In the main Western culture has had a poor record of pausing in conquest long enough to record the views of vanquished foes. We have always sent soldiers to dismantle cultures in the way of ‘manifest destiny,’ so too often it is the hard country of military dispatches in which the death songs of whole peoples echo down through the years. Perhaps we catch so much of the rich intonation and meaning in Cadete’s words because Capt. Cremony was both a journalist by training and a fluent speaker of Apache, indeed the first white man to learn the language.
Here Mescalero Apache chief Cadete offers not the expected maudlin call to the old ways, but an incisive comparative analysis of Western and Apache cultures.
“You desire our children to learn from books, and say, that because you have done so, you are able to build all those big houses, and sail over the sea, and talk with each other at any distance, and do many wonderful things; now, let me tell you what we think. You begin when you are little to work hard, and work until you are men in order to begin fresh work. You say that you work hard in order to learn how to work well. After you get to be men, then you say, the labor of life commences; then too, you build big houses, big ships, big towns, and everything else in proportion. Then, after you have got them all, you die and leave them behind. Now, we call that slavery. You are slaves from the time you begin to talk until you die; but we are free as air. We never work, but the Mexicans and others work for us. Our wants are few and easily supplied. The river, the wood and plain yield all that we require, and we will not be slaves; nor will we send our children to your schools, where they only learn to become like yourselves.”
– Mescalero Apache Chief Cadete,
as related to Capt. John C. Cremony, “The Apache Race,”Overland Monthly, Vol. I (September, 1868), 207.