Monday, May 11, 2009

Schafer's Wisconsin Domesday Book, Part 2

"Stockbridge history, from the year 1843, tends more and more toward the ruin of that interesting tribe. In fact, so sharply did the citizenship conflict etch the character defects of the people[,] that their missionary pastor, Rev. Cutting Marsh, was at last brought to confess himself nearly hopeless in regard to them" (James Schafer in the Domesday Book, page 58).

In the previous post, I said that Joseph Schafer's account of the Stockbridge Mohicans (in The Domesday Book: The Winnebago-Horicon Basin) is not politically correct. But he didn't actually blame the "ruin" of that tribe on "Indian character." Instead, his position appears to be that the tribe's dealings with the federal government created or encouraged character defects.

I've said before that much effort was put into writing letters and making trips to Washington D.C. by the leaders of one party or another. As the years went by and the federal government first sided with one faction and then another, the bitterness of the "Citizen" vs. "Indian" conflict only intensified. And so Schafer (page 66) speaks of the Stockbridge Indians as "quarrelsome," and "litigious." I don't think he or anybody would blame tribal leaders for trying to right past wrongs, but the point has to be that the in-fighting was not healthy.

At least by the later part of the 1800's (if not sooner), Schafer's labels do seem to apply to a tribe that frustrated a number of federal agents. One such agent was William Parson, who felt

"the men are all either politicians or 'statesmen' and the almost sole occupation of the entire male portion of the tribe is politics. This is largely due to the many preceeding years of political wire-pulling which has cursed this people" (letter to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1/16/1888, printed in the Congressional testimony of 1892, page 31).

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