What argument is Petalesharo making about land ownership, religion and lifestyle? What does this say about the cultural differences of the Native Americans and the European settlers? Is it possible for them to coexist?
Hello Eugene2009! I assume that you are referring to the great speech by Petalesharo, a Skidi Pawnee chief, before Congress and President Monroe in 1821. (The link for the text of the speech is below.)
You ask what Petalesharo is trying to say about land ownership, religion and lifestyle, plus cultural differences between Native Americans and the Europeans.
Basically, the two sides hold very different views about all three and all three encompass the basic cultural differences between the two sides:
Petalesharo states in his speech that he also believes in God as do the Europeans. He is very proud of the Native faith in the Great Spirit, and although like the Christians, he believes that the we are all beholden to the Great Spirit for all the blessings of sustenance and life, he begs that President Monroe and his people understand that "we worship him but we worship him not as you do.' He invites the President to understand that ' we differ from you in appearance and manners as well as in our customs; and we differ from you in our religion.' He maintains that even though they do not worship in a brick building, their faith is worthy of the Native people and have sustained them for many generations. He asks that the Europeans not trouble themselves to send their missionaries to convert them to Christianity and to teach them agriculture . That leads us to the topic of land ownership.
Petalashero states that Native Americans have always viewed the land as belonging to all tribes before the Europeans settled in North America: they do not see the parceling out of land to individual owners as conducive to their nomadic culture and way of life. He says that while Europeans were made to 'cultivate the earth and feed on domestic animals,' the Great Spirit created his people to roam 'the uncultivated woods and plains, to feed on wild animals, and to dress in their skins.' He is proud of his people's way of warring, of taking the scalps of their enemies, of triumphing over them and stealing their horses. Petalesharo is proud that his people have always lived off the uncultivated land and wants to continue doing so:
'We are not starving yet- we wish you to permit us to enjoy the chase until the game of our country is exhausted- until the wild animals become extinct.'
Indian agents like Benjamin O'Fallon( who introduced the delegation of 17 Native leaders to Congress and President Monroe in 1821) were Europeans who lived among the Native Americans and acted us enforcers of Washington polices and regulations. Petalesharo diplomatically thanks President Monroe for the wisdom of the 'father' who settles all differences between the whites and the Natives and who 'saves the effusion of human blood, and restores peace and happiness of the land.' In fact, Petalesharo actually worked with Indian agents to end the sacrifice of young girls (and sometimes boys) to appease the Morning Star god. You can read more about the ritual with the link below.
So, although Petalesharo is interested in living in peace with the Europeans, he will not condescend his people to discard generations of harmonic co-existence with the land in exchange for a faux detente(easing of strained relations). Both sides believe in the rightness of their doctrines, and with both refusing to cede ground, the inevitability of conflict taints Native/European relations for at least two more decades.