History is Written by the Victors

Paul Trottier

Normandale Community College

World Civilizations II

This phrase and truism is often credited to Winston Churchill, during a conversation with Joseph Stalin.  Although my research takes us back to a time earlier than World War II. This exhibit will demonstrate across several points that the US Government is and has gone about a systematic and planned destruction of the Native Americans. The history and facts used will be those written by the victor, and will only give further in sight to the continued and on-going attempt of thier complete destruction.

To set this story, I will focus on a snapshot of time during the 1800’s. During this time America was in the throes of industrialism and expansion, and a huge push for connection between the two coasts.  The golden spike of Utah was driven during near the middle of this timeline on May 10th, 1869.  During this growth and expansion, one major roadblock stood in the way. This roadblock was simple, and had one simple fix.  Smash over it, trample it and end it once and for all.

The first part of this Exhibit reviews the inherent belief that mistreatment of the native people is okay and accepted, and in fact is viewed as a God given right.  Over  500yrs ago a divine mandate by Pope Innocent, whereas Christians claimed the “right of conquest” over non-Christian people throughout the world.  This papal decree fueled the Age of Discovery, and effectively allowed might to make right by the European powers.  As they invaded the Americas, God was with them, and as such there were doing their righteous duty to remove the Native American savages.   This tragedy was supported and then continued as the U.S. Supreme Court in In 1823 called back to this “Doctrine of Discovery” and stated that Christian European Nations had assumed “ultimate dominion” over the lands of America.  In 1823 they built upon this papal decree, and our Supreme Court ruling effectively meant that the first peoples had lost “their rights to complete sovereignty as independent nations”.

As time moves forward, the victors continued to write the narrative.  The Supreme Courts reliance on the Holy Roman Catholic Church allowed a series of different approaches, and methods for the elimination of the Native Americans.   The story still stands as written by the victor: God accepts the alignment of church and state for the destruction of our first peoples.

Next as America grew, and expanded the noose around the Native Americans neck became tighter.  The 1787 Northwest Ordinance obliged the federal government to observe “The utmost good faith shall always be observed towards the Indians; their land and property shall never be taken without their consent; and, in their property, rights, and liberty, they shall never be invaded or disturbed” except “in just and lawful wars authorized by Congress.”  This map below shows the decrease of Indian Territory as additional states were added to the union.

indian-territory

Indian Territory map of 1834, 1854, 1876, 1889

This constriction of lands and space meant the American government found resistance from the people whose lands were being taken away.  The resistance was seen as a declaration of war against the United States, and the Army was charged with the Elimination of the Native American problem.  Between 1866 and 1891 official records show the Army was involved in over 1000 combat engagements.  The Army also adopted a policy of killing the support and life blood of the Native Americans.  Bison were massacred by the thousands, You can see this relationship by the almost linear ratio and use of Buffalo, Slaughter, Massacre.

https://books.google.com/ngrams/interactive_chart?content=savage%2Cbuffalo%2Cslaughter%2Cmassacre&year_start=1840&year_end=1910&corpus=17&smoothing=4&share=&direct_url=t1%3B%2Csavage%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2Cbuffalo%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2Cslaughter%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2Cmassacre%3B%2Cc0

Looking at this graph you also see the word savage, which is an important guide to the deformation of the Native Americans.   A major slur campaign was also underway to create a sense of fear and loathing toward the Native American.   Truth be told; records show that between 1840 and 1860 more than 400,000 pioneers crossed across the great plains.  During this time, less than 400 deaths were directly attributed to Native Americans.  That is less than one-tenth of one percent.   Yet, it was believe that these savages were a problem to saftey and security.

This narrative of oppression and forced occupation continues in the form of, the Removal Act of 1830, and the Dawes Act of 1887 as aimed at removing and eliminating Native Americans from their homes, land, and forced assimilation of culture.   One of the methods to help force assimilation was done through boarding schools where federal authorities forced Native American parents to send their children to off-reservation boarding schools.  These schools were designed to totally Americanize the culture’s youth.  Such as, forcing children to not speak their language, use their given (native) names, or practice any cultural rituals.  Physical punishment was a means to help ensure compliance to the rules.

Ignoring the Centuries before, and the hundred years since, here is a time-line focused on the above facts:

https://cdn.knightlab.com/libs/timeline3/latest/embed/index.html?source=1_HI6GmOB5xIG59lUeN6ZAiKNJi7VvK4cvjxm6MeBRoA&font=Default&lang=en&timenav_position=top&initial_zoom=.5&height=550

Now must consider what is in a name, and do actions by any other name not spell the same conclusion?  This method was first spelled out by Raphael Lemkin.  It is partly defined by the forcibly transferring of children to another group, and deliberately inflicting and calculating a groups physical destruction in part or in whole, as well as the intent to cause serious mental or bodily harm to a groups members.

If you apply these concepts and look at the narrative above, these deliberate and specific gains were meant to bring about the destruction of the Native American.  This methodology outlined above is the political manifestation of Genocide.  Today is not only perpetrated by the continued support of the “Doctrine of Discovery” but the on-going Statistical Genocide of our nations First People.


Bibliography:

“American Indian Boarding Schools.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 01 Dec. 2016. Web. 02 Dec. 2016.

“Genocide and American Indian History – Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History.” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History. N.p., 2015. Web. 02 Dec. 2016.

“Genocide by Other Means: U.S. Army Slaughtered Buffalo in Plains Indian Wars.” Indian Country Today Media Network.com. N.p., 05 Sept. 2011. Web. 02 Dec. 2016.

“Genocide of Indigenous Peoples.” Genocide of Native Americans. N.p., 01 Dec. 2016. Web. 02 Dec. 2016.

“Indian Removal.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 01 Dec. 2016. Web. 02 Dec. 2016.

Kaltreider, Kurt. American Indian Prophecies: Conversations with Chasing Deer. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, 1998. Print.

NoiseCat, Julian Brave. “Canada Just Confronted Its ‘Cultural Genocide’ Of Native People. Why Can’t The U.S. Do The Same?” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 05 June 2015. Web. 02 Dec. 2016.

“Trail of Tears: From a Middle School Student’s Perspective.” Indian Country Today Media Network.com. N.p., 3 June 2015. Web. 02 Dec. 2016.

Lobo, Susan, Steve Talbot, and Traci L. Morris. Native American Voices: A Reader. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2010. Print.

Olson-Raymer, Gayle, Dr. “American Indians – Manifest Destiny.” American Indians – Manifest Destiny. Humboldt State University, n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2016.

Bellesiles, Michael A. 1877 America’s Year of Living Violently. N.p.: New Press, 2010. Print.

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