Genocide by Public Policy: First Peoples and the European Invasion

  • : preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/melancon/public_html/includes/unicode.inc on line 311.
  • : preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/melancon/public_html/includes/unicode.inc on line 311.
  • : preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/melancon/public_html/includes/unicode.inc on line 311.
  • warning: Parameter 1 to theme_field() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/melancon/public_html/includes/theme.inc on line 171.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/melancon/public_html/includes/file.inc on line 646.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/melancon/public_html/includes/file.inc on line 646.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/melancon/public_html/includes/file.inc on line 646.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/melancon/public_html/includes/file.inc on line 646.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/melancon/public_html/includes/file.inc on line 646.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/melancon/public_html/includes/file.inc on line 646.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/melancon/public_html/includes/file.inc on line 646.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/melancon/public_html/includes/file.inc on line 646.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/melancon/public_html/includes/file.inc on line 646.
  • : preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/melancon/public_html/includes/unicode.inc on line 311.
  • : preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/melancon/public_html/includes/unicode.inc on line 311.
  • : preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/melancon/public_html/includes/unicode.inc on line 311.
  • : preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/melancon/public_html/includes/unicode.inc on line 311.
  • : preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/melancon/public_html/includes/unicode.inc on line 311.
  • : preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/melancon/public_html/includes/unicode.inc on line 311.
  • : preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/melancon/public_html/includes/unicode.inc on line 311.
  • : preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/melancon/public_html/includes/unicode.inc on line 311.
  • : preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/melancon/public_html/includes/unicode.inc on line 311.
  • : preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/melancon/public_html/includes/unicode.inc on line 311.

Here are my thoughts after talking to a friend upset by a professor who said ignorant things about the people of this hemisphere. He used the fact that most of the massive indigenous death in the Americas came from diseases, not guns, to dismiss the moral import of the centuries-long genocidal invasion of these continents by Europeans.

We need to make an exceedingly well backed up case to convince anyone of anything, or to build knowledge we can use to build a better world.

I think the argument must be, essentially, that what happened was genocide by public policy.

With a direct connection to the ongoing deaths of the poor, the colored, the dispossessed of the third world today.

It's not a case that rests just on Lord Jeffrey Amherst's explicit biological warfare, or Christopher Colon's murdering of the Tainos. It's a predictable and preventable loss of life caused by systemic action and inaction against an identifiable, and propagandized against, group.

Notes:

Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Population_history_of_American_indigenous_p...

This article seems to sloppily minimize the use of germ warfare. It claims the germ theory of disease wasn't widely accepted until the mid 19th century, but then the article it cites uses the ordering of smallpox vaccination in the very beginning of the 19th century as evidence of U.S. government benevolence.

No Thanks to Thanksgiving
By Robert Jensen
http://www.alternet.org/story/28584/

An apologists's article --
http://hnn.us/articles/7302.html
this is stomach-turning. A step-by-step attempt to explain away centuries of extermination. Breathtaking generalizations about Native Americans, constant attribution of the worst motives - "Cheyenne and Arapahoe Indians, who had legitimate grievances against the encroaching white settlers, also fought for the sheer joy of combat, the desire for booty, and the prestige that accrued from success." - and White evil excused - "With the regular army off fighting the Civil War in the South, the western settlers depended for their protection on volunteer regiments, many lamentably deficient in discipline."

Even after all his excuses, cherry-picking, and slanted descriptions (Indian acts of violence described in detail, White barbarism covered only in general), I have no idea how Guenter Lewy can deny the committing of the crime of genocide: a series of acts "committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group as such"

As for the larger society, even if some elements in the white population, mainly in the West, at times advocated extermination, no official of the U.S. government ever seriously proposed it. Genocide was never American policy, nor was it the result of policy.

The violent collision between whites and America's native population was probably unavoidable. Between 1600 and 1850, a dramatic surge in population led to massive waves of emigration from Europe, and many of the millions who arrived in the New World gradually pushed westward into America's seemingly unlimited space. No doubt, the 19th-century idea of America’s "manifest destiny" was in part a rationalization for acquisitiveness, but the resulting dispossession of the Indians was as unstoppable as other great population movements of the past. The U.S. government could not have prevented the westward movement even if it had wanted to.

In the end, the sad fate of America's Indians represents not a crime but a tragedy, involving an irreconcilable collision of cultures and values. Despite the efforts of well-meaning people in both camps, there existed no good solution to this clash. The Indians were not prepared to give up the nomadic life of the hunter for the sedentary life of the farmer. The new Americans, convinced of their cultural and racial superiority, were unwilling to grant the original inhabitants of the continent the vast preserve of land required by the Indians’ way of life. The consequence was a conflict in which there were few heroes, but which was far from a simple tale of hapless victims and merciless aggressors. To fling the charge of genocide at an entire society serves neither the interests of the Indians nor those of history.

Can this paragraph just indict itself? Even without contradicting the false claim that no U.S. officials endorsed genocide (see Robert Jensen's article, linked above).

It just happened. Civilizations destroyed.

A comment to Lewy's article (actually a reply to another comment) puts it very well:

by Nico J J on May 13, 2006 at 12:41 AM
Dear Mr Severance,

I just read your comment and I felt the urge to reply as simply as possible.

I am a European and live in Europe. It has never been in anyone's mind here that the Western Roman Empire was the object of any genocide. The invaders were either assimilated or returned home. We in France are the produce of many invasions: the founding populations were the Gallic (Celtic) tribes, but even them probably met some pre-Gallic populations that they assimilated. Ever since we have been "invaded" by different populations or warriors, but the basic population never disappeared from the surface of earth. When the Franks invaded us (they gave us our name: France), they settled here and then were assimilated. They didn't take the place of the Gallo-Roman population.

In the case of the Indians I feel you're comparing what hapened to a soccer match: 2 teams competed and the strongest won. Except that the team who had the trophy before is not here anymore. But it's not like in a match: it had been the territory of the Indians and the bisons for thousand years and they were invaded. Their country was stolen from them, then they disappeared (or almost): even if there was no intent, when you make an action and the result of that action is that the person who was there disappears because of your action, it is still homicide. Genocide is when a population or a distinct human group disappears. How do you call the Indian disappearance ? Absentia ?

There is for sure a difference with what the Nazis did: they had a planned project to wipe out from the surface of earth and wherever they were, a distinct population that they hated. In the case of Indians the problem didn't come up because they were Indians: if the Indians had been living somewhere else, there wouldn't have been any problem (which was not the case of Jews and other populations in the eyes of the Nazis). Alas, they were on a territory that was the object of desire by other people who had otherwise no desire to share (without saying so).

At some point you say that the motive was not extermination per se as much as land acquisition coupled with the need to eliminate the threat to security. I find this a bit hypocritical.
It's like saying that a robber didn't want to kill the owner, but had to, because he/she needed to ensure his/her own safety. Wouldn't you laugh ? Do you really think so ? Land acquisition ? Would you be happy today to have people coming from overseas to make "land acquisitions" (forced land acquisitions) and ensure their own safety with guns ? You can't just say it was a mere competition and poor Indians, they lost: we wanted to take the land and the country, but not kill them. The result is that they are killed, but we didn't intend to. That's life, no guilt. Really ? Come in Europe and ask people in general. You will be surprised how they view all this. And we have our share of guilt as those were European governments and nations who initiated the first inroads in the Americas.

I agree with you that there are mass movements in history that are unavoidable in the human course. That's true. Human history is full of that. But what does this have to do with genocide ? Even if it is the result of an historically unavoidable trend, a genocide is still a genocide if the conditions to a genocide are fulfilled. And talking about unavoidable trends (always questionable anyway) does not take away the guilt, does it ?

In one of your sentences, you say that "(...)the U.S. army was hardly going to take the side of the uncivilized tribes against its own citizenry". You're not implying that the Indians were not civilized or that a civilization is superior to another, right ? Otherwise, do you know anything about the different "Indian" civilization" ? Do you think it's "civilized" to invade a territory and take over ?

Finally, why did you have to add that the Indians (if they were still there) would have lost little sleep if it had been the other way around ?? Is it about one side against another in your eyes ? Really ? How would you react then if, again, you were invaded today and someone told you, sorry, it's the human history and, sorry, it's just too bad for you ?

Sorry for this long comment that I am not sure you will even read.

Anyway, I realize how European outlooks differ from today Americans' outlook. Acknowledging a fault speaks in your honor and means you start to master you own history: denying it is getting ready to do it again. We have made so many mistakes in our long European history: we are still learning from that, but we have progressed. Just look at how peaceful Western Europe now is, France and Germany for instance have moved a long way forward.