Academic journal article Journal of American Culture (Malden, MA)

Editorializing "The Indian Problem": The New York Times on Native Americans, 1860-1900

Academic journal article Journal of American Culture (Malden, MA)

Editorializing "The Indian Problem": The New York Times on Native Americans, 1860-1900

Article excerpt

Editorializing "the Indian Problem": The New York Times on Native Americans, 1860-1900 Robert Hays, Editor. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2007.

Editorializing "the Indian Problem": The New York Times on Native Americans, 1860-1900 was first published in 1997 and now reappears in paperback. Its reappearance is a happy event for those who would like to transport themselves back into the second half of the nineteenth century to see how contemporary newspaper editorialists (and certainly their readers) saw a variety of issues relating to the American Indian.

The "Indian problem" referred to in the title is an elusive term, varying widely in the Times editorials, sometimes in support of Indians, sometimes in opposition. The problem might be armed warfare, governmental cheating of tribes, the relative merits of certain leaders (some praised, others castigated), examinations of efforts to extend white civilization to Indian tribes, the US government's failure to honor treaties, and many more issues. Overall, the Times, for a nineteenth-century publication, was generally progressive and sympathetic toward Indians on a range of issues. In some cases, of course, it was not. The steady editorial attacks on Sitting Bull and Geronimo, for example, show that even the New York Times had its limits, much preferring more docile leaders than the last two great opponents of white domination (and destruction) of the American Indian way of life.

Robert Hays explains that he chose editorials over news stories because the latter were often sensational in tone and based on unreliable reports from the West, whereas editorial writers had time to check facts and think a bit before they wrote. …

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