Walsh By Pollock “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 back across the line! The more we kill this year, the less we have to kill next year.'” Sitting Bull’s contribution to this theme is that he lets Walsh know that he knows what they’re thinking. He lets him know that even though Walsh seems to care for the Sioux, the others are planning something else. Sitting Bull seems to be calm about it, but also disappointed at Walsh for not keeping his responsibility for the Sioux.
Sitting Bull knows that Walsh is with the other men when Walsh says: “You know, if you refuse this offer, they’ll be nothing for you here. My government says they won’t feed you or give you reservations.” Walsh still feels sympathy for Sitting Bull and the Sioux, but on the other side he has all these men giving him orders and telling him to follow the plan to send Sitting Bull and the Sioux to the Un0ited States. Sitting Bull was Walsh’s only hope to win his struggle, Sitting Bull was the only one who could have made Walsh keep his word and not get caught in the trap. There was too much pressure from the other men that Walsh couldn’t handle it. It was one against all, Walsh was not strong enough and Sitting Bull had no one else to turn to. General Terry, a general from the U.S.
Army, has come to Canada to speak to Walsh about his plan to send Sitting Bull and the Sioux to the United States. Terry speaks to Sitting Bull telling him that there is reservations and food there and that they are welcome, and that nobody is going to be hurt. Terry is also a white man who also wants Sitting Bull dead and doesn’t want the Sioux nation in his country either. He is a contributor to theme because he is also prejudice against the Sioux just like the rest of the force, the one who gives Walsh orders to send Sitting Bull and the Sioux to the United States. Terry is a key factor to Walsh’s failure in keeping his responsibility and morals.
He made Walsh force himself to make the decision to follow the demands of the government. Terry’s influence on Walsh occurs when he is telling him how he feels towards the Sioux: “Heavy responsibility on you and me, of course. And what’s imperative…safety, progress…is the elimination of the savage.” General Terry’s status is much higher than Walsh’s. After hearing that from Terry he feels the obligation to take orders and can’t hold on to his own beliefs, and fails. Walsh has betrayed both Sitting Bull and himself.
Despite just playing himself, Walsh is nevertheless portrayed as a man who has had to assume many roles to survive. Walsh has experienced, racism, cruelty, betrayal, and death. He has dealt with so much inner and outer turbulence that he could now continue his fight for moral survival.