In 1888 the Reverend F. R. Goulding published Sal-O-Quah; or, Boy-Life Among the
Cherokees. Some parts of this extraordinary book suggest that the author is drawing from memories of his own boyhood. Others are most remarkable for the propaganda which no doubt seemed plausible to the author at the time; but they certainly stick in the craw now. I cannot resist citing this section from the first chapter, in which the boy narrator goes with his father to visit a local inhabitant of Cherokee Territory. Ah, the advanced civilization that brings picturesque climbing vines to those in need! A climbing vine and some white clay absolutely purify things, don’t they? And purity (which equals non-Indian ways) equals happiness. What a telling symbol: making things white on the outside. I can’t speak for other aspects of the passage, but this is certainly an authentic record of how the nineteenth-century missionaries to the Cherokees viewed themselves, as well as how the prosperous viewed their affluence — as a virtuous object lesson for the benighted. With picturesque vines!
Without further ado:
The house was white, as if covered with a coat of lime; and there was a piazza-like shed in front, supported by posts set in the ground. The floor of this piazza was of earth, a little raised above the surrounding level; and the eye was delighted with the sight of a luxuriant vine gracefully climbing around each post.
“That my house,” said Kaneeka, pointing to it, with pride.
“A very different house from the one in which I first saw you,” said my father.
“Had not been in white man’s country then,” returned Kaneeka, quickly; “had not learned white man’s ways.”
“Is your pretty house white-washed with lime?” cousin Aleck asked.
“No, only white clay,” Kaneeka answered.
“It certainly is very pure and very pretty,” said my aunt, with delight.
As we drew nearer, we saw Saloquah’s pony hitched near the gate, for the house was surrounded with a little stockade fence, giving to it, and to all around it, a very picturesque appearance; to add to which we saw Yellow-Bird (or Chescoo-teleneh,) Kaneeka’s wife, standing in the doorway, holding little Sallicoo by the hand, while a boy, seemingly eight or ten years of age, dressed in fringed deerskin, was running as fast as his nimble legs could carry him to meet his father.
“We are glad to find in these wild woods such a happy-looking home,” said my aunt. “I was hardly prepared for it.”
“Few homes in my own dear Scotland seem to be happier than this,” said cousin Aleck.
Kaneeka’s eye kindled.
“Not everybody so in Injin country,” said he. “I not so either till he come,” he added, pointing to my father, who, with a blush of pleasure, hastily inquired:
“And pray what did I do to help your cause so much?”
“You show me white man ways,” said Kaneeka, with enthusiasn, and growing eloquent as one thought suggested another. “You read me white man Bible. You tell me white man Saviour. You teach me and my wife love God, love pray, love good, love everybody. Then our corn begin to grow, our hog begin to get fat, our cow give plenty milk. We get happy, and we get rich.”
My father looked down for a moment, then, seemingly impressed with Kaneeka’s assemblage of facts, he turned to cousin Aleck, and asked:
“Do you recollect the thought you read to me the other day about the ancient patriarchs? that in those days, when men had little faith in a future life, God gave great prosperity to Abraham, Job, and other of His distinguished servants, in order probably to convince men by sensible signs that godliness is gain.”
“Yes,” replied cousin Aleck; “and I recollect you added to it the thought, that it was probably for a similar purpose toward the present heathen, that God causes Christian countries to be so far in advance of pagans and anti-Christians in all that pertains to worldly well-being.”
It leaves one speechless, doesn’t it? Except for that one give-away word, “probably.”
Excuse me while I go plant some climbing vines.