Lost Words as Treasure

Before the strike, I was cleaning out my classroom files and found something I thought I’d lost: the photocopied page of a book I’d reserved in the Reference Section of the SFU library, way back when.  I still remember the lightning bolt sensation when I first stumbled across this page, exactly as one would experience finding buried treasure.  This is from the book (or chapter?), Towards a More Humane Society.  The author notes that the quote below was first written by Benjamin Franklin in “Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America.”

At the treaty of Lancaster, in Pennsylvania, anno 1744, between the Government of Virginia and the Six Nations, the commissioners from Virginia acquainted the Indians by a speech, that there was at Williamsburg a college with a fund for educating Indian youth; and that if the chiefs of the Six Nations would send down half a dozen of their sons to that college, the government would take care that they would be well provided for, and instructed in all the learning of the white people.

The Indians’ spokesman replied:

“We know that you highly esteem the kind of learning taught in those colleges, and that the maintenance of our young men, while with you, would be very expensive to you. We are convinced therefore, that you mean to do us good by your proposal and we thank you heartily.

But you, who are wise, must know that different nations have different conceptions of things; and you will not therefore take it amiss, if our ideas of this kind of education happen not to be the same with yours. We have had some experience of it; several of our young people were formerly brought up at the college of the northern provinces; they were instructed in all your sciences; but, when they came back to us, they were bad runners, ignorant of every means of living in the wood, unable to bear cold or hunger, knew neither how to build a cabin, take a deer, nor kill an enemy, spoke our language imperfectly, were therefore neither fit for hunters, warriors, nor counselors; they were totally good for nothing. We are however not the less obligated by your kind offer, though we decline accepting it, and to show our grateful sense of it, if the gentlemen of Virginia will send us a dozen of their sons, we will take care of their education, instruct them in all we know, and make men of them.

(Quoted by J.H. Eedle, Forward Trends, June 1972.)


About pjsarahcollins

teacher, author, reader
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