Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Roxane Dunbar-Ortiz on indigenous people and the 4th of July

   Roxane Dunbar-Ortiz offers a fine and devastatingly sad counterpart of my piece on black soldiers in the Revolution for the 4th of July in the Daily Beast here. She emphasizes a genocidal policy against villages, starting before the Revolution, and seizure of indigenous land.  She says rightly that since indigenous people were forced beyond the Mississippi by the United States, but survived, the policy can be called a matter of ethnic cleansing.  Still the reduction in population, the trans-generational trauma (h/t Ramona Beltran) was immense.


    Roxane also casts an important light on the revolutionaries' resistance to taxes on stamped paper and tea.  After the French-Indian War, the King declared Ohio beyond the Appalachians to be "indian land" (genocide was okay on the eastern side...).  But Washington and other speculators were avid to acquire the land.  And the revenues went to putting Redcoats into the field along the border to stop settlement there.  So there is an intimate connection between colonial resistance to British taxes and genocide against indigenous people.  Note that in most celebratory historical/biographical accounts  the genocide against indigenous people is not often mentioned, and the connection Dunbar-Ortiz rightly draws, is omitted.

    Roxane, however, misses the fight from below, black and white, slave and free, against press-gangs, vital to the Revolution, which created the revolutionary sailors (much denounced by elite speculators) who had experience in fighting the Crown to the death, and led the militancy.  See my Daily Beast account here. But her point that indigenous resistance to settler-colonialism was the only thing that halted the genocide is profound.


    The indigenous resistors, she rightly says, are admirable, and they and not the "founding fathers" are whom we should celebrate.  One might also consider Juneteenth also as a better holiday in spirit than July 4.


    In addition, unity of blacks and whites with the elites against indigenous people, as in Bacon's rebellion in 1683 was something deeply reactionary.  See Peter Silver, Our Savage Neighbors (2013).  The counter-efforts to create multiracial unity from below - over a million colonists protested against Andrew Jackson's efforts to remove the Creeks and Cherokees, who had settled as Christian farmers as colonists had demanded, from Georgia along the trail of tears - were and are the hope of the United States.  Little else in the long history of racist murder and "settlement" is hopeful.  Or to put it differently, the election of Barack Obama and some of the things that followed have been a positive and novel step toward making a "more perfect union" - but it is a long and, as an accepted public matter, recent quest...

    This process of genocide was named "Manifest Destiny." This is, because of its brutality and crassness, not much taught in history classes. Genocide ravaged the West - killing many villagers in winter as at Sand Creek in Colorado, and sweeping on to the American slaughters in the Philippines.   The American Frontier was Hitler's "Lebensraum."  American war is tied to the Pan-German League's and later Hitler's strategy of conquest of slavs in Poland and Russia as "the Wild East."


       In his Table Talk, Hitler referred to the Russian "redskins."  He had played cowboys and indians, reading the Karl May novels as a child (the May novels are the Harry Potter books of Germany for the last century).  But May sympathized with imagined "indians" even though he had the retrograde position that they were "doomed."  Hitler wanted to impose something worse in Russia (and Jews and Bolsheviks became eugenic offspring of indigenous resistance).


     All this has been buried in the United States.  I have spent my adult life fighting eugenics and Nazism - know a lot about it - but only learned four or five years ago how central "indian-killing" was in Hitler's conception.  It is obviously no accident that all the American writers on this subject until Carroll Kakel in 2012 just didn't manage to notice Karl May, the Winnetou novels, and Hitler's own writings.  For the analogy of settler colonialism in the US, the attempted Nazi conquest of the Wild East, the Chilean-German conquest of the Wild South in the late 19th century (the Mapuche), and the analogy espoused by Israeli leaders for the oppression and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians is, unfortunately, precise.    It is time at last to set the record straight.

    And by the way, Thomas Jefferson's vision of democracy for white farmers, though it features some rebellious and democratic aspects, is most akin, as in the Louisiana Purchase, to Heinrich Himmler's for setting Germans in the East and killing/displacing 30 or 40 million "black" Poles and Russians.  Looking at American history through the eyes of the most oppressed, as John Rawls' A Theory of Justice recommends, grimly upsets, based on the facts, most of the common stereotypes.

Travis Mazawaficuna of the Dakota Nation at the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples at the United Nations, New York, August 9, 2013. (photo: Reuters)
Travis Mazawaficuna of the Dakota Nation at the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples at the United Nations, New York, August 9, 2013. (photo: Reuters)

July 4th: No Time for Celebration for Indigenous Peoples in US

By Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, teleSUR
04 July 16
Without Indigenous resistance, the intended genocide of the Native peoples by the settlers would have completely succeeded.

he Anglo-American settlers’ violent break from Britain, from 1775 to 1783, paralleled a decade of their search and destroy annihilation of Delaware, Cherokee, Muskogee, Seneca, Mohawk, Shawnee, Miami and other nations’ villages and fields, slaughtering the residents without distinction of age or gender and overrunning the boundaries of the 13 colonies into unceded Native American territories. 
July 4 symbolizes the beginning of the “Indian wars” and “westward movement” that continued across the continent for another century of unrelenting U.S. wars of conquest. That was the goal of independence for both the seasoned killers of the so-called "revolutionary army" and the militias using extreme violence against Indigenous noncombatants to subjugate and expel.
They were met with resistance movements and confederations identified with leaders such as Buckongeahelas of the Delaware; Alexander McGillivray of the Muskogee-Creek; Little Turtle and Blue Jacket of the Miami-Shawnee alliance; Joseph Brant of the Mohawk; and Cornplanter of the Seneca, who called the Anglo counter-insurgents “town destroyers.” Following U.S. independence, the great Tecumseh and the Shawnee confederation also joined the struggle. 
Without this resistance, the intended genocide of the Native peoples would have completely succeeded. Although Native nations were “ethnically cleansed” in the region east of the Mississippi by 1850 through forced relocation, they never ceased to exist. These are truer heroes for our children to emulate than the “Founding Fathers.”
The program of expansion and the wars against the Indigenous farmers of the large valley of the Ohio River and the Great Lakes region began decades before July 4, with the so-called "French and Indian War,” which was the North American extension of the Seven Years' War between France and Britain in Europe.
In the Treaty of Paris of 1763, France ceded Canada and all claims east of the Mississippi to Britain. In the course of that war, Anglo-American settlers intensified their use of counter-insurgency violence against Indigenous peoples’ resistance to incursions into the territories of the Ottawa, Miami, Kickapoo, and other nations. By the end, significant numbers of Anglo settlers were squatting on Indigenous lands beyond the colonies’ boundaries and land speculation was the road to riches for a few individuals. 
But, to the settlers’ dismay, soon after the 1763 treaty was signed, King George III issued a proclamation that prohibited British settlement west of the Allegheny-Appalachian mountain chain, ordering those who had illegally settled there to surrender their claims and return to the colonies. Soon it became clear that English authorities needed far more soldiers to enforce the edict, as thousands of settlers ignored it and poured over the mountains and squatted on Indigenous lands, provoking armed Indigenous resistance.
In 1765, the British Parliament imposed the Stamp Act on the colonies, a tax on all printed materials that had to be paid in British pounds, not local paper money. The iconic settler slogan of “taxation without representation” that marked the surge for independence from Britain derived from this imposed tax was specious, or at best not the whole story. The tax levied was to pay the cost of housing, feeding and transporting British soldiers to enforce the British colonial boundaries. Thus the complaints iterated in the July 4, 1776 Declaration of Independence largely focused on the measures used by the British to prevent expansion of Anglo land acquisition and settlement.
By the early 1770s, Anglo-American settler terror against Christianized Native American communities within the colonies, and violent encroachment on those outside the colonial boundaries, raged and illegal speculation in stolen Indigenous lands was rampant. In the southern colonies especially, Anglo farmers who had lost their land to larger, more efficient, slave-worked plantations, rushed for Native farmlands over the mountain range. 
These armed squatters thus set, as military historian John Grenier writes, “a prefigurative pattern of U.S. annexation and colonization of Indigenous nations across the continent for the following century: a vanguard of farmer-settlers led by seasoned ‘Indian fighters,’ calling on authorities/ militias of the British colonies, first, and the U.S. government/army later, to defend their settlements, forming the core dynamic of U.S. ‘democracy.’”
In 1783, the British withdrew from the fight to maintain the insurgent 13 colonies, not because of military defeat, but rather in order to redirect their resources to the occupation and colonization of South Asia. The British East India Company had been operating in the subcontinent since 1600 in a project parallel to Britain’s colonization of the North American Atlantic Coast.
The British Crown determined that great wealth was to be made in Asia. Britain’s transfer of its claim to Indian Country west of the colonies to the settlers spelled disaster for all Indigenous peoples east of the Mississippi, and ultimately all of the North American area that would be claimed and occupied by the United States. Britain’s withdrawal in 1783 opened a new chapter of unrestrained violent colonization.
The creation of the constitution began in 1785, but was not approved by all the states and put into effect until 1791. Meanwhile, the interim Continental Congress got to work on a plan for colonization over the mountain range. The Land Ordinance of 1785 established a centralized system for surveying and distributing land, with seized Native lands being auctioned off to the highest bidder. 
The Northwest Ordinance of 1787, referring to the Ohio country, set forth a colonization procedure for annexation via military occupation, the transformation of land to civilian territorial status under federal control and finally through statehood. These were the first laws of the incipient republic, revealing the motive for independence.
It was the blueprint for the taking of western Indigenous lands, with lines for future settlements reaching to the Pacific. The maps contained in the land ordinances, which laid out land in marketable square-miles plots, were not new. They were the work of colonial elites during the decades before the war of independence, including George Washington, a leader of the Virginia militia that led armed surveying teams into Ohio country, making him one of the most successful land speculators of the time.
Delaware Nation leader, Buckongeahelas, said in 1781, "They do what they please. They enslave those who are not of their color, although created by the same Great Spirit who created us. They would make slaves of us if they could, but as they cannot do it, they kill us. There is no faith to be placed in their words ... I know the long knives; they are not to be trusted."
The ruling elite of the colonies were all land speculators, with land and slave ownership being the very basis of the economy of the first nation-state born as a capitalist state and by 1850, the wealthiest economy in the world.
In 1801, President Thomas Jefferson aptly described the new settler-state’s intentions for horizontal and vertical continental expansion as an “empire for liberty,” stating, “However our present interests may restrain us within our own limits, it is impossible not to look forward to distant times, when our rapid multiplication will expand itself beyond those limits and cover the whole northern, if not the southern, continent, with a people speaking the same language, governed in similar form by similar laws.” 
The policy of U.S. settlers taking land by force was not an accidental or spontaneous project or the work of a few bad apples. The violent theft of Native American land by settlers was inscribed as an individual right in the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, second only to freedom of speech. Male colonial settlers had long formed militias for the purpose of raiding and razing Indigenous communities and seizing their lands and resources.
The Second Amendment, ratified in 1791, legalized these irregular forces: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The continuing significance of that “freedom,” specified in the Bill of Rights, reveals the settler-colonialist cultural roots of the U.S. that appear even in the present as a sacred right. Such militias were also used as “slave patrols” in the South, forming the basis of the U.S. police culture after the end of legal slavery.
What the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. said in 1967, that the United States "is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today," remains true and even more deadly today, with no end in sight. The United States was founded on violence, conquest, militarism and slavery— almost always making war somewhere.
For the sake of humanity and our own children, let us own this truth and transform July 4th into a day of mourning, a solemn occasion, telling the true stories, learning from the tragic birth of this nation, accompanied by implementation of full self-determination for the Indigenous nations of this continent and reparations for slavery. 

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