Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Spain, Sand Creek, Oklahoma, Germany: a letter from Andy Reid



Andy Reid who teaches at DU Law School, is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma Law School. As a law student, he worked with native americans in Southeastern Oklahoma. In response to Linda Hogan's letters here and here, Andy gives details of how Chickasaw lands were stolen - how tribes were "allocated private plots" by the imperial US government and then the individuals "owning" them were dispossessed by "courts" in which they were said to have appeared but did not, for failure to pay taxes:

"[Linda Hogan's] situation is not unusual - as I am sure you know people of color and people of limited means (the legally disenfranchised) are frequently taken advantage of in real estate matters. I recall when I was in law school interviewing elderly Native people from that part of the state who told me that after their communally held tribal lands (those left over after the great illegal Oklahoma land run (the Sooners and Boomers)) were divided up and allotted by the federal government as private property to each tribal member, against their will, numerous new Native landowners would be told they no longer owned their land. When they checked into it, they would discover that the local judge (white) would hold hearings on "tax foreclosures" filed by the county attorney (white) in which the court would issue tax deeds disposing of the Native lands. They would be told that the court records showed that they had been given personal notice of the hearings and had even appeared at the hearings - all due process, all "legal." Of course, the former Native owners uniformly would tell me that the never received any notice from the court and never appeared at any hearings, despite what the court records showed.'

***

Given this experience, Andy has long fought the rapaciousness of the American government toward indigenous people and the legally disenfranchised. He underlines the connection between the ugly nickname of the Oklahoma football team - the "Sooners" - and the monicker of the University of Denver - the "Pioneers." Though "Denver Boone" has been rightly cancelled as a symbol by the administration, one has but to drive by the pub\coffee shop "The Pioneer" at University and Wesley with its irredentist statue of the Disney cartoon Indian-killer to feel the intensity of the racism that remains.

The University of Denver is commendably dealing with this Founding Amnesia - it is actively commemorating and teaching about the 150th anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre along with the 150th anniversary of University.

***

Andy mentions that on November 29, 1864, Evans "authorized" the Sand Creek Massacre even as Chivington did the actual killing. This is not quite provable (I speak here, as I do always on this blog, of my own sense of the matter, not for the DU committee working out a joint report).

The sense in which this is true is that Evans, from late 1863 on, on the word of one spy, Robert North, who agreed with what Evans had already decided, thought there was a union of tribes on the Plains embarking on a general war against settlers.(North agreed with what Evans had already decided). Among other officials and officers, however, Evans was regarded as an alarmist. He was isolated. Fighting the Civil War against the Confederates, they regarded an additional Indian war as a disaster.

***

Evans strongly supported Colonel Chivington, the military commander in the Colorado Territory, whose soldiers fired on sight on Cheyennes and Arapahos along the Bijou, at Cedar Canyon and Oak Creek in spring 1864. In the last, Lieutenant Eayre murdered Lean Bear, a peace leader, riding in a small group, unthreateningly, to find out what the soldiers wanted. Lean Bear wore a medallion given to him by Lincoln and carried letters of friendship with the United States given to him in Washington. He was shot; the soldiers then rode over his body, finishing him off as he lay on the ground. Evans' Proclamation of June 27th licensed such activity: to "kill and destroy all hostile indians," i.e those who had not come to named forts as of the day he issued the Proclamation (he gave them no set time, even a month, to come in). His Proclamation of August 11 incited every citizen to kill indians, and,, was as the Northwestern report on Sand Creek says, a vigilante Proclamation, certain to stir war though they oddly imagine ineffectual (in contrast, soldiers who signed up for the Third Regiment based on it and who did the massacre would plainly have had it in mind).

***

On September 28 at Camp Weld, Evans, as Superintendent of Indian Affairs, refused to make peace with the determinedly peace-seeking Cheyenne and Arapaho leaders who had come several hundred miles to Denver at great risk with Major Wynkoop. Evans thus refused to engage in the standard government tactic of divide and rule.

Even Lincoln's Secretary of Indian Affairs William P. Dole then urged Evans to make peace. He did not.

***

Still, at Camp Weld, the Cheyennes and Arapahos were given the instruction to come into Fort Lyon with Major Wynkoop, and they would be peacefully settled at Sand Creek, "under the protection of the army" as the Joint Congressional Committee Report would underline, when Chivington, with his hundred day volunteers, rode out to butcher them.

***

Divide and rule was the American policy for gradual "extermination": focus on some to kill in battle, divide others off to prevent larger battles, American casualties and expense, settle them as farmers on unarable land, perhaps converting them to "Christianity," and subsequently drive them out. For instance, Evans negotiated with the Utes in 1864 who accepted his vision; they, too, would be driven out of Colorado by Governor Pitkin in 1879...

But Evans refused to follow this standard policy toward the Cheyennes and Arapahos who had obeyed his Proclamation of June 27th - that Proclamation instructs those tribes to come to Fort Lyon - and had, avoiding the danger of rampant, "on sight" military attacks, come in with Major Edward Wynkoop to meet with him at Camp Weld.

***

Evans was also, in many ways, in league with Chivington (he met with him about military affairs, as a Methodist, as a Mason, as fellow Board members of the Colorado Seminary which would become the University of Denver and Iliff School of Theology (founded in 1910 from the religious college that was part of the University of Denver), and as fellow Republican running mates for Senator and Congressional representative in the failed campaign in 1864 for Colorado statehood.

***

Evans never criticized Sand Creek or Chivington afterwards. In 1884, to H.H. Bancroft, he insisted that the Massacre had been a "benefit to the people of Colorado" because it "rid us" of the "roaming Plains Indians." Even the equivocal Northwestern report rightly and viscerally names this statement appalling.

***

There is, however, no written instruction from Evans to Chivington ordering a massacre. Out of town when it happened - he left November 16, thirteen days before the Massacre - Evans refers in several letters to a few friendly indians, prisoners, near Sand Creek. This is significant evidence that Evans was not quite determined to have them slaughtered.

***

Nonetheless, Evans, uniquely among officials, created the environment for the massacre and furthered it relentlessly from late 1863 through 1864. That he wanted to and was eager to rid the Plains of Indians and move in railways, build up Denver, and build Universities is also revealed in his 1888 statement. Though there is no smoking gun instruction fromm Evans to Chivington. Evans does say at Camp Weld with Chivington present, "summer is your time (the swiftly moving Indians were elusive in summer), winter is "my time." Following the Bear River massacre by Captain Patrick E. Connor of the Shoshone in Idaho, the army realized that snowed in, where they could be discovered, indians were an easier target and that tactic would inevitably include slaughtering women and children. Unlike Chivington, Connor and others took prisoners.

***

Evans feared a fantasized general war of the tribes. As an alarmist among American officers and officials, Evans did everything in is power to make such a war. That war would come as a result of his actions, not as a cause (further, the native americans were defending their land; the Americans were powerful, illegal invadere).

***

Even without a direct instruction to Chivington, Evans's culpability is, I think, unique. He created the circumstances which made something like Sand Creek likely and perhaps inevitable.

***

The Northwestern Report at the beginning of its conclusion says "No known evidence" and "No direct known evidence" connects Evans with Chivington's attack on Sand Creek. In English, the phrase "no evidence" is sufficient. The authors put it this way because no one would be surprised, given the pattern of Evans' actions for the previous year (the Northwestern Report blurs it...), if such a note or communication were to be found...

***

Many people are appalled by Sand Creek, today as when it happened. Methodists led by Bishop Eaine Stanovksky have taken the lead in this as has Chancellor Robert Coombe at DU; Governor Hickenlooper, who learned about the changes in and courage of Major Wynkoop when he started the Wynkoop brewery, has appointed a commission to educate about, begin, so far as possible, to heal from Sand Creek.

***

But founding amnesia about extermination weighs heavily on Denver. The University of Denver still lionizes Evans. Evans was a visionary for the city, for railways and for founding universities - for white people.

Being an Evans professor is a little, I have discovered, like being a Jefferson Davis professor at a Southern University; these men do not deserve the honor. But there is Evans Boulevard crossed near the University by Downing (Jacob Downing, one of Chivington's coterie, took no prisoners, i.e. no women and children, whenever he attacked in two episodes leading up to Sand Creek). There is Mount Evans and Evanston, Illinois and Evans Chapel. These are heavy weights, in the scales, to make a verdict weaker than it should be.

***

There is, however, a new mood, one to make a fresh start about Sand Creek and seeing Evans clearly is part of this.

***

Andy's letter also compares American genocide with the Spaniards. While historians often rightly note that ethnic cleansing and genocide are anachronisms and the term used at the time was "extermination," it is also useful to see the American Holocaust (the title of a book by David Stannard) in a comparative historical context. This turns out to be especially true because Hitler was, from a boy, a fan of Karl May's German pseudo-Westerns and viewed his own attempt to take over Eastern Europe as a parallel to American extermination. Yet Hitler's affection for and modeling of U.S. extermination of "Red Men" has long been subject, for political reasons, to American amnesia (that the Nazis had learned so much from American racisms - that there was a kinship - would not have been useful during the Cold War...).

***

Andy rightly invokes Tocqueville:

“The Spaniards were unable to exterminate the Indian race by those unparalleled atrocities which brand them with indelible shame, nor did they succeed even in wholly depriving it of its rights; but the Americans of the United States have accomplished this twofold purpose with singular felicity, tranquilly, legally, philanthropically, without shedding blood, and without violating a single great principle of morality in the eyes of the world. It is impossible to destroy men with more respect for the laws of humanity.”

***

As Andy suggests, Germany's Second Empire (not Hitler, however) committed genocide in Namibia. Hitler's favorite author was Karl May whose Western novels - May never had been to America when he wrote them - featured Old Shatterhand, a white man who would always defeat "Red Men." The American notion of Manifest Destiny, including Evans' about a supposed right to land lived on by other people, was a basis, in Hitler's mind, for Lebensraum (Living Space) in Eastern Europe. More even than colonialism, the American experience of ethnic cleansing, symbolized in the term Manifest Destiny, was a paradigm for the Nazi invasions of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Russia....

***

In the 1920s, Weimar democracy sent representatives to the US to study American eugenic legislation (that parliamentary regime paved the way for genocide). The Nazi sterilization and miscegenation laws were copied word for word from those of the states of Virginia and Indiana (Stephan Chorover, From Genesis to Genocide, pp. 98-102). America thus played a central role in the international adoption of eugenic laws, and racism toward indigenous people - cutting off skulls of native americans for Samuel Morton who created the pseudoscience of "anthropometry"; some 20,000 are still in the Smithsonian - was central in this. See here. (Otto Braided Hair and David Halaas went to retrieve for burial skulls cut off at Sand Creek in 2012).

This interplay, particularly based on genocide of native americans, needs to be studied and written about more thoroughly. Note that as in the case of the sterilization of Carrie Buck mentioned below, Andy implies that poor white immigrants were also swept up in those horrors.

***

Here are a couple of indications about the Nazis:

"Hitler's concept of concentration camps as well as the practicality of genocide owed much, so he claimed, to his studies of English and United States history. He admired the camps for Boer prisoners in South Africa and for the Indians in the wild west; and often praised to his inner circle the efficiency of America's extermination - by starvation and uneven combat - of the red savages who could not be tamed by captivity." John Toland, Adolph Hitler, p. 702.

The reservation was, as it were, a concentration camp in the "extermination" in the West, and served as a model for Nazi camps, though the latter were more systematic, compared even to the Spaniards, in killing...

***

According to James Pool's Hitler and His Secret Partners:

"Hitler drew another example of mass murder from American history. Since his youth he had been obsessed with the Wild West stories of Karl May. He viewed the fighting between cowboys and Indians in racial terms. In many of his speeches he referred with admiration to the victory of the white race in settling the American continent and driving out the inferior peoples, the Indians. With great fascination he listened to stories, which some of his associates who had been in America told him about the massacres of the Indians by the U.S. Cavalry.

He was very interested in the way the Indian population had rapidly declined due to epidemics and starvation when the United States government forced them to live on the reservations. He thought the American government's forced migrations of the Indians over great distances to barren reservation land was a deliberate policy of extermination. Just how much Hitler took from the American example of the destruction of the Indian nations is hard to say; however, frightening parallels can be drawn. For some time Hitler considered deporting the Jews to a large 'reservation' in the Lubin area where their numbers would be reduced through starvation and disease." (pp. 273-274)

***

A "reservation" in Lubin...

***

Dwarfing Napoleon, Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union murdered some 20 million people and destroyed a quarter of the housing (in 1943, there were 6 million fascist troops at Stalingrad, 217 divisions; 1 1/2 million were captured or killed; at the contemporary battle of El Aleman fought by Britain, 12 fascist divisions participated, 40,000 Germans were captured or killed. Along the whole Atlantic front at the time of the Normandy invasion, there were but 70 Nazi divisions).

That Hitler calls Soviets "redskins" - and sees an exact parallel of German's eating bread from subjugated Poland and from Canada, produced on land, stolen from indigenous people, is significant:

"Always contemptuous of the Russians, Hitler said: 'For them the word 'liberty' means the right to wash only on feast-days. If we arrive bringing soft soap, we'll obtain no sympathy…There's only one duty: to Germanize this country by the immigration of Germans, and to look upon the natives as Redskins.' Having been a devoted reader of Karl May's books on the American West as a youth, Hitler frequently referred to the Russians as "Redskins." He saw a parallel between his effort to conquer and colonize land in Russia with the conquest of the American West by the white man and the subjugation of the Indians or 'Redskins.' 'I don't see why,' he said, 'a German who eats a piece of bread should torment himself with the idea that the soil that produces this bread has been won by the sword. When we eat from Canada, we don't think about the despoiled Indians.' (pp. 254-255)

***

Many were killed on the "Trail of Tears" (several thousand, perhaps 25%) and in many massacres of which Sand Creek was the most barbaric, so Tocqueville's thought is not quite accurate. Still...

***

Andy writes:

"[Linda Hogan's] situation is not unusual - as I am sure you know people of color and people of limited means (the legally disenfranchised) are frequently taken advantage of in real estate matters. I recall when I was in law school interviewing elderly Native people from that part of the state who told me that after their communally held tribal lands (those left over after the great illegal Oklahoma land run (the Sooners and Boomers)) were divided up and allotted by the federal government as private property to each tribal member, against their will, numerous new Native landowners would be told they no longer owned their land. When they checked into it, they would discover that the local judge (white) would hold hearings on "tax foreclosures" filed by the county attorney (white) in which the court would issue tax deeds disposing of the Native lands. They would be told that the court records showed that they had been given personal notice of the hearings and had even appeared at the hearings - all due process, all "legal." Of course, the former Native owners uniformly would tell me that the never received any notice from the court and never appeared at any hearings, despite what the court records showed.

All of this comes upon the forced removal of the various tribes to Oklahoma (Land of the Red Man) from their ancestral lands by President Jackson in direction violation of decisions by the United States Supreme Court - trails / trials of tears of the Cherokee form Georgia and the Carolinas, the Seminoles, Creeks, Choctaws, and Chickasaws from Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, the Poncas from Kansas, the Cheyennes and Arapahoes from Wyoming and Colorado, and so on. The famous French philosopher / political documentarian, Alexis de Tocqueville, stumbled upon the Cherokee Trail of Tears while studying the new experiment in democracy in the United States in 1831. In his book on his trip, Democracy in America, he opines remarkably on this:

“The Spaniards were unable to exterminate the Indian race by those unparalleled atrocities which brand them with indelible shame, nor did they succeed even in wholly depriving it of its rights; but the Americans of the United States have accomplished this twofold purpose with singular felicity, tranquilly, legally, philanthropically, without shedding blood, and without violating a single great principle of morality in the eyes of the world. It is impossible to destroy men with more respect for the laws of humanity.”

In other words, like the Nazis a century later, the Americans had "legalized" genocide to give it the appearance of moral legitimacy in the same manner today that the United States legalizes torture, illegal detention, oppression of dissent, and the invasion and destruction of other countries that interfere with its imperial lust for the wealth of the earth. When the Nazis invaded, occupied, and committed genocide in Namibia [it was the Kaiser in the 1890s who committed genocide in Namibia] and then later in Europe, it was all "legal."

The invasions of Namibia and Germany's neighbors was justified under the natural law recognized under the international law of the time, Lebensraum, the right of an over-populated superior civilization to take the lands and property of inferior peoples. It's the same "legal justification" cited by US Supreme Court Chief Justice Marshall in the Cherokee nation cases to legally and morally justify the takings of the Cherokee and other Native lands, the natural right of the superior white Christian from the over-populated nations of Europe to take the lands of "uncivilized" heathens - what we proudly refer to as "Manifest Destiny." This imperial theft was sanctified by several Papal edicts that referred to this genocide as fulfilling the commands of God in the Bible. It was then picked up by Emmerich de Vattel, one of the "fathers" of modern international law in his Law of Nations who was then re-cited as authority by Chief Justice Marshall in his opinions legalizing genocide of Native peoples and the destruction of Native nations. The Nazis then expressly used the occupation of Native lands and the genocide of Native peoples in America found legal by Chief Justice Marshall as legal authority for their invasion of Namibia and their European neighbors.

This is why I continue to protest the proud moniker of "Pioneers" by the University of Denver (where I teach) - and "Sooners" by the University of Oklahoma (my alma mater) - because the Pioneers and Sooners were merely the government's weapons of mass destruction of their day - and Daniel Boone (DU's former mascot), and Governor Evans (who authorized the Sand Creek Massacre), Methodist Reverend Chivington (who led the Sand Creek Massacre), Denver Judge Jacob Downing (a Major in the Army who participated in the Sand Creek Massacre) led the deployments of these weapons of mass destruction.

The Nazi genocide was also "legal" under German laws setting up the Nazi eugenics program. As a legal basic for its mass murder, the Nazi lawyers cited another opinion of the United States Supreme Court from 1927, Buck v. Bell, written by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who held that the compulsory sterilization of the "unfit" ("feeble minded" 18-year-old Carrie Bell) by the Commonwealth of Virginia did not violate the US Constitution. Fittingly, that decision has never been expressly overruled by the Court. Since then through the 1970s, the US Indian Health Service sterilized tens of thousands of Native women and tens of thousands of Native children were "legally" stolen from their impoverished "unfit" Native parents by state welfare agencies and adopted out to non-Native families. The laws governing Native peoples in the United States even today - Federal Indian Law - is the law of slow genocide.

de Tocqueville had it right - 'It is impossible to destroy men with more respect for the laws of humanity.'

Andy"

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