Posted by Michael Fong
Sarah Winnemucca, "Life Among the Piutes"
"Now, the white people we saw a few days ago must certainly be our white brothers, and I want to welcome them. i want to love them as I love all of you. But they would not let me; they were afraid. But they will come again, and I want you one and all to promise that, should I not live to welcome them myself, you will not hurt a hair on their heads, but welcome them as I tried to do." (Sarah Winnemucca, Life Among the Piutes)
This was the note in which Winnemucca's grandfather ended his speech to the tribe on the eve of the sighting of white men upon their territory. He believed that the strangers were their white brothers; brothers who were separated since the dawn of time due to quarrels; brothers who were now prepared to reconcile with him and his people; brothers who meant no harm, but peace. Captain Truckee attempted to welcome these white men with open arms. He believed that the blossoming of friendship between the two races seem possible, even probable. He could not have been more wrong.
I must say that during the course of reading biographies and essays by both Washington and Du Bois in the past week, coupled with the work of Sarah Winnemacca read this week, made me realize and rethink an observation that had been lurking in the back of my mind for quite some time. This may be a similar response to the comment I gave on ENG34H, but I will state it here once again: Men of the same country, or of the same race, are afraid and most often unwilling to befriend or understand people that are different from them in race, culture, religion, or maybe a combination of all three.
Fear drives man to terrible deeds. The case of the Native Americans were, regrettably, only the tip of an iceberg. I am not saying that it is only Americans that displays such trait and characteristic, but it is without question that they are responsible for many atrocious acts carried out on people of different race and culture. The African Americans. The Native Americans. The Arabs and the Muslims. The Middle-Easterners. America feels the need to outmuscle and bend every different race to her will. They dress up their greed and the urge to establish themselves as the dominant power in forcefully conjured reasons and explanations. Sarah Winnemucca, her tribe, her race, were the unfortunate victims swept into the path of a hurricane. Personally, the Piutes appear to me as innocent and naive people. Strangers come to their land, and the first thought they came up with was to welcome them. They offered them food and shelter. Instead of gratitude in which they deserved, they were hoarded out of their homes and treated as animals. What did the Native Americans did to deserve this? All they did was trying to welcome these foreign strangers. All they wanted to do was to make friends. Yet they never had the chance.
One cannot help but wonder whether humanity even existed during those terrible times. In my other English literature class, we were, coincidentally, discussing Swift's Gulliver's Travels. Were the Americans at that time nothing but tribes of Lilliputians and Yahoos? Is there not even a shred of love and respect for another human being in them? We pride ourselves as creatures of reason, creatures capable of higher thinking, intelligence, and emotions. It is the wall that separates us from animals. Now we look upon events about the Native Americans and the African Americans as part of history, and congratulate ourselves at the actions and decisions we took to end it all. Yet this should never have happened in the first place. I do hope that the society could take heed from the lessons of history, and prevent such inhuman acts from ever happening again.