Little Bighorn could end up being as disastrous for the Indians as it was for General Custer.
There are at this time two sets of serious Indian disturbances in the West, each of which may develop into a formidable war. One centres in the expedition that General Custer is leading into the Black Hills; the other extends over the region watered by the tributaries of the Arkansas and Red Rivers. It is with the latter that we are now particularly concerned.
The Indian country lying east of the Rocky Mountains and south of the Platte River was formerly, in a general way, under the control of the Arapahoes, Cheyennes, Kiowas, and Comanches. Inheritance or force had given those plains into their possession, and they held them against all corners, until they were forced upon reservations where they are detained by treaties, generally signed under the yoke, whose observance, on their part, is secured by the pressure of military propinquity. There are none of them grown to manhood who do not recall to mind the time when they could move without hindrance, save as they feared their savage fellow-rovers, over the whole expanse between the Rio Grande and the Missouri. To be confined to reservations, however spacious we may consider them, is galling to men whose former life was as uncontrolled as that of the beasts of the chase; and it is not to be supposed that they acquiesced in this arrangement from a sense of justice, or that they love the new regime presided over by their conquerors. A few of the elders who have acquired all the fame that the war-path can give, and who now, by the accumulation of ponies, are gaining that sort of power that wealth always bestows, may counsel peace; but the very reputation that gives weight to their advice is also an incentive to ambitious warriors to emulate their prowess. Such, for instance, is Little Raven of the Arapahoes. He is a conservative whose influence for some years has been for peace with the whites. But he possesses the influence because of his record as a warrior and of his present pastoral possessions. Ambition, therefore, is a constant spur to the younger men, and they chafe under restraint.
To the mass of the reserve Indians, subsistence without labor and the fear of punishment must be for many years the effective restraining influence. That they are susceptible of elevation, chiefly through their youth, the history of the Choctaws, Cherokees, Creeks, and Seminoles abundantly shows; but the active men of the lately roving tribes cannot be transformed, at once, if ever, into tillers of the soil nor into herdsmen. The reward that steady industry offers has no charm for them. They have no present desire for such a life, and they will only see its advantages, if at all, after long years of careful training. On the other hand, they are savages, and they delight in the pleasures of savages. Civilized men admit the fascination that belongs to war and the chase—kindred pursuits ; to savages they are the summa bona of existence. But beyond war for its own sake, revenge, which to the uncivilized man comprehends and is synonymous with both justice and honor, constantly appeals for gratification. Christianity and law are gradually introducing among some of us a different standard of action, but “an eye for an eye” is the demand that simple self-preservation insists upon. Wherever Christianity is not in force, vengeance or punishment, under what guise we choose, must be admitted or there is a direct invitation to extermination. Revenge is not dishonorable with the savage any more than it was with the ancients, nor should it be so regarded in the absence of Christian teaching. It is an application of justice that lie directly appreciates and is swift to employ. As the superior, we should be slow to provoke him, and be prompt to inflict condign punishment when deserved; for the average savage looks upon forgiveness without a penalty as cowardice. Added to these considerations, we have the principle that successful robbery from an alien is meritorious exactly as our ancestry of the North Sea, the marches of Scotland, and the heights of the Rhine believed and practised.