American Indian Holocaust

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"American Indian Holocaust" is a term used by American Indian activists[citation needed] to bring attention to what they contend is the deliberate mass destruction of American Indian populations following the European arrival in the Americas, a subject which they allege has hitherto received very limited mention in history, partially because most of the deaths happened before European chroniclers arrived to record them.

Estimates of the pre-Columbian population vary widely, though uncontroversial studies place the figure for North, Central and South America at a combined 50 million to 100 million,[1] with scholarly estimates of 2 million[2] to 18 million[3] for North America alone. An estimated 80% to 90% of this population died after the arrival of Europeans,[4] overwhelmingly from factors beyond most human control — e.g., smallpox epidemics[5] — Europeans, especially the Spanish conquistadors, also killed thousands deliberately.[citation needed]

Contents

[edit] Acts of genocide

The UN famously distinguishes between "genocide" and "acts of genocide",[more detail please] while never answering the question: "How many 'acts of genocide' make up a 'genocide'?" Perhaps the reader shall decide.

Among the individual acts of genocide perpetrated by the Europeans during their colonization of the Americas are:

[edit] Columbus's voyages

Christopher Columbus came to the New World for King (well, Queen), honor and God. His ships brought many priests to accomplish God's work. Both his own writings and those of Bartolomé de las Casas mention the thousands of murders done in the name of God, against a people who chose not to convert. Upon discovering the New World, Christopher Columbus:

...coaxed Queen Isabella to support his exploits in the Americas so that the queen "might eminently contribute to diffuse the light and truth of the Gospel" upon the Indians. On Nov 6, 1492, Columbus addressed the king and queen, as recorded in his log. Our intrepid captain opined "I am convinced... that if devout religious persons knew their language, they might be converted to Christ, and so hope in our Lord that your Highnesses will decide upon this course with much diligence." His purpose, Columbus proclaimed, was to "Christianize" the Indians.[6]

A conservative estimate by anthropologist Jack Wetheford suggests that in less than 10 years time, the population of the island of Hispaniola plunged from 500,000 to less than 100,000. Sickness was not reported by De Las Casas or Columbus himself to be the largest factor.

[edit] Trail of Tears

Indians were generally disliked in the United States,[citation needed] as they got in the way of American "progress" and manifest destiny. The "Indian Removal Act" of 1831 attempted to move roughly 50,000 Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw and others from their home to Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma). The U.S. government did not provide any means of transportation, forcing them to walk the 2,200 miles. One can reasonably argue that the U.S. government did fully expect many of them to die on the way — especially children and the elderly. The U.S. government recorded 4,000 deaths on just one of many re-location marches among the Cherokee alone; estimates of the total death toll range from as low as 5,000 to as high as 25,000.[7] Ironically, missionaries traveled with the Indians of their own accord, to attempt to provide better provisions to the people.

[edit] Sand Creek Massacre

"Damn any man who sympathizes with Indians... Kill and scalp all, big and little; nits make lice." - Col. John Chivington, Sand Creek massacre, 11-29-1864.

On November 29, 1864, 700 militia from Colorado and the surrounding territories surrounded a peaceful encampment of so-called "Peace Chiefs," predominantly from the Cheyenne and Arapahoe, who had been invited to end the "Indian Wars." Without warning or cause, they opened fire and slaughtered approximately 150 Indians from various "western" tribes. Colonel Chivington and his men cut fetuses out of the women, slaughtered infants by stepping on their heads with their boots, cut the genitals off men and women, and decorated their horses and wagons with scalps, genitalia, and other body parts, before parading through Denver.[citation needed]

[edit] Wounded Knee Massacre

As the U.S. government were herding Sioux onto reservations, a Paiute shaman among them named Wovoka came up with the syncretic "Ghost Dance" religion, mixing numerous indigenous beliefs and Christianity. Wovoka taught that the dance, along with loving each other, living in peace, working hard and refraining from stealing, fighting amongst each other or with the whites and traditional self-mutilation practices would hasten the reunion of the living and the deceased. This reunion would coincide with the sweeping away of the evil in the world and renewing the earth with love, faith and prosperity. Many Sioux though interpreted this sweeping away of evil and renewing the earth as meaning the cleansing of the white Americans from their lands. This interpretation spread rapidly among the Sioux, causing alarm with the U.S. authorities, who sought to quell the movement by arresting chiefs-most notoriously Sitting Bull, who was shot to death in the process of his arrest.

Sitting Bull's death caused a number of his tribesmen to flee the reservation. Later when journeying to another reservation they were intercepted by a regiment of cavalry, which attempted to disarm them. One deaf-mute man did not understand the order, so he failed to put down his rifle. It went off as soldiers took it from him, resulting in their comrades opening fire, believing they were under attack. 150 Sioux were killed in all. This massacre was committed by the Seventh US Cavalry, a unit formerly under command of General George A. Custer, so revenge for his spectacular, lethal defeat in battle with the Sioux and their allies may have contributed to it.

[edit] Assimilation policies

The U.S. government for many years followed a policy of assimilation, attempting to wipe out the Indians as an ethnic group and integrate them into European-American culture. Practice of tribal religion was outlawed, and children were required to attend boarding schools, modeled on the "industrial schools" of Europe, in which they were forced to give up their old languages and customs.

In many Latin American countries, Indians have been virtually wiped out as a separate group through a process of assimilation known as mestizaje.

[edit] Promoters

David E. Stannard of the University of Hawaii is a proponent of this term, having written a book on the subject entitled American Holocaust: Conquest of the New World, in which he labels the actions of Europeans as a deliberate genocide comparable to the Holocaust. Holocaust expert David Cesarani said, "Stannard was angered by what he perceived as a double standard in the United States towards 'worthy' and 'unworthy' victims. While Americans readily acknowledge the Nazi crimes against the Jews, he wrote, they continued to 'turn their backs on the even more massive genocide that for four grisly centuries... was perpetrated against the "unworthy" natives of the Americas.'"[8] Others agreeing with this hypothesis include Russell Thornton, Arthur Grenke, Ralph Reed, and the University of Minnesota's Center for Holocaust and Genocide studies.[9] The Smithsonian presented a program on the "American Indian Genocide."

Politically, the charge has been taken up by activists in the American Indian Movement, including Russell Means, Leonard Peltier, Ward Churchill,[10] the poet Joy Harjo,[11] and Vine Deloria amongst others. The term "Holocaust" is specifically used to bring attention to the stark reality of the total decimation of the indigenous peoples after the "discovery" of the "New World" by Europeans.

As with most loaded language, there is strong resistance to using the term "American Indian Holocaust" in textbooks. American Indian activists contend that their history is rarely even addressed as a "genocide," since American historiography tends not to emphasize episodes such as slavery, and the outright slaughter of the indigenous Americans. These activists contend that they have the same right to say they were victims of genocide as the Jewish people of Europe.

[edit] Detractors

When discussing the indigenous population of the United States, conservatives[citation needed] tend to deny most of the deliberate atrocities wrought by the Europeans, focusing on the role of smallpox and other diseases, and pretending that no more American Indians died than could be avoided.[citation needed]

Such denial often goes hand-in-hand with a whitewashing of the realities of late 19th century reservation life as well as the present-day situation of the American Indians, who still live under the control of the Bureau of Indian Affairs with only limited self-government in many areas.[citation needed]

More moderate criticisms of the term would not go into denialism, but would simply question the application of the term "genocide" (deliberate and systematic destruction of an ethnic group) to the long and disorderly course of history in the Americas after 1492.[citation needed] Such criticisms might also suggest that any comparison with the Holocaust is at least in part a false analogy, since most of the deaths were not only unintentional and unavoidable, but unknown to Europeans prior to the 20th century.[citation needed]

[edit] Footnotes

  1. Alan Taylor (2002). American colonies; Volume 1 of The Penguin history of the United States, History of the United States Series. Penguin. p. 40. ISBN 9780142002100.
  2. Ubelaker, Douglas R. (1976) "The sources and methodology for Mooney's estimates of North American Indian populations"
  3. Thornton, Russell (1990). American Indian holocaust and survival: a population history since 1492. University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 26–32. ISBN 0-8061-2220-X.
  4. "La catastrophe démographique" (The Demographical Catastrophe"), L'Histoire n°322, July–August 2007, p. 17.
  5. Loewen, 2007
  6. Paulkovich, Michael (2012). No Meek Messiah (1st ed.). Spillix Publishing. pp. 114. ISBN 0988216116. 
  7. Grant Forman, Indian Removal Act (1989) details some of the highest numbers in the range, as he looks at population comparisons between recorded populations from the southeastern United States, to the official rolls of the Oklahoma Reservations, noting the huge disparity in numbers.
  8. American holocaust: the conquest of the New World By David E. Stannard pg 256
  9. http://chgs.umn.edu/webBib/
  10. Ward Churchill, A Little Matter of Genocide: Holocaust and Denial in the Americas, 1998, City Lights Publishers
  11. She Had Some Horses: ISBN 1560251190
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