THE CHOCTAW'S FAREWELL
We copy below from a Natchez paper an address to the American people, by George W. Harkins, the present Chief of the Choctaw Nation. Captain Harkins the nephew and successor in office of Greenwood _____; and is now on his way with a large body of his people, to their new residence in the west. The address was written with a pencil on board the steamboat Huron, as it was passing up the Mississippi.
For keenness of rebuke, administered in a truly Christian spirit, this 'Farewell' is scarcely surpassed by anything we have ever seen from the pen of Indian or white man. We would not be one of the Mississippians who voted to extend their laws over the Indians, for the whole Choctaw country, if it were all covered with gold mines. We would not hear a Choctaw say, 'The man who said that he would plant a stake and draw a line around us that never should be passed, was the first to say that he would not guard the line, and drew up the stake and wiped out all traces of the line;' we would not hear him say this, and be compelled to feel that it was true, for all the glory of the victory of New Orleans, and all the honor of being elevated to the residency twice or twenty times.- We know not how other may feel, but to us, this 'Farewell' of the Indians sounds like the knell of the republic,___ N.Y. Obs.
TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.
It is with considerable diffidence that I attempt to address the American people, know and feeling sensitively my incompetency; and believing that your highly and well improved minds could not be well entertained by the address of a Choctaw. But having determined to emigrate west of the Mississippi River this fall, I have thought proper in bidding you farewell, to make a few remarks expressive of my views, and the feelings that actuate me on the subject of our removal. Believing that our will is at stake, and knowing that you readily sympathize with the distressed of every country, I confidently throw myself upon your indulgence and ask you to listen patiently. I do not abrogate to myself the prerogative of deciding upon the expediency of the late treaty, yet I feel bound as a Choctaw, to give a distinct expression of my feelings on that interesting and to the Choctaws all important object. We were hedged in by two ills, and we chose that which we thought least. Yet we could not recognize the right that the state of Mississippi had assumed, to legislate for us. although the Legislature of the State were qualified to make laws for her own citizens, that did not qualify them to become law makers to a people that was so unsimilar in manners and customs as the Choctaws and the Mississippians.- Admitting that they understood the people, could they remove that mountain of prejudice that has ever obstructed the streams of justice, and prevented their salutary influence from reaching my devoted countrymen. We as Choctaws rather chose to suffer and be free, than live under the degrading influence of laws, when our voice could not be heard in their formation .
Much as the State of Mississippi has wronged us, I cannot find in my heart any other sentiment, than an ardent wish for her prosperity and happiness.
I could cheerfully hope that those [the whites] of another age and generation may not feel the effect of those oppressive measures that have been so illiberaly dealt out to us; and that peace and happiness may be their reward. Amid the gloom and horrors of the present separation, we are cheered with a hope that ere long we shall reach our destined home, and that nothing short of the basest act of treachery will every be able to wrest it from us, and that we may live free. Although your accessors won freedom on the field of danger and glory, our ancestors owned it as their birth-right, and we have had to purchase it from you as the vilest slaves by their freedom.
Yet it is said our present movements are our own voluntary acts.- This is not the case. We found ourselves like a benighted stranger, following false guides, until he was surrounded on every side, with fire and or water. The fire was a certain destruction, and a feeble hoe was left him of escaping by water. A distant view of the opposite shore encourages the hope; to remain would be inevitable annihilation. Who would hesitate, or who would say his plunging into the water was his own voluntary act? Painful in the extreme is the mandate of expulsion. We regret that it should proceed from the mouth of our professed friend, and whom our blood was co-mingled with that of his bravest warriors, on the field of danger and death.
But such is the instability of professions. The man who said he would plant a stake and draw a line around us, that never should be passed, was the first to say that he could guard the lines, and drew up the stake and wiped out all traces of it. I will not conceal from you my fears, that the present ground may be removed. I have my foreboding-who of us can tell after witnessing what has already been done, what may be done next.- I ask you in the name of justice for repose, for myself and for my injured people. Let us alone-we will not harm you, we want rest. We hope in the name of justice that another outrage may never be committed against us, and that we may for the future be cared for as children, and not driven about as beasts, which are benefitted by change of pasture.
Taking an example from the American government, and knowing the happiness which its citizens under the influence of mild institutions, it is the intention of our countryman to form a government assimilated to that of our white brethren in the United States, as nearly as their condition will permit. We know that in order to protect the rights and secure the liberties of the people, no government approximates so nearly to perfection as the one to which we have alluded. As east of the Mississippi we have been friends, so we will cherish the same feelings with additional fervor, and although we may be removed to the desert, still we shall look with fond regard upon those who have promised us protection. Let that feeling be reciprocated.
Friends, our attachment to our native land was strong,--that cord is now broken; and we must go forth as wanderers in a strange land! We must go. Let me entreat you to regard us with feelings of kindness; and when the hand of oppression is stretched against us, let me hope that a warring voice may be heard from every part of the United States, filling the mountains and valleys with echo and saying 'stop, you have no power; we are the sovereign people and our red friends shall no more be disturbed.' We ask you for nothing that is incompatible with your other duties.
We go forth sorrowful, knowing that wrong has been done. Will you extend to us your sympathizing regards until all disagreeable oppositions are obliterated, and we again shall have confidence in the professions of our white brethren. Here is the land of our progenitors, and here are their bones. They left them as sacred deposit. We venerate their trust:- it is dear to us, yet we cannot stay;-my people are dear to me, with them I must go. Could I stay and forget them, and leave them to struggle alone unaided, unfriended, and forgotten by our great Father, I should then be unworthy the name of a Choctaw, and be a disgrace to my blood. I must go with them, my destiny is cast among the Choctaw people. If they suffer; so will I; if they prosper, then will I rejoice. Let me again ask you to regard us with feelings of kindness.
Yours with respect.
GEORGE W. HARKINS.