Friday, March 29, 2013

Why Iraq is "Indian Country" - notes from George Tinker

Tink Tinker wrote me several notes on my essay on Governor Evans and Sand Creek documents 1 and 2 here. That a founding amnesia about committing genocide afflicts the US army is obvious in the following story Tink tells. Iraq, a colonel said, to motivate his troops against non-white people, is “Indian country”:

“One Shawnee friend of mine deployed to Iraq in 03 stood on the border a day or two before the invasion and was accosted by a colonel who became irate at him and a couple others for standing looking into Iraq without wearing helmets. As he gesticulated wildly in the direction of Baghdad, he loudly said, 'That, gentlemen, is Indian country.' The Shawnee had already begun to wonder what he was doing there.

See also Sand Creek, Sandy Hook and the Inauguration here.


Goyakhle (called Geronimo by the Mexicans parroted by the Americans), the great Mescalero Apache warrior who fought in self-defense against the Mexican slaughter of his family and US aggression, was invoked in "Code Name Geronimo" against the mass murderer Bin Laden.

Every time a drone takes off to murder at a distance nonwhite people (h/t Andy Reid for the interactive chart about Pakistan here), there is the resonance of US army and Mankato, the US army and the Trail of Tears, the US army and Sand Creek, the US army and Bear Creek, the US army and Wounded Knee, the dispossession, ethnic cleansing and driving out of indigenous people.


Goyakhle surrendered a "Winchester Model 1876 lever-action rifle with a silver-washed barrel and receiver, bearing serial number 109450." It is on display at the US Military Academy in West Point.

He also had a Colt "Single Action Army revolver with a nickel finish and ivory stocks bearing the serial number 89524, and a Sheffield Bowie knife with a dagger type of blade and stag handle made by George Wostenholm in a silver-studded holster and cartridge belt." The revolver, rig, and knife are on display at the Fort Sill museum...


On my article on Evans, Tink wrote:

"Let me say just two quick things. First of all, the Dakota are the Dakota; they do not become the Lakota. Two different peoples, even though they are closely related. The Dakota were removed from Minnesota and some were quite dispersed. There are those, however, who have begun to reclaim traditional communities in Minnesota. My old friend Mato Numpa is one of those who is deeply involved in that process today—claim his own status as a survivor of genocide! Indeed some of those Dakota who were run out of Minnesota did find a home with their Lakota relatives up on what is today the Standing Rock Reservation, but they are still Dakota. My mentor Vine Deloria Jr. derived from that Standing Rock community and was Dakota on one side of his heritage and Lakota on the other. The languages are not the same, but are close dialects.

Secondly, I would urge great caution in voicing the old colonialist verbiage about the Hungate affair. Your claim that “What they did was awful and no act of self-defense against soldiers or American aggression” is way premature, I think. You might look up a two-part essay published by Jeff Broome (“Indian Massacres in Elbert County, Colorado: New Information on the 1864 Hungate and 1868 Dietemann Murders,” Denver Westerners Roundup, LX:1 (2003/2004). It is available on-line. Broome does a credible job of complexifying the usual colonialist take on the incident. It was certainly not at all merely a random or premeditated killing or murder—as Evans, Chivington, and even you would describe it. Like most so-called Indian depredations, there is much more to the story."


I responded:

“Thanks, Tink. Yes, I agree with you strongly. I clarified in the last post and again in a forthcoming one on the Camp Weld meeting that the US government committed aggression and genocide throughout. Hence, resistance was justified (and those who were trying for nonviolence toward the army were not necessarily the most courageous - that even they were massacred shows something awful about the US government...

And I underlined that Lean Bear, offering papers of friendship signed in Washington, was gunned down by "soldiers" the month before, initiating the war and that the slaughter of the Hungate family was thus a form of retaliation."


In the first post, however, I mistakenly repeated the colonialist's story. Broome's illuminating article on the Hungate killings can be found here. The native americans were running off horses and mules. A Mrs. Ferguson even rode after one who did not attack her. On Broome's account, Nathan Hungate had just moved to Colorado. He shot at one of the indians taking a horse and killed him. The native americans then besieged his house - five rifles were fired at them from inside - and burned it, forcing the occupants out and killing him, a mother and two daughters.


In terms of this conflict, the act of killing Hungate was provoked by Hungate's murder and pretty directly self-defense (alternately, it was justice or capital punishment, given that indigenous people could receive none under American "law"). They were there to take horses and mules, not to kill and while the theft appeared odious to the settlers, the taking of indian land and starving out and cordoning off of indigenous tribes on reservations was the real theft.

The settler/colonial story is thus false to a much more complicated situation and as Tink rightly underlines, miscasts the characters: the American aggressors and those "friendly" to them are good; those who were on the land and defend themselves - innocent on the oldest moral understandings of war - see Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars, Alan Gilbert, Democratic Individuality, ch 1) - were falsely demonized as "hostiles"

Try the same identifications about the Warsaw ghetto or the Occupied Territories...


But the act of killing the wife and the two children was a) unjustified (often indigenous people captured women and children rather than kill them, however), and b) unwise in that it resulted in the Denver elite led by Evans, displaying the bodies to create a racist fury among the citizens, who, becoming the "hundred daysters" - volunteers for a hundred days - committed the massacre at Sand Creek.


Since the US government violated every treaty it signed with indigenous people, including the Fort Lyon Treaty (1851) which gave the Arapahos and Cheyennes much of the territory of Colorado - "forgotten" in the gold rush and the hurry to put the railway through - it is, of course, unclear what indigenous people could have done to head off the Massacre.

Black Kettle, White Antelope, Bull Bear and others made every effort to honor Evans's unreasonable, dishonest and coercive request: resettle by Fort Lyon or the US "will kill and destroy" man, woman and child.


Tink responded:

“Kasi x’si y’all:
That’s good morning. The y’all part is not ie wazhazhe. Just Oklahoma.

There are a couple of typical misconceptions that linger in most contemporary colonialist interpretation of Colorado history. The first is a misunderstanding of the nature of the Cheyenne village at Sand Creek. Many, many Indian communities had dual forms of leadership identified in terms of military defense and peace. These leaders would typically be called in english peace chiefs and war chiefs—even though no Indian languages had any word for war. During the 1860s in Colorado, the Cheyenne leaders trying to develop a non-violence based relationship with the invaders were called peace chiefs, and many of these leaders had gathered together in a single community. This was the community that had gathered at Sand Creek. So Sand Creek was, as it were, a village of peace chiefs. The other Cheyenne rallied around a particular “society,” called the dog society (or in popular english, the dog “soldiers”[one wonders if the phrase "shoot them down like dogs" was coined in this context]) and became the largest faction of armed resistance to euro-christian encroachment. So the massacre was a massacre of the peace chiefs and failed completely to confront the so-called hostile Cheyenne, i.e., dog society band.

That moves us to the second typical misconception that we need to be clearer about today. That is this business of hostile vs. friendly Indians—typified in Evans proclamations and in other christian frontier rhetoric, particularly in the press. The typification of Indian peoples as friendly or hostile is entirely a colonialist act of signification from the get-go! Indeed, to typify any invasive squatter who deigns to build a farm or ranch on Indian land as somehow “innocent” is really the quintessential colonialist signifying act of conquest. Of course the farmer is an innocent. After all, the farmer is a christian person/family; the Indians are pagan savages by definition. That, after all, is the very basis for the rule of (european christian) international law called the Doctrine of Discovery (or as Steve Newcomb rightly calls it, the doctrine of christian discovery: …the first christian prince….). So the farmer is a non-combatant. That must mean he is free to walk in and steal someone else’s land. And how dare any Native community resist? Hostiles! The rhetoric of colonial conquest wraps itself in innocence and poises itself against Native resistance as wildness and savagery. From the vantage point of the aboriginal owners of the land, the Hungates, for instance, could be called innocents only by a huge stretch of the imagination. And as Jeff Broome illustrates in his analysis of the Hungate incident, the actualities of that situation were far more complex than simplistic historians or colonialists’ rhetoric would have us think.

Wherever I travel on the continent these days my tendency is to say to an audience: Nice country y’all got here! …How’d you get it? Garrison Keillor, bless his humorous little heart, never bothers to mention that Lake Woebegone was Indian land and that the only way Minnesota was finally pried loose from Dakota control was through a murderous violation of a treaty followed by an even more murderous war—in which the Dakota were caricaturized as violent savages for daring to resist. How did all those lutheran and catholic folk get that land and turn it into Keillor’s middle-America? The Mankato genocide did the trick, clearing the entire property for christian occupancy [see here], and the Sand Creek Massacre did precisely the same two years later for the soon-to-be state of Colorado. So please let’s be careful in using that colonialist distinction between hostile and friendly.

Indeed, this word 'hostiles' was used persistently during the Iraq invasion to talk about those Iraqi who dared to resist american invasion and military governance. This is language that persists from the euro-christian conquest of the american frontier.



Tink clarifies the internal relationship between peace and military leaders. It was natural that indigenous people tried to achieve peace, given that the soldiers and settlers outnumbered them and had heavier weaponry...


Edna Brillon also sent me the disturbing piece below on the use of smallpox in Canada to steal/"claim and settle" indigenous land. It further illustrates Tink's point about the untrustworthiness of conqueror's/colonial "history":

"Smallpox, Colonialism and Injustice: Comox
Posted on March 27, 2013 by Tom Swanky in Articles, Canada's 'War'

The Great Darkening will attend the Comox Valley book fair, May 4. We also will make a presentation of “Smallpox at Victoria.”

This provides an occasion to ask what role the 1862 smallpox epidemics played in the transition from indigenous sovereignty to colonial rule at “Comox,” often translated as “Place of Plenty.”

Canadian academics commonly teach that European diseases swept North America ahead of settlement, leaving an empty wilderness to be occupied innocently by settlers. This is not what happened at Comox or throughout British Columbia. Before 1862, as below, knowledgeable people described Pacific Shelf natives as numerous and that their “powerful” regimes controlled their own space. Then many died, and the survivors lost control, suddenly. How did it happen?

Where possible, we start with the local tradition. The Comox Argus of Jan 6, 1931 reported these story elements as received from the wife of George Mitchell, “the first settler.”

Smallpox (in 1862) reduced native communities from hundreds strong to the scattered remnants that now live up and down the coast. Canoes full of dead and dying Indians came to the Indian village at the mouth of the Courtney River. An excessive desire for wealth or possessions was their undoing. Comox natives became infected when they despoiled the dead of their bracelets. In a few weeks, this prosperous village was a graveyard. Native communities in this area, once powerful and numerous, have never recovered.

This settler tradition blames Comox natives for their own demise. In an apparent example of mirroring (seeing one’s own faults in the behavior of others), it re-interprets the cultural virtue of saving valuable items from waste as the sin of greed. Ironically, Mitchell’s wallet has been preserved at the B.C. Archives.

[the program does not reproduce photographs which can be found here.}

These canoes “full of dead and dying Indians” originated in Victoria. So this story actually has its main root there and not in native culture, except as settlers may have knowingly taken advantage.

In March 1862, Governor James Douglas’ primary constituency, Hudson’s Bay Company associates turned land speculators, and some business colleagues of Attorney General George Cary introduced smallpox at Victoria in the first instance. The evidence for this is explored at length in “The True Story of Canada’s ‘War’ of Extermination on the Pacific,” available at, Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

By late April, the disease had become established among a few of the 2500-3000 northern natives living at Victoria, making some 20 to 30 its victims. Douglas then expelled the northerners in four waves at two-week intervals. Most were Tsimshian, Haida, Heiltsuk or Tahltan; all these would have passed Comox.

While expelling the northerners, colonial officials repeatedly forced sick and healthy natives together into canoes under the threat of police violence. They did not offer quarantine or vaccine, neither for healthy natives in the canoes nor for those in the home territories.

Every observer believed it was certain that this policy would kill many in the canoes; many along the way as natives salvaged items from victims put ashore in desperation to stop the disease in the canoes; and many in the home territories.

In other words, the Douglas Administration deployed smallpox to inflict conditions of life calculated to kill these natives and all those in their path. Indeed, tens of thousands caught the disease and died as the direct result of this ethnic cleansing policy, including those at Comox.

On two occasions, the first expulsion of May 1 and that of June 11, colonial gunboats accompanied the disease-laden canoes past Comox. If these were the local disease source, then its arrival here was not by chance at all: the dead and dying were deposited under the supervision of colonial officials. Since settlers were sure to desire a “Place of Plenty,” villages here very well may have been targeted. Is there other evidence supporting such an inference?

The earliest that disease laden canoes could have arrived at Comox in 1862 was after the Victoria expulsion of May 1. These would have passed the Comox Valley about May 5-8, with a gunboat escort. The World Health Organization says smallpox epidemics develop slowly. At Ft. Simpson, where these same canoes arrived May 17, the HBC manager reported the first local deaths June 11 and the dying peaked only in mid-July. So, if the disease reached Comox in early May, then the dying did not peak until late June.

Yet the first settlers, including George Mitchell as shown by this excerpt from the colonial pre-emption records, filed their claims already on June 3.

[same link as above]

So the first settlers claimed the land under colonial rules just as the bulk of its native residents began dying, certainly before they were dead. In the legal fiction of official colonial propaganda, settlers could claim only vacant land. This land was not vacant. Nor, it should go without saying, do survivors lose any rightful inheritance only because their antecedents died from an epidemic disease; nor, for that matter, from mass murder.

In the best-case scenario, this was only an opportunistic exercise. The full reality seems worse. All these claimants were Hudson’s Bay Company associates turned land speculators. They surveyed this land at Comox in summer 1861, (See the British Colonist for June 1 and Sept. 13, 1861.) This was months before smallpox arrived but during the period when it would have been under contemplation.

Except for Mitchell, none established any residency here. It seems revealing, rather than coincidence, that they delayed registering their claims until it was certain smallpox would transform the space so that it could be treated as if it had been vacant. Registration then became urgent to establish ownership before flipping control to some farmers a few months later.

As HBC associates, these men may have had inside knowledge that the Comox village precincts could be emptied by smallpox and that the Governor afterward would underwrite the dispossession of any survivors with threats of conventional violence. This scenario seems more likely as another settler shared just such inside knowledge with a community at Alert Bay, north of Comox, to save it instead.

In any scenario, what would the native survivors have been justified in thinking? They soon would have learned that it was colonial officials who caused the disease to spread from Victoria, expecting it to kill them. Specifically or generally targeted, the legal and moral result is the same: they were victims of the Douglas Administration creating conditions of life calculated to bring about their destruction, allowing settlers to take control without negotiating treaties or paying compensation.

George Mitchell’s fate also seems instructive. Mitchell claimed the most valuable commercial site at the river’s mouth, nearest the location for a boat landing. In March 1864, survivors attacked him. They seized blankets and clothing from his house.This seems lawfully claiming reparations under native law, not theft or plunder. Since Douglas failed even to attempt consensual constitutional change, natives had no reason to believe anything but that their law was still the law of the land. As, indeed, many still believe, given Canada’s ongoing failure to repair and heal the Douglas Administration’s genocidal legacy.

Mitchell may have attracted special attention as one of the first speculators, and may have been accused of having brought the disease to kill them for their land, or by displacing survivors whose land he had taken. Mitchell had served on the HBC’s ship Beaver, passing here countless times. He knew perfectly well that natives occupied this land but he also would have appreciated that this context provided a golden opportunity to start a business and serve any growing settler community.

[Same link as above]

At some point, Mitchell seems to have taken a native wife (the newspapers said, “he kept a squaw.”) Since native “land use” privileges typically attached to the maternal line, this may have been a “gateway” marriage to make peace by legalizing his position under native rules.

Then, in October 1867, Mitchell tried to evict this woman’s brother who had come to live with them. By custom, it would have been the wife’s prerogative to invite her brother in and not Mitchell’s right to evict him. While intoxicated, Mitchell shot at the brother three times. Wounded, the brother feigned his death until he could grab the gun. He then shot Mitchell with his own weapon.

While these facts suggest self-defense even under English law, a coroner’s jury said Mitchell had died from “willful murder.” Apparently fearing retaliation after any trial and execution on these facts, the coroner hastily convened a second jury. It said Mitchell had died from “natural causes”!! (See British Colonist for Oct. 28, 1867.) Setters would never concede, not ever, that a native might have been justified in killing one of their number…not under either English or native law.

Under the headline “The (Latest) Murder on the East Coast” the British Colonist observed,

The East Coast [of Vancouver Island] beats all other parts of the Colony (for) death by violence; yet, strange to say, the crime is seldom, if ever, brought home to anyone…There is something wrong in the management of affairs on that coast.

The Douglas Administration’s choice of ethnic cleansing in place of lawful means to extend British institutions where colonial authority was thin on the ground created this chaos: dramatically weakened and traumatized native communities with every right to believe that their laws still applied were forced to live beside a range of arrogant or ignorant settlers enjoying the fruits of something for nothing under their laws.

The harm of that choice, and the new harm perpetrated by those who still choose to defend it, is reflected today in every issue touching native life, in B.C. native/settler relations and in natural resource allocation.

In a timely example, as the Tsilhqot’in title case advances to Canada’s Supreme Court, Canada hopes for a precedent that constitutional aboriginal rights apply only to small parcels and not to whole national territories. This would cruelly dishonour those who died in this ethnic cleansing exercise on space now occupied by large settler communities, such as the Comox Valley, and the survivors rudely dispossessed of their land and sovereign control.

Seeking the precedent also dishonours the descendants of those survivors who hope for post-colonial good faith from Canada’s system of jurisprudence.

Tom Swanky is the author of The True Story of Canada's 'War' of Extermination on the Pacific. You can connect with Tom on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The slow death of bigotry

As Maureen Dowd and the New York Times editorial page underline, it is long past time for decency in America...


March 26, 2013
Courting Cowardice

As the arguments unfurled in Tuesday’s case on same-sex marriage, the Supreme Court justices sounded more and more cranky.

Things were moving too fast for them.

How could the nine, cloistered behind velvety rose curtains, marble pillars and archaic customs, possibly assess the potential effects of gay marriage? They’re not psychics, after all.
“Same-sex marriage is very new,” Justice Samuel Alito whinged, noting that “it may turn out to be a good thing; it may turn out not to be a good thing.” If the standard is that marriage always has to be “a good thing,” would heterosexuals pass?

“But you want us to step in and render a decision,” Alito continued, “based on an assessment of the effects of this institution, which is newer than cellphones or the Internet? I mean, we do not have the ability to see the future.”

Swing Justice Anthony Kennedy grumbled about “uncharted waters,” and the fuddy-duddies seemed to be looking for excuses not to make a sweeping ruling. Their questions reflected a unanimous craven impulse: How do we get out of this? This court is plenty bold imposing bad decisions on the country, like anointing W. president or allowing unlimited money to flow covertly into campaigns. But given a chance to make a bold decision putting them on the right, and popular, side of history, they squirm.

“Same-sex couples have every other right,” Chief Justice John Roberts said, sounding inane for a big brain. “It’s just about the label in this case.” He continued, “If you tell a child that somebody has to be their friend, I suppose you can force the child to say, ‘This is my friend,’ but it changes the definition of what it means to be a friend.”

Donald Verrilli Jr., the U.S. solicitor general arguing on the side of same-sex marriage, told the justices, “There is a cost to waiting.” He recalled that the argument by opponents of interracial marriage in Loving v. Virginia in 1967 was to delay because “the social science is still uncertain about how biracial children will fare in this world.”

The wisdom of the Warren court is reflected two miles away, where a biracial child is faring pretty well in his second term in the Oval Office.

The American Academy of Pediatrics last week announced its support for same-sex marriage, citing evidence that children of gays and lesbians do better when the couples marry. It may take another case, even another court, to legitimize same-sex marriage nationally, but the country has moved on. An ABC/Washington Post poll showed that 81 percent of Americans under 30 approve of gay marriage. Every time you blink, another lawmaker comes out of the closet on supporting the issue.

Charles Cooper, the lawyer for the proponents of Prop 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California, was tied in knots, failing to articulate any harm that could come from gay marriage and admitting that no other form of discrimination against gay people was justified. His argument, that marriage should be reserved for those who procreate, is ludicrous. Sonia Sotomayor was married and didn’t have kids. Clarence and Ginny Thomas did not have kids. Chief Justice Roberts’s two kids are adopted. Should their marriages have been banned? What about George and Martha Washington? They only procreated a country.

As Justice Stephen Breyer pointed out to Cooper, “Couples that aren’t gay but can’t have children get married all the time.”

Justice Elena Kagan wondered if Cooper thought couples over the age of 55 wanting to get married should be refused licenses. Straining to amuse, Justice Antonin Scalia chimed in: “I suppose we could have a questionnaire at the marriage desk when people come in to get the marriage — you know, ‘Are you fertile or are you not fertile?’ ”

Scalia didn’t elaborate on his comment in December at Princeton: “If we cannot have moral feeling against homosexuality, can we have it against murder?”

Cooper replied that a 55-year-old man would still be fertile, which was a non sequitur, given that he hails marriage as a bulwark against “irresponsible procreative conduct outside of marriage.”

He said that California should “hit the pause button” while “the experiment” of gay marriage matures. And he urged that we not refocus “the definition of marriage away from the raising of children and to the emotional needs and desires of adults.” Did he miss the last few Me Decades?

The fusty legal discussion inside was a vivid contrast with the lusty rally outside. There were some offensive signs directed at gays, but the vibrant crowd was overwhelmingly pro same-sex marriage. One woman summed it up nicely in a placard reading “Gays have the right to be as miserable as I make my husband.”

The only emotional moment in court was when Justice Kennedy brought up the possible “legal injury” to 40,000 children in California who live with same-sex parents. “They want their parents to have full recognition and full status,” he told Cooper. “The voice of those children is important in this case, don’t you think?”

While Justice Alito can’t see into the future, most Americans can. If this court doesn’t reject bigotry, history will reject this court.


March 26, 2013
The California Marriage Case

Before the Supreme Court justices turned to the merits of the case on Proposition 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage, they seemed perplexed by a procedural issue: whether the petitioners had legal standing to appeal a lower-court ruling that struck down the ballot measure. Having taken the appeal, they cannot easily decide to avoid the substantive question of whether same-sex couples have a constitutionally protected right to marry in California and elsewhere in the country.

If the court decides the case on the merits, it is hard to imagine that a majority could be swayed by the arguments offered by Charles Cooper, the lawyer for the marriage ban’s supporters. Even if his presentation had been more fluent, there was no way to overcome the incoherence of his position.
The core of Mr. Cooper’s argument was that a ruling allowing same-sex marriage would be “redefining” marriage in a way that undermines the “responsible procreation” of children. Yet California allows same-sex couples to adopt children, and many heterosexual couples who can’t have children get married.
When Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked him if — outside the marriage context — he could “think of any other rational basis, reason, for a state using sexual orientation as a factor in denying homosexuals benefits or imposing burdens,” he could not. When Justice Elena Kagan asked him to describe “what harm to the institution of marriage or to opposite-sex couples” would occur if same-sex couples were allowed to marry, he failed to provide a single example. He also contended that “debate over whether the age-old definition of marriage should be changed to include same-sex couples” should be left to the states but could not explain why the Constitution would permit this kind of discrimination.

Neither the Federal District Court in California nor the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found any of his arguments persuasive.

By contrast, Theodore Olson, representing the supporters of same-sex marriage, had the benefit of solid logic on his side. Noting the long line of Supreme Court cases that have declared marriage a fundamental right, he argued that society had no rational basis denying same-sex couples the dignity that marriage affords. Justice Antonin Scalia, with his familiar sarcasm, said: “I’m curious. When did it become unconstitutional to exclude homosexual couples from marriage?” Mr. Olson politely answered with two questions: “When did it become unconstitutional to prohibit interracial marriages? When did it become unconstitutional to assign children to separate schools?”

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who may be a swing vote, remarked, “We have five years of information to weigh against 2,000 years of history or more.” But he pointed out to Mr. Cooper, “There are some 40,000 children in California” with same-sex parents and “they want their parents to have full recognition and full status. The voice of those children is important in this case, don’t you think?”

Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr., in support of Mr. Olson’s clients, made a cautious, lawyerly argument that the court should rule that California and the seven other states that allow civil unions equivalent to marriage could not deny same-sex couples the status of marriage — and should leave for another day the broader issue as applied to all other states. But he acknowledged that “waiting is not a neutral act” and that it “imposes real costs.”

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Op-ed: Iraq 10 years after

Ten years ago, I was to speak at the first rally Denver following Bush’s aggression. But we were snowed in - 7 feet up where I live - and could not get out for a week. The heat of distant explosions (“Shock and Awe” and Rumsfeld would not count the Iraqi dead…), the ice of the mountains…


There had been a tremendous global movement against the War before the war.


As Richard Clarke put it, it would be as if Roosevelt had responded to Pearl Harbor by attacking Mexico…


It was a phony war, created by a government cabal for its own purposes (oil and military bases), Bush to outdo his father, Condi to rise (“little star” as her father called her), Cheney, the smart but literally crazy man, in charge of a secret apparatus inside the government, moving swiftly into the dark (“going to the dark side” as he put it after 9/11).


Paul Krugman had a good article this week on the analogous idiocies of the Iraq War and austerity, and yet as Paula Bard suggested to me, leaves out the role of Bush and Cheney – isolated against all the world – in causing this murderous, bankrupting fiasco.


The Occupation has been a fabulous – only if one is really good at believing tall tales as the talking heads were at the expense of one’s eyes -and expensive atrocity. But one must clamor for war or not get "face-time" in the corporate media.


This is a result of the trillion dollar war complex (what I call, elaborating Eisenhower and C. Wright Mills, the military-industrial-congressional-media-recipients of foreign military aid-“intelligence” complex). Today’s America is skewed toward irrational wars on nonwhite peoples.


But the war has never been popular among the American people.


The great anti-war movement from below here and elsewhere is the main fact of this era. The corporate press has persistently downplayed it. Despite demonstrations of over a million in New York, Madrid and Barcelona (February 16, 2003), many do not even know of it.


I lectured at the Ph.D. Peace Studies program in Granada the following year (the lone Ph.D. program in Spain on Peace Studies where people would be likely to know – the whole Spanish population was against the war; Aznar had to meet Bush and Blair in the Canary Islands, the silly “coalition of the willing” because anywhere in Spain, they would have been besieged by protestors). And yet the Spanish press, including El Pais, had not covered the American revolt.


Since the American Revolution, it is a lie, cultivated by elites, that ordinary people do not fight back...


In America, I have students who speak, with sadness, of the lack of movements here although this movement, the greatest anti-War movement in the history of the world before a war, almost defeated the War and meant that the Iraq aggression was "popular" only among “important people” and talking heads, silly generals now working for military contractors and the like.


Withholding knowledge is one of the central functions and often the direct purpose of the centralized commercial press. The New York Times now realizes that it made itself the tool of war. Even Dan Rather reported on Baghdad – "if the President says move here, I move here" - as a “patriotic” agent of the United States…


Being a majority of one against this aggression, in Thoreau's words, was the genuine patriotism.

The majority of people were.

Despite huge demonstrations, we were kept out of the corporate media.


The owners and often editors do not like protest. But people need, as they need air, to know of these things. This is what democracy looks like.


This is also the democracy that elected and reelected Obama (despite his limitations, some of which are underlined below).

This is an international democracy from below which can change the world.


Global Post, an American journal of international news on the web, published this op-ed yesterday.


Alan Gilbert March 23, 2013 09:06
Presidential deceptions on Iraq led US to abandon core values
Commentary: Torture and killing innocents with drones continue to haunt Americans.

For the photograph and article, see here.

United States Army soldiers salute during the playing of retreat at Camp Virginia, near Kuwait City, Kuwait, on Dec. 15, 2011. Ten years after the beginning of the Iraq War, public opinion of US involvement is still quite mixed [sic]. (Joe Raedle/AFP/Getty Images)

DENVER, Colo. — In 2002 and early 2003, the Bush administration rolled out a campaign to promote an invasion of Iraq. Condoleezza Rice’s statement, the “smoking gun might be a mushroom cloud,” created a popular sound bite for the administration’s warning that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

The New York Times and other papers echoed the president’s warning on their front pages. Deep inside the papers, a reader could occasionally find a short story quoting Hans Blix, the United Nations weapons authority, affirming that there was no evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Part of the administration’s case was the suspicion that Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda were working together. In fact, no evidence of a connection existed, except Dick Cheney’s wishful thinking.

What President Bush succeeded in bringing to Americans was a war that killed thousands of American service men and women, disabled of tens of thousands more, and brought death, conservatively, to 100,000 Iraqis, and dislocated several million more.

One remnant of the war is ethnic cleansing in Iraq. Another is a bill of more than a trillion dollars that our government and our taxpayers will struggle to pay over the next generation. Moreover, torture — a war crime under American and international law — became one symbol of American policy. One can argue that crimes were committed at the highest levels of our government, yet no one is being formally questioned let alone held accountable.

Ten years later, we can understand the dangers of the authoritarian commander-in-chief. It was unchecked in its campaign for war by Congress, the judiciary or the media. Ignorance by the politicians and the press was a huge democratic movement against the war, quite possibly the largest such pre-war movement in history; a movement that was right on every major aspect of the coming Iraq war.

We wonder what was learned from the Iraq experience when we hear neocons like William Kristol press for aggression against Iran. These voices are often echoed by Democratic foreign policy “experts.” They have easy access to the press, which accords their opinions respect, but they were and are wrong.

President Obama has wisely chosen not to bomb Iran. He has also appointed as secretary of defense, former Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Vietnam veteran and a conservative, who believes in not waging crusading and losing wars in distant territories.

But Obama is still using drones to murder people in countries the United States is not at war with. This is the crime of aggression masked by secrecy. As Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) correctly asked last week, could this policy license executive killing of Americans far from the field of battle and perhaps even in our own country?

Drones fired into territories where we have no presence are often not accurate, even when the decisions to fire are based on the "best" intelligence available.

We are not officially at war with Yemen. Yet our missiles recently took out Salem Ahmed bin Ali Jaber, an imam and father of seven who had denounced Al Qaeda. Three Al Qaeda members came to intimidate him; he brought his cousin and the chief of police for protection. American drones incinerated them all.

Will his friends and relatives now sympathize with the US?

Is striking mainly at civilians with Avatar-like weaponry from half a world away an intelligent response to Al Qaeda?

Anwar Al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son was looking for his father in Yemen. He was with Samir Amin, another American 16-year-old. They had committed no crime. They were among 12 people at a food stand in a small village that was blown away by American drones said to be seeking another target.

John Brennan calls any young man killed near a terrorist a terrorist. This is, of course, guilt by association. Are all these men “counted” as Al Qaeda by the Obama administration? It is doubtful that there is a plausible explanation for these crimes.

Attacks against non-white people bring to mind America’s legacy of killing Native Americans and slaves.

Such acts inspire hatred toward the US. Unneeded enmity is what drones breed; killing of the occasional Al Qaeda member, even where we have serious intelligence, is, in fact, “collateral damage.”

The US government cannot be allowed to murder innocents wantonly in our name. It is authoritarianism that we oppose, not the regime we are part of. The long, unnecessary war in Iraq undermined two deeply held principles of our democracy: the rule of law and conventions against torture — two qualities that distinguish us from Al Qaeda.

Alan Gilbert is John Evans Professor in the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. He is the author, most recently, of "Black Patriots and Loyalists: Fighting for Emancipation in the War of Independence."

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The battle to save maiz from the conquistadores to GMOs

Claire Gilbert has been writing, with Saulo Araujo, at Grassroots International on the fight by campesinos and indigenous people in Mexico to uphold the thousand varieties of indigenous corn (maiz) against GMOS. See here and here.


She now links this struggle to the effort of the Spanish conquistadores to replace indigenous corn - thought of, in a racist vein, as the food of the poor - with wheat. But except for some parts of Northern Mexico, this effort failed.


Porfirio Diaz, the dictator from 1876 to 1911, had a wonderful and sad line about the fate of Mexico: "So far from God, so near to the United States." The US government seized half of Mexico in the aggression of 1846; Woodrow Wilson sent marines to Veracruz; Clinton/Bush and NAFTA have facilitated the introduction of GMOS by Monsanto in a territory the size of El Salvador.


This is a fight not only of campesinos but of indigenous people. Maiz has been a source of life and power among Mexican indians. So the case is one of a further attack by the Mexican government and the US government on indigenous people...See here and here.


A founding myth about "free trade," the story of NAFTA - is that poor people in Mexico (and the US) will benefit. The movement of resistance among campesinos and indigenous people reveals the opposite.


A tremendous variety of forms of maiz are grown by campesinos. This would stamp them out (and let the corporate criminals like Monsanto, Dupont and ConAgra sue indigenous farmers when the wind blew their GMO seeds into neighboring fields).


Several years ago, Michael Pollan had a New York Times op-ed on "King Corn." See here. He made the point that Americans are increasingly made of corn; that corn contributes to super sizing and the poisoning of the American diet (teenage obesity and diabetes, for example).

A few weeks ago, Mark Bittman identified sugar - it is mostly corn sugar - as a toxic substance like cigarettes, also in the Times. See here.


The Times is not mostly a brave or forthright newspaper. But about the dangers of industrial "food-like substances" - Pollan's term from In Defense of Food - it has been unusually good.


That Americans will also be harmed by the further creation of cheap chemicalized corn is evident from these two stories.


Even more deeply, biodiversity, as Claire emphasizes, is linked to capacity to adapt to climate change. Monsanto and the US government, even under Obama, are today trying to destroy that diversity. Where there were a hundred varieties of tomato grown in the US a century ago, there are now 3. One occasionally sees "heirloom tomatoes" in supermarkets...

Where there are a thousand varieties of maiz grown in Mexico and sustained against NAFTA by immigrants to the US sending money back, there may soon be far fewer.


Climate change is likely to do in, quite swiftly, many of these engineered "foods." And NAFTA will thus have harmed the basis for adaptation to a warming climate. There will not be the seeds or the areas in production or perhaps even the knowledge - traditional agriculture beats profit driven test-tube invention most of the time - to fight this.


The destructiveness of this stage of capitalism - the undermining of food and its replacement by food-like substances or outright toxic or dangerous products (what do fish genes in corn do and what are their side-effects?) - is shown here vividly.


There is a large movement of campesinos and indigenous people in Mexico to fight this. From 20 states, people came together to launch a hunger strike in Mexico City and a march on the legislature.

The government is, of course, bought by large corporations as is the case in America (consider the distance between Obama's vision of the need to curb climate change and what he has done as President, for example).


As Claire describes it, farmers have barred planting non-local seed and rooted out deformed seedlings (these turn out to be, peasants have found, three times as likely to be genetically modified). But the Mexican legislature is in thrall to Monsanto, ConAgra and Dupont. It passed a “'Seed Law'” which makes it illegal to sell or trade saved seeds."

The legislature is with the corporations and against the people of Mexico. This is like ordinary capitalism (the US provides many examples of lobbyists for corporations who are heard, ordinary people, even with great suffering, who are not). But it is more extreme.


"So far from God, so near to the United States."


Grassroots International is organizing internationalist support for democracy in Mexico. That is an important effort which we all should support.


Holding Their Ground
Grassroots International

Mexican Farmers Fight Back Against Biotech Giants
By Claire Gilbert
March 15th, 2013

“The Conquistadors came and they subjugated us and they killed us, but they couldn’t make us disappear because we always had corn. Through corn, we survived and we kept our feet in our territories. With corn at the center of our homes we kept our languages, kept writing our histories. We continued as villages, as families, as workers, as fighters, as a community with our own government, because we had and because we have corn. Now, with the invasion of genetically modified corn they are trying to throw a mortal blow at our existence, the blow that they have not been able to throw in 500 years.”

--The Organizations and Communities of the Network in Defense of Maize (Translated from Spanish from the article El maíz, corazón de la esperanza de los pueblos—Corn, heart or the hope of the village—by Veronica Villa of the Red Maiz—Network in Defense of Corn)

As huge American Biotech companies Monsanto, DuPont, and ConAgra await imminent approval of their requests for permits to plant more than six million acres (an area larger than the size of El Salvador) in Mexico with GMO corn, resistance by peasant and indigenous organizations and their allies is mounting. If approved, this will be the first time commercial planting of GMOs has been allowed in the center of biodiversity of any crop. Although the stakes at this moment could not be higher, this is not a new battle. When Cortez conquered Mexico in the 1500s, the Spaniards began an offensive against what they viewed as lowly corn, trying to force indigenous farmers to grow wheat instead. Their efforts failed, as have countless attempts throughout Mexico’s history to eradicate a “corn culture” in which corn is more than a livelihood, more than a food, but also an identity, a basis of religion, and a part of the family.

At stake today are indigenous and campesino (peasant) cultural rights; Mexico’s food sovereignty; Mexico’s enormous biodiversity of corn adapted for countless climates, soils, and conditions; and the nation’s health (one of the types of corn they wish to grow, MON603, caused tumors—and other maladies—in rats in a recent peer-reviewed study by French scientist Gilles-Eric Séralini published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology).

The Mexican Government seems to be convinced by biotech firms Monsanto, Dow, and ConAgra which hold that genetically engineered crops are necessary in Mexico to ensure that there is enough corn to feed the population, but the evidence does not bear out this argument. In 2009, 13 years after GE crops were first planted in the United States; Union of Concerned Scientists researcher Doug Gurian-Sherman published a study showing that GMOS crops do not produce higher yields than traditional crops.

One of the chief proponents of genetic engineering in Mexico is Victor Villalobos, now the head of the InterAmerican Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA). Villalobos is a scientist who argues that biotechnology is the way forward for Mexico. In his 2008 book Tránsgenicos: Oportunidades y Amenazas (GMOs: Opportunities and threats) he promotes the use of GMOs as necessary to feed Mexico’s growing population. But just as numerous US government officials have been on Monsanto’s payroll (The Organic Consumers Association spells out the details of this revolving door), it seems that Dr. Villalobos is not as impartial as he would like to appear. The Henrich Böll Foundation published a report (see page 151) which shows Villalobos’ connection to Monsanto. When Villalobos was Sub-Secretary of Agriculture leading the way for the Mexican Government to approve experimental GMO corn plots, he was also on the board of the Mexican Company Grupo Pulsar whose subsidiary Seminis is now owned by Monsanto.

Though now on the fast track to commercializing GMO corn, at one time the Mexican Government took a more cautious approach. In 1999 the Mexican Government placed a moratorium on the commercial production of GMO corn in Mexico because the nation is the center for biodiversity for corn. In 2009, however, just months after a meeting with Hugh Grant, the head of Monsanto in Davos Switzerland, then-president Felipe Calderon ended the moratorium on planting GMO corn in Mexico although none of the reasons for the moratorium had changed.

In what has been a fairly successful effort to avoid contamination of indigenous corn with GMOs after the moratorium, small farmers in Mexico’s southern states have basically held in place their own de facto moratorium. Peter Rosset, a technical advisor to the Via Campesina, explains that Peasant organizations have “a community agreement not to plant any seeds of unknown or non-local origin.” Further “they destroy any plants that grow with genetic deformities before they can produce pollen.” Rosset goes on to explain that while Mexican scientists were initially doubtful that this method would control GMOs, peasant organizations have since conducted their own studies and found that “the deformed plants in their fields were 3 times as likely to be contaminated as the non-deformed plants.” If GMOs are planted on the scale planned by Monsanto, Dow, and ConAgra, however, peasant farmers will likely be powerless to stop the cross-pollination of this “promiscuous” plant.

In addition to ending the moratorium, the Mexican Government has passed a series of laws aimed at ushering in the commercial planting of GMOs in Mexico while preparing the ground for a legal framework in which privatized seeds will take precedence over centuries of seed selecting and saving by indigenous and campesino farmers. First, the Biosecurity and Genetically Modified Organisms Law known in Mexico as the “Monsanto Law” lays out steps toward commercialization. The second law is the “Seed Law” which makes it illegal to sell or trade saved seeds. A third law, aimed at privatizing seeds did not pass this year as the Red Maiz (Network in Defense of Maize) fought back against the proposed law and ultimately won at least a temporary victory although the law will come up for vote again.

As these laws set the stage, the world now waits to learn the fate of Mexican corn. Peasants and indigenous farmers have organized and in January farmers from 20 states across Mexico held a Hunger Strike across from the Ángel De La Independencia Statue in Mexico City. The Strike culminated in a 5,000-person march from the statue to the Zócolo, Mexico City’s central square on January 31, 2013. The National Union of Autonomous Regional Peasant Organizations (UNORCA) a Grassroots International Partner organized the fast and the march in conjunction with the Via Campesina, also a Grassroots International partner. The groups have been joined by the Network in Defense of Corn as well as the urban worker organization El Movimiento Urbano Popular, the student group #YoSoy132Ambiental, the Central Campesina Cardenista, the Jóvenes ante la Emergencia Nacional, and Greenpeace. The march is the first protest of this scale against GMO corn in Mexico (there have been no equivalent marches in the United States). The marchers were overshadowed in the press because only 3 kilometers away the tragic explosion in the Pemex Building consumed media attention.

Ana de Ita of the Center for Studies of Change in the Mexican Countryside (CECCAM) explains that the organizations are now setting their sights on undoing the pathway to commercialization that Monsanto and its allies in the Mexican Government have established. To that end they have returned home from the capital to collect 150,000 signatures to demand a referendum to force congress to review and overturn the Biosecurity Law and the Seed Law.

Our partners are also preparing a legal strategy to demand that the Supreme Court review any permitting to ensure it doesn't affect the constitutional rights of Mexican farmers. You can help by contributing to the legal defense fund today. These legal challenges are imminent and we need to get your support to the people on the front lines as quickly as possible. For these reasons, the deadline for gifts to the fund is Friday, March 22.

At stake is a way of living deeply rooted in corn’s long history as the basis for Mexican culture, identity, agriculture, and cuisine. The implications will be far-reaching in terms of human health, the environment, and all of humanities’ preparedness for climate change. As Monsanto, Dow, and ConAgra carry on their dealings behind closed doors, Mexico’s small farmers with the support of students, urban workers, scientists and citizens from all over the world, have held their own in their fields and taken the battle to the streets.

Claire Gilbert is a Grassroots International volunteer.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Governor John Evans and Sand Creek, documents 1 and 2

Much of Denver and the surrounding area is devoted to a celebration of John Evans, the former territorial governor appointed by as well as a friend of Abraham Lincoln. They were both Republicans from Illinois and involved in the expansion of the railway. Lincoln famously commissioned the extension of the Transcontinental Railway across the country; among other things, the new railroad would run through Sand Creek...


Evens was also a Methodist, and founded Northwestern University and Garrett Biblical Institute in Evanston, Illinois. The latter place is named for him as are the John Evans professors at Northwestern and the University of Denver. He was also a founder of the Colorado Seminary (on the original board of Trustees, along with John Chivington and Ralph Byers, editor and publisher of the Rocky Mountain News). The seminary became the University of Denver and the Iliff School of Theology.


In Denver, there is Mt. Evans, Evans Blvd, Evans Chapel, and the west-facing plaque, where Evans is celebrated along with Chivington, on the 1909 monument in front of the State Capitol, purportedly to an anonymous Civil War soldier, which lists, as if it were not a massacre, "the Sand Creek battle." See here


Downing, another long street which intersects Evans, is named for one of the participants in the massacre, also a founder of Colorado Springs.


On July 18,1865, Secretary of State William Seward demanded Evans resignation because as Governor of the Colorado territory, he assigned Chivington to lead the "the hundred daystars," the 100 day volunteers (sadly, the citizens of Denver) who carried out the massacre. The letter refers to an urgent necessity for Evans' resignation in "the public interest." For the original handwritten document, see here.


This fact alone, underpinned by federal hearings which revealed publicly the particular barbarity of this slaughter of Arapahoe and Cheyenne who had made peace with the United States (Black Kettle had a white flag and an American flag up over his tent as Silas Soule, a Union officer who refused to have his men fire, testified), should have been sufficient to prevent the memorialization of John Evans in Mountain, State Capitol Plaque, Chapel (at the University of Denver), Township (Illinois), distinguished professorships, and Boulevard, inter alia.


Only denial and blindness (a racism so deep it has erased the memory of those it murdered and evicted) make so blaring a celebration possible.


For Evans in Colorado is a giant figure, bigger than any national leader like Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln or the Roosevelts.


The intensity of the lionization of Evans signals the uneasiness that underlies it.


Had Goebbels or Eichmann been a great educator, should that have overridden the Holocaust in Germany?


The German government has many memorials to the victims. It is a testimony to trying to heal (this will take hundreds of years...).

Germany does not celebrate the leaders who perpetrated it.


If Seward (then Secretary of State for Andrew Johnson) removed Evans for this special crime, why is he today so celebrated in Denver and Illinois?


I will trace briefly the context before assessing two documents from Evans. This will be the first of several posts on Evans. In addition, we now have committees, created through protest by indigenous students and actions of concerned people at Northwestern and the University of Denver. See here. Many of us know that the truth must be found, the celebration of genocide cease, for a new and more inclusive start, for a genuine community/democracy, to become possible in these states and throughout the country.


There is now a broad willingness to look back at this without the fog of racism. The civil rights movement, the long and valiant protests of indigenous people, the election of Obama, the spirit (though often not the American practice) of the Bill of Rights, and many other movements, frequently unsung or denounced by the powerful, have brought us to this point...


I have emphasized the Founding Amnesia of the United States about the dispossession and murder of indigenous people. See here, here, and here. As the movie "Lincoln" and the increasing recognition of the Emancipation Proclamation on its 150th anniversary reveals, the Founding Myth about slavery - that the Founding Fathers and often slave-owners were solely or even mainly concerned with human freedom - has been somewhat abated by recognition of the wrong of bondage.


In Mankato, Minnesota as part of driving out the Dakota during the Civil War, the authorities wanted to hang 303 Dakota leaders. Lincoln limited the number to 38, still the largest military execution of so-called criminals in American history. No leader of the South in the Civil War - arguably the real thing who might have deserved hanging (I prefer defeat and an attempt at reconciliation which, despite Lincoln's real efforts, did not happen) - was executed.

Lincoln thought that by practicing mercy at Mankato - executing only 38, those whom he judged there to be evidence against, signing each order personally - he would lose the 1864 election because of racist hysteria in Minnesota. See here. Yet his wisdom in dealing with opponents (winning the war, but not striving to execute enemies) is one of the great examples in American history. That he succeeded in so limited a way at Mankato highlights the ferocity of racism toward indigenous people and his own participation in the great crime of ethnic cleansing and genocide.


Lincoln was a great political leader in America. America was built on genocides. Lincoln's actions, ultimately sharply for the good on bondage, on the side of limiting evil about native americans, are marked by this.


The Federal and state government then drove the Dakota out of Minnesota (they became the Lakota in South Dakota...). Today in Mankato, there is no memory of the indigenous people though, of course, the name Mankato, just as Arapaho Road in Denver or Arapaho county in Colorado signifies the vanished.

Naming for indigenous people, about which there is a big struggle with universities and sports teams across the country, elicits, often derogatorily, the vanished.

It is a sign of enthusiasm for ethnic cleansing (the owner of the Washington Redskins, particularly degraded, is unaware that Washington - the home of "the Great White Father" - is the center of dispossession, lying to, betrayal and murder of peoples and cordoning the remnant on reservations. He refers to the courage of shadowy football "braves"...

If Hitler had won World War II, would there today have been a Berlin soccer team nicknamed "the fighting {Warsaw} Jews" or "Warrior Roma"...?. See here.


There is a statue in Mankato to Pocahantas (she married John Smith in New England - it is as nice and meaningful as the celebration of Thanksgiving, the indigenous people sharing food with the white settlers...

Where are the descendants of the 20 million or so (no one knows the exact number) indigenous people?

Where are the Dakota?


There are less than one million in the United States now...


The indigenous have been forced onto reservations. They have been deprived of their land, of their way of life, impoverished and often despised by the communities around them.


In Colorado, the treaty of Fort Laramie (1851) honored hunting lands belonging to the Arapahoe and Cheyenne.

Three indigenous people, the Cherokees Lewis Ralston and John Beck and the Delaware Fall Leaf, discovered gold (h/t Don Hughes). They are unnamed on the State Capitol plaque celebrating this discovery or rather the American stealing of the gold. See here.

Settlers, prominently miners, swarmed into Colorado. The Federal government betrayed this treaty as it had so many others.


The Federal government waged several aggressions - wars to steal the land from the people already there - in 1864. These battles are memorialized on this same plaque facing West from the statue of the anonymous soldier of the Civil War, the only four "battles" in Colorado, one of which is Sand Creek.


In July 1864, Union soldiers murdered Lean Bear at his village. He was riding towards them holding the papers of peace he had signed in Washington. See here and here. He thought he was a friend of the soldiers. They gunned him down.


The next month, some young indians slaughtered the Hungate family (two adults, two daughters). What they did was awful and no act of self-defense against soldiers or American aggression.


To drive the Cheyenne and Arapaho out of Colorado, all indigenous people were demonized by the leadership in Denver. Chivington acted on the racism - he spoke repeatedly of the "Red Fiend" as did Ralph Byers in the Rocky Mountain News ("the red devils" was the latter's term of choice).


Is this freedom-loving or supposedly beneficent (patriarchal - the "Great Father" as Evans refers to the President below), Christian activity?


Change Montesequieu's famous indictment of bondage in book 15 of Spirit of the Laws: "We cannot imagine red men to be human, for if we imagine them to be human, the suspicion would arise that we are not Christians."


Chivington used the phrase "Red fiend" as a projection on indigenous people. There were fiends at Sand Creek. They were commanded and led by John Chivington.


Today, the Methodists - and other Protestant Churches (the World Council of Churches, for example) - have repudiated the Catholic doctrine of discovery. In the papal bull inter caetera (1493), the Pope divided the people and possessions of "discovered territories" between the King of Spain and the King of Portuagel (see here; h/t Andy Reid). In the settler state of America, Chief Justice Marshall of the Supreme Court adopted the same doctrine about the stealing of indigenous land in Johnson v. M'Intosh in 1823. It licensed theft, dispossession, and murder as the "rule of law" in America.


The judgment on the Sand Creek massacre, an objective and decent judgment, came about only through the testimony of officers, Silas Soule and Joseph Cramer, who knew that these indigenous people had come under the protection of the US Government (Soule had attended the meeting of Black Kettle and others with Evans and Chivington at Camp Weld in Denver).


The indigenous people had long been confronted, and increasingly, with a sea of settlers and white soldiers. Many resisted dispossession. Others tried to sign agreements and prevent or limit ethnic cleaning.


Some who settled on land agriculturally and began to live like the whites, for instance, the Cherokee in Georgia, were removed by Congress and President Andrew Jackson - the Indian Removal Act of 1830 and the later "trail of tears" for the Cherokee (the expulsions drove out five tribes including the the Chickasaw, the Choctaws and Creeks; only the Cherokee, having relied on the judicial system and then torn themselves apart by internal conflict, were driven along the Trail of Tears. H/t Paul Finkelman. See here).


Resistance, particularly fighting the soldiers, was the way of self-defense and was made clear, in Indian Removal Act and Sand Creek (among other massacres), to be the only courageous course.


The actions of the United States government are as heartbreaking as the amnesia in the mainstream (among many whites) is total. One cannot think well of Chivington or Byers or Evans or Thomas Jefferson or Andrew Jackson, if one recognizes that indigenous people are...people and that it was their land.


A million Americans (out of 13 million) fought the removal from Georgia. They would have won in Congress but for the 3/5ths clause in the Constitution which gave the slave-owners 25% more seats in Congress, based on a shadow value for the people they owned and disenfranchised.(h/t Duncan Campbell)


In the 72 years before the Civil War, there were 5 single term Presidents from the North (John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Fillmore, Buchanan, van Buren, Pierce - the last were abettors of bondage; some died in office and were replaced for the rest of their terms). They held office for 20 years.


There were 6 two term Presidents, 5 from Virginia and Andrew Jackson, all from the South, all elected by shadow votes, counted as 3/5ths of a male slave, cast by their masters.


That there was something evil and predatory about the American regime - and the American Constitution - is perhaps highlighted by the existence and this consequences of the 3/5th clause.


The loudness of the celebration of Evans becomes tinny upon learning that Seward removed Evans because of Sand Creek.


Even under Abraham Lincoln, the national government of the United States had waged a persistent "war of empire" (the phrase is Ari Kalman's, see The Misplaced Massacre) to dispossess and drive out indigenous people from the lands on which they were living (this occurred throughout the Continent and without a real respite - treaties were repeatedly signed but then broken).


The war against bondage was a central feature of the Union effort in the Civil War. But as the celebration of the "Sand Creek battle" at the State Capitol in Denver reveals, the Union led by Lincoln fought for ethnic cleansing even as it fought to defeat bondage.


Silas Soule, a soldier willing to fight "hostile indians" and a serious abolitionist (he participated in the rescue of Dr. John Doys who was captured by "Border Ruffians" in Missouri leading 13 men and women north to freedom). Soule argued fiercely with Chivington (both knew that these indigenous people had made peace) the night before the massacre; Chivington threatened to hang him. Soule wrote to Major Edward Wynkoop, former commander at Fort Lyon, that the murder of all the peaceful indians, all the ones that had settled with the United States, would launch a great war. He thought it would be a bad summer.

There were 25 years of war - including the defeat of Custer - until the massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890.


Soule's letter and testimony triggered the hearings (David Fridtjof Halaas and Gary L. Roberts, "Written in Blood: the Soule-Cramer Sand Creek Massacre Letters" Colorado Heritage, 2001). One week after the hearings, when he was working as a police officer, he was ambushed and murdered by two "Union" soldiers who had taken part in Sand Creek. His life had been threatened by Chivington. Though just married, he did expect of live.

One of the assassins - Charles Squier - was captured. His jail cell was left open and he escaped (he had friends higher up among the then Colorado administration...).


Lieutenant James D. Connor, the man who captured Squier and also testified about Sand Creek, was found poisoned in his hotel room.


It would take a Shakespeare to capture the initial darkness of Denver...


One thinks today (and for a long time) that the Confederacy is wrongly celebrated in the South. South Carolina flies the flag of bondage at its State Capitol. A statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a slave-trader and the founder of the Ku Klux Klan, is still standing in Memphis, Tennessee. Today, there is a large movement against it.


The following Huffington Post story marks the early February 2013 name changes by the Memphis City Council:

"The statue of Confederate fighter [sic] Nathan Bedford Forrest astride a horse towers above the Memphis park bearing his name. It's a larger-than-life tribute [sic] to the warrior still admired by many for fiercely defending the South in the Civil War – and scorned by others for a slave-trading past and ties to the Ku Klux Klan.

Though the bloodiest war on American soil was fought 150 years ago, racially tinged [sic] discord flared before its City Council voted this week to strip Forrest's name from the downtown park and call it Health Sciences Park. It also voted to rename Confederate Park as Memphis Park and Jefferson Davis Park as Mississippi River Park."

This protest, and the City Council's action, however, are not "racially tinged." They pit opponents of bondage and the Klan against people who, sadly, revere them. Forrest and Jefferson Davis deserve no glorification. The City Council did the right thing. See here and here.


Protestors and the City Council rightly seek to make a new start for democracy - the recognition of everyone and their descendants, the welcoming of a diversity of people who each have human rights and are deserving, in a democracy, of mutual respect - in Tennessee.

No celebration is due to murderers.


In its founding, Denver is no better.


The truth has long been buried in Colorado about the so-called Indian wars.


Evans hoped to become Senator from the new state of Colorado. Chivington, whom he assigned to lead the hundred day troops from Denver, hoped to become Brigadier-General through his "exploits" and be elected Congressman from Colorado. Byers promoted both through the Rocky Mountain News, and also sold a house to Evans, now a monument, the Evans-Byers house at 1310 Bannock. See here.

They all because initial trustees of the Colorado seminary...


They were "thick as thieves" though the crime makes the comparison unfair to thieves (that they stole land from indigenous people is but a component...).


Fighting the Confederacy, however, meant that most regular Union troops were diverted from Colorado in the summer of 1864 (Chivington had been a hero in fighting the Confederacy at the Battle of Gloretta - today Glorietta - in New Mexico in 1862 - h/t Flint Leverstock).


Having no forces to use in the "Indian Wars," John Evans issued a proclamation (see the document below) raising troops from the citizens of Denver.


Evans had no pay to give them. So he licensed them to steal any property from indigenous people and make it their own. This undoubtedly seemed to him, as a former Indian agent, consistent with the general American policies. The "Great Father in Washington," as Evans invoked him, presided over the cordoning off of peaceful indians on reservations. The Americans took all the land...


But Evans' specific proclamation here created a great incentive for murder of any indigenous people, a la Chivington, they could attack and the stealing of anything.


On August 11, 1864 (the second document below), Evans proclaimed:

"And further, as the only reward I am authorized to offer for such services, I hereby empower such citizens, or parties of citizens, to take captive, and hold to their own private use and benefit, all the property of said hostile Indians that they may capture, and to receive for all stolen property recovered from said Indians such reward as may be deemed proper and just therefor."


The Denver leadership, following an American tradition, said "indians are thieves and murderers" and have no character. So who lives on stolen land, murdered the people, drove them out, cordoned them off (in Europe, they called such areas concentration camps, in South Africa, Bantustans, in the Occupied Territories, zones A, B and C...) and kept their names to mock their absence?

Must be the indians...


At a certain point, Chivington, described in Soule's letter, lost control in the massacre and the mob killed and mutilated whoever they laid hands on, including babies (that none of those who participated in or ordered it were tried and executed for it mocks the American practice of "capital punishment").


The promise of a "bounty" for stealing property was rightly one issue in the Federal hearings about Evans and Sand Creek, as was assigning Chivington to lead the troops.


On the surface, there is some exoneration from Evans in the August 11th document. He distinguishes "friendly" or peaceful indians whom he urges to come in to the military settlements and "hostile" indians.


Though it would be an anachronism to use the Tokyo war crimes tribunal as a formal law to assess Evans - the rule of law requires that laws be known to the people who are governed by them - the law draws an important moral distinction that those who might seek to extenuate him could try to use. The Japanese generals, who were tried and executed at Tokyo as war criminals, were charged because they had failed to warn publicly their troops against committing the crimes which the troops had carried out.


Evans' June 27,1864 call to "friendly" indians below does appear to do that. If he had honored this distinction, that might extenuate Evans from the charge that he was directly responsible for the massacre at Sand Creek. This would not, however, be a reason for celebrating or naming things after him; it would be a reason for thinking that his actions, unlike Chivington's, were not depraved.


As the Federal hearings noted, however, the incentive he chose to employ did the opposite; it licensed the barbarism of the Denver militia. Soule says in his letter that he could not imagine "white" men doing these atrocities. He might have referred to "Christian" "civilization." All of these terms are racist and opposite of the truth - genocide against indigenous people, slavery and stealing half of Mexico in the aggression of 1846 are all far from showing that settler capitalism of the United States was characterized by decent conduct or that these "Methodists" were somehow followers of Jesus.


There is, as President Obama said in his Second Inaugural, a founding for some and a later development of the insight that "all men are created equal." This is America's greatness.


But genocide and ethnic cleansing for most of American history are at least the equal of this. And to make, for all the descendants on this territory, a "more perfect union," much unsettling truth must be recognized.

A new start is possible but not with these names and memorials...


Evans speaks of "killing and destroying hostile indians." He makes no distinction of civilian and brave (soldier). He thus licenses slaughter of all, as at Sand Creek.

"Now, therefore, I, John Evans, governor of Colorado Territory, do issue this my proclamation, authorizing all citizens of Colorado, either individually or in such parties as they may organize, to go in pursuit of all hostile Indians on the plains, scrupulously avoiding those who have responded to my said call to rendezvous at the points indicated; also, to kill and destroy, as enemies of the country, wherever they may be found, all such hostile Indians.


He calls for the slaughter - "to kill and destroy...wherever they may be found" - of all without distinction.


Listen to his words from the second order which appear to differentiate some "friendly Indians," but then withdraws protection for innocents:

"Agents, interpreters, and traders will inform the friendly Indians of the plains that some members of their tribes have gone to war with the white people."

He appears to distinguish those who came in at Camp Weld from particular groups who were at war (defending themselves against the U.S. government's aggression; slaughtering settler families like the Hungates as opposed to defeating and killing Custer, however, is not extenuated by the justice of the cause).

But Evans then says the fatal words:

"The families of those who have gone to war with the whites must be kept away from among the friendly Indians." So women, children and the elderly among "hostile" indians were not off bounds for Evans as they were not off bounds in Chivington's massacre of pretended or imagined "hostiles" at Sand Creek.


This document defies the laws of war and decency (see Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars, Alan Gilbert, Democratic Individuality, ch. 1). The two acts, committing aggression against the people of another state and slaughtering civilians, are barred under quite ancient understandings of the law and morality of war.


Evans keeps innocents from "hostile" tribes from saving themselves or being saved. Even his patriarchal rhetoric about "protection" of the "Great Father" is a lie. The command is genocidal...


Worse yet, the crime of war against civilians bars bombing "enemy" cities (for instance, the firebombing of Dresden). One cannot go out and kill noncombatants when one is in battle; Evans, however, would not protect even noncombatants whom he (and the US military and settlers) forced to leave their homes and come to the named forts and then, as at Sand Creek, resettled.


Listen to his second Proclamation raising the militia, August 11, 1864:

"Now, therefore, I, John Evans, governor of Colorado Territory, do issue this my proclamation, authorizing all citizens of Colorado, either individually or in such parties as they may organize, to go in pursuit of all hostile Indians on the plains, scrupulously avoiding those who have responded to my said call to rendezvous at the points indicated; also, to kill and destroy, as enemies of the country, wherever they may be found, all such hostile Indians."

Evans calls here to kill and destroy...whever they may be found, all such hostile Indians." And he refuses to allow those among them, even women, children and old men, to come in.


Further as revealed in the document of the conference at Camp Weld in Denver which I will comment on in a subsequent post, Evans personally refused to make peace with the indigenous leaders who came in. He told them they had to make peace with the military (Chivington and Soule were at the conference). And when they did make peace with the officers, he sent Chivington to murder them.


He could have followed what these indigenous leaders did with the military at Fort Lyon. To extenuate him, one would have to imagine that he did not, that he was completely ignorant that they were there, that he never informed Chivington to leave alone those who came to Fort Lyon and were sent to Sand Creek.


A founder of University education in Colorado and Illinois must be made mentally incompetent when it comes to taking responsibility for the racist atrocities he ordered and oversaw. This is not, I am afraid, a plausible line of excuse.


On June 27, 1864, Evans wrote, in his first Proclamation,

"Friendly Arapahoes and Cheyennes belonging on the Arkansas River will go to Major Colley, U. S. Indian agent at Fort Lyon, who will give them provisions, and show them a place of safety."


But Major Wynkoop then actually made peace with them at Fort Lyon and settled them near the Fort. Wynkoop left Colorado afterwards (The little street named for Wynkoop in downtown Denver is unusually decently named; so are the monuments to Governor Ralph Carr who opposed Frankln Delano Roosevelt's cordoning of Japanese-Americans in concentration camps...).


Major Scott Anthony, who then took command of Fort Lyon, assigned the indians to go to Sand Creek. In Evans's words from June 27th, he "show[ed] them a place of safety"...

That was why there were the American flag and peace flags over Black Kettle's tent as Soule testified. That was why two chiefs welcomed the soldiers - the soldiers are my friends, one said, as he saw the soldiers riding up...


But Anthony collaborated with Chivington and participated in the slaughter. He betrayed his trust as much as Chivington.


Here are the the three pivotal sentences of Evans' June 27th Proclamation:

"The object of this is to prevent friendly Indians from being killed through mistake. None but those who intend to be friendly with the whites must come to these places. The families of those who have gone to war with the whites must be kept away from among the friendly Indians."

The first sentence seems a clear warning beforehand against Sand Creek. Evans, one might have thought, would, first and foremost, have looked out to make sure that if friendly indians came in and if they were settled by Majors Wynkoop and Anthony, the troops he recruited from Denver would not butcher them.

But the last two sentences are incitement to murder innocents among the so-called "hostiles." As Sand Creek and sending out Chivington show, Evans meant the last two sentences and not the first. The Federal Commission was right to denounce him.


Chivington had only the 100 days of the Denver militia's term to do an "exploit" and propel himself to Congress. Evans had presided over the use of the bodies of the Hungate family to motivate racism among then Denverites (in addition to the slaughter at Sand Creek, the "soldiers" took an infant off with them in wagon and then discarded him on the ground to die). They paraded in Denver with the cut off genitals of women which they had slung over their saddles (Evans and Byers knew of this, and said not a word of abhorrence or denunciation...).


Evans wanted to drive out the indians both to "defend" Denver and because the railway was coming.

He knew it was toward the end of the Civil War (November 29, 1864 was the massacre).

He had to act swiftly as did Chivington.

He appointed Chivington to command the troops.


Chivington wanted most to become Brigadier-General. He wanted to be a "hero." He proclaimed this slaughter the greatest victory in the history of Indian warfare. Byers echoed him in the December Rocky Mountain News:

"Among the brilliant feats of arms in Indian warfare, the recent campaign of our Colorado volunteers will stand in history with few rivals, and none to exceed it in final results. We are not prepared to write its history, which can only be done by some one who accompanied the expedition, but we have gathered from those who participated in it and from others who were in that part of the country, some facts which will doubtless interest many of our readers."

See here.


Read Evans's call for "the hundred daysters" carefully. What Chivington did is pretty well what Evans was inciting. If one emphasizes only the distinction between friendly and hostile indians, the people who came to Camp Weld and Fort Lyon and Sand Creek, rightly sought and thought they had achieved peace and should "have been safe."


But Evans refused to make peace with them at Camp Weld. And he sent out Chivington to slaughter them without distinction of combatant and noncombatant, of adult and child, of warrior and women, of armed young men and the elderly.


Still, there is the shadow of a chance, in this document, for some extenuation (a Tokyo-like one) for Evans.


There are other documents, however, which I will analyze in further posts. And the committees at Northwestern and DU will work on this cooperatively for the next year so more things will come to light.


Here is the first:




Agents, interpreters, and traders will inform the friendly Indians of the plains that some members of their tribes have gone to war with the white people. They steal stock and run it off, hoping to escape detection and punishment. In some instances they have attacked and killed soldiers and murdered peaceable citizens. For this the Great Father is angry, and will certainly hunt them out and punish them, but he does not want to injure those who remain friendly to the whites. He desires to protect and take care of them. For this purpose I direct that all friendly Indians keep away from those who are at war, and go to places of safety. Friendly Arapahoes and Cheyennes belonging on the Arkansas River will go to Major Colley, U. S. Indian agent at Fort Lyon, who will give them provisions, and show them a place of safety. Friendly Kiowas and Comanches will go to Fort Larned, where they will be cared for in the same way. Friendly Sioux will go to their agent at Fort Laramie for directions. Friendly Arapahoes and Cheyennes of the Upper Platte will go to Camp Collins on the Cache la Poudre, where they will be assigned a place of safety and provisions will be given them.

The object of this is to prevent friendly Indians from being killed through mistake. None but those who intend to be friendly with the whites must come to these places. The families of those who have gone to war with the whites must be kept away from among the friendly Indians. The war on hostile Indians will be continued until they are all effectually subdued.


Here is the second:

AUGUST 11, 1864

Having sent special messengers to the Indians of the plains, directing the friendly to rendezvous at Fort Lyon, Fort Larned, Fort Laramie, and Camp Collins for safety and protection, warning them that all hostile Indians would be pursued and destroyed, and the last of said messengers having now returned, and the evidence being conclusive that most of the Indian tribes of the plains are at war and hostile to the whites, and having to the utmost of my ability endeavored to induce all of the Indians of the plains to come to said places of rendezvous, promising them subsistence and protection, which, with a few exceptions, they have refused to do:

Now, therefore, I, John Evans, governor of Colorado Territory, do issue this my proclamation, authorizing all citizens of Colorado, either individually or in such parties as they may organize, to go in pursuit of all hostile Indians on the plains, scrupulously avoiding those who have responded to my said call to rendezvous at the points indicated; also, to kill and destroy, as enemies of the country, wherever they may be found, all such hostile Indians. And further, as the only reward I am authorized to offer for such services, I hereby empower such citizens, or parties of citizens, to take captive, and hold to their own private use and benefit, all the property of said hostile Indians that they may capture, and to receive for all stolen property recovered from said Indians such reward as may be deemed proper and just therefor.

I further offer to all such parties as will organize under the militia law of the Territory for the purpose to furnish them arms and ammunition, and to present their accounts for pay as regular soldiers for themselves, their horses, their subsistence, and transportation, to Congress, under the assurance of the department commander that they will be paid.

The conflict is upon us, and all good citizens are called upon to do their duty for the defence of their homes and families.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the great seal of the Territory of Colorado to be affixed this 11th day of August, A. D. 1864.


Friday, March 15, 2013

Emancipation@150: Harvard, Charles Warren Center, March 27th, 4-6

Here are details for my talk at Harvard, March 21, on Founding Amnesias as part of the Warren Center's on-going series on the Emancipation Proclamation at 150. Everyone in the Boston/Cambridge area is invited to come.

"Wednesday, March 27, 4-6pm

Alan Gilbert (University of Denver)

Black Patriots and Loyalists: Fighting for Emancipation in the War for Independence.

Part of the Warren Center’s series on Emancipation@150. Co-sponsored with the Center for American Political Studies. Robinson Basement Seminar Room"

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Poem: black flag red flag

police come riding


toconfiscatethe red

where nonviole t anarch

are there
guns guns



Sas ha Papa

inviolate suns,
unghostly galleons

strings a redflag


in the barn barn

up to the old inn


arms elevated
who’d like to
Paul Robe

come riding

All-American at

no landlord’s blackeyed
Sasha is milking


in dank

“Take down that flag

not even anarchists’ flam
boyan t

b l a c k


Sasha says “too windy


ban ner whips
on this GENGEN



(don’t go to public
she told her



(weknow who you are
said the 2AM



redflag un
fur ling


against the sky

Monday, March 11, 2013

Thursday March 21 at the United Nations at 4:30 for the Days of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave-trade

In commemoration of the Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave-trade, I will speaking about Founding Myths for the United Nations on Thursday, March 21 at the UN Bookshop from 4:30-6. Everyone who lives in or near New York is invited to come.


"Presentation and Book Signing

Thursday, 21 March 2013, 4:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m., United Nations Bookshop, United Nations, New York

A presentation of Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery (2012) by authors

Deborah Willis, University Professor and Chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University;
Barbara Krauthamer, Professor of History, University of Massachusetts Amherst;

and of Black Patriots and Loyalists: Fighting for Emancipation in the War for Independence (2012) by author

Alan Gilbert, John Evans Professor of History, University of Denver.

This event is open to the public. Information on visiting United Nations Headquarters can be found at the UN Visitors Centre.

Cultural and Culinary Evening and Exhibit Reception

Thursday, 21 March 2013, 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m., Main Gallery, Visitors’ Lobby, United Nations, New York.

The event will begin at 6:00 pm with a poetry recital to honour the 100th anniversary of the birth of Aimé Césaire, organized jointly with Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie and Bureau de la Martinique. Françoise Vergès, President of the French National Comité pour la Mémoire de l’Esclavage (2008-2012), will introduce the Recital.

The evening includes:

Poetry readings by Ezra Mabengeza, Roxane Revon, Carole Alexis, and Christel Coita
Music performance by Yacouba Sissoko (Kora player)
Dance performance by Ballet des Amériques
Screening of video excerpts from Aimé Césaire : Une Voix pour l’histoire, by Euzhan Palcy
Display of kanga fabrics from East Africa
Video presenting La Fraternité, the educational ship project
Culinary displays

The exhibition Forever Free: Celebrating Emancipation comprises panels retracing the history of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, presenting heroes and activists, the fight for emancipation, and the legacy of slavery today. Original copies of the Emancipation Proclamation, signed by President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of State William Seward, and of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution will also be on display during the commemorative week, 18-25 March. This special display is made possible by the generosity of Mr. Lawrence Benenson. The exhibition is free and open to the public from 11 February – 26 March 2013. Information on visiting United Nations Headquarters can be found from the UN Visitors Centre."


The day for the Remembrance is usually March 25th. But this year is the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation and the 180th of the abolition of bondage throughout the British colonies which occasions a week-long celebration.