Learn It Part 2

At times during the speech, U.S. officials deliberately use specific language and vocabulary to explain their main points and to express their point of view. Let’s take a closer look at how this is done in the table below.

U.S. Negotiations with Native Americans in Mississippi

Excerpt from Text Purpose or Point of View

“Your father the President proposes to give his Chickasaw children a fine tract of country on the other side of the Mississippi river …”

“When, therefore, he offers his advice and counsel, he expects all his children to receive them as coming from their father, their friend, and protector.”

Point of View: From the start, the perspective of the U.S. officials as superior to their Native American audience is obvious. Throughout the message, the officials refer to President Thomas Jefferson as their “father” and the Chickasaw as Jefferson’s “children.”

The officials may be suggesting that the tribes are inferior, or less sophisticated, by calling them children of a father of a white president.

Purpose: In this same passage, the officials are aware of the importance that Native Americans place on family and the role of fathers as leaders. They also convey the expectation that Native Americans will obey the commands of the U.S. president and government, as a child would obey a father.

“By removing to that country, you will be freed from the intrusions and interruptions of your white brethren.”

Point of View: The U.S. officials continue to use family as a theme when they suggest that white settlers and Native Americans are “brethren” or brothers of the same father.

Purpose: This was likely done to convince the tribes that the U.S. officials’ offer is truthful and made in good faith.

“Your father the President proposes to give his Chickasaw children...”

“… from the mouth to the head of this father of rivers.”

“… you will be freed from the intrusions and interruptions of your white brethren.”

Purpose: These examples show the authors’ strategic use of language to convince the audience to accept their offer. Although we can’t be sure, this also likely shows the U.S. officials’ urgency to complete an agreement with the tribes regardless of whether their freedom and land is protected in the future. The use of family language was likely done to establish good relations.

“It is the policy of our Government to extinguish the Indian title to all lands on this side of the Mississippi. We must have a dense and strong population from the mouth to the head of this father of rivers. The security of our southern frontier requires this …”

Point of View: The authors also inferred that their own interests were above those of Native Americans in Mississippi.

They argue that the security of their own frontier is more important than the current living space of Native Americans, and that they must move off this land to free it up for U.S. control.

“All the southern tribes of Indians must be prepared, sooner or later, to witness this state of things.”

Purpose: The officials then explain that all southern tribes must obey this policy at some point, as this policy will continue.

“If the different tribes are permitted to hold their lands on this side of the Mississippi, the laws of the United States must be extended to the Indian country, and the Indians, as well as the whites living among them … Which of these alternatives will our red brothers, the Chickasaws, choose?”

Purpose: They explain that all tribes will have to abide by U.S. laws and live with white settlers. This suggests that the Native Americans are being forced off their land or risk living with white neighbors under U.S. laws that were not likely to treat Native Americans equally.

“You will then be enabled to live in peace and quietness; nor will you be ever asked for any portion of the lands which will be given you. Your father the President will also … defray all expenses of removing you to the country on the west side of the Mississippi, and furnish you with all things necessary for your comfort and convenience ...”

Purpose and Point of View: The content of this passage and the U.S. officials’ point of view calls into question the legitimacy of the U.S. offer. At times the passage indicates that Native Americans will be protected, and the officials even offer to pay for the cost of moving their homes and tribes.

However, the suggestion that Native Americans are children of “their Presidential father” and must obey his commands to leave their land, suggest otherwise. Further, the use of family terms were likely part of a strategy to create friendly relations with Native Americans, which would eventually lead to taking all of their land in the southeastern United States.

The point of view that Native Americans were inferior to white settlers and Americans was prominent in government policy. The use of language in these 1826 negotiations suggests this position. This may help explain why the Chickasaw decided not to give up their land to U.S. officials.

Next, you will practice identifying how language shows point of view in another passage from these 1826 negotiations.