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EORGE GRAHAM VEST, an American congressman, was born at Frank.
fort, Kentucky, December 6, 1830, and educated at Centre College in that State. He subsequently studied law in the Transylvania Law School at Lexington, Kentucky, and in 1856 removed to Brownsville, Missouri. Four years later he entered the Missouri Legislature, but gave up his seat in 1861 to serve in the Confederate army. He was for two years a member of the Confederate Congress and after the close of the Civil War resumed the practice of his profession at Sedalia, Missouri. In 1878 he entered the United States Senate retaining his seat through successive re-elections until the present (1900). He has been prominent as a vigorous debater, and besides having spoken on most of the important measures before Cougress in the past twenty years has been chairman of various congressional committees.
ON INDIAN SCHOOLS
SPEECH DELIVERED IN THE UNITED STATES SENATE, APRIL 7, 1900
R. PRESIDENT,—I shall not take the time of the
Senate in discussing this oft-debated question as to
the contract schools. My opinions have been so emphatically and repeatedly expressed that it is hardly necessary for me now to give information on that subject to any one who has taken any interest in the matter.
There are people in this country, unfortunately, who be lieve that an Indian child had better die an utter unbeliever, an idolater even, than to be educated by the Society of Jesus or in the Catholic church. I am very glad to say that I have not the slightest sympathy with that sort of bigotry and fanaticism. I was raised a Protestant; I expect to die one; I was never in a Catholic church in my life, and I have not the slightest sympathy with many of its dogmas; but, above all, I have no respect for this insane fear that the Catholic church
is about to overturn this government. I should be ashamed to call myself an American if I indulged in any such ignorant belief.
I look upon this as a man of the world, practical, I hope, in all things, and especially in legislation, where my sphere of duty now is. Unfortunately I am not connected with any religious organization. I have no such prejudice as would prevent me from doing what I believed to be my duty. I would give this question of the education of Indian children the same sort of consideration that I would if I were building a house or having any other mechanical or expert business carried on. I had infinitely rather see these Indians Catholics than to see them blanket Indians on the plains, ready to go on the warpath against civilization and Christianity.
I said a few minutes ago that I was a Protestant. I was reared in the old Scotch Presbyterian church; my father was an elder in it, and my earliest impressions were that the Jesuits had horns and hoofs and tails, and that there was a faint tinge of sulphur in the circumambient air whenever one crossed your path. Some years ago I was assigned by the Senate to duty upon the committee on Indian affairs, and I was assigned by the committee, of which Mr. Dawes was then the very zealous chairman, to examine the Indian schools in Wyoming and Montana. I did so under great difficulties and with laborwhich I could not now physically perform. I visited every one of them. I crossed that great buffalo expanse of country where you can now see only the wallows and trails of those extinct animals, and I went to all these schools. I wish to say now what I have said before in the Senate, and it is not the popular side of this question by any means, that I did not see in all my journey, which lasted for several weeks, a single school that was doing any educational work worthy the name
of educational work unless it was under the control of the Jesuits. I did not see a single government school, especially these day schools, where there was any work done at all.
Something has been said here about the difference between enrollment and attendance. I found day schools with 1,500 Indian children enrolled and not ten in attendance, except on meat days, as they called it, when beeves were killed by the agent and distributed to the tribe. Then there was a full attendance. I found schools where there were old, brokendown preachers and politicians receiving $1,200 a year and a house to live in for the purpose of conducting these Indian day schools, and when I cross-examined them, as I did in every instance, I found that their actual attendance was about three to five in the hundred of the enrollment. I do not care what reports are made, for they generally come from interested parties. You cannot educate the children with the day schools.
In 1850 Father De Smet, a self-sacrificing Christian Jesuit, went, at the solicitation of the Flatheads, to their reservation in Montana. The Flatheads sent two runners, young men, to bring the black robes to educate them and teach them the religion of Christ. Both of these runners were killed by the Blackfeet and never reached St. Louis. They then sent two
One of them was killed, and the other made his way down the Missouri River after incredible hardships and reached St. Louis. Father De Smet and two young associates went out to the Flathead reservation and established the mission of St. Mary in the Bitter Root and St. Ignatius on the Jocko reservation. The Blackfeet burned the St. Mary mission, killed two of the Jesuits and thought they had killed the other-Father Ravaille. I saw him when on this committee, lying in his cell at the St. Mary's mission, paralyzed from the
waist down, but performing surgical operations, for he was an accomplished surgeon, and doing all that he possibly could do for humanity and religion. He had been fifty-two years in that tribe of Indians. Think of it! Fifty-two years. Not owning the robe on his back, not even having a name, for he was a number in the semi-military organization called the Company of Jesus; and if he received orders at midnight to go to Africa or Asia he went without question, because it was his duty to the cause of Christ and for no other consideration
Father De Smet established these two missions and undertook to teach the Indian children as we teach our children in the common schools by day's attendance. It was a miserable failure. The Jesuits tried it for years, supported by contributions from France, not a dollar from the government, and they had to abandon the whole system. They found that when the girls and boys went back to the tepee at night all the work of the day by the Jesuits was obliterated. They found that ridicule, the great weapon of the Indian in the tepee, was used to drive these children away from the educational institutions established by the Jesuits. When the girl went back to the tepee with a dress on like an American woman and attempted to speak the English language, and whom the nuns were attempting to teach how to sew and spin, and wash and cook, she was ridiculed as having white blood in her veins, and the result was that she became the worst and most abandoned of the tribe, because it was necessary in order to reinstate herself with her own people that she should prove the most complete apostate from the teachings of the Jesuits.
After nearly twenty years of this work by the Jesuits they abandoned it, and they established a different system, separating the boys and the girls, teaching them how to work, for that is the problem, not how to read or spell, nor the laws of arithmetic, but how to work and to get rid of this insane prejudice taught by the Indians from the beginning that nobody but a squaw should work, and that it degrades a man to do any sort of labor, or in fact to do anything except to hunt and go to
The hardest problem that can be proposed to the human race is how to make men self-dependent. There can be no self-respect without self-dependence. There can be no good government until a people are elevated up to the high plane of earning their bread in the sweat of their faces. When you come to educate negroes and Indians there is but one thing that will ever lift them out of the degradation in which long years of servitude and nomadic habits have placed them, and that is to teach them that the highest and greatest and most elevating thing in the human race is to learn how to work and to make themselves independent.
I take off my hat, metaphorically, whenever I think of this negro in Alabama--Booker Washington. He has solved that problem for his race, and he is the only man who has ever done it. Fred Douglass was a great politician, but he never discovered what was necessary for the negro race in this country. I have just returned from the south after a sojourn of five weeks upon the Gulf of Mexico.
The negro problem is the most terrible that ever confronted a civilized race upon the face of the earth. You cannot exterminate them; you cannot extradite them; you must make them citizens as they are and as they will continue to be. You must assimilate them. Exportation is a dream of the philanthropist, demonstrated to be such by the experiment in Liberia. Mr. Lincoln tried it, and took his contingent fund immediately after the war, shipped negroeg