In 1892, nine years before his presidency, Theodore Roosevelt defended the federal government’s treatment of Indians, saying:
“This continent had to be won. We need not waste our time in dealing with any sentimentalist who believes that, on account of any abstract principle, it would have been right to leave this continent to the domain, the hunting ground of squalid savages. It had to be taken by the white race.”
In 1901, President William McKinley was assassinated and Roosevelt became the 26th U.S. President. He soon began initiating proposals to place millions of acres of land in several western states–including South Dakota–under the control of the federal government. His goal was to create national forests and parks so that white Americans could enjoy the natural beauty of their country. Roosevelt, and the droves of white tourists, ignored (at best) or displaced the Native Americans who had lived in the West for generations, raising families and revering the land. For example, impressed with the grandeur of the Grand Canyon, Roosevelt did not hesitate to urge Havasupai families living there to vacate the area so that tourists could enjoy it.
In his 1903 book The Winning of the West, he wrote: “The truth is, the Indians never had any real title to the soil.”
For his 1905 inaugural parade, Roosevelt used six Native American leaders to provide “a touch of color.” Geronimo (Apache), Quanah Parker (Comanche), American Horse (Sioux), Hollow Horn Bear (Sioux), Little Plume (Blackfoot), and Buckskin Charley (Ute) rode painted ponies and led a troop of marching Carlisle Indian students up Pennsylvania Avenue. War whoops and derisive shouts from the crowds along the parade route further humiliated the Indians.