PS/IS 686 | Brooklyn, NY

Grade 7 Humanities: Fighting Words



by Maia Kovaleski

Today, in great sadness and true spiritual exhaustion, I have come to speak what no white man has the courage to speak, the truth. My people have lived here from before the white men knew of us or this land. Our land. And now, with one wave of the hand, we are dismissed. It has been determined by the foreign force of the white men, that our land has a greater value than us. So we have been given a choice that no soul would ever want, a choice I would never wish upon anyone. We must choose between who we are, or what we have always known to be a part of us: the loss of our religion, or the loss of our land, both of which we have stood by and honored. Andrew Jackson, the white man who speaks of our planned demise, has looked on at our land with envy and a sense of ownership. He believes they are being kind by looking past our silly arrogance, due to our refusal to accept their deal.

This had started out honorable and fair, or so we believed at the time, but times change. The new country of America and its government brought forth a treaty for us. It came with promises of materials and food, in exchange for our land. Some of us signed, in sadness, but also in hope of new opportunities brought on by these promises. All of those promises were forgotten by the white men but one: the promise of taking our land. And what, you might wonder, is Andrew Jackson’s opinion on this? In his own words, this is what he has stated in pride to Congress, “It will separate the Indians from immediate contact with settlements of whites; free them from the power of the States; enable them to pursue happiness in their own way and under their own rude institutions…” “under the protection of the Government and through the influence of the good counsels, to cast off their savage habits and become an interesting, civilized, and Christian community.” The freedom from the power of the States? This freedom he speaks of is, in actuality, is the curse that they will always be behind us, catching up to us until they have satisfied their hunger and swallowed us all. That is what his “freedom”  that he has “granted” us will bring.

Andrew Jackson, despite his claims of interest in our wellbeing, has been threatening our destruction, with no intention of being discreet. Such is stated several times in his speech to Congress. “The tribes which occupied the countries now constituting the Eastern States were annihilated or have melted away to make room for the whites.” and “To save him from the alternative or perhaps utter annihilation, the General Government kindly offers him a new home and proposes to pay the whole expense of his removal and settlements.” Do you now see that I speak the truth? The denial of wrongdoing is present in this man and all who follow him.

An evident lack of understanding towards us, who we are, and who we are meant to be is obvious in a man such as Andrew Jackson. A concept of fairness towards us is incomprehensible to him but the poor and misfortunate unfairness to his race is all that remains in his mind. “And is it supposed that the wandering savage has a stronger attachment to his home than the settled, civilized Christian? Is it more afflicting to him to leave the graves of his fathers than it is to our brothers and children?” “Doubtless it will be painful to leave the graves of their fathers; but what do they more than our ancestors did or than our children are now doing?” “How many thousands of our own people would gladly embrace the opportunity of removing to the West on such conditions!” The conditions of which he speaks of are walking tirelessly without hope, bringing what we can carry and leaving behind what truly matters, fighting to our last breath to stay alive, only to be shot down emotionally and physically. These are the conditions of which he speaks with such high praise.

And now, in an overbearing feeling of curiosity brought on by enormous amounts of anger, I must show you what they intend to do with our land. What are the invading whites going to do with the land that we have played on when we were children? The land where we lowered those into the ground, never to be cursed with such a reality. The land where we lived our lives in peace until we had to pay those who broke the peace. Andrew Jackson states his envisionments for these new settlements in his speech. “What good man would prefer a country covered with forests and ranged by a few thousand savages to our extensive Republic, studded with cities, towns, and prosperous farms embellished with all the improvements which art can devise or industry execute, occupied by more than 12,000,000 happy people, and filled with all the blessings of liberty, civilization, and religion?” “It will place a dense and civilized population in large tracts of country now occupied by a few savage hunters.” “It is rather a source of joy that our country affords scope where our young population may range unconstrained in body or in mind, developing the power and facilities of man in their highest perfection.”

The picturesque liberty you describe, I find, is quite different for me and my people. Our young population is bound to range chained to the good memories, now seemingly a dream, as it burdens their shoulders as they trudge away from a life worth living for. And behind them, they see the shining tower of white men behind them, rising higher with glory. They know, without looking, however, that this tower, upon further examination, is dirty with the filth of their insolence and it’s stained with the blood of all those they have massacred. And they walk along, swearing that it will be the death of the white men. And our young generation of our dying race reaches out to those who still have spirit in them, to fight. Fight for us. Fight for those lost who are still with us, lifting us up as much as they can. Fight. So I urge you, all of you, fight.