Monday, March 30, 2015

Columbus, greed, slavery, and genocide: what really happened to the American Indians7

Several decades later, in 1829, Andrew Jackson was elected president, although few now remember he had sacked Indian villages of “savage dogs”, made bridle reins of their flayed skin, sent souvenirs of corpses to the ladies of Tennessee, and claimed, “I have on all occasions preserved the scalps of my killed”.
President Andrew Jackson scalped his Indian victims
At the same time as the state-orchestrated wars of annihilation. theIndian Removal Act of 1830 required the resettlement of entire populations of Indians to new territories west of the Mississippi. When the Indians of Georgia won a ruling from Chief Justice John Marshall saying, effectively, they could stay, President Jackson ignored the Supreme Court and had the Indians sent on a death march anyway — the Trail of Tears. One former Civil War soldier said he had seen a great deal of brutality in his life, but nothing on the scale of the cruelty of the Indian death marches. Later forced relocations of Indians, like the Navajo Long Walk and the Pomo Death March in California, followed the same pattern.
The language of extermination coming from the top was also mirrored at state level. For example, Governor Peter Burnett of California stated in 1851 that war would:
… continue to be waged between the races until the Indian becomes extinct.
And the following year his successor, Governor John McDougal, reiterated the sentiment, urging that the whites’ war against the Indians:
… must of necessity be one of extermination to many of the tribes.
All the while, elements within the press supported the incitement to mass murder. L Frank Baum (most famous as the author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz) was editor of the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer in South Dakota. In it, he wrote:
The Whites, by law of conquest, by justice of civilization, are masters of the American continent, and the best safety of the frontier settlements will be secured by the total annihilation of the few remaining Indians. Why not annihilation? Their glory has fled, their spirit broken, their manhood effaced; better that they die than live the miserable wretches that they are. (20 December 1890)
He returned to the same theme the following week:
The Pioneer has before declared that our only safety depends upon the total extirmination [sic] of the Indians. Having wronged them for centuries we had better, in order to protect our civilization, follow it up by one more wrong and wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the earth. (29 December 1890)
These seem to have been fairly standard and established views among sections of the population. A generation earlier, in 1864, the Rev. William Crawford had written of the prevailing opinion in Colorado:
There is but one sentiment in regard to the final disposition which shall be made of the Indians: ‘Let them be exterminated — men, women, and children together’.
And, sure enough, one of the worst atrocities of the 1800s soon followed — the  infamous November 1864 massacre at Sand Creek, familiar to anyone who has seen the 1970 film Soldier Bluegroundbreaking for its graphic depictions of the slaughter.

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