, and a brave must mourn thirty days, with blackened face and loosened hair, for the enemy whose life he had taken.
While the spoils of war were allowed, this did not extend to territorial aggrandizement, nor was there any wish to overthrow another nation and enslave its people. It was a point of honor in the old days to treat a captive with kindness. The common impression that the Indian is naturally cruel and revengeful is entirely opposed to his philosophy and training. Indian Heroes and Great Chieftains PDF Book Free
The revengeful tendency of the Indian was aroused by the white man. It is not the natural Indian who is mean and tricky; not Massasoit but King Philip; not Attackullakulla but Weatherford; not Wabashaw but Little Crow; not Jumping Buffalo but Sitting Bull! These men lifted their hands against the white man, while their fathers held theirs out to him with gifts.