The Warrior’s Oration by Edgar Wilson Nye

Story type: Essay

Warriors! We are met here to-day to celebrate the white man’s Fourth of July. I do not know what the Fourth of July has done for us that we should remember his birthday, but it matters not. Another summer is on the wane, and so are we. We are the walleyed waners from Wanetown. We have monopolized the wane business of the whole world.

Autumn is almost here, and we have not yet gone upon the war path. The pale face came among us with the corn planter and the Desert Land Act, and we bow before him.

What does the Fourth of July signify to us? It is a hollow mockery! Where the flag of the white man now waves in the breeze, a few years ago the scalp of our foe was hanging in the air. Now my people are seldom. Some are dead and others drunk.

Once we chased the deer and the buffalo across the plains, and lived high. Now we eat the condemned corned beef of the oppressor, and weep over the graves of our fallen braves. A few more moons and I, too, shall cross over to the Happy Reservation.

Once I could whoop a couple of times and fill the gulch with warlike athletes. Now I may whoop till the cows come home and only my sickly howl comes back to me from the hillsides. I am as lonely as the greenback party. I haven’t warriors enough to carry one precinct.

Where are the proud chieftains of my tribe? Where are Old Weasel Asleep and Orlando the Hie Jacet Promoter? Where are Prickly Ash Berry and The Avenging Wart? Where are The Roman-nosed Pelican and Goggle-eyed Aleck, The-man-who-rides-the-blizzard-bareback?

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They are extremely gone. They are extensively whence. Ole Blackhawk, in whose veins flows the blood of many chiefs, is sawing wood for the Belle of the West deadfall for the whiskey. He once rode the war pony into the fray and buried his tomahawk in the phrenology of his foe. Now he straddles the saw-buck and yanks the woodsaw athwart the bosom of the basswood chunk.

My people once owned this broad land; but the Pilgrim Fathers (where are they?) came and planted the baked bean and the dried apple, and my tribe vamoosed. Once we were a nation. Now we are the tin can tied to the American eagle.

Warriors! This should be a day of jubilee, but how can the man rejoice who has a boil on his nose? How can the chief of a once proud people shoot firecrackers and dance over the graves of his race? How can I be hilarious with the victor, on whose hands are the blood of my children?

If we had known more of the white man, we would have made it red hot for him four hundred years ago when he came to our coast. We fed him and clothed him as a white-skinned curiosity then, but we didn’t know there were so many of him. All he wanted then was a little smoking tobacco and love. Now he feeds us on antique pork, and borrows our annuities to build a Queen Anne wigwam with a furnace in the bottom and a piano in the top.

Warriors! My words are few. Tears are idle and unavailing. If I had scalding tears enough for a mill site, I would not shed a blamed one. The warrior suffers, but he never squeals. He accepts the position and says nothing. He wraps his royal horse blanket around his Gothic bones and is silent.

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But the pale face cannot tickle us with a barley straw on the Fourth of July and make us laugh. You can kill the red man, but you cannot make him hilarious over his own funeral. These are the words of truth, and my warriors will do well to paste them in their plug hats for future reference.

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