For my Advanced Placement English class, we had to annotate
this Native American
speech. The italics are the original speech, with comments in between.
“Brothers! We have heard the talk of our great father; it is very kind, he says he loves his red children.”
Begins by addressing audience as brothers- he is their equal. “Great father”= their holy spirit. “His red children” are the Indians.
“Brothers! I have listened to many talks from our great father.”
Repeats his call of “brothers,” to further cement his desire for them to see him as an equal.
“When he first came over the wide waters, he was but a little man, and wore a red coat.”
“He” symbolizes the white man, Europeans to be exact. The Europeans soldiers wore red coats, and hence they were known as “Redcoats.” “Wide waters” are that of the Atlantic Ocean.
“Our chiefs met him on the banks of the river Savannah, and smoked with him the pipe of peace.”
They attempted to be peaceful, and welcomed the white men onto their land. The Savannah River borders modern Georgia and South Carolina.
“His legs were cramped by sitting long in his big boat, and he begged for a little land to light his fire on.”
The Indians saw the Europeans as asking for their help and begging for land, instead of annexing and claiming, which is what actually happened. They are being naive.
“He said he had come over the wide waters to teach Indians new things, and to make them happy.”
Again, showing how naïve the Indians were. The Europeans lied to them outright, and they believed it.
“He said he loved his red brothers, which is very kind.”
The Indians treat the Europeans with respect, as visitors to their “home.” They try to be courteous and welcoming, yet still naïve.
“The Muscogees gave the white man land, and kindled him a fire, that he might warm himself; and when his enemies, the pale faces of the south, made war on him, their young men drew the tomahawk, and protected his head from the scalping knife.”
Here, he mentions a war between his clan and the clan to the south that the Europeans assisted in fighting. The Indians still had to bale the Europeans out, because the other clan would have killed them.
“But when the white man had warmed himself before the Indian’s fire, and filled himself with their hominy, he became very large. With a step he bestrode the mountains, and his feet covered the plains and the valleys. His hands grasped the eastern and western sea, and his head rested on the moon. Then he became our Great Father.”
The Europeans continued to be nice to the Indians, but they were getting greedy. They started to take control of land at every chance they got, and the Indians noticed it. Soon, they got so big, that they started telling the Indians what to do, hence they became the “great father.”
“He loved his red children, and he said, “Get a little further, lest I tread on thee.” With one foot he pushed the red man over the Oconee, and with the other he trampled down the graves of his fathers and the forests where he had so long hunted the deer.”
The Europeans began telling the Indians to move off of the land they lived on, as they expanded in every direction.
“But our great father still loved his red children, and he soon made them another talk. He said, “Get a little further; you are too near me.” But there were some bad men among the Muscogees then, as there are now. They lingered around the graves of their ancestors, till they were crushed beneath the heavy tread of our great father.”
Though they were telling the Indians that they owned the land, the Europeans still tried to be nice about it. The Indians saw what was happening, and refused to move. They were forced off the land by the Europeans, or killed.
“Their teeth pierced his feet, and made him angry. Yet, he continued to love his red children;”
The Indians put up a strong revolt, but just bothered the Europeans more.
“and when he found them too slow in moving, he sent his great guns before him to sweep his path.”
Speckled snake speaks of the massacres of Indians in the way of the expansion, and of the Trail of Tears.
“Brothers! I have listened to a great many talks from out great father. But they always begin and ended in this- “Get a little further, you are too near me.”
He has heard the Europeans talk a lot, but they never say much. All they are telling the Indians is to move out of their way, and to accept their reign.
“Brothers! Our great father says that “where we are now, our white brothers have always claimed the land.” He speaks with a straight tongue, and cannot lie. But when he first came over the wide waters, while he was yet small, and stood before the great chief at the council on Yamacraw Bluff, he said “Give me a little land, which you can spare, and I shall pay you for it.”
He reminds the rest of the Indians that the white men are lying to them. He cites that the Europeans lied in saying they owned the land, but it was actually a gift from the Indians. “Wide waters”= Atlantic Ocean, and “yet small”= once the Indians were more powerful. They once had to ask for favors, and now they tell the Indians what to do.
“Brothers! When our great father made us a talk, on a former occasion, and said, “Get a little further, go beyond the Oconee, the Ocmulgee; there is a pleasant country,” he also said “It shall be yours forever.””
He talks of how the Europeans kept pushing them back, and making them promises that they would not keep. The Indians see this, and are getting fed up with it.
“I have listened to his present talk. He says that the land where you now live is not yours. Go beyond the Mississippi; there is game; and you may remain while the grass grows or the water runs. Brothers! Will not our great father come there also?”
He sees that they are lying, and that they are just pushing the Indians further. Speckled Snake tries to make the other Indians notice that the Europeans are just going to keep pushing them back endlessly.
“He loves his red children. He speaks with a strait tongue, and will not lie.”
Here, he is sarcastic because everyone knows how much the white men have lied to the Indians already.
“Brothers! Our great father says that our bad men have made his heart bleed, for the murder of one of his white children. Yet where are the red children which he loves, once as numerous as the leaves of the forest? How many have been murdered by his warriors? How many have been crushed beneath his own footsteps?”
He cites how the white men have created double standards. To them, it is acceptable to kill Indians that get in their way, yet inexcusable for the inverse to occur.
“Brothers! Our great father says we must go beyond the Mississippi. We shall be there under his care, and experience his kindness. He is very good! We have felt it all before.”
“We have felt it all before”, meaning that they should be recognizing the pattern of being kicked further and further away from their land.
“Brothers! I have done.”
That is all he can do, the Indians must make their own decision as to whether or not to listen to the rules of the Europeans.
The little history I know about this speech:
(As these are my own notes, they contain my opinions and views. Please do not get mad that I am "wrong"!)
The speech was first published in the Niles' Weekly Register on June 20th, 1829. Speckled Snake was a Creek Indian warrior, and a clan leader. The speech represents a reaction against President Andrew Jackson's announced intention of moving the Creeks, Cherokees, and other indian tribes to Mississippi. Ten years later, that removal was completed with the long march, in which thousands of Indians died. It would later be known as the Trail of Tears.
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