take the handle of this plow

28May10

The candidates for land titles were dressed in traditional costume and armed with a bow and arrow. After ordering a candidate to shoot his arrow into the distance, the presiding officer, usually the agent, would announce, “You have shot your last arrow.” The arrowless arches would then return to the tipi and re-emerge a few minutes later in “civilized” dress. He would be placed before a plow. “Take the handle of this plow,” the government’s man would say, “this act means you have chosen to live the life of the white man — and the white man lives by work.” The ceremony would close with the new landowner receiving a purse (at which point the presiding officer would announce “this purse will always say to you that the money you gain from your labor must be wisely kept”) and an American flag.

Frederick Hoxie, A Final Promise: The Campaign to Assimilate the Indians, 1880-1920.



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