This project has led me down a path which I would not have expected when it started. My background is technology; not history. My field of study is “information science” and after nearly forty years’ experience, I question our fundamental understanding of knowledge and wisdom. This area of study is known as epistemology and is concerned with how we know what we think we know, especially with reference to its limits and validity.
So how does reading old newspapers enhance our understanding on the complexities of our post industrial information age? First you have to understand that since Claude Shannon first rigorously stated the theoretical basis of “Information Theory,” we as a society have gotten a pretty good handle on it. What we don't understand from a mathematical, analytical, units of measure basis is Knowledge or Wisdom.
Your computer does not “know” much of anything except what you tell it. A computer accepts, on faith, your statement of what a starting bank balance is. You accept its analysis of the ending balance, but the answer is fundamentally dependent on the accuracy of your input: the beginning balance. Neither can your computer tell you how to spend the money in your account "wisely.” A computer doesn't know anything about "Wisdom.” We know "Wisdom" when we see it, but we can't quantitatively define and measure it. We can't calculate our "Gross National Wisdom.” In fact, most of us would think it silly to try.
The process used by many Indians is illustrated in events taking place in Texas in 1840 when the Comanches used the logic: “If the white man considers our hostages valuable, then let’s take in one and see what his level of value is.” To the Indian it was a matter of a simple trade. To the white man it was considered as treachery inasmuch as the Chief lied: “We have brought in the only one we had; the others are with other tribes.” The swift action by the Texans in the fight that followed, wherein thirty Comanche chiefs and warriors, three women, and two children were killed, triggered a full generation of enmity. This tragedy was played out as a morality play. Each moral outrage by alternating sides produced an amplified moral response by the other.
The long depression of 1873-1878 grew out of extensive investments by Americans and foreigners in new transcontinental railroads and was precipitated by the failure of Jay Cooke and Son, bankers of the Northern Pacific road, who went down partly because of the diminished buying from France and England following the disastrous outcome of the Franco-Prussian War. For five years the annual crop of business failures increased each year. No doubt the wavering financial policy of the government, hesitating between inflation and resumption of specie payments, helped prolong the bad times. Decision at last to resume and a favorable crop situation in 1878 were followed by recovery.
The Treaty of Medicine Lodge in 1867 enticed the Comanche, Kiowa, Kiowa-Apache, Arapaho, and Cheyenne Indians to go to a reservation with promises of adequate food.
As a result of the 1873-78 panic, government allowances for Indian foodstuffs were insufficient and a portion of their supplies withheld. In the summer of 1874 the Comanche, Kiowa, and Cheyenne rebelled, deeming it necessary to leave their reservations in search of their food supply: the buffalo. Large bands began to depredate on the frontiers of Kansas, Colorado, and Texas.
It is ironic that the government of the United States could not keep the miners out of the Black Hills because they were acting as free men, and thus could not be controlled. Yet when the Indians acted as free men and killed them for trespassing and violating the treaty of their government, the Indians were made to submit to control by incarceration on a reservation. It is frequently stated in the newspapers that the Indians must be controlled. Nowhere did anyone suggest that white men be controlled.
Control was the linchpin of Indian policy by U. S. Indian Agent McLaughlin at Standing Rock Agency. By withholding food and housing sustenance, the agent was able to force the Indians to submit to his will. Once when Sitting Bull came back from a theatrical tour with Bill Cody, he had a lot of cash. According to Sioux custom, he distributed his assets among the poorest and most needy of the tribe. The Sioux agent went ballistic! How could he "control" the savages if his power was subverted by this interloper? This must be stopped! The agent’s power was clearly based on his ability to withhold.
"Show Indians" were an anomaly which has never been thoroughly examined. The Sioux agent considered them subversive. Yet it is they who preserved the Indian culture and tradi-tions. Indian concepts of personal honor and justice evolved with "Show Indians".
The American Boy Scout movement was founded on these values and principles.
Bison Films, a business run by the Miller brothers on the 101 Ranch near Ponca City made over 50 early movies that can be classified as "Cowboys and Indians.” Today these films exist only as a rather inaccurate list of titles. But the moral behavior conveyed by this body of work became the "Code of the West," which was eventually written down and used by cowboys such as Gene Autry and Indians such as Will Rogers. Recently, it has been proposed by a political analyst that the American public use this code to judge behavior of their politicians rather than any code of law.
“Show Indians” carried their code of honor and conveyed it to the movie cowboys. In the early 1920s. A policy was inaugurated by movie makers: native Americans could not play the parts of Indians in the movies. One of the first group of actors who took over these parts was Francis Ford Copolla. He learned the code and taught it to his son, who expressed it cinematically in his movie, "Apocalypse Now.” Helping on that film was one of Francis Ford Copolla's student helpers from U.C.L.A. , a kid named George Lucas. George Lucas, with help from his mentor, Joseph Campbell, projected the "Code of the West" into the future with his "Star Wars" series of movies.
So who learned from whom? What is the moral basis of our society today? How could a civilized man approaching the year 2,000 use the moral code of an Indian society, which believed that the ultimate act of freedom is to die? How can an act of savagery express moral outrage? Dare we ask Theodore Kaczynski or Timothy McVeigh.
One of the stories that stuck in my memory was Caddo George who said in reply to a white man accused the Indian of cheating, "You cheat me someday". The Indians learned about civilization from us. What did we learn about honor and loyalty and savagery from them?
BILL: MUCH OF YOUR EPILOGUE COVERS ITEMS NOT CONTAINED IN THIS VOLUME. DOES THAT MATTER? I CHANGED THE COMANCHE 1840 KILLING TO FIT MORE WITH STORY WE TOLD. I ADDED THE KILLING OF SITTING BULL IN BOOK. WE DID NOT COVER MUCH ABOUT “SHOW INDIANS” AS SUCH. I AM VERY CONFUSED OVER SOME OF THE THINGS YOU BRING UP SINCE THEY WERE NOT COVERED IN BOOK, BUT MAYBE THAT IS THE REASON YOU BROUGHT THEM UP HERE. DO YOU HAVE THE SPELLING CORRECT FOR COPOLLA? FEEL THAT SOME OF THE ITEMS YOU COVERED ARE TOO FAR REMOVED FROM THE ERA BOOK COVERS. YOU ARE SKIPPING TOO FAR AHEAD IN TIME. ONCE THE MILLERS ARE COVERED, THEN SOME OF YOUR ITEMS MAKE SENSE TO ME. MAW