‘The Indian, the Dawes Commission, and the Crimes of Capitalism’ by Eugene V. Debs from the Social Democratic Herald. Vol. 6 No. 26. October 24, 1903.

In one of the final acts liquidating indigenous communal property, the ‘Dawes Commission’ set about breaking up the land in ‘Indian Territory’ in anticipation of Oklahoma becoming a state, and its land on the market. The commission and act, named after Massachusetts Senator Henry Dawes, date from 1893 and are explicit in their aims. By 1900, indigenous populations in the U.S. reached their nadir. Here, in antiquated but righteous words, Eugene Debs takes a look at ten years of the act and five hundred of ‘civilization’ on the continent and sees only the crimes damning a guilty ‘civilization’ to the dustbin. Any mention of Native issues in the Socialist, and indeed Communist, press before the 1950s was exceedingly rare.

‘The Indian, the Dawes Commission, and the Crimes of Capitalism’ by Eugene V. Debs from the Social Democratic Herald. Vol. 6 No. 26. October 24, 1903.

Fort Worth, Texas, October 6, 1903

The frauds and other outrages perpetrated upon the few remaining Indians in the name of our vaunted civilization are shocking beyond expression.

From the very first landing of the white man the shameless crime of spoliation began. The “savage” must be civilized! And forthwith deceit, duplicity, theft, and murder were enlisted in the conquest. The history of this conquest is crimson with crime.

The cruelest atrocities and most bloodthirsty vindictiveness of the American Indian were inspired and fanned into flame by the treachery and rapine of the marauding and plundering civilization.

It is this that has constituted “the white man’s burden.”

Voltaire once said, as nearly as I can recall his words: “William Penn was the only man who ever made a treaty with the American Indians not affirmed by an oath, and the only treaty that was never violated.”

The investigation of the Dawes Commission and the wholesale robbery of Indians, squaws, and papooses by the government agents will furnish one of the concluding chapters in the history of civilization (?) of the savage (!) that will fitly climax four centuries of Christian conquest in the new world.

In this connection, the following dispatch clipped from the St. Louis Globe-Democrat of October 4th is highly edifying:

“Miami, Indian Territory, Oct. 3.— Grafters in the Indiana Territory are resorting to a unique method for making money. It has long been known that the Indian squaw readily falls in love with the first white man she meets who is willing to pay her any attention and it doe not matter very much whether he is handsome and stylish, or ugly; whether he is old or young, rich or poor. This makes easy sailing for the grafters of the territory, who have been making profitable use of the Indian maiden, by contracting with her to furnish a white husband with a cash consideration. Money has no value to the redskins, and it is said that in some cases they have been known to pay as much as $100 in cash for a husband. The brokers have no trouble in finding a husband, as the girls are to come into possession of some very valuable land. When the Choctaw allotment is made every maiden in that nation will come into possession of 320 acres of land and about $2500 in cash as her share of the tribal funds on deposit in the United States Treasury. Some of these girls are very pretty, yet they could be readily picked as Indians. Many of them have received good education at the Indian schools, and most of them are willing to marry as soon as they get their allotment and the cash in hand. In many cases the brokers pull strings at both ends. They accept a contract from the girls to furnish her a husband at from $25 to $100 and then they advertise in some of the Eastern papers for the husband. They make him a proposition to furnish him with a pretty Indian girl for from $100 to $250. When the Eastern lad with a desire for the West learns that he is to get a bride with a fortune, and that he will have nothing to do for a year at least but spend her money, he becomes an easy customer for the marriage broker.”

This is some of the “civilization” that socialism is to wreck; some of the “incentive” it is to destroy; some of the “individuality” it is to blot out; some of the “homes” it is to break up.

Yes, by the gods, that is the line of the social revolution and when it has done its work these vile abominations will be wiped from the earth. The other day I met a full-blood Indian socialist. The light in his eye and the warm, eager pressure of his hand thrilled me through and through.

Welcome, indeed, red comrade!

The Social Democratic Herald began as the Social Democrat. The Social Democrat was the paper of Eugene Debs’ pioneering industrial union, the American Railway Union. Begun in 1894 as the Railway Times, in July of 1897 it was renamed The Social Democrat and served as the paper of the Chicago based Social Democratic Party. First published in Terre Haute and then Chicago, the paper was produced weekly. After a split with Utopians who retained the paper, Debs’ published The Social Democratic Herald. When they joined with the Springfield, Massachusetts based Social Democratic Party in 1901, the Socialist Party was born. Victor Berger took over the paper in 1901 and moved it Milwaukee where it ran until 1913.

PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/social-democratic-herald-us/031024-socdemherald-v06n26w273.pdf

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