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The American Indian Genocide
The American Indian Genocide
Textbooks and movies are still hiding the genocide of Native American Indian cultures, which began five centuries ago. There were many friendly and close relationships between early immigrant settlers and native peoples, but these were not the main current in their relations. U.S. history is destroyed by acts of genocide against native people, made worse by the deadly impact of new diseases spread by contact between new settlers and native Americans. Many aggressive attempts were made to reform the Indian peoples according to European cultural models, whether under threat of death or, later, through separation to government boarding schools.
Government policies guided the destruction and control of native American cultures, concluding in the problematic status of Indian people today. Despite this historical situation, there has been only the most begrudging admission of any public responsibility for the damage done to native American cultures. Little public support has gone to efforts to preserve, retrieve and build upon native cultural traditions. Where affirmative steps are called for, none has been taken. Chief among the U.S. government's initiatives toward native peoples has been the reservation -- remarkably like the former South African "homelands." The current laissez-faire federal policy pretends that Native American cultures are now free to enjoy an even chance in our society, to compete for resources with dominant cultural forms and traditions. The official alternative to the reservation has been pressure to assimilate into the mainstream culture.
Through much of the time that Native American peoples have endured this cultural combat, the idea of "the Indian" has been a powerful symbol within our national culture. We usually see Indian people portrayed as brutal and warmongering, worthy of punishment at the hands of white settlers and the U.S. government. Nevertheless, Indian influences on contemporary United States culture are extensive. In Hollywood films and western novels and "cowboy art," Indians have symbolized connectedness and sensitivity to nature (and the loss of the wilderness), highly developed skills, and individual courage. The "new age" philosophies which emerged from the 1960's depend heavily on traditional Indian knowledge; within their frameworks, Native Americans symbolize balance, inner wisdom, ordeal and transcendent experience, and natural dignity. Recently, Native American activists have done much to revitalize their cultural traditions. Assimilationism has lost some of the attraction it had in the past. But history cannot be undone.
American Indians around the United States have been protesting against
Did you know that most of the Native Americans live in reservations, managed by a part of the US government called the Bureau of Indian Affairs. And on these reservations, the Native Americans canít grow their own food; there is not enough land. They canít grow maize corn and they canít have buffaloes for meat. So the Bureau of Indian Affairs gives them modern processed food, which is entirely foreign to their way of life. And the result Ė diabetes.
Some of the Native Americans live in villages and cities in the western states, and the unemployment rate there is the highest in our country. And these cities comprise the poorest counties in our country. And these cities are where there is another disease that debilitates the Native Americans Ė it is called alcoholism.
Since we donít see any of these Native Americans in our normal everyday lives, it is hard for us to realize that one time, some 200 years ago, they occupied all of the United States, and they had a rich culture, and we destroyed all that. Do you own a home, or condominium? You think you own the property that it sits on Ė but do you know that your property was stolen? Stolen from the Native Americans.
American Indians want a National Apology for what has done to them 200 years ago and is currently going on in a different way today.
American Natives still have to deal with the aftermath of cultural and ethnic genocide. Many of their ancestral languages and ways of life remain threatened. Political, cultural and economic autonomy is a work in progress.
Causes of the Native American Genocide
Diseases: cholera, smallpox, measles
Famine: caused by the destruction of wild buffalo populations
Massacres: wars from 1866 to 1891.
Major Native American Nations
Delawares Middle States and Virginia
Cheyennes Middle States and Virginia
Sauks Middle West
Foxes Middle West
Kickapoos Middle West
Black-Foot Middle West
Iroquois New-York, New England
Navajos Arizona, New Mexico and Utah
Apaches Arizona, New Mexico, Oaklahoma
Hopis New Mexico and Arizona
Pueblos New Mexico and Arizona
Native American life expectancy 46
Non-Native American life expectancy 70
Total Native American Population
1492 approx 3 000 000 to 10 000 000
1896 254 000
1940 333 000
1990 1 959 000
Largest American Native populations
Navajo 173 000
Cherokee 58 200
In the past, the main thrust of the Holocaust/Genocide Project's magazine, An End To Intolerance, has been the genocides that occurred in history and outside of the United States. Still, what we mustn't forget is that mass killing of Native Americans occurred in our own country. As a result, bigotry and racial discrimination still exist.
"In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue" . . . and made the first contact with the "Indians." For Native Americans, the world after 1492 would never be the same. This date marked the beginning of the long road of persecution and genocide of Native Americans, our indigenous people. Genocide was an important cause of the decline for many tribes.
By conservative estimates, the population of the United states prior to European contact was greater than 12 million. Four centuries later, the count was reduced by 95% to 237 thousand.
In 1493, when Columbus returned to the Hispaniola, he quickly implemented policies of slavery and mass extermination of the Taino population of the Caribbean. Within three years, five million were dead. Las Casas, the primary historian of the Columbian era, writes of many accounts of the horrors that the Spanish colonists inflicted upon the indigenous population: hanging them en mass, hacking their children into pieces to be used as dog feed, and other horrid cruelties. The works of Las Casas are often omitted from popular American history books and courses because Columbus is considered a hero by many, even today.
Mass killing did not cease, however, after Columbus departed. Expansion of the European colonies led to similar genocides. "Indian Removal" policy was put into action to clear the land for white settlers. Methods for the removal included slaughter of villages by the military and also biological warfare. High death rates resulted from forced marches to relocate the Indians.
The Removal Act of 1830 set into motion a series of events which led to the "Trail of Tears" in 1838, a forced march of the Cherokees, resulting in the destruction of most of the Cherokee population. The concentration of American Indians in small geographic areas, and the scattering of them from their homelands, caused increased death, primarily because of associated military actions, disease, starvation, extremely harsh conditions during the moves, and the resulting destruction of ways of life.
During American expansion into the western frontier, one primary effort to destroy the Indian way of life was the attempts of the U.S. government to make farmers and cattle ranchers of the Indians. In addition, one of the most substantial methods was the premeditated destructions of flora and fauna which the American Indians used for food and a variety of other purposes. We now also know that the Indians were intentionally exposed to smallpox by Europeans. The discovery of gold in California, early in 1848, prompted American migration and expansion into the west. The greed of Americans for money and land was rejuvenated with the Homestead Act of 1862. In California and Texas there was blatant genocide of Indians by non-Indians during certain historic periods. In California, the decrease from about a quarter of a million to less than 20,000 is primarily due to the cruelties and wholesale massacres perpetrated by the miners and early settlers. Indian education began with forts erected by Jesuits, in which indigenous youths were incarcerated, indoctrinated with non-indigenous Christian values, and forced into manual labor. These children were forcibly removed from their parents by soldiers and many times never saw their families until later in their adulthood. This was after their value systems and knowledge had been supplanted with colonial thinking. One of the foundations of the U.S. imperialist strategy was to replace traditional leadership of the various indigenous nations with indoctrinated "graduates" of white "schools," in order to expedite compliance with U.S. goals and expansion.
Probably one of the most ruinous acts to the Indians was the disappearance of the buffalo. For the Indians who lived on the Plains, life depended on the buffalo. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, there were
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