The Worlds Famous Orations. America: I. (17611837). 1906.
Pushmataha to John C. Calhoun
The Choctaw Chief Pushmataha (17651824)
Born in 1765, died in 1824; a Chief of the Choctaws; had a notable career as a Warrior against the Osage Indians and in Mexico; served with the Americans in the War of 1812.
FATHER,1 I have been here at the council-house for some time, but I have not talked. I have not been strong enough to talk. You shall hear me talk to-day. I belong to another district. You have, no doubt, heard of me. I am Pushmataha.
Father, when in my own country, I often looked toward this council-house, and wanted to come here. I am in trouble. I will tell my distresses. I feel like a small child, not half as high as its father, who comes up to look in his fathers face, hanging in the bend of his arm, to tell him his troubles. So, father, I hang in the bond of your arm, and look in your face; and now hear me speak.
Father, when I was in my own country, I heard there were men appointed to talk to us. I would not speak there; I chose to come here, and speak in this beloved house; for Pushmataha can boast and say, and tell the truth, that none of his fathers, or grandfathers, or any Choctaw,2 ever drew bow against the United States. They have always been friendly. We have held the hands of the United States so long that our nails are long like birds claws; and there is no danger of their slipping out.
Father, I have come to speak. My nation has always listened to the applications of the white people. They have given of their country till it is very small. I came here, when a young man, to see my Father Jefferson. He told me, if ever we got in trouble, we must run and tell him. I am come. This is a friendly talk; it is like that of a man who meets another, and says: How do you do? Another of my tribe shall talk further. He shall say what Pushmataha would say, were he stronger.
Note 1. Pushmatahas name is sometimes spelled Pushmatahaw, the word meaning The warriors seat is finished. In 1824 he went to Washington to brighten the chain of peace. where he was treated with great attention by President Monroe and John C. Calhoun, then secretary of war, to whom he made the speech here given, a copy being now preserved in the official records of the War Department. Soon afterward he died. One of his last requests was that he might be buried with military honors. The procession that followed his body to the Congressional Cemetery was estimated to be more than a mile in length, the sidewalks, stoops and windows of houses being thronged along the way, and minute guns being fired from the hill of the capitol. John Randolph, in a eulogy pronounced in the Senate, characterized him as one of natures nobility; a man who would have adorned any society. On his tombstone he is described as a warrior of great distinction; he was wise in counsel, eloquent in an extraordinary degree, and, on all occasions and under all circumstances, the white mans friend. Andrew Jackson said he was the greatest and the bravest Indian he had ever known. During a visit to Lafayette, who was then in Washington, Pushmataha, being accompanied by other Indians of his tribe, made the following speech:
Nearly fifty snows have melted since you drew your sword as a companion of Washington. With him you fought the enemies of America. You mingled your blood with that of the enemy, and proved yourself a warrior. After you finished that war, you returned to your own country, and now you are come back to revisit the land where you are honored by a numerous and powerful people. You see everywhere the children of those by whose side you went to battle crowding around you and shaking your hand as the hand of a father. We have heard these things told in our distant villages, and our hearts longed to see you. We have come; we have taken you by the hand and are satisfied. This is the first time we have seen you; it will probably be the last. We have no more to say. The earth will part us for ever.
Pushmataha was taken ill just after this visit to Lafayette. On his death-bed he said to his Indian companions: When you shall come to your home they will ask you, Where is Pushmataha? and you will say to them: He is no more! They will hear the tidings like the sound of the fall of a mighty oak in the stillness of the woods. [back]
Note 2. The Choctaws had formerly lived in southern Alabama and Mississippi, but, after the Revolution they began to drift westward. In 1830 the last remnant had departed, their lands east of the Mississippi River being in that year ceded to the whites. [back]