Progress is the elimination of the savage. These words of General Terry, a
character in Sharon Pollock’s Walsh, demonstrates how he and his fellow white men feel
towards Native Indians. The indians see Canada as their homeland, but the Canadian
government will not let them stay and will do anything in their power to make them leave
to the United States. They are cheated against, lied to, and betrayed by their government,
because of their ethnic background. Especially Sitting Bull, the head of the Sioux nation,
who is being accused for the death of General Custer. Walsh, Sitting Bull, and General
Terry contribute to this theme of prejudice towards the Sioux by the government and
Walsh’s struggle to keep his responsibility as an individual and his high principles.
Major Walsh of the North West Mounted Police who attempts to prevent Sitting
Bull and the Sioux from being sent back from Canada to the United States, apparently to
stand trial for the death of General Custer and his men at the battle of Little Big Horn.
Walsh has sympathy for Sitting Bull and the Sioux. He feels, as a member of the force he
should do everything in his power to help them:
An able and brilliant people have been crushed, held down, moved from place to place, cheated and lied to…..and now , they hold here in Canada, the remnants of a proud race, and they ask for some sort of justice….which is what I thought I swore on oath to serve!
Walsh has a responsibility for Sitting Bull and the Sioux as a friend to help them in their
struggle for justice and respect but Walsh was forced against his better judgment, to
sacrifice his own high principles by his fellow police men and friends. The government,
which Walsh represents lies and makes excuses to the Sioux of why the should be going to
the United States. Walsh is a man who knows that there is a nobility to his struggle, but he
surrenders responsibility as an individual. Walsh is a well-meaning but ultimately
ineffectual white man whose potentially tragic status is undermined by his decision to go
back on his promise of his responsibility to Sitting Bull and the Sioux. His moral dilemma
is at a disaster when he agrees to his governments demands and sends Sitting Bull and the
Sioux to his certain death in the United States. His mentality has totally been altered and
he almost feels no sympathy for them anymore:
And I can give you nothing! God knows, I’ve done my damnedest and nothing’s changed. Do you hear that? Nothing’s changed! Cross the line if you’re so hungry, but don’t, for Christ’s sake, come begging food from me!
Now Walsh is just like the rest of the men, careless and heartless. He has hardly no
feelings towards Sitting Bull and the Sioux and he is trying to send Sitting Bull and the
Sioux to the United States, thinking that they’re going to get food and shelter.
Sitting Bull, the head of the Sioux nation, and the Sioux are not blind to see what’s
really going on. They know the Canadian government is prejudice against them and that
they don’t want them on their land or in their country. They know the government is lying
to them so they can go to the United States to be in an even worse situation then they are
in, in Canada. Sitting Bull and the Sioux are being betrayed by their own government.
Sitting Bull says that to Walsh:
When I was a boy, the Sioux owned the world. The sun rose and set on our land. We sent 10,000 men to battle. Where are those warriors now? Who seen them? Where are our lands? Who owns them? Tell me…what law have I broken? Is it wrong for me to love my own? Is it wicked of me because my skin is red? Because I am a Sioux, because I was born where my fathers lived, because I would die for my people and my country? ….This white man would forgive me….and while he speaks to me of forgiveness, what do his people say in secret? ‘Seize their guns and horses! Drive them