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Pathos for the Native American Indian Essay

“Brother, our seats were once large, and yours were very small; you have now become a great people, and we have scarcely a place left to spread our blankets; you have got our country, but are not satisfied; you want to force you religion upon us” (177)

Long before the white man appeared, Native Americans owned the great and vast lands, relying on and praising the Great Spirit for sun, rain, and life. Upon crossing the seas, the white man was welcomed and befriended. As the white men grew in numbers, so did their appetite for land and control. The Caucasians brought contention, confusion, distrust, and problems. As though all of this were not enough, they also brought a new, “superior” religion. Red Jacket, an eloquent chiefly orator, finally spoke up for the Native population in his Speech of Red Jacket, the Seneca Chief to a Missionary. Red Jacket effectively appeals to pathos using comparison, sufficiency, and tone to convince white missionaries that Native Americans do not wish to worship as the white man, to destroy his religion, or to take it from him; but only to enjoy their own.

Red Jacket relies on pathos to convince the white missionaries that the Native’s religion must be saved and guarded. Where there was no common ground between the Caucasians and the Indians, Red Jacket chose to relate to his audience through universal human emotions. His speech allows the listener or reader to visualize the injustices felt by a nation of people who had their homelands stolen from them.

To convey the importance of saving their religion, Red Jacket compares the Indian’s religion and the Caucasian’s religion. Instead of focusing merely on the Indian’s noncompliance to the white man’s religion; he braces his arguments in describing his own religion. The contrast between the two beliefs is as distinct as the contrast between their skins.

Red Jacket opens his speech saying, “Friend and Brother, it was the will of the Great Spirit that we should meet together this day” (176). He continues describing the Great Spirit as a great being with immense love for his red children. It is the Great Spirit that brings the sun up each morning and down each night; it is the Great Spirit who created the buffalo, deer, and all other animals; it is the Great Spirit that taught them to hold a great reverence for life and earth. From this description of the Great Spirit, several themes can be seen that coincide between the Indian’s beliefs and their actions. The Native’s compassionate, respectful, and thankful nature correlates with their humble belief in the Great Spirit. Compare that to the Caucasian’s greedy, proud, ethnocentric nature. These traits are contradictory between the their beliefs and actions. By contrasting, Red Jacket shows that the white man’s presentation of Christianity was hypocritical in that their words conflict with their actions.

Red Jacket’s most powerful comparison of the two cultures’ religion is found in his conclusion: “Brother, if your white men murdered the son of the Great Spirit, we Indians had nothing to do with it, and it is none of our affair. If he had come among us we would not have killed him; we would have treated him well, you must make amends for that crime yourselves” (178). In this inference to the crucifixion, Red Jacket makes a subtle but distinct statement about the difference between the Caucasians and the Indian. In essence, he is saying that only the white man is capable of murdering their own savior; an accusation that undoubtedly solicited a strong reaction.

To raise the awareness of the grievous deeds done to the Indians by the Caucasians, Red Jacket uses sufficient evidence of the white man’s dealings with the Natives to exemplify the lies told by the Caucasians to the Indian. He specifically describes the ways in which the white man has taken advantage of the Indians trust to invoke sympathy from the reader.

First, Red Jacket effectively leads into his injuries from the white man by illustrating the Indian’s initial hospitality to the Caucasians. Speaking of the Caucasian’s arrival, Red Jacket states: “They found tribes, and not enemies; they sat down among us. We did not fear them; we took them to be friends; they called us brothers; we believed them” (177). But this first encounter between red and white skin would later be known as an evil day. In Red Jacket’s words: “We gave them corn and meat; they gave us poison in return” (177).

He tells how the Indians were deceived, giving all they had to the white newcomers who took and took until the Indians had nothing left. The white men crowded them out, claimed their lands, brought with them liquor, contention, and confusion. All of the evidence Red Jacket includes sufficiently shows the reader how the Caucasian stripped the Indian’s of everything, even their culture and religion. Use of such evidence entices the reader’s empathy.

Red Jacket is selective in the tone of his text to ensure that he speaks to the white man in equality with respect. Despite the Caucasian’s tendency to talk down to the Native’s, Red Jacket speaks as though on the same level. This equality is apparent throughout the entire text as Red Jacket consistently addresses the white man as “Brother”. As he was a victim, one would assume that Red Jacket’s reply would be livid, however, he delivers his speech in a very patient, respectful, and firm tone. In doing so, Red Jacket demonstrates an awareness of his audience. He surely knew that speaking words of hostility would only solicit an equal and opposite reaction that would have no chance of fostering change.

Never once does he criticize or try to press his own beliefs on the Caucasians; he simply declines to accept Christianity. “Brother, the Great Spirit has made us all; but he has made a great difference between his white and red children; he has given us a different complexion, and different customs. Since he has made so great a difference between us in other things, why may we not conclude that he has given us a different religion according to our understanding; the Great Spirit does right; he knows what is best for his children; we are satisfied” (178). This exemplifies Red Jacket’s tone in his speech. A level of tolerance can be seen in this quote, which has a pacifying affect on the reader. His firm and civil tone makes his point successfully.

Whether or not Red Jacket’s oratory caused much change in the Caucasian’s dealings with the Native Americans, it made a strong statement concerning the Indian’s stance on religious values. His speech is persuasive, considerably due to his ability to play on the pathos of the listener or reader. In contrasting religions through beliefs and actions, providing sufficient, convincing, and supporting evidence, and speaking in a tone appropriate to his audience; Red Jacket makes it very clear why the Indian’s have no desire to adapt the white man’s religion. Through pathos, he draws the reader’s sentiments to see their case. “We also have a religion which was given to our forefathers, and has been handed down to us their children. We worship that way. It teaches us to be thankful for all the favours we receive; to love each other, and to be united” (178). In Speech of Red Jacket, the Seneca Chief to a Missionary, it becomes obvious that religion is a deep rooted part of Native American culture that should be protected at all costs.

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