Reading About Indians at the Cushman School, Stereotypes Abound

Introduction: In 1849 Francis Parkman, an American author, published a novel entitled The Oregon Trail. The book dealt with Americans moving west and contained vivid scenes of pioneers, mountain men, and Indians. The book was also on the reading list for Indians attending the Cushman School in Tacoma at the turn of the century The following are descriptions from the novel which dealt with Indians. For Native Americans attending this school this would have been a vision of their culture through the eyes of the white majority.

Reading A. – p. 58
The permanent winter villages of the Oawness stand on the lower Platte, but throughout the summer the greater part of the inhabitant are wandering over the plains,-a treacherous, cowardly, banditti, who by a thousand acts of pillage and murder, have deserved chastisement at the hands of the government.
Here every summer passes a motley concourse; thousands of savages, men, women, and children , horses and mules, laden with their weapons and implements, and innumerable multitude of unruly wolfish dogs, who have not acquired the civilized accomplishment of barking, but howl like their cousins of the prairie.

Reading B. – p. 138
Even the bet of them-we handed to each a tin cup of coffee and a biscuit, at which they ejaculated from the bottom their throats, “How! How! A monosyllable by which an Indian contrives to express half the emotions of which he is susceptible.

Reading C. – p. 140
But in truth the purchase of a squaw is a transaction which no man should enter into without mature deliberation, since it involved not only the payment price, but the burden of feeding and supporting a rapacious horde of the bride’s relatives, who hold themselves entitled to feed upon the indiscriminate white man.

Reading D. – p. 145
This fierce spirit awakens their most eager aspirations, and calls forth their greatest energies. It is chiefly this that saves them from lethargy and utter abasement…

Reading G. – p. 234
I immediately repelled their advances by punching the heads of these miniature savages with a short stick which I always kept for the purpose; and as sleeping half the day and eating much more than is good for them makes them extremely restless, this operation usually had to be repeated four or five times in the course of the night.

Reading I. – p. 236
Their offspring became sufficiently undutiful and disobedient under this system of education, which tends not a little to foster that wild idea of liberty and utter intolerance of restraint which lie at the foundation of the Indian character.

Reading K. – p. 88
Except the dogs, the most active and noisy tenants of the camp were the old women, ugly as Macbeth’s witches, with hair streaming loose in the wind, and nothing but the tattered fragment of an old buffalo robe to hide their shriveled limbs.

Reading N. – p. 70
There were a mongrel race;

Reading S. – p. 142
Indians cannot act in large bodies. Though the object be of the highest importance, they cannot combine to attain by a series of connected efforts.

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