[..a review of Killing the White Man's Indian: Reinventing Native Americans at the End of the Twentieth Century by Fergus M. Bordewich. New York: Anchor Books, 1997. (pbk/hbk)]
This book, with the unpleasant title, has also been reviewed and appears as a source in the excellent history of Indian dispossession, In a Barren Land by Paula Mitchell Marks.
The well known historian of the West, Robert Utley considers this book significant:
"Killing the White Man's Indian could become as powerful in shaping public perceptions of and attitudes toward American Indians as did Vine Deloria's Custer Died for Your Sins and Dee Brown's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee a generation ago." (inside cover)
If Bordewich does influence public opinion to this extent, the sympathy and understanding engendered by the other two books will be diminished.
His is the perspective of a white conservative who may have sympathy for Indian people, particularly those of the past, but cannot imagine that Indian nations have any inherent right to exist as the historically and culturally distinct people they are.
Throughout his book, Bordewich focuses mainly on all the problems he sees with sovereignty such as:
it was never contemplated by the constitution; that it is based on racial exclusion and segregation; that tribal governments violate the civil rights of Indians and non-Indians; that actions by Indian nations have negative or harmful impacts on surrounding communities that are helpless to defend themselves; that whites living on reservations are victims of tribal governments; that determination of Indian and tribal identity is overwhelmingly complex and arbitrary; and finally, that Indians are marrying themselves into racial oblivion and for that reason alone, sovereignty is, at best, only a means to slow down integration but not to stop it.
While Bordewich takes sovereignty seriously as a problem, he does not take it seriously as a principle or right. This is evident from the fact that he has avoided interviewing any of the advocates of sovereignty.
Presumably he attended the "Listening Conference" in Albuquerque in 1994 which he describes using disparaging terms. The Clinton administration officials are called "satraps", the conference is labeled "a spectacle of enlightened official concern", and to him " there was a monotony to all this". (p. 323-324)
He then unleashes a litany of "no one spoke of" accusations -- a summary of all the problems he finds with sovereignty (p.324-325). But he does not seek out any of the conference participants to give them a fair chance to respond. In fact, nowhere in his highly critical book does he give voice to any supporters such as Senator Daniel K. Inouye or the leadership of the National Conference of American Indians (NCAI).
Neither has he bothered to interview Vine Deloria Jr., eminent scholar on Indian history and law, who traces the development of the sovereignty concept in his work Nations Within, and who explores the history as well as the political, economic and human rights aspects of Indian sovereignty in Behind the Trail of Broken Treaties. Neither of these important works appear in his bibliography.
What is the solution to all these problems he sees? Reform or abolishing the reservations?
Bordewich explains why reservations were the focus of his book:
"it is still the reservations that define the unique status of Indians in modern America; without them, and the claim to separate government that they represent, Indians would, for all practical purposes, be no different from other ethnic minorities in the United States."(p.19)
However, it is evident that Bordewich does not, or chooses not to, view Indians as being different from other minorities, a position also promulgated by the advocates of termination.
"Are Indians so fundamentally different from other Americans, so historically and culturally unique, that they occupy a special category over which conventional American values, laws, and criteria of ethics should not apply? Or are they simply one more ethnic group, whose special pleading is yet further evidence that the United States has become...'a tangle of squabbling nationalities'" (p.16)
"The belief that Indians are somehow fundamentally different from other Americans, however romantically the idea may be expressed in terms of native 'tradition' or magical notions of affinity for the earth, implies a failure of basic American values, for it leads inexorably toward moral acceptance of political entities defined on the basis of racial exclusion.... It should, moreover, be obvious to anyone that legitimizing segregation for Indians will set a precedent for its potential imposition upon black, Asian, and Hispanic Americans. "[italics mine] (p. 329)
What was that again?
The Northern Cheyenne, whose epic flight from Indian Territory back to Montana is legendary, are a people who define themselves in this way:
To us, to be Cheyenne means being one tribe--living on our own land--in America, where we are citizens. Our land is everything to us....It is the only place where Cheyennes remember same things together. I will tell you one of the things we remember on our land. We remember our grandfathers paid for it -- with their life....My grandmother told me she walked holding a little girl by the hand on each side. She had to keep pulling them out of the line of soldiers' bullets. (Debo, p. 378-379)
Does this represent a case of an "entity" based on racial exclusion? Is the identity of the Northern Cheyenne "based on obsolete ideas of race and ethnicity."? Do Indian residents of reservations consider themselves segregated?
The insinuation that sovereignty is inherently racist is repeated throughout his book (pp. 14, 17, 89, 314, 327, 329-333, etc.).
It is curious, though, that while Bordewich is so concerned about racism by Indians, not once does he address the real problem of racism Indian people face, particularly from whites living on or near reservations.
Judging from articles and letters to Indian Country Today, anti-Indian sentiment continues to remain a strong tradition from the past. A Supreme Court decision, United States v. Kagama (1886), provides a glimpse of 19th century attitudes: " Because of the local ill feeling, the people of the States where they are found are often their deadliest enemies." (Washburn, p.182)
Berthrong describes the attitudes of the whites who overwhelmed the Cheyenne and Arapahoe reservation subsequent to allotment:
White-Indian relations after the opening of the Cheyenne-Arapaho Reservation were tragic. Deep prejudice often bordering on racism marked whites' attitudes toward their Indian neighbors...If the Indians had possessed more economic potential, skills, and incentives to acquire additional or replacement property, the losses they suffered through fraud and theft would not have been so severe or irremediable. As it was, the discrimination, the loss of property, and the contempt in which the Indian was held by farmers and ranchers made it impossible for many of the Cheyennes and Arapahoes to follow the 'white man's road.' (Berthrong, p.207)
Guy Dull Knife Jr. recalls his boyhood impression of whites outside the reservation borders: "He remembered the dirty looks, the waiting for whites to enter first, the standing in line, others cutting in front of them, the occasional cursing, clerks tailing him up and down the aisles and the signs that said 'No Dogs or Indians Allowed'." (Starita, p.326)
A shocking effect of racism is reflected in the words of Gregg Ducheneaux, a person of mixed heritage: "Breeds had the Indian whipped out of them. We were raised to be whites. We'd go to the movies as kids and we'd sit there and root for the white folks to be saved from the damn dirty Indians." (p. 250-251)
Killing Indians did not end with the nineteenth century. Peter Matthiessen reports that in the early 1970's "there were at least ten torture-murders of helpless Navajo" in the Gallup and Farmington area of New Mexico. (Matthiessen, p.308)
Moreover, during the 1970's in South Dakota and Nebraska there was institutional racism in the justice system whereby a low value was placed on the life of an Indian person, as evidenced by the following examples.
Ramon Roubideaux, who Bordewich often quotes for his criticism of sovereignty (pp. 89-91, 314-315, 330), had been asked to prosecute the case of Wesley Bad Heart Bull who was murdered by a white man at Pine Ridge. He agreed to do it on condition that the charge be for "murder--just as it would if the victim had been white." When the South Dakota state attorney refused, Roubideaux walked away from the case. This egregious injustice was one of the ignition points for the occupation of Wounded Knee. (Lazarus, p. 304)
As it turned out, the murderer got a lesser sentence, two months probation, while the mother of the murder victim, distraught at the leniency towards the murderer of her son, was "sentenced from three to five years in jail for assaulting a police officer." (Josephy p. 244-245)
Prior to this crime was the death of Raymond Yellow Thunder in Nebraska near the border from Pine Ridge. He was murdered by two white men, brothers, who were known Indian haters. When the authorities did not act, AIM organized a demonstration demanding justice. The brothers were later convicted of manslaughter--- one served only ten months of a two year sentence; the other served two years of a six year sentence. (Starita, p. 299-300)
Considering such recent history, Alexis De Tocqueville's words, recorded in his journal on August 31, 1831, still ring true:
'What is the life of an Indian?' That indeed was the basis of the general feeling. In the midst of this society, so well-policed, so prudish, and so pedantic about morality and virtue, one comes across a complete insensibility, a sort of cold and implacable egotism where the natives of America are concerned....How many times during our travels have we not met honest citizens who said to us of an evening, sitting peacefully by their fire: the number of Indians is decreasing daily. However it is not that we often make war on them but the brandy that we sell them cheap every year carries off more than our arms could kill. This world here belongs to us, they add. God in refusing the first inhabitants the capacity to become civilized, has destined them in advance to inevitable destruction. The future owners of this continent are those who know how to take advantage of its riches. Satisfied with this reasoning the American goes to the church where he hears a minister of the gospel repeat to him that men are brothers and that the Eternal Being who has made them all in the same mould has imposed on them the duty to help one another.( De Tocqueville - Journey, p.330-332)Bordewich, however, is intent on depicting whites as victims of the Indians as in the case of the white cafe owner, Micki Hutchinson. She has refused to pay the $250 liquor licensing fee to the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe: "There is no Indian land here. This is all homestead land, and the tribe was paid for it....What they're talking about is taxation without representation." (p. 96-103)
Bordewich, sees the current jurisdictional issue as one of unfairness to the whites living on Indian reservations. He demands: "what is the basis for asserting that non-Indian residents of Indian Country shall not be represented in tribal governments yet subject to tribal law, courts, and taxation. How can we, as Americans, tolerate double standards?" (p. 325)
Here Bordewich's bias or ignorance of history is most astonishing. While ignoring the history of the double standard being the way of life for Indian nations, he depicts the homesteaders as innocent victims who "went West in pursuit of honest dreams secure in the promise of equal rights under American law." [italics mine](p.125)
But is not the very presence of whites living and prospering on what should have been Indian land evidence of a double standard? What about the "equal rights" of Indian people?
Wishart writes: "There was... a massive assumption underlaying federal Indian policy [in the 19th century] which ensured that there were no legal constraints on the taking of Indian lands." (Wishart, p. 58-59)
Hutchinson and the bar owners base their case on "the allotment acts of 1887 [the Dawes Act] and 1889 [the break up of the Great Sioux Reservation] which had explicitly given ('right there in black and white') the Secretary of the Interior the authority to buy reservation lands and resell them to settlers....and the 1908 law, which with equal clarity referred to the reservation as 'thus diminished' by the sale of land to white settlers." (p.98)
What is disregarded here is the fact that all these "sales" were done without the voluntary consent of the Indians or even without any consent at all.
Money, moreover, was no compensation for their land which was all their life to them. The heartfelt words of a Southern Cheyenne traditional chief, Old Crow, no doubt expressed a widely held sentiment among Indian people of the time:
The Great Spirit gave the Indians all this country and never tell them that they should sell it....See, I am poor. I have no money; I don't want money; money doesn't do an Indian any good. Here is my wealth [pointing to the ground]. Here is all the wealth I want - the only money I know how to keep. ( Berthrong,p.151)
Scores of Indian people from many tribes returned the checks coming from the forced sale of their lands due to allotment. Creeks were returning their checks [per capita money from sale of tribal land] until 1915 and the Cherokees kept up their resistance until 1912. (Debo, p. 312)
Angie Debo notes how Indian resistance to the Dawes Act was coldly ignored. After quoting a laboriously written letter in 1912 by a Creek man to the secretary of the Interior, pleading that the 1832 treaty be honored, she comments:
Such anguished, groping protests were being made by Indians on reservation after reservation throughout the United States as their tribal holdings and their native groupings were broken up by the enforcement of the Dawes Act. Their words went unrecorded, but their desperation can be glimpsed even in the cold statistical reports of the Indian Office....As late as 1905 the Cheyenne River allotment had to be discontinued because of Sioux objections. (Debo, p. 312-313)
For the Cheyenne River Sioux, the impending loss of their land through allotment, may have led to their embrace of the Ghost Dance. And it was the people from this community, under their elderly leader, chief Big Foot, who were among those butchered at the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890. (Deloria - Behind, p. 66-68)
A participant at the Ghost Dance ends his account in Native American Testimony with these words:
"And so I suppose the authorities did think they were crazy -- but they weren't. They were only terribly unhappy." (Nabokov, p. 255)
After their reservation was created from the breakup of the Great Sioux Reservation in 1889, the Cheyenne River Sioux nation was once again threatened with still more land loss to meet the ceaseless demands of white settlers or speculators.
In 1907 the tribe sent a delegation to Washington in an effort to stop the opening of their reservation to homesteaders insisting that "our consent was never asked." President Theodore Roosevelt, signed the bill anyways in 1908. (Marks, p. 241-242). This was the " 1908 law" which is referred to by the bar owners. (p.98)
It is probably also the law which provided the land for Hutchinson's town, Isabel:
"To her the Indian problem seems as plain as the grid of streets that white homesteaders optimistically laid out here in 1910...in the middle of what they were told was no longer the reservation of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe." (p.97)
Where previously an "agreement" had to be reached, however fraudulently (such as getting key interpreters drunk and not reading all the terms of the document, as was perpetrated on the Cheyenne/Arapaho (Berthrong, p.149)), a Supreme Court decision allowed Roosevelt to take Indian land without even bothering to gain their consent.
This legalized form of land robbery was underscored by the Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock decision in 1903 (Jaimes, p. 19) which has been viewed as the Indian equivalent of the Dred Scott decision. (See: Review of Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock)
A stark illustration of the "equal protection" enjoyed by Indian people is observed by a white rancher in Montana:
In the winter of 1909-1910...my grandfather and his father witnessed on their weekly trips to town a large encampment of Indians on the outskirts of Helena. The Indians were kept under military guard for the duration of the winter....These people were en route to reservations, having been forced from land theyd owned for centuries by the governmental processes homesteaders believed would safeguard their rights of private ownership. (Iverson, p. 208)Bordewich makes a virtual tragic heroine of Hutchinson when he describes the closing down of her business by the tribal police: "When the tribal police appeared at the door that March morning in 1991, not just one woman's pride was felt to be at stake, but a way of life." (p.102)
Steve Aberle, Hutchinsons lawyer, who Bordewich describes as "the human fruit of allotment", argues: "People don't want to see their kids growing up feeling victimized by the Indians." (p. 327-328)
Having established the white peoples' case, the reader might reasonably expect Bordewich to then present the background of the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe so that tribal chairman Bourland's position of calling the whites "trespassers" might be clear. (p. 99, 106) This he does not do.
Instead, he seeks to further undermine Lakota claims to their land by following Hutchinson's story (p. 103) with a questioning look at the origin of the Lakota and depicting them as a mirror image of the whites: "they were a profoundly ethnocentric people, with a passionate faith in their natural superiority...they seized land with virtual impunity." (p.103-105)
This is one of several examples where Bordewich cannot be called fair or balanced. He has staged the white position in a sympathetic light while leaving out important historical aspects of the Lakota experience thereby distorting the whole legal and moral context from which the current jurisdictional conflict and bitterness has emerged.
If a true account of the relevant history of both sides is given it would be impossible to think that whites now living and prospering on Indian reservations are victimized by the Indians unless one is anti-Indian to begin with.
On the subject of equal justice it should be noted that the double standard also applied to other Indian property besides land. Because of this, whites had no reason to fear any consequences and therefore routinely stole cattle, horses, farm equipment, or cut Indian fences and let their cattle run free over their fields and gardens while the Indians did not dare so much as touch any white owned property.
Berthrong reveals the situation at the turn of the century:
It was indeed calamitous that the territorial courts were not employed for more than punitive purposes against the Indians. Racial prejudice prevented satisfactory protection of the Cheyennes' and Arapahoes' property. White juries with disturbing frequency ignored the clear intent of laws and substantial evidence to award verdicts that were destructive to the economic interests of the Indians....The Dawes Act was applied much too early to the Cheyennes and Arapahoes, who were virtually helpless to defend themselves against the cupidity of their fellow white citizens. (Berthrong, p. 339)
One particularly egregious example of legalized injustice was the Indian Depradation Act of 1891 which Vine Deloria describes as a "bonanza" for the whites:
In effect, Congress was making the Indian tribes vulnerable for almost unlimited liability for acts committed in the Indian wars if they had signed treaties and were supposed to be in amity with the United States. The courts, however, remained closed to the tribes for injuries they had suffered in the same engagements....The United States was holding the tribes at bay while its citizens were busy picking their pockets.
Abuses under this legislation were incredible....The Cheyennes were sued for depradations allegedly suffered during their famous 'Cheyenne Autumn' flight from Oklahoma through Kansas and northern Nebraska...It is said that they skirted white settlements so successfully that they had come and gone before anyone knew they were around. Yet the depradation claims filed against them for the loss of cattle and horses, when figured cumulatively, totaled more livestock than had existed in Nebraska and Kansas at the time. (Deloria - Behind, p. 211-213,214)
While otherwise tending to correct his subjects when they express views that he disagrees with or questions, Bordewich lets Hutchinsons hate filled diatribe against the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe stand without comment as she makes questionable charges. (p. 103)
Did he check into the expenditures per pupil for Indian schools compared to non-reservation schools? How do appropriations for roads on Indian reservations compare to non-reservation roads?
And what of the involuntary sterilization policy of the Indian Health Service which was discovered in the mid-1970's? (See: A Look at the Indian Health Service Policy of Sterilization, 1972-1976 by Charles R. England.
The belief that Indians have been coddled by the federal government while "hard-working" whites have had to go it alone is a common myth among anti-Indian bigots as well as uninformed people who are otherwise decent.
The World War II veteran at the beginning of the book resentfully asks: " How long is the government supposed to take care of these people? I just plain simply don't think we owe anything to the Indians anymore. The only answer is to get them into the mainstream. It's time to let them go. They're going to have to change is they're going to survive." (p. 26)
What is implied in these words is the belief that the federal government has given handouts over the years while Indian nations have done nothing to try and support themselves.
It is unfortunate that Bordewich has done little to correct this wrong assumption.
He does give a summary of the devastation caused by allotment (p. 124) and he indirectly acknowledges some white exploitation of the Crow reservation (p. 272). However, this is lost as he builds his case for whites as present day victims which includes a lengthy background of Henry Dawes, Captain Richard Pratt and the good intentions behind the allotment policy. (p. 114-125).
A number of detailed studies have been done on the reservation years, among them The Cheyenne and Arapaho Ordeal by Donald J. Berthrong; An Unspeakable Sadness by David J. Wishart; When Indians Became Cowboys by Peter Iverson. In A Barren Land by Paula Mitchell Marks is an excellent source which includes specific historic facts which can explain why so many reservations are pockets of extreme poverty today.
Commenting on the conditions he witnessed at the Pine Ridge reservation, Bordewich writes:
"What all this means is less obvious. Seen from one angle, it suggests a massive failure of government to remedy generations of mistreatment. Seen from another an equally massive failure of Indians to cope with life in present day America."(p.16)
However, considering the above histories and the fact that the United States had nearly totalitarian control of Indian people until very recently, such an assessment is unfair and false.
While the United States government did have policies meant for helping Indians adjust to the new world order, its first priority, as then a government by white people for white people, was to provide land for the settlers at the cheapest price possible.
Wishart summarizes why, "at mid century...after twenty years of government support and substantial sales of land, the Indians of eastern Nebraska were worse off than ever before." (Wishart, p. 69)
One of the problems was that there existed an inherent contradiction in federal policy: the civilization program was never given the necessary funds to ever have a chance....The main funding for the program throughout the nineteenth century came from the Indians' own money, which they received for the sale of their lands. However, Congress was always niggardly in funding the Indian Office. Requested appropriations were invariably cut by congressmen who, reflecting their constituents' views, regarded any payments to the Indians---even payments owed for the sale of Indian lands---as a form of welfare. [italics mine] Always short of funds and constantly pressured to facilitate frontier expansion, the Indian Office obtained cessions at the lowest cost possible, then used the payments to try to make the Indians self-sufficient so that they would not need support in the future. The result was that the Indians land base rapidly diminished, but the civilization program stalled for want of funds. (Wishart, p. 58)
A very similar situation was faced by the Cheyenne and Arapahoe as summarized by Berthrong:
Members of Congress were nearly unanimous in their insistence that only minimal expenditures be made in behalf of the Indian people. Appropriations exceeding those specified in treaties or agreements were bitterly denounced on the floor of Congress as extravagant and needless waste of revenue. Classed as gratuities, nontreaty funds designated to educate and to provide food, medicine, farming implements, stock animals, clothing, or vocational instruction to Indians were rigorously examined by congressional committees in unceasing efforts to appropriate only the smallest subventions possible. Rarely in the last quarter of the nineteenth or early twentieth century did Congress provide the funds needed...to care for the Indians. Gratuities were to congressmen another name for a dole, and as such they were considered an unwelcome burden on taxpaying citizens...[italics mine]
These ungenerous attitudes retarded the ability of the Cheyennes and Arapahoes to acquire the knowledge, skills, and vocations that would enable them to become educated, Christian citizen-farmers. After the tribesmen were confined to their reservation in 1875, hunger, disease, despair, and lethargy dominated their lives. (Berthrong, p.327-328)
Agricultural equipment, schools, instructors and other assistance promised in the treaties did not get delivered.
For example, the agent for the Cheyenne/ Arapahoe "charged that the government was not fulfilling its obligations under the 1867 Medicine Lodge Treaty. To date (1881), Miles wrote, he had been permitted to spend only $165.50 for two corn planters and two mowers while the treaty had specified that $20,000.00 could have been used to purchase agricultural machinery and equipment." (Berthrong, p. 73)
As if that were not enough, the Cheyenne and Arapaho were constantly plagued by whites who stole what equipment they had, ran off their horses and livestock or illegally used their land for their cattle who trampled the Indians' gardens and prevented them from developing their own herds.
Lack of funds also kept the Indian people in a state of constant starvation as their normal subsistence disappeared but rations were constantly cut, down to two pounds of meat per week per person. (Berthrong, p.43, 201)
An especially appalling case of United States government negligence occurred during the winter of 1883/1884 on the Blackfoot reservation, when up to 600 people died of starvation while " no well-fed settlers living on former Blackfoot lands offered any effective aid." (Ewers, p.290-296)
Despite their hardships the Indians tried hard. "The willingness of the Indians to work amazed Lee [their agent], and he wished that the 'Indian haters' could see them building fences, plowing, planting, sowing seeds, and engaging in all varieties of farm work." However, agent Lee strongly protested that they were not ready for allotment yet. He was replaced. (Berthrong, p. 131, 132)
Whites coveting Indian land rationalized that "the Indians weren't doing anything with it." Few knew or cared to know about the tremendous cultural adjustments the Indian people had to make and the time they would need for that to be humanly possible:
Most Nebraskans had no intention of giving reservation policy time to work, and as the decade [the 1860's] wore on the demand to remove the Nebraska Indians to Indian Territory became even more clamorous....there remained the extraordinary assumption that cultural beliefs nurtured over hundreds of years could be left behind within the space of a generation or two. [italics mine] Most Nebraska Indians let go of traditional beliefs and behavior reluctantly and slowly. In the meantime, their reservations were enveloped by settlers, most whom resented the Indians' continued presence in their new world. (Wishart, p. 108-109, 143)
Angie Debo points out the shocking fact that: "The Cheyenne and Arapaho buffalo hunters had fifteen years between their warfare on the Plains and their submission to the new order in 1890, two additional years before being swamped by a land rush in 1892." (Debo, p. 305)
Berthrong further points out:
When the Cheyennes and Arapahoes were allotted their lands, only a handful were prepared to assume the responsibilities of citizenship and ownership of private property. Only one out of five could speak English; many of the younger, better-educated men and women were dying of tuberculosis.... the Dawes Act was applied much too early to the Cheyennes and Arapahoes, who were virtually helpless to defend themselves against the cupidity of their white fellow citizens. (Berthrong, p.209, 339)
During allotment, whites often managed to acquire the best land from the Indians. A friend of the allotting agent to the Nez Perce, Alice Fletcher, describes how whites attempted to pressure Fletcher and the surveyor:
They follow him [the surveyor], offering advice, and intimating that they have rights which it would be well to respect; that it is folly to give the best land to the Indians, who would be just as well pleased to be left 'in the canons where they belong'....that they are going to ask their territorial delegate to "insist upon her withdrawal and the substitution of a special agent who will do justice to the citizens.
When she [the allotting agent Alice Fletcher] came up, she saw half a dozen of those border men hovering about, watching the grading of the land and near by stood the helpless Indians looking to her for what is their last chance in life though they may not realize it. Her eyes wandered from the red to the white man and back again to the ground on which she stood, gnawed down and trampled into barenness by the white man's stock; she saw on the hills the Indian cattle lean and hungry, bound to starve if the rains do not come early enough to start the new growth of grass, and there waited the patient, cowed, hard-pressed little group, with eyes fixed upon her in what little faith remains in their race. Their clothes are mean, their faces have the dumb, pleading look so hard to bear the sight of; and as she gazes, the group takes in another form and face. They also are God's children and beside them stand the Elder Brother.
The surveyor is directed to run out the best land that can be found and the Indians are shown their boundaries in the presence of the greedy 'actual settler' be he Irish, Dutch, Scandinavian, or born in Boston. (Gay, p. 66)
While suffering from the stress of allotment and the racism of the surrounding whites the Cheyenne and Arapahoe were also oppressed by a regime designed to eliminate their culture. This meant the eradication of "nearly all the customs from which the Indians derived any human satisfaction." Not surprisingly, alcoholism increased among the youths returning from boarding schools to an "empty and frustrated existence" with no employment. (Berthrong, p.326, 338)
Berthrong reports that the "Cheyenne and Arapaho population declined by at least 20 per cent between 1875 and 1907 [during which time they were under the United States government control]. Infant mortality was high, and children from poor families were weakened by malnutrition and suffered early deaths from infections. Young men and women died in alarming numbers from tuberculosis." (Berthrong, p. xiii)
Wishart concludes his study with an indirect comment on the United States treatment of the Nebraska Indians:
If a statement is needed to bring this study of nineteenth-century Indian dispossession up to date, then this may suffice: by virtually any important socioeconomic indicator (life expectancy, infant mortality rate, per capita income), Thruston County, home to the Omaha and Winnebago, is still by far the poorest place in Nebraska. (Wishart, p. 245)
In the Plains states, cattle ranching should have been a natural occupation for the Indians. It was culturally far more acceptable to them than farming and besides, their land was meant for grazing, not farming due to the lack of rainfall during the growing season.
As with many Indian nations, the Cheyenne and Arapahoe showed interest and potential success in cattle raising. A mission herd had been started from which "the schoolboys could have been trained in stock raising and ranching." Unfortunately, this venture was derailed by the government.
Bethrong laments the lost potential: "The orders of the Washington office to break up the mission herd ruined the means of bringing the Cheyennes and Arapahoes to a self-supporting status." Their land was eventually leased by white cattlemen against the protests of the leadership. (Berthrong, p. 74)
As Iverson points out, "Washington did more to hinder than to help the evolution of Indian cattle ranching." (Iverson, p.58)
One reasonable conclusion that can be made from all these histories is that the root cause of the economic failure of most reservations is that Indian nations were not allowed to consider their reservation as their homeland to be utilized for the peoples well being and future.
Iverson points out the meaning of the Lone Wolf decision as regards Indian land:
"it may be their land but not theirs alone. Federal officials neither saw it generally as theirs on a permanent basis nor theirs for their exclusive use." (Iverson, p. 35)
This contemptuous and arrogant disregard for Indian property rights by both the government and white citizens robbed Indian people of their economic opportunity. Treaties had no more value than the paper upon which they had been written on:
Americans prided themselves on being people of laws, of the sanctity of contracts, of the importance of keeping one's word. Somehow, the treaties fell outside of this framework. Agreements with individual tribes did not have to be honored. As they have in previous generations, non-Indians muttered that the Native peoples did not deserve the lands they claimed. Unfortunately for the Indians, officials within the federal government agreed. (Iverson, p. 29)
Prior to allotment and leasing, white men illegally grazed thousands of their cattle on the reservations at no cost while Indian cattle were left in a semi-starved condition. White trespassers or squatters prevented Indian people from developing their own herds. This was observed first hand by a nineteenth century visitor to the Nez Perce reservation. (Gay, 11, 66)
The Blackfeet had an experience which was common on many reservations:
As the Blackfeet attempted to inaugurate their own cattle industry, thousands of trespassing cattle, owned by the Flowerree Cattle Company or William G. Conrad, threatened to trample the local enterprise. The Indians resorted to a time-honored practice: they built a fence - and financed it -- and encircled the entire reservation. A good idea. But it did not work. They cut the fence, over and over again....In 1907, the reservation was allotted and a permit system ushered in to allow outsiders' cattle still more acces to Blackfeet pastures. (Iverson, p. 47)
Allotment also destroyed the cattle ranching potential. "Allotment by definition mitigated against successful cattle ranching. How could a rancher survive in western Montana on 160 acres?" (Iverson, p. 59)
Northern Cheyenne President John Wooden Leg said this about dividing the land into 160 acre plots: "Our Cheyenne land is cattle country. Sensible people knew it would be wrong to take cattle land like ours and divide it up into little pieces -- big enough for grazing rabbits, but not cattle." (Debo p. 314)
Before their reservation was alloted, the Northern Cheyenne experienced a very disheartening betrayal by the government:
Although the Cheyenne cattle proved their quality during the first years of [agent] Eddy's tenure [1906-1914], ultimately the superintendent failed to receive sufficient backing from a new commissioner of Indian Affairs. Cheyenne beef had proven itself in the marketplace, and the men clearly loved the pastime. But Leupps successor, R. G. Valentine, did not support Indian cattle ranching and let Eddy and the Cheyennes know it in the most direct and effective bureaucratic fashion. He denied all requests for help and assistance. (Iverson, p.60-63)
The Lakota of Pine Ridge experienced a similar blow about the same time which contributed considerably to the poverty of that community today. Vine Deloria Jr. recounts what happened:
The United States broke the back of the Oglala Sioux resistance [to allotment] during World War I. The people had developed large herds of cattle by 1916, and were fairly prosperous. They had extensive pony herds, and raised some of the finest horses in the Northern Plains. And they herded both cattle and horses in communal herds, refusing to take allotments and continuing to maintain their old band form of governmental structure. In 1917, under a new government policy, the agent for the Oglalas sold their cattle, allegedly for the war needs, and leased their lands out to white cattlemen who were bringing cattle up from the South to graze.
The cattle market broke following the war, making it impossible for the Oglalas to reenter the cattle business....The government forced allotment of the reservation lands....In short order, the white cattlemen and farmers had a stranglehold over the Oglalas through being able to both lease and purchase their lands. They never surrendered this advantage.
When the government finally devised the 'leasing unit', by which it could lease a number of small Indian allotments as one unit to wealthy and powerful white ranchers---in effect taking the lands of the traditional Indians and giving them small rental payments---the destruction of these people was nearly complete....More that one [tribal] election was decided by large and anonymous contributions by groups of ranchers. And more than one tribal administration was suspected of being obligated to the white ranchers, who sometimes controlled nearly 80 per cent of the reservation lands through the leasing-unit device. (Deloria - Behind, p.68-69)
Deloria writes that among the grievances which led to the Wounded Knee occupation was the "hated unit 'leasing' policy, which...prevented them [the Oglalas] from combining their individual allotments into a community grazing unit in the old traditional way." (Deloria - Behind, p. 73)
Leasing was forced on the Crows and many other Indian nations with harmful consequences.
Iverson describes a very unjust leasing arrangement in 1902 that the Standing Rock Sioux were pressured to accept by their agent when "prominent cattleman Ed Lemmon" asked for a "mammoth lease. The representative protested:
the reason why they could not spare this land is that we see our cattle are increasing -- also our children, and I have been wondering how it is when you see us in this state that you allow these cattlemen to use our land for their stock. And for this reason I am displeased. (Iverson, p. 36)
A similar arrangement was being forced on the Nez Perce as written in a letter by an eyewitness in 1892:
he [Nez Perce leader Te-le-pah] was troubled about a scheme to lease a part of the Indian's land to white stockmen, which the Agent was pressing upon the tribe....there had been a great council of the tribe, lasting three days, to consider this lease, and that the Indians had unanimously voted against it. Their consent could never be gained but the Agent was not pleased....The tract described in the lease...had been alloted two years ago. It was covered with Indian farms, orchards and homes. Nothing but canons and rough basaltic formations remained, and the terms of the lease were such that, if acceded to, the entire Reservation would be practically opened to cattle and no Indian farming possible. (Gay, p.163)
The power of white ranchers on Indian reservations is reflected in the Meriam Report of 1928 which recommended that "allotment had to be ended and widespread leasing halted." Anticipating resistance by white ranchers, the report advised:
The government should in such cases refuse to be influenced by the appeals of wealthy or other ranchmen to be permitted to continue to lease land that the Indians need. Such appeals are often difficult to withstand, since some of these men have come to regard a privilege long exercised almost as a vested right and doubtless in some cases would not only seek to discredit any enterprise on behalf of the Indians which would deprive them of their leases but would use political influence in order to retain their leases. (Iverson, p. 119, 120)
John Collier's reforms followed the recommendations of the Meriam Report of 1928. On Collier's legacy Deloria writes:
His lasting achievements were in the area of economic development. He recognized that many Indians were spiritually and emotionally depressed because they could not use their own lands in ways they wanted and that tribes had lost considerable amount of land during the first part of this century. So much work of the New Deal was to bring the necessary resources for the reservation to help Indians reconstitute an economic base for themselves....Collier would frequently write later that one of his most important interests...throughout his life was to help Indians rebuild their land base. (Deloria - Nations , p. 183, 184)
On the New Deal land consolidation program Iverson's quips: "Indian lands being fully used by the people themselves? What was Indian Country coming to?" (Iverson, p. 146)
Unfortunately, after Collier, the pendulum swung back (Angie Debo's chapter, "Back to the Old Bad Days") and the Indian peoples' progress in gaining back their land and rebuilding their economies came to an end with the termination era (1950 through 1960).
Debo characterizes it as "the most concerted drive against Indian property and Indian survival since the removals following the act of 1830 and the liquidation of tribes and reservations following 1887." (Debo, p. 349)
In her diatribe against the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe, Hutchinson charges: "Every year a billion dollars goes down that rat hole."( p. 103 ) Bordewich is also not very favorable. While describing the white town of Isabel in idyllic terms (p. 102), he dismisses the tribal capital with "there is not much to look at in the tribal capital of Eagle Butte." (p.105)
Does he know that the "Cheyenne Agency, the largest town on the reservation, and two others...were completely submerged" when the Oahe Dam was built, forcing the people to move to the "desolate prairie town Eagle Butte?" (Lawson, p. 50)
As mentioned, the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe lost land to white homesteaders through land cessions and allotment. And they were also forced into leasing their land to white ranchers.
Iverson reports on the initial success of cattle ranching on the Cheyenne River Sioux reservation and that the Lakota ranchers were able to feed their own population. Unfortunately, the Interior Department decided to lease the land to large cattle ranching companies and "little land remained for Native cattlemen" (Iverson, p. 68)
In 1920 the agent wrote: "the Mossman and Zimmerman leases made up 'a large part of the reservation and naturally cause more or less agitation and unrest among the Indians who are really interested in the stock industry..." When Red Eagle and other leaders asked that the leasing be stopped, the agent considered the Indians' desire to use their own land " illusions." According to a memorandum, there were plans for the "final disposition of the tribal property." (Iverson, p.68-69)
This cold and impersonal attitude of the government officials while contemplating the destruction of their land base and ability for self-support is very disturbing.
A very severe blow to the Cheyenne River Sioux community -- economically, socially and psychologically -- took place with the construction of the Oahe Dam in the early 1960's:
The Oahe Dam destroyed more Indian land than any other public works project in America. The Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux lost a total of 160,889 acres...including their most valuable rangeland, most of their gardens and cultivated farm tracts, and nearly all of their timber, wild fruit, and wildlife resources. The inundation of more than 105,000 acres of choice grazing land affected 75% of the ranchers on the Cheyenne River Reservation....Ninety percent of the timbered areas on both reservations were destroyed.
The loss of the bottomland grazing areas seriously crippled the Indian livestock industry. Ranching had become the primary economic activity on all of the reservations except the Yankton....The progress made by the Standing Rock, Cheyenne River, and lower Brule Sioux in establishing tribal cattle enterprises was greatly negated by the reservoir projects. A substantial portion of the Indian ranchers were forced either to liquidate their assets altogether or to establish smaller operations on the inferior reservation land that remained. (Lawson, p.50, 57)
As usual, the community was not notified about the plans for the dam.
People never heard about Oahe dam until three years after its passage!...."the dams would deprive them of another huge portion of what precious little tribal land they had left, but also that the lands to be inundated---the Missouri river botton lands---were by far the finest in Sioux country. Those lands were vital to new cattle-raising programs on Standing Rock and Cheyenne River[italics mine]....The fertile soil, practically the only fertile soil the Sioux still owned, yielded almost 90 percent of the timber for the affected reservations, as well as thousands of quarts of currants, grapes, and wild chokecherries every year....In human terms, the disruption of life would be catastrophic....Years later, a visitor to Cheyenne River wondered why there were so few elders on the reservation. Residents explained that 'the old people had died of heartache' after losing their homes. (Lazarus, p. 190)
For all their loss and pain, the Indian communities did not benefit as much as the non-Indian communities. And while white communities were also displaced, "the Indians were disproportionately affected by the construction" which also destroyed so much of the only land they had. (Marks, p. 302)
Due to racism, they were also not as successful in taking advantage of the lake created from the dam. The Standing Rock and Crow Creek Sioux built tourist complexes on Lake Oahe but both had to close due to "strong anti-Indian economic bias that exists in South Dakota." (Lawson, p.188-189)
Bordewich asks: "Will tribes remain forever dependent on the tolerance and generosity of American taxpayers?" (p.17)
Wishart could well be speaking for Indian nations in general:
Claims Cases stand as candid and emphatic acknowledgement that the dispossession of the Nebraska Indians had been unjust, that a fair price had not been paid for their lands, and that no genuine effort had been made to give them the means to cope with the conditions that were imposed upon them. [italics mine] (Wishart, p. 243 )
As has been shown, the American people have not been that tolerant or generous and therefore Indian nations are still struggling with a dependency which is not of their creation but forced on them by government policies on multiple use of their land:
Reservation-based American Indians experience the lowest rate of employment and per capita income, highest infant mortality and malnutrition rates, and shortest life-expectancy of any ethnically identifiable population group in North America....despite their being, nominally at least, the largest per capita land owners, of some of the most mineral-rich acreage, on the continent. The difference between their potential wealth and their actual poverty rests squarely in the arena of federal policies regarding them and their land. (Jaimes, p. 53n112)
Deloria points out the consequences when a peoples' land is used for exploitation rather than serving as their homeland:
The reservation economy of most tribes today is wholly artificial and could not survive but a few weeks without a transfusion from outside the reservation. Many Indians speak of this condition as colonialism, but it is considerably more devastating than simple colonialism. It is the final and systematic and perhaps even ruthlessly efficient destruction of Indian society. (Deloria - Nations, p.259)
Like the waves of disease epidemics that swept over them, Indian people have been assaulted by waves of government attempts to forcibly assimilate them or, in other words, make them vanish as they were expected to do in the nineteenth century:
Propelling the dilution of Native North America during the late 20th century has been a complex of long-range federal policies forcing a massive dispersal of Indian population. Under the General Allotment Act, the reserved indigenous land base inside the U.S. was reduced to an area barely adequate to support the then existing population. As the Indian population began to increase significantly during the 1920's and '30's, it rapidly began to outstrip the reservation acreage available to accommodate it, a matter which set off an initial 'outflow'....The outflow trend has all along been reinforced by policies designed to make the living conditions of reservation Indians by far the worst of any ethnic group in North America [italics mine]....Abandonment of the relocation effort during the 1970's caused a substantial drop-off in the rate at which Indians left their reservations....This federally contrived diaspora of native people does not tell the whole story. Even American Indian reservations are no longer enclaves within which indigenous cultures are necessarily safe from encroachment and dilution. As Indians have been increasingly forced to leave their reservations for cities during the late 20th century, non-Indians have been steadily moving in. By 1980, largely as a result of Bureau of Indian Affairs leasing practices, non-Indians often outnumbered Indians -- sometimes by considerable margins -- on the reservations themselves. (Jaimes, p. 42-43)
Whites or non-Indians have different attitudes about reservations than do Indian people:
Since the white--be he reformer or Indian-hater---sees the elimination of differences between white and Indian as the proper solution of the Indian problem...the reservation stands as an anomaly in American society....Often the white assumes that the reservation is an unmerited gift to the Indian from a welfare-minded government. The white rarely recalls...that the reservations are for the most part the remnants of the homelands of these Indians, or are the areas allocated to them in exchange for more desirable lands farther East from which they were removed--not always voluntarily. (Washburn, p.205)
During the termination era, abolishing reservations was sought through the principle that the "special treatment" of Indians has to end.
Iverson reports how South Dakota Representative E.Y. Berry, "closely allied with powerful white cattle ranchers in the Dakotas,... argued for the full exercise of capitalism on the open range. Leasing of Indian land...should not be discouraged." During this era, the argument was that "Indians should be equal before the law, should be treated just like everybody else." (Iverson, p. 153)
In light of the history of the government subsidizing their cattle business at the expense of the Indians, the calls for "equality" by the white ranchers of South Dakota comes across as cynical. Iverson point out their inherent hypocrisy:
Again, comfortable and convenient myths eased the way. Nonetheless, the historical record reveals how overwhelmingly the foundation of third-. fourth-, or fifth- generation white cattle ranching families today would be built on an Indian base....South Dakota presents an obvious case in point....leaders in the twentieth-century cattle business made their start on what had been Indian land. (Iverson, p. 38)
Bordewich writes with genuine outrage about the destruction of the Cherokees in their ancient homeland East of the Mississippi but he glosses over their second betrayal, about which Angie Debo wrote her acclaimed book And Still the Waters Run, with the euphemistic words: "the Cherokee Nation was formally terminated in 1906...as part of the preparation for statehood". (p.55) So much for that minor detail of Cherokee history.
But Wilma Mankiller expresses what it meant to her people:
In my view, Oklahoma statehood was a very dark page....the harm heaped on our people ...was tremendous....For the Cherokee Nation and the other of the Five Tribes, statehood meant only the heartbreaking conclusion to decades spent fighting attempts to transform Indian Territory into a white commonwealth. (Mankiller, p.167-168.)
In the first chapters of her work, And Still the Waters Run, Angie Debo recounts how the Cherokees came to be forcibly assimilated by the whites.
The Cherokee land was invaded by a flood of illegal white immigrants who then soon began to complain about their second-class status (disregarding the fact that they are on Cherokee land illegally and have the rest of the country to move to). They complained of such things as taxation without representation; tribal corruption and abuse of full-bloods; and mismanagement of natural resources. Debo points out that these critics held the Cherokee government "to abstract and ideal rather than comparative standards."(p.25) The national press, church and civic organizations all were persuaded by these unfair reports and accusations and so the Cherokees and the other tribes, stood alone in the face of Congress's intentions to remedy this "unfairness" by abrogating their treaties. (Debo - Still, p.18-30)
How could Bordewich gloss over the second greatest tragedy in Cherokee history?
Perhaps that scenario presents an uncomfortable similarity to today's vilification of tribal governments by whites who would like to abolish reservations altogether.
(See: Treaty Rights and Responding to Anti-Indian Activity by Zoltan Grossman and Anti-Indian Movement on the Tribal Frontier by Rudoph C. Ryser)
A second reason is perhaps that Bordewich see nothing morally wrong in forcing people to assimilate. After all, he is happy and comfortable in his culture and cannot understand why other people, like the Indians, do not wish to cast away their identity to join the mainstream.
A similar lack of empathy for Indian aspirations is evident in most institutions of our society.
The words in a recent Supreme Court decision, Montana v. United States (1981), reveals an extremely cold-blooded attitude towards Indian peoples' aspirations for survival:
It defies common sense to suppose that Congress would intend that non-Indians purchasing alloted lands would become subject to tribal jurisdiction when an avowed purpose of the allotment policy was the ultimate destruction of tribal government." [italics mine]" (p.125)
What is chilling about this decision is its self-righteous acceptance of an immoral, if not evil, precedent from the past, --the deliberate destruction of a community of fellow human beings--which caused not only great suffering among them but untold numbers of deaths.
Angie Debo says simply:
The dominant race can never forget that they [the Indians] were here first, and that they are entitled to survival rather than extinction. (Debo, p. vii)
The United Nations Convention on Genocide was formed due to the horrors of World War Two and the Holocaust. During the drafting phase, cultural genocide was included because : "certain higher considerations lead world conscience also to revolt at the thought of the destruction of human groups, even though the individual members survived." (Churchill, p. 367)
Definitions included "policies devoted to bringing about the 'planned disintegration of the political, social, or economic structure of a group or nation' and/or the 'systematic moral debasement of a group, people, or nation.'" (Churchill, p. 365)
Also stated in the draft version was: "Genocide is a denial of the right of existence of entire groups of human beings, as homicide is the denial of the right to live of individual human beings." (Deloria - Behind, p.239)
The United States successfully maneuvered to have these concepts excluded from the definition of what constitutes genocide. (Churchill, p.365)
Traditional Indians have sought out the United Nations to assert their right to exist as a distinct people just as all other peoples, including those recently liberated from colonial rule:
Tribal concerns relate to the absence of the red race in the deliberative bodies of the world, and this larger perspective has overtones of history, religion, and culture. Here the idea of peoplehood transcends the contemporary political organizations and speaks to generation of people, people past and people yet to come. (Deloria - Nations, p. 242)
Indian nations are no less worthy members of the human family than are Tibetans or Balts.
The close relationship between cultural survival and sovereignty is expressed by Richard W. West, director of the National Museum of the American Indian who states:
Political sovereignty and cultural sovereignty are linked inextricably, because the ultimate goal of political sovereignty is the protecting of a way of life. As separate polities, tribes can tax and regulate, and exercise jurisdiction. But it is equally important, perhaps even more important, to protect Indian ways of life and ways of thinking. (p.171-172)
"Are Indian tribes 'nations'?" Or are they something else entirely?
How do they fit into the United States? Do they fit at all? What , ultimately is the nature of their relationship with the United States?" (p.46)
Webster's definition of 'nation' clearly includes the Indian peoples:
"a body of people, associated with a particular territory, that is sufficiently conscious of its unity to seek or to possess a government peculiarly its own; a member tribe of an Indian confederation; an aggregation of persons of the same ethnic family, often speaking the same language or cognate languages."
Among the many accusations Bordewich directs at tribal governments and sovereignty is that Indian aspirations to political autonomy [are] threatening to create a new third sphere of sovereignty that was never contemplated by the US Constitution..."(p.12)
Vine Deloria, Jr. devotes a chapter in Exiled in the Land of the Free titled, " The Application of the Constitution to American Indians." In the introduction he provides a different perspective:
Although American Indians are mentioned by name twice in the Constitution of the United States, they were clearly not within the citizenry contemplated by this document at the time of its adoption. In the two centuries during which the United States has developed into a major world power and settled a substantial portion of North America, constitutional amendments have brought black citizens and women into the American social contract and made them an integral part of the body politic.
American Indians, however, still stand outside the protection of the Constitution as tribes and only have partial protection as individual citizens. While Indian lands have become part of the United States, Indian communities have neither been allowed to remain isolated as independent political entities nor have they been granted full status within the American political system. [italics mine] (Lyons, p. 282)
"Community" is the key concept. As a white conservative, Bordewich is oriented to the rights of the individual but for Indian nations, the community or nation is equally important. As Deloria points out regarding civil rights:
Many liberals saw only the struggle for individual rights, and refused to consider the equally important fact of community existence and the corresponding legal right of a community to exist for its own sake. (Deloria- Behind, p. 23-24)
Bordewich's concern for the Indian "individual" is supposedly behind his hostility to tribal governments:
"While it is probably true that tribal governments funded by federal tax dollars will serve the self-interest of their bureaucracies quite well indeed when they are protected from accountability by the principle of 'sovereign immunity', there is little evidence at all that sovereignty serves the rights of Indians as individuals. Tribal sovereignty, unfortunately, is not synonymous with democracy." (p. 314)
However, he does not mention that all governments are protected by sovereign immunity to a large extent. Tribal governments would go bankrupt very quickly if they did not have this protection.
Moreover, Ron Allen, President of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), testified at a Senate hearing that "the vast majority of tribal governments are modern, democratic, fair and as deserving of respect as any other form of government." ( See: Allen's Senate Testimony)
The Northern Cheyenne statement tells how some Indians see themselves and their relationship to the rest of Americans:
Our people are proud to be Americans and Northern Cheyennes. That is all we have to be proud of today, except our honorable past...We think of our past as we write this plan for our future good, 'and in this past' are the names of great and generous hunters who fed the people, fighters who died for freedom just as white men's heroes died, holy men who filled us with the power of God. Take us together that way, and we will have the strength of spirit to decide what to do and do it. We will do good things as a tribe that is growing and changing that we cannot do as individual men cut off from our forefathers....[italics mine]The goals...will be the goals the Cheyenne people want to reach, and not the goals others of good heart think we should want to reach. (Debo, p. 380-381
Bordewich has asked many questions throughout his book about Indian Country and sovereignty all of which somehow cast a negative light on Indian aspirations for staying on their land and demanding a right to self-determination.
One question for the United States is: Can a great nation, espousing human rights, also act as a conqueror towards the original inhabitants on whose land it superimposed itself? Should not progress include eventually eliminating the ancient human tradition of man's inhumanity to man? Of conqueror over conquered?
The words used to deprive Indian people of their land and self-determination, such as "equal rights" or "civil rights", will not fool future historians who will discern the hypocrisy as did De Tocqueville over a century ago as he watched the " legal" deportation of the Choctaws from their homelands in 1831:
The Spaniards were unable to exterminate the Indian race...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. (De Tocqueville - Democracy, p. 355 )
A nineteenth century woman, having watched the precarious situation of the Nez Perce among whites who had no respect for their lives or property, reflects in a letter (May 30, 1891) on the possibility that there will be justice in the future:
The evolution of intrinsic morality is a slow process and yet the day must come when the strong will desire to be just to the weak --- if there be any weak left in that day. Briggs says the Lion will lie down with the Lamb inside of him --- when the Millennium comes upon the Reservation. (Gay, p. 129)
It is hoped that the coming millennium will not bring the "final solution" to "the Indian problem" but true enlightenment whereby Americans with ancient roots and heritage in this beautiful continent will be able to coexist with the more recent arrivals in mutual respect.
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