Posts Tagged ‘Indigenous Peoples’

Happy [Colombus][Indigenous Peoples] Day!

October 9, 2022

Scott Alexander Siskind  posted an imaginary conversation on his blog between Adraste, who celebrates Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and Beroe, who celebrates Columbus Day.  Here are some highlights.

Adraste: …okay, surely we can both sketch out the form of the argument we’re about to have.  Genocide, political correctness, moral progress, trying to destroy cherished American traditions, etc, etc.  Would you like to just pretend we hit all of the usual beats, rather than actually doing it?

Beroe: Does “Columbus Day was originally intended as a woke holiday celebrating marginalized groups.  President Benjamin Harrison established it in 1892 after an anti-Italian pogrom in order to highlight the positive role of Italians in American history” count as one of the usual beats by this point?

Adraste: I would have to say that it does.

Beroe: What about “Indigenous People’s Day is offensive because indigenous peoples were frequently involved in slavery and genocide”?

Adraste: I’m not sure I’ve heard that particular argument before.

Beroe: But surely you can sketch it out.  Many indigenous peoples practiced forms of hereditary slavery, usually of war captives from other tribes.  Some of them tortured slaves pretty atrociously; others ceremonially killed them as a spectacular show of wealth.  There’s genetic and archaeological evidence of entire lost native tribes, most likely massacred by more warlike ones long before European contact.  Some historians think that the Aztecs may have ritually murdered between 0.1% and 1% of their empire’s population every year, although as always other historians disagree.  I refuse to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day, because I think we need to question holidays dedicated to mass murderers even when they’re “traditional” or “help connect people to their history”.

[snip]

Adraste: Maybe?  I’m not sure I think about it in quite those terms.  To me it just feels like your objection is an annoying motivated fake argument that you’re coming up with to mock Indigenous People’s Day because you don’t want to celebrate it, rather than genuine concern that it’s offensive to the descendants of the Aztecs’ victims.  Or are you really worried that if we normalize the Aztecs’ misdeeds, then the youth might start sacrificing people with obsidian daggers on top of giant pyramids?

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U.S. history from the viewpoint of the Indians

October 21, 2019

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s disturbing An Indigenous People’s History of the United States is, in the author’s words, the investigation of a crime scene.

She told a story of a nation that broke treaty after treaty in order to engage in unprovoked military aggression, ethnic cleansing and genocide in order to gain living space.

Settler militias and government troops burned crops, demolished homes, and paid bounties for the scalps of Indian men, women, and children. The buffalo were deliberately destroyed to deny sustenance to the Plains Indians

British General Jeffrey Amherst practiced germ warfare against the Pontiacs in colonial times.  US army personnel skinned Indian victims to make bridles for their horses.  The buffalo were deliberately destroyed in order to deny sustenance for the Plains Indians.

General William T. Sherman, who headed the War Department under the Grant administration, famously said that the only good Indians he ever saw were dead.

I see an obvious analogy.

What happened to the Indians was not happenstance, Dunbar-Ortiz wrote.  It was a result of both government policy and the core values not only of American culture, but of European civilization as a whole.

These policies and values shaped U.S. military tradition and its way of waging war today, she wrote.  U.S. troops still call occupied territories “indian county.”

I kind-of, sort-of, in-a-way vaguely knew much of the contents of the book, but it never fully registered on me until I read it.  Having all these facts concentrated into one 236-page indictment has an impact I can’t forget.

∞∞∞

When Columbus sailed in 1492, there was a flourishing native American civilization.  Dunbar-Ortiz said it was wiped out not only by the unplanned spread of European diseases, but also as deliberate policy.  European and native American civilizations were incompatible.

Europeans believed in the “doctrine of discovery,” which is that Christians have the right to claim territory they discover for their own, regardless of the non-Christian inhabitants.  This is still part of U.S. law, she noted.

The Puritan settlers of New England were Calvinists, like the Boers in South Africa.  They believed that they, like the ancient Israelites in the Old Testament, had made a covenant with God that entitled them to the land they settled and that the existing inhabitants were to be killed, subjugated or driven out, like the Canaanites.

In the South, the economy was based on plantation agriculture worked by forced labor, which poor whites couldn’t compete with.  They became frontiersmen instead.

The settlers’ goal was to own land individually, to exploit or sell as they saw fit.  The Indian nations could never accept this.   The varied Indian cultures all believed that land was a common inheritance that could not be alienated.

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An interview with Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

October 21, 2019

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz is the author of An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, published in 2014.  She gave an interview about the book to the Real News Network.

In the first part of the interview, she told of her childhood as a poor sharecropper’s daughter in Oklahoma and how she became a scholar and Indian rights’ activist.

In the second part, she talked about the colonial origins and foundational myths of the United States and Andrew Jackson, the great Indian fighter.

In the third part, she talked about how James Fenimore Cooper, Walt Whitman, Abraham Lincoln and other writers and statesmen created the ground for ethnic cleansing of the Indians.