In Part One, I covered America's failure to address the slavery issue primarily with African
For anyone who is aware of the issue of slavery, the world is clearly
failing in its duty to our fellow humans to reverse this terrible crime. Today,
there are more slaves than ever, with estimates reaching over 25 million, including
1 million living in the United States today.
However, this part
is not about slavery but about genocide. And for this issue, I turn to the European
conquest and genocide of the indigenous people who were here before us in the
of genocide including Rwanda, Dafur or Bosnia are well documented and are winding
through a barely started global legal system that was started by the U.S. at
Nuremburg but is now under attack by the U.S. There is also the startling evidence
of femicide in Asia where estimates of over 100 million women have been
history of genocide is not new. From Carthage two thousand years ago to
the Nazi attempt to exterminate the Jewish people, none match the scope of what
has happened to the indigenous people of the West. Nor is there a clearer example
of this crime against humanity today than our inhumanity towards the first nations
or the U.S.
the scale of this genocide has been unlike any other similar criminal acts in
history. Yet, today, like the issue of slavery, this country has never formally
acknowledged its actions, thus discussions are couched along the lines of did
it happen or not.
Destiny of Europeans in North America peaked in the 19th century with all
out war against indians that included smallpox
blankets, outright slaughter (Wounded
Knee) and the extermination
of the Buffalo. Somewhere between 12
to 100 million indigenous people were reduced to just 300,000. But the conquest
of the western hemisphere by Europeans by force was only the first part of this
ongoing genocide. The next phase of this war in North America would be the forced
relocation onto lesser lands like the
Trail of Tears of tribes onto reservations. This would be followed by forcing
young indians into boarding
schools where their language, traditions and relations to their culture
would be stripped in one of the most brutal acts of Christianization.
a hemisphere populated by tribal
cultures that were perceived as being pagan, violent and uncivilized. Supported
by religious eddict, Royalist Europe laid claim to the hemisphere, and then
enslaved or slaughtered all that stood up against them. Treaty
after treaty would be signed with the great leader in Washington. Yet, to
this day most if all of those treaties were never carried out. The 1872 Mining
Act was used to go into reservations and take minerals, like gold, silver and
copper right out from lands that had been ceded by treaty. For example, the
Shoshonne nation still lays claim to much of Nevada, including the lands where
the U.S. tested nuclear weapons as well as the proposed construction of the
Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository, which they oppose.
For much of the
20th century the plight of indigenous communities dissappeared from sight, being
romanticized by the cheap western novel and cowboy and indian shoot `em up TV
shows. The civil rights and free speech movements would also stir up racial
tensions with "Reds" as well. This war against the missidentified
"Indian" people of Turtle Island continues up to the present with
the lingering fallout from Wounded
Knee and the American Indian Movement's (AIM) battle against the U.S. government
in 1973. The violent shootout between AIM and federal agents played a dramatic
role in history of this country's treatment of indigenous people. Many of Wounded
Knee's leaders have been persecuted like Leonard
Peltier, John Trudell
and Dennis Banks.
many others were hunted down and killed.
movement of the late 1970's and early 1980's would draw attention to the dreadful
impacts of uranium mining and the U.S. attempt to declare the four corners area
of the southwest a national sacrafice area, where thousands of uranium mines
had been dug impacting the water, health and lands of tribes from South Dakota
to Arizona. Native miners would die from uranium poisoning that started in the
1950's. Thousands of abandoned mines still dot indian lands today with the latest
round of plans just being developed to start cleaning them up. The first round
of cleanups that started in 1978 has all but failed with the Department of Energy
having cleaned up only 26 sites at a cost of nearly $1.5 billion. Here
is a web slideshow documenting the issue.
But the issue of
mining goes well beyond just uranium, but encompasses the mythological El Dorado,
the lost city of gold that came to a peak with the gold rush of 1849 and the
entry of California into the nation. The genocidal war against California would
reach new heights. In its first phase, the romanticized Catholic Missionaries
would spread European disease amongst the Peons that they sought to turn to
Christianity. During the Spanish-Mexican conquistorial era between 1770-1848
of Califas, some 200,000 indians died from disease, out right slaughter or under
grueling servitude of the Padres.
With the takeover
of California by the U.S. another 70,000 indians would die in the next 20 years.
This era would exemplify the genocidal behavior where scalps would fetch up
to $5 when turned into the feds. Prior to the civil war adult Achomawi, Atsugewi,
Awani, Cahita, Cahuilla, Cajuenche, Chemehuevi, Chetco, Chilula, Chimariko,
Chumash, Coanopa, Cochimi, Cochiti, Copehan, Costanoan, Cuñeil, Cupeño,
Dakubetede, Diegueño, Esselen, Fernandeño, Halchidhoma, Huchnon,
Hupa, Juaneño, Kamia, Karok, Kato, Kawaiisu, Kawia, Kitanemuk, Konomihu,
Koso, Koyeti, Lassik, Luiseño, Maidu, Mariposan, Mattole, Mission Indians,
Miwok, Modoc, Mohave, Mono, Mono-Paviotso, Nongatl, Nooksak, Okwanuchu, Paiute,
Patwin, Pomo, Salinan, Serrano, Shasta, Shoshonean, Shoshoni, Tachi, Tolowa,
Tübatulabal, Wailaki, Wappo, Washo, Watok, Whilkut, Wintu, Wintun, Wiyot/Wiyat,
Yahi, Yana, Yodok, Yokuts, Yuki, Yuman and Yurok could be killed, and a body
part be turned in for payment, while children were sold into slavery.
In a classic example
of western arrogance, Ishi one
of the last known members of the Yahi tribe was found in 1910 and brought to
San Francisco where he was put on display in a museum, only to die from exposure
to western disease after just a few years. During a single century over 90%
of all indigenous people in California were killed by Europeans.
Some 59 treaties
that had been signed by the U.S. to help get tribal support against the Spanish
were quickly forgotten until 1906. After over 20 years, the BIA and California
carried out its 2nd and 3rd phases of genocide where tribes were officially
given lands followed by boarding schools. But many tribes never were put on
that list. In a minor slip, the Ohlone Costanoan tribe wasn't on that list.
Three hundred years earlier Peter Minuit bought the Manhattan's tribe's island
for 60 guilders (less than $20) worth of trinkets. The Ohlone never received
a dime for the entire San Francisco Bay Area. At the peak of the roaring twenties
the largest of their 400 shell mound burial grounds in Emeryville had the hottest
dance hall in the Bay area built right on top. In the 1990's a huge shopping
complex was built on top of the burial ground.
started developing their plan to regain tribal status in 1982, but have
failed to date. The last time they were turned down, the reason for the negative
response by the BIA was that they held no land. Here's
a historical view of the whole mess. And the
only media story to cover the issue.
the first Nations reached new heights with the Abramoff
Casino scandal and the Cobell
class action lawsuit demanding that the U.S. repay up to $100 billion in
lost royalities the government lost over the last century. The Bush administration
offered to settle for $10 billion last year. The 12 year old case went
to trial this Month with no decision handed down yet.
Not all tribes
have made it into the big time with casinos. For that matter most Native Americans
(indigenous) have standards far below the rest of us, including blacks.The largest
tribal community in the U.S. the Dineh (Navajo) have been struggling for years.
As an example of just how bad things are on the
Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Here are a few factoids:
- Average medium
income: $2,600 - $3,500 per year
rate: 83% (during the winter)
- Percentage of
people below the national poverty level: 97%
- Life expectancy
of a male: 48 years (national average is 77 years)
- Suicide rate:
150% higher than the national average
- Infant Mortality:
300% higher than the national average
800% higher than the national average or over 50% of adults over 40 years
- School Drop
out rates: 70%
- 8 in 10 families
have severe cases of alcoholism: 300% higher than the U.S. average
- An average of
17 people live in homes with 2-3 bedrooms
- 1/3 of all homes
have no running water, sewage systems or electricity
- 60% of homes
are infested including fatal black molds
- Only a small
minority own functioning cars
- There is no
public transportation system on the reservation
The state of affairs
with the first nations of tribal people across the Western Hemisphere varies.
Citizen's tribunals have been conducted by AIM activists including Native
Hawaiians. Tribunals across the rest of the hemisphere are not currently
part of this article.
From the scientific
theft of graves and bodies to the huge market of indigneous artifacts (remember
that PBS short about a rug going for $450,000?) the impacts to the original
people of these lands is enormous. Most tribal governments today are beholden
for operational funds from the federal government. Tribal communities are struggling
to regain the native languages and as a sign of growing strength now have
a national museum.
are split with many different views and opinions about their relationship with
those that took their lands. Recently Russell Means, another AIM leader called
for a Lakota movement to secede from the U.S. at the end of 2007. Little
coverage took place and as mentioned few Lakota even heard of his call because
it was barely covered. Other tribal communities have done quite well with gambling
casinos, with one tribe using
their profits to buy back their traditional lands.
First Nation peoples are also currently doing another Longest Walk from San Francisco to Washington D.C.
They are due to arrive in Washington on July 11th. You can find out more about this important event here.
Across the hemisphere
struggles between indigenous and European ancestors continue, with the
election of Evo Morales in Bolivia the first indigenous head of a western
country in history.
Few U.S. citizens
pay any attention to this issue, let alone care. Expect things to change.