Treaty Time

“Harrison! So good to see you.”

“My name is Tonondah Inok.”

“Ton…what is it again?”

“Tonondah Inok.”

“Tonomah…you know, that’s just not going to work for me, Harrison.”

“In your language it means Red Wolf.”

“That’s a name for a dog, not a man. What’s wrong with Harrison? It’s a good name. We had two Presidents named Harrison.”

“I know.”

“Really? You did? Probably from the Indian schools, right. Well, I’m not here to give you a history lesson, Harrison. Do you know why I called you here?”

“You want to take more of our land.”

“No, of course not! It’s just time to renegotiate our treaty with your proud people.”

“My people are not so proud anymore. Pride has cost us too much.”

“Nonsense! I’ve often said that pride is the one thing your people truly possess, Harrison.”

“I see.”

“That’s a compliment.”

“Mmm.”

“What do we say when people pay us a compliment, Harrison?”

“Thank you.”

“Excellent. Good manners cost nothing, my friend. Now, as to this treaty. We’d like to make some changes in the renegotiation process. That is, we would like to alter the treaty as it currently stands.”

“I would rather not.”

“I thought you were complaining last time we met that that treaty was unfair.”

“I was. But I do not think that renegotiating it would make it any less unfair.”

“Harrison, a suspicious mind is the sign of low character. It’s very ugly and small. It’s not becoming to a leader of your stature.”

“I see.”

“I’m only saying these things to help you become a better person.”

“I appreciate that.”

“Well, then, you’ll also appreciate that our goal in renegotiating the treaty is to making things better for you, not for us.”

“How so?”

“There’s been a lot of sickness among your tribe, hasn’t there, Harrison?”

“Yes. Many have taken ill and died.”

“Well, our scientists have discovered the cause.”

“I thought it was those infected blankets you sold us.”

“All right, Harrison, have you ever heard of good faith? That means we need to establish trust on both sides. I have trust, all right? But there is no trust on your side. So you’re not negotiating in good faith, are you?”

“No, I suppose not.”

“First of all, we did not sell you those blankets. We gave them to you. Or rather we sold them to you at cost, which is practically giving them away. And second, we haven’t been able to establish that they were infected when we delivered them. It could have happened at any time. Someone in your own tribe could have done it.”

“Really?”

“It’s no good stereotyping, Harrison. There are bad people in every group.”

“Yes. That’s true.”

“Anyway, back to the point. We think that your people are getting sick from the black stones in the ground.”

“You mean coal?”

“Er, yes, coal. It’s terribly dangerous. Our boys in the white coats have linked it to all sorts of terrible diseases. You should see the mess it’s made of those poor fellows in Appalachia. And Harrison, we don’t want you to end up like them.”

“You don’t?”

“Absolutely not! So, what we’re proposing is to move you off that land, and onto someplace safe!”

“We don’t want to move off the land. It is all we have left.”

“Harrison, we’re not taking the land. We’re giving you even more land, in fact, just in a different — and, I might add, safer, location. This is a gain for you, not a loss. Simple mathematics, my man, just look at these numbers.”

“The man from the east says he will buy the coal from us. He has offered us a great deal of money, more than the land is worth in trade. You offer no money, only more land, land with no coal.”

“I see. Well, if money is less important than the health of your people, then I suppose there’s nothing I can tell you. But I don’t think that’s the sort of leadership your people want, is it?”

“I was born to lead my people.”

“Well, this is America, Harrison. We fought a war to get away from that sort of poisonous nonsense. Just because your father was in charge doesn’t mean you should be.”

“Your army killed my father.”

“He was shooting at us, Harrison. We were defending ourselves. It’s not like we wanted to do it.”

“So you say.”

“Harrison, are we here to rehash mistakes we’ve made in the past, or to renegotiate the treaty?”

“For the treaty.”

“And are you going to sign?”

“Do I have a choice?”

“Well, of course you do. You can choose some land you weren’t even born on, and some smooth-talking east coast businessman, or you can choose your own country’s government and the health of your people.”

“What if I don’t sign?”

“I’m not going to make you do anything, Harrison. If you don’t sign, the contract stays at is, until we can bring in some attorneys from Washington to take a look at it. If they decide everything is on the up-and-up, then you’re free to do what you like.”

“I will sign.”

“I knew you would, my friend. You are a sensible and fair man.”

“Mr. Conley?”

“Yes, Harrison?”

“Have you ever wondered what would happen if someone wanted to do to you what you have done to us?”

“I’m not sure I understand the tone of that question, Harrison. We’ve never done anything to you but treat you fairly.”

“Mmm. Well, what would happen if someone wanted to destroy you? To wipe you from the earth, as if you never had trod on its soil? To banish you and your culture, wherever you lived in the world? What if someone hated you that much?”

“Harrison, don’t be ridiculous. America enjoys the special protection of God.”

“I see.”

“That’s why we’re so powerful. There’s really no other way to explain it, is there?”

“I suppose not.”

“It’s called Manifest Destiny. Ask someone at the Indian school about it.”

“I will try and remember.”

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