Native American genocides

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A mass grave after the Wounded Knee Massacre.
The white man's burden
Icon imperialism.svg
The empires strike back
Veni, vidi, vici
Till I came here, I had no idea of the fixed determination which there is in the heart of every American to extirpate the Indians and appropriate their territory.
— Henry Goulburn, one of the British negotiators for the Treaty of Ghent.[1]
When dealing with savage men, as with savage beasts, no question of national honor can arise.
—Francis A. Walker, US Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1871.[2]
The obsessive white framing of Native Americans as savages legitimates oppression and moral erasure of indigenous communities long seen as a threat to Christian religion and national/international legitimacy of colonizing societies. From the beginning, Native Americans were framed as savage threats, often with demonic origins, stalking the "frontier" and innocent white communities—a gauntlet for invading Europeans to overcome in a God-given land while while ensuring that Europeans can be portrayed as victims of alleged savage violence. Meanwhile, white violence against them is framed as virtuous Christian self defense.
—Mackay and Feagin (2022).[3]

Genocides against Native Americans, or American Indian Genocide (Amerindian genocides) or American Indian Holocaust are terms used by specialists in Native American history, as well as Native American activists,[4] to bring attention to what they contend is the deliberate mass destruction of Native American populations following the European arrival in the Americas through war, massacre, forced assimilation, and violations of treaties. This is a subject which they allege has hitherto received very limited mention in history, partially because some of the deaths happened before European chroniclers arrived to record them.[4] Many acts which Native American activists view as genocide are sometimes brushed aside as wartime deaths by non-Natives.[4]

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,[5] with scholarly estimates of 2 million[6] to 18 million[7] for North America alone. An estimated 80% to 90% of this population died after the arrival of Europeans,[8] overwhelmingly from factors which deniers of genocide argue were beyond most human control — e.g., smallpox epidemics[9] — Europeans, especially the Spanish conquistadors, also killed thousands deliberately.[10][11][12]

Even today, Native Americans are still being displaced by environmental destruction,[13] climate change,[14] and corporations.[15] In a sense, Native American genocides are still going on today, with the effects of the past ones still being felt by indigenous people all over the Americas.

Early Iberian conquests[edit]

Depiction of initial treatment of the natives by the Spanish.

Spain and the Encomienda[edit]

With what right, and with what justice do you keep these poor Indians in such cruel and horrible servitude? By what authority have you made such detestable wars against these people who lived peacefully and gently on their own lands? Are these not men?
—Antonio Montesinos, friar of the Dominican Order, 1511.[16]
They tell us, these tyrants, that they adore a God of peace and equality, and yet they usurp our land and make us their slaves. They speak to us of an immortal soul and of their eternal rewards and punishments, and yet they rob our belongings, seduce our women, violate our daughters.
—Spanish missionary Bartolomé de las Casas, quoting a Taino chief.[17]

During and after the initial Spanish conquest of Mesoamerica and South America, somewhere around eight million indigenous people died due to both disease and deliberate extermination.[18] Horrific atrocities began right after Christopher Columbus arrived in the Caribbean on his first voyage. The crimes of the initial colonists under Columbus were myriad. In their insane and idiotic quest for gold, Columbus and his men enslaved thousands of indigenous people, brutalizing and mutilating any who refused to comply.[19] The situation was so bad that about 50,000 Taíno natives chose to commit suicide rather than live under Spanish rule.

Encomiendero beats the shit out of a native laborer.

This wasn't just a case of "it was just how things worked in those times." Many Spaniards knew full well that what colonial authorities were doing was fucked-up. Bartolomé de las Casas is famous now as a Dominican friar who repeatedly petitioned the Spanish Crown to maybe stop treating the natives like disposable garbage. His works are the source of much of what modern historians now know about the treatment of natives in the Americas.[20] Columbus' misrule and cruelty got so bad that the Spanish Crown actually sent agents to the Americas to arrest and imprison him, although the charges were later dropped.[21]

It's commonly known that the native population of Hispaniola plummeted rapidly during this period to the point where they had been effectively exterminated within 25 years of Columbus' first arrival.[22] Many would chalk that up to disease as the Europeans infamously brought a great plague of smallpox to the Americas, against which the natives had no immunity. However, more analysis of primary sources has revealed that the truth is not so simple. In reality, the smallpox epidemic didn't arrive until quite some time after the Spanish began colonization, and the natives could have quite possibly recovered (like the Europeans did after the Black Death) were it not for the constant slavery and harsh conditions.[23] Much of the problem was due to the fact that the Spanish forced the Taíno to stop growing their crops and, instead, pointlessly dig for gold, creating a situation in which the Taíno either starved to death or became weak and succumbed to disease, whichever came first.[24]

So that was about three million dead.[24]

Elsewhere, the Spanish later reformed their approach to native populations by adopting the encomienda labor system. Under this system, the Spanish Crown could award a monopoly on the labor of particular groups of indigenous peoples to a grant holder, called an encomiendo or encomiendero, who would then pass that title on to his descendants.[25] It was basically slavery but under a different legal framework. The natives weren't technically owned by their Spanish masters, but they still had to follow his orders and they still suffered abuses. The Spanish colonists then forced the natives to grow cash crops instead of food and perform heavy labor.[26]

1519 map of Brazil, showing native slaves harvesting wood.

The encomienda system actually ended up being even deadlier than traditional slavery because individual natives were disposable as the system allowed Spanish masters to replace dead Natives for free.[27] Mexico saw the least damage from this forced labor, but places further south saw entire populations displaced and gradually destroyed.[25] Historian David Stannard described the system as being explicitly genocidal in that it resulted in millions upon millions of deaths and caused the extermination of myriad populations and cultures.[28]

Genocides in Brazil[edit]

Shortly after Spain rolled into the Americas, Portugal decided to slice itself a piece of the pie and take over what would become Brazil starting in 1500. Naturally, this was bad news for the Brazilians. The Portuguese implemented a similar pattern of violence and exploitation and exacerbation of the resulting smallpox pandemic. While the Spanish focused on growing sugarcane in plantations, the Portuguese primarily used their native slaves to cut down trees for tropical hardwoods.[29] Due to horrific treatment, native slaves tended to die in droves. Not surprising. To get more slaves, the Portuguese colonists resorted to a truly disgusting strategy. Brazil's indigenous population generally welcomed Jesuits into their villages because at least the Jesuits wouldn't try to massacre them.[29] Colonists would organize raiding parties, disguise themselves as Jesuit missionaries, and then attack and kidnap as many natives as they could. As a result, many of Brazil's natives had no choice but to flee further and further into the dense rainforest for protection.

These forced relocations had a catastrophic effect on the indigenous cultures of Brazil, as their ancestral homelands were desecrated and their tribal elders died.[30] When the Dutch showed up, the natives got sucked into the resulting colonial conflict, meaning even more deaths and murders.

It's estimated that around ten million people lived in the coastal areas of Brazil during the beginning of colonialism, and that number decreased by around 90% by the 1600s.[31]

British and French colonization[edit]

Kalinago family.

Kalinago Genocides[edit]

Although the British and French were generally hostile to each other due to colonial rivalries, they occasionally teamed up to murder indigenous peoples together. While the earlier exterminations of indigenous peoples may be chalked up to incompetence and uncaring, these massacres were explicitly meant to remove native populations from desirable lands. The Kalinago, also known as the Island Caribs, were native to the smaller Caribbean islands and became falsely demonized by European colonists as "cannibals".[32] These claims were then used to justify forced removal and murder of these people as they were unfortunate enough to live on prime sugarcane plantation territory.

Festivities kicked off in 1626, when English and French colonists on St. Kitts invited Kalinago warriors to a feast, deliberately got them drunk on alcohol, and then took the opportunity to massacre about 4,000 people.[33] The survivors were forcibly removed to the island of Dominica to serve as slaves.[34]

In 1674, the British and French did it again, this time on the island of Dominica. The Kalinago here had tried to resist colonization, and they were met with a face-full of massacres starting in 1635.[35] The slaughter and butchery escalated into a complete genocide by 1674 with most of the Kalinago population being murdered.

Pequot War and massacres[edit]

During the 1630s, conflict over land and the fur trade between the Pequot natives and several English colonies in what would become the United States escalated into full-scale war.[36] For the first eight months of the war, the Pequot decisively held the upper hand despite their inferior technology, as their tactical knowledge was vastly superior to the English.[37] The English colonists turned the tide of the war in 1637, though, by massacring an entire settlement of Pequot noncombatants and burning it to the ground.[38]

After the massacre and the subsequent military successes caused by it, English strategy in the war became overtly genocidal. Connecticut and Massachusetts colonies both started offering high bounties for severed heads of Pequot natives.[39] With another round of massacres, forced removals, and sales into slavery, the colonists decided that they had succeeded in eliminating the Pequot as a tribe.[40] Luckily, though their language long since died out (only a few scattered words are known today), some of the tribe still remained and persisted in a small area of southeastern Connecticut, and they managed to reestablish themselves as a recognized tribe in 1975; they currently make a shitload of money off casino revenue.[41]

King Philip's War and massacres in New England[edit]

The death of King Philip marks the last Native resistance in New England.

In the years leading to 1675, various Native American tribes banded together in a defensive agreement against the New England colonists; the resulting war between the two factions was the bloodiest in American history on a per-capita basis.[42] Once again vastly outnumbered by their native foes, the colonists suffered attacks against more than half of their settlements and lost about 10% of their adult population in conflict.[43] As the English colonists did before when losing a war against the natives, they decided to change their strategy to one of outright extermination.

The colonists first attacked the powerful Narragansett tribe without declaration or warning, fearing that they might also join the war against the white colonists. The attack devastated the Narragansett, as the colonists massacred almost all inhabitants in their main settlement.[44] The massacre and sale of the survivors into slavery all but destroyed the Narragansett nation, and its culture only survived through intermarriage of women with other tribes, some colonists, and some African-Americans.[45]

The other native tribes also found themselves on the receiving end of various mass murders, eventually resulting in the near-complete destruction of various tribes like Wampanoags and Nipmucks and the expulsion of the few survivors from New England.[46]

Ottawa massacres[edit]

During the French and Indian War, the colonists were even swifter to adopt the tactic of total destruction. In 1755, Massachusetts governor William Shirley offered a bounty of £40 for a male Native scalp, and £20 for scalps of females or of children under 12 years old.[47] Pennsylvania governor Robert Morris wasn't too far behind, as in 1756 he offered "130 Pieces of Eight, for the Scalp of Every Male Indian Enemy, above the Age of Twelve Years," and "50 Pieces of Eight for the Scalp of Every Indian Woman, produced as evidence of their being killed."

Conestoga Massacre[edit]

I saw... twenty-five to thirty men, well mounted on horses, and with rifles, tomahawks, and scalping knives, equipped for murder. I ran into the prison yard, and there, O what a horrid sight presented itself to my view!- Near the back door of the prison, lay an old Indian and his women, particularly well known and esteemed by the people of the town, on account of his placid and friendly conduct. His name was Will Sock; across him and his Native women lay two children, of about the age of three years, whose heads were split with the tomahawk, and their scalps all taken off... Along the west side of the wall, lay a stout Indian, whom I particularly noticed to have been shot in the breast, his legs were chopped with the tomahawk, his hands cut off, and finally a rifle ball discharged in his mouth; so that his head was blown to atoms, and the brains were splashed against, and yet hanging to the wall, for three or four feet around. This man's hands and feet had also been chopped off with a tomahawk. In this manner lay the whole of them, men, women and children, spread about the prison yard: shot-scalped-hacked-and cut to pieces.
William Henry,Wikipedia witness to the massacre

On two separate occasions in December of 1763, a group of vigilantes known as the Paxton BoysWikipedia raided Conestoga Indian Town in eastern Pennsylvania and later a warehouse that was constructed in Lancaster to protect the last remaining Conestoga.[48] There, they hacked Conestogas to death or shot them at point blank range and had them all scalped. These events resulted in the deaths of the last Conestoga people. Prior to the massacre, the Conestoga, also known as the Susquehannock, lived completely peacefully with the settlers, with many converting to Christianity and living an agricultural lifestyle. This massacre was so bad that it disgusted many people at the time, including John Penn, the then-governor of Pennsylvania, who offered a $600 reward for the capture of the Paxton Boys[note 1] but since many of the people who lived nearby sympathized with the Paxton Boys, they were never brought to justice.


Yaqui prisoners under guard, 1910.

Yaquis Wars and genocide[edit]

Starting around 1533, the Yaquis Tribes violently resisted first Spanish and then Mexican rule. The resulting conflict between the Mexican government and the Yaquis went on for centuries, and the Mexican government impatiently stepped up its brutality in order to end the fighting.

President Porfirio Diaz's reign in the early twentieth century ushered in one of the worst chapters of the war, as he explicitly wanted to force the Yaquis out of the Sonora region in order to lease mining rights to the United States.[49] The Diaz regime crushed the Yaquis natives militarily and then forced the dispossessed into rudimentary concentration camps; many were used as forced laborers on harsh plantations despite the fact that Mexico had theoretically abolished slavery.[49] As a result of massacre, slavery, and starvation, the Yaquis population declined sharply as tens of thousands died over the course of decades.[50]

In 2021, Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador officially apologized on behalf of the Mexican government concerning its atrocities against the Yaquis.[51]


Christian study time in a Canadian school for Indians, 1945.

Beothuk extinction[edit]

The English colonists in Canada had long been contrasted with the French colonists through their heightened desire to aggressively expand their territory into native-owned land.[52] The Beothuk natives of Newfoundland, for instance, were gradually forced away from the coastline and their fisheries and hunting grounds, and those who didn't starve to death were hunted down.[53] Beothuk women regularly faced kidnapping and murder at the hands of white colonists.[54]

The Beothuk don't exist anymore, sadly, as the last member of that culture died in 1829.[55]

Forced assimilation and sterilization[edit]

The modern concept of cultural genocide is also easily and distressingly applicable to Canada's treatment of its native populations.[56] Cultural genocide is not murder; it is, instead, a concerted effort to force a population to abandon its cultural heritage and adopt the ways of the ruling class. That was the explicit purpose of Canada's establishment of a special school system for native children. From 1840 to 1996, more than 150,000 First Nations, Metis, and Inuit children were taken from their families and placed in these schools in order to "kill the Indian in the child".[57] During that time, about 6,000 students died due to poor treatment and conditions, and countless others had to endure rape and torture.[57]

Several provinces in Canada escalated things by instituting a forced sterilization program in the 1930s, under which native women could be declared mentally incompetent and forced to undergo a procedure rendering them unable to have children.[58] This was explicitly done in the name of eugenics, and British Columbia even put the program under the control of a "Board of Eugenics".[59]

Highway of Tears[edit]

A little bit less a direct form of extermination, Western Canada has something known as the Highway of TearsWikipedia. Due to systemic poverty and its rural surroundings, numerous indigenous women are raped and murdered, with their cases unsolved.[60] Literally thousands of native women have simply disappeared.[61]

United States[edit]

It still is common practice for [the descendants of colonizers] to blame disease alone for the decimation of Native populations, thus exonerating themselves [and lineage] of any moral blame. However, such deaths were seen, by the Puritans particularly, as the Lord having "cleared our title to what we possess."
—Gregory Smithers, The Oxford Handbook of Genocide Studies.[62]

California genocide[edit]

The state of California was founded on a near-explicit genocide, one of the best examples of Native American genocide available. In a number of massacres perpetrated by both settlers and the US Army, an unknown number of Native Americans (most prominently Yuki and Pomo) were killed or enslaved. Estimated range between 16,000 and 100,000 slain and 25,000 enslaved. Most of these massacres involved between 60 and 150 people, often majority women and children, although some involved as many as 300 people, like the Old Shasta massacre in which colonial miners burned down a Wintu tribal meeting house, immolating those inside. The influx of colonial fortune-hunters during the California Gold Rush furthered spurred violence.

The governor of California, Gavin Newsom, stated in 2019 that what happened was "a genocide ... No other way to describe it."[63]

Trail of Tears[edit]

Map of US Indian removal.

Native Americans had a...complex relationship with the United States. In one view, they were occupying land that Americans wanted for themselves. In another view, a number of tribes had been raiding and robbing settlements (and each other) and were a threat to the US. In a third view, the natives were the physical embodiment of man in touch with nature, living an idealistic lifestyle of fishing and hunting (and hygiene), and were a threat as a number of indentured servants kept going native. In yet another view, the natives were welcoming to the immigrant Pilgrims and were relatively eager to have trade relations for things like iron tools, dyes, various animals, religion, intermarriage, etc.

By the 19th century, the various native tribes of Georgia, Alabama, and Florida were mostly integrated with the US. They intermarried with white people, spoke English, and had a plantation economy (including slavery). At the same time, they were states within a state, having quasi-independence and their own independent governments.

The "Indian Removal Act" of 1830 attempted to move roughly 50,000 Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and others from their homes 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.[64] 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.[65] Ironically, missionaries traveled with the Natives of their own accord, to attempt to provide better provisions to the people. A few managed to stay behind, living in the remote areas of wilderness or among relatives in the various towns.

Sand Creek Massacre[edit]

Depiction of the Sand Creek Massacre by a Native witness.
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 Native Americans from various "western" tribes.[66] Only 24 soldiers were killed, mostly from friendly fire. 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 displaying them in Denver.[67] Not one soldier was prosecuted, despite a commission that investigated the matter harshly condemning the massacre. Two company commanders refused to join in and kept their soldiers out of it.

Wounded Knee Massacre[edit]

Lakota Chief Spotted Elk, after Wounded Knee.

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 the Sioux's chiefs - most notoriously Sitting Bull, who was shot to death when he fought back.[68]

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. One-hundred-fifty Sioux were killed in all. This massacre was committed by the Seventh US Cavalry, a unit formerly under command of General George A. Custer who was killed in battle against the Sioux 14 years earlier along with all of his men.

Gnadenhutten Massacre[edit]

The colonial militia slaughtered 96 Lenape Native Americans whose only crime was being the wrong skin color on March 8, 1782.[69] Despite being singled out as a neutral Native American tribe by Colonel Broadhead, they were still rounded up and placed into two killing homes by American miltiamen, who scalped men, women, and children. When confronted by their killers and told they would die, the Christian Lenape prayed to Jesus before being killed by their fellow Christians.

Assimilation policies[edit]

Our blinding prejudices… have been fostered as necessary to justify the reckless and unsparing hand with which we have smitten [Native Americans] in their habitations and expelled them from their country.
—William Gilmore Simms[70]
A great general has said that the only good Indian is a dead one, and that high sanction of his destruction has been an enormous factor in promoting Indian massacres. In a sense, I agree with the sentiment, but only in this: that all the Indian there is in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him, and save the man.
—Capt. Richard H. Pratt on educating Native Americans.[71]

The U.S. government for many years followed a policy of assimilation, attempting to wipe out the Natives 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.[72][73] Oddly enough, one of the people who pushed hardest for many of these policies was Charles CurtisWikipedia, who was himself of 3/8ths Kaw descent; the Kaw were one of many tribes who lost recognition as a direct result of his policies (only getting it back decades later), though he personally benefitted from the same. That said, he did genuinely believe and argue on behalf of assimilation, citing his own experience of being educated off tribal lands; far from being self-hating Curtis was very proud of his heritage and was instrumental in getting the Native American Citizenship Act of 1924 through, so his record was a bit all over the place on this issue.

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

Latin America (post-colonial)[edit]

Salsipuedes massacre[edit]

In 1831, Uruguayan president Fructuoso Rivera orchestrated a genocide against the indigenous Charrúa people residing in Salsipuedes creek. The remaining survivors were later sold into slavery at Montevideo and were transported to a human zoo in Paris, leading to their cultural extinction.[74][75]

Conquest of the Desert[edit]

The southernmost reaches of South America, known as Patagonia,Wikipedia were historically only lightly colonized due to the harshness of its terrain, and many Native Americans who had been displaced by earlier colonialism had moved there in addition to the groups that had already lived there. However, by the mid-19th century, Chile and Argentina had begun expanding into the region. Chile had friendly relations with the Mapuche,Wikipedia who had been previously displaced by Argentine settlers. This alarmed Argentina, as they feared that the Mapuche, Tehuelche and other indigenous groups would side with Chile if the tensions over the Patagonia led to war. Julio Argentino RocaWikipedia decided to subdue the Native populations before they could pose a problem to Argentina, and in 1878 started the "Conquest of the Desert". Ultimately, up to half of the Patagonia's indigenous population was killed in the campaign, thousands more were captured, and tens of thousands were displaced. Many natives were put into concentration camps and tortured. Ultimately, to this day the conquest of the Patagonia is frequently portrayed as a "civilizing mission" and something Argentina had to do in the name of "progress" in Argentine textbooks (sound familiar?)[76]

Selk'nam genocide[edit]

During the Tierra del Fuego gold rush, the Selk'nam ethnic group began facing systematic persecution from farmers and prospectors. In an effort to protect the Selk'nam, the Argentine and Chilean governments established Salesian missions on Dawson Island to "civilize" the natives, but were wiped out by smallpox epidemics.[77] The Yaghan and Haush peoples also faced cultural destruction as well.

Napalpí massacre[edit]

In 1924, a rural village of Toba and Mocoví people in Argentina's Chaco province were massacred by police officers and ranchers before they were mutilated and buried in a mass grave.[78]

La Matanza reprisal[edit]

In 1932, in response to a communist revolt led by Pipil peasants, the Salvadorian dictatorship under Maximiliano Hernández Martínez declared martial law, leading to a series of mass killings against the rebels in the name of "pacification" and the subsequent cultural destruction of the Pipils.

Guatemalan genocide[edit]

Guatemala has historically been a poor country that has been largely controlled by foreign corporations. Things seemed like they might change after the Guatemalan RevolutionWikipedia overthrew the corrupt dictator Jorge Ubico,Wikipedia but in 1954 a U.S.-backed coup overthrew the democratically elected Jacobo ÁrbenzWikipedia and installed a repressive military junta that the U.S. would support throughout the Cold War in the name of anti-communism. Ultimately, this would lead to decades of civil war in Guatemala. Some of the junta's biggest critics were the indigenous Maya, who protested the regime's suppression of their culture. In 1980, the junta began "Operation Sophia", an attempt to counteract guerilla warfare by targeting civilian areas where they had support. The Guatemalan army burned down 626 villages, destroyed crops and livestocks, ruined water supplies, destroyed cultural sites, and killed over 200,000 people, many of whom were buried in unmarked graves, while over 1.5 million were displaced.[79]

Aché genocide[edit]

The Aché are an indigenous group in eastern Paraguay. Starting in the 1950s, ranchers and other colonizers were increasingly encroaching on Aché land. Many of these settlers were deemed "hunters" as they staged raids on Ache land, killed men, and sold the children and women into slavery, with many being forced into prostitution. The government under Alfredo Stroessner also severely repressed the Aché and forced them into concentration camps where they were further exploited and made to live under miserable conditions.[80] Ultimately, the Aché population decreased by over 90% as a result of the genocide, and victims are still seeking justice today.[81]

Plan Verde[edit]

In the name of "reducing poverty", the Peruvian government under Alberto Fujimori forcibly sterilized over 270,000 women and 22,000 men. The vast majority of them came from indigenous backgrounds. They were pressured to sign documents that many of them didn't fully understand due to having Quechua instead of Spanish as their preferred language, and even those who refused were forcibly sterilized anyway, with many being told they would be fined or go to jail if they refused. Forced sterilization is considered genocide per the UN definition. Like with the Aché genocide, many of the victims are still trying to seek justice today.[82]

Usage of the term "genocide"[edit]

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.'"[83] Others agreeing with this hypothesis include Russell Thornton, Arthur Grenke, Ralph Reed, and the University of Minnesota's Center for Holocaust and Genocide studies.[84] 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,[85] the poet Joy Harjo,[86] 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.[87]

As with most loaded language, there is strong resistance to using the term "American Indian Holocaust" in textbooks. Native American 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.


Moreover, the real decimation of Indian populations had nothing to do with massacres or military actions, but rather stemmed from infectious diseases that white settlers brought with them at the time they first arrived in the New World.
—Michael Medved, right-wing pundit, showing us denialism in the flesh.[88]

When discussing the indigenous population of the United States, wingnuts such as Stefan Molyneux and other racists that subscribe to white guilt accusations tend to deny or downplay (such as resorting to "both sides")[89] most of the deliberate atrocities wrought by the Europeans. They focus instead on the role of smallpox and other diseases[90] and argue that no more American Indians died than would occur in the course of warfare and other types of conflict.[91]

A particularly egregious method of denial occurs when denialists exaggerate atrocities committed by Native Americans against each other for the purpose of saying, "What we did wasn't so bad!"[92] This rhetoric, in addition to being used to legitimize the right of conquest of the settlers, ignores the scale of atrocities committed by both sides, as the Native Americans' oppressions against each other were established on an ethnic basis, while the settlers' oppression against the natives was established on a racial basis.

The Solutrean hypothesis has, in particular, grown infamous due to its use by white nationalists as means to dismiss notions of genocide against indigenous peoples by claiming that "Beringians" killed "the original white settlers".[citation needed]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. About $21,000 in today's money


  1. The Treaty of Ghent PBS.
  2. The Indians of the Americas by John Collier (1947) W. W. Norton & Co. p. 124
  3. Mackay, R. E., & Feagin, J. (2022). “Merciless Indian Savages”: Deconstructing Anti-Indigenous Framing. Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, 8(4), 518-533.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Russell Thornton (1987). American Indian Holocaust and Survival: A Population History Since 1492. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 49. ISBN 978-0-8061-2220-5. 
  5. 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.
  6. Ubelaker, Douglas R. (1976) "The sources and methodology for Mooney's estimates of North American Indian populations"
  7. 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.
  8. "La catastrophe démographique" (The Demographical Catastrophe"), L'Histoire n°322, July–August 2007, p. 17.
  9. Loewen, 2007
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  12. Columbus Day? True Legacy: Cruelty and Slavery HuffPost
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  14. Indigenous Tribes Facing Displacement in Alaska and Louisiana Say the U.S. Is Ignoring Climate Threats, Dalia Faheid, Inside Climate News 13 September 2021
  15. And The Rainforest Wept: Oil And The Exploitation Of Ecuador’s Indigenous Peoples, Jean-Philippe Stone, OWP 8 June 2022
  16. Caribbean genocide. Caribbean Beat.
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  22. Haiti. CIA World Factbook.
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  32. See the Wikipedia article on Island Caribs.
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  34. See the Wikipedia article on Kalinago Genocide of 1626.
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  36. See the Wikipedia article on Pequot War.
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  41. See the Wikipedia article on Pequots.
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  65. 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.
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  68. Sitting Bull.
  69. See the Wikipedia article on Gnadenhutten Massacre.
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