The American Indian and Moral Code


Welcome to another terrific Tuesday.  While edits of Brave Wolf and the Lady are in progress, I find myself involved in plotting out my next story, and so of course I have my nose in much research.  Lately, I’m reading the book, The Soul of the Indian, An Interpretation by Charles A. Eastman (Ohiyesa) — a Sioux Indian who wrote several books in the early part of the last century.  A Chapter entitled BARBARISM AND THE MORAL CODE is one of extreme interest, and so I though I’d share with you a little bit from this chapter, as I find it fascinating.

To the right here is a picture of a young Charles Eastman.  He was of mixed descent.  His maternal grandmother, daughter of Chief Cloudman of the Mdewankton Sioux, was married to a well-known western artist, Captain Seth Eastman, and in 1847 their daughter, Mary Nancy Eastman became the wife of Chief Many Lightnings, a Wahpeton Sioux.  Their fifth child, Charles Alexander Eastman, as a four-year-old was given the name Ohiyesa (the Winner).  During the Sioux Uprising of 1862, Ohiyesa became separated from his father — his mother had died soon after his birth — and fled from the reservation in Minnesota to Canada under the protection of his grandmother and uncle.  There he was schooled in the Indian ways until the age of fifteen, when he was reunited with his father, who took him back to his homestead in present South Dakota.

Eastman went on to become one of the best-known Indians of his time, receiving a Bachelor of Science degree from Dartmouth in 1887 and a medical degree from Boston University three years later.  From his first appointment as a physician at Pine Ridge Agency, where he witnessed the events that culminated in the Wounded Knee massacre, he sought to bring understanding between Native and non-Native Americans.   Source Reference from the back blurb of the book, The Soul of the Indian, An Interpretation.


To the left here is a picture of Adam Beach who played Charles Eastman in the film, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.  They look so very similar, don’t they?  Of course, I’m a Adam Beach fan.

So here we go, here are some gems that I’ve underlined in this chapter of his book:

“The man who preserves his selfhood ever calm and unshaken by the storms of existence — not a leaf, as it were, astir on the tree; not a ripple upon the surface of shining pool — his, in the mind of the unlettered sage, is the ideal attitude and conduct of life.”

And since we write romance, I thought I’d call attention to this gem:

“No man can hope to maintain such a temple of the spirit beyond the period of adolescence, unless he is able to curb his indulgence in the pleasures of the senses.  Upon this truth the Indian built a rigid system of physical training, a social and moral code that was the law of his life.

“There was aroused in him as a child a high ideal of manly strength and beauty, the attainment of which must depend upon strict temperance in eating and in sexual relation, together with severe and persistent exercise. … He was required to fast from time to time for short periods, and to work off his superfluous energy by means of hard running, swimming, and the vapor-bath.  The bodily fatigue thus induced, especially when coupled with a reduced diet, is a reliable cure for undue sexual desires.”

This is a link to a short video about this book and about Charles Eastman:


Here’s another quote from the book that I found intriguing:

“The public or tribal position of the Indian is entirely dependent upon his private virtue, and he is never permitted to forget that he does not live to himself alone, but to his tribe and his clan.”


And here’s a clip from the movie, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee:

I hope you have enjoyed this blog today, and I hope you will each on leave a comment.  I will be offering a free copy of my latest book THE PRINCESS AND THE WOLF.

Website | + posts

KAREN KAY aka GEN BAILEY is the multi-published author of American Indian Historical Romances. She has written for such prestigious publishers as AVON/HarperCollins, Berkley/Penguin/Putnam and Samhain Publishing. KAREN KAY’S great grandmother was Choctaw Indian and Kay is honored to be able to write about the American Indian Culture.
Please refer to for all contest rules.

23 thoughts on “The American Indian and Moral Code”

  1. Hi Karen. I always enjoy a Charles Eastman post, as I’ve told you before, I think. Thank you! I’d like to add two of his quotes that I like–if that is okay with you.

    “It was our belief that the love of possessions is a weakness to be overcome…. Children must early learn the beauty of generosity. They are taught to give what they prize most, that they may taste the happiness of giving…. The Indians in their simplicity literally give away all that they have—to relatives, to guests of other tribes or clans, but above all to the poor and the aged, from whom they can hope for no return.”

    “One of the things that makes you feel good is to get out into nature…experience the beauty of America, experience how America is such a sacred place. Everywhere you go in this land, our people have been there and they have said, “This place is sacred.”

    • Hi Eliza,

      Thanks so much for adding those two quotes. Those are beautiful, also. Yes, I love what this man writes. To be very much admired. There’s also a video out there talking about scouting — that is very beautiful, also.

  2. I love learning about things on this blog. I was not familiar with Charles Eastman. Thanks. I look forward to more.

  3. Hi Debra,

    Oh, goodness, I’m so glad that I was able to tell you about this, then. He really is quite the person to read. He was very instrumental in the boy scouts in its beginning stages, also.

  4. Would that more people in our current society had a strict moral and social code to guide their lives! As human beings, we need goals to reach and behaviors/actions to try and reach those goals. They may differ in some ways from society to society, but their existance and practice is a common factor.

  5. I love Adam Beach, too! He does look quite similar to Charles Eastman, that is crazy. I didn’t know this much about Charles, thanks for sharing!

    • Hi Susan!

      Ah, another Adam Beach fan. Yes, he really has the look in this film of Charles Eastman. Charles Eastman married a white woman, and, they had children — but they eventually divorced and apparently (according to their children), they could not agree on a very important part of their relationship — he wanted Indians to stay Indians — she wanted the Indian to be consumed by the culture spreading all around them, and it seems was quite insistent on it. At least that’s what I’ve read about it.

      Apparently Charles lived to be 80, but after their divorce, he retreated into the woods (his most favorite place), and there remained to the end.

      I’ll have to go back and research his history at little bit more to be more certain of the facts — but this is so far what I’ve read about his life.

  6. Enjoyed reading the comments on Charles Eastman. I am a fan of Adam Beach also.
    Your books sounds really good.

  7. Hi Joye!

    Another Adam Beach fan. Yes, I really love his work and this particular role and the movie, itself, was a very good one in my opinion.

    So nice to see you here on the blog. Thank you so much for coming here today.

  8. Love Adam Beach!! I think I’ve seen the movie too. Very interesting read, Karen!! Have a wonderful day!!!

  9. I enjoyed your post and the quotes from Charles Eastman. My father says things like this — and by the way he has lived his life, shares so much of Eastman’s philosophy. We need more men like him (Eastman) in this world!

  10. Hi Kathryn,

    Your post made me smile. Yes, we sure do need more men like him in the world. Luckily I seem to have won the lottery and married one of those kinds of men. : )

  11. I was not aware of Charles Eastman. Thanks for introducing him to me. Very interesting individual. I hope to learn much more.

  12. I just discovered that two of Eastman’s books are online if anyone wishes to read them for free:

    Indian Boyhood, New York; McClure, Phillips & Co., 1902.

    Indian Heroes and Great Chieftains, Little, Brown, 1918.

    Karen, I know Eastman treated victims of Wounded Knee, but I don’t remember anything about him and the Little Bighorn (1876). He was 18 at that time (born 1858) so I’m thinking he was away at school at time. Is that right? Of course he was a Santee Sioux from Minnesota and not an Oglala, so…. Have you read anything about Eastman talking about the Little Bighorn battle? It has been a while since I read his books and I just don’t remember. Thank you.

  13. Hi Eliza,

    I don’t, Eliza. The bios that I’ve read of him talk about Wounded Knee, but not Little Big Horn. I think you are probably right. Wasn’t he about 15 when his father came to get him and send him away to school? If that be true, then he was probably away at that time. Yes, he was Santee Sioux, but his father later came to possess (not sure if he bought it or what) a farm/ranch in…wasn’t it South or North Dakota?

    At least this is the research that I have on this so far. So again, I think you are right about him being away.

Comments are closed.