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According to the American Battlefield Protection Act of 1996 the location of a military attack in 1868 on the Washita River in Oklahoma against a Plains Indian tribe has been designated as a national historic site.
The act states in part the following:
...that Lt. Colonel George A. Custer, leading the 7th United States Cavalry, attacked the sleeping Cheyenne village of peace chief Black Kettle. Custer's attack resulted in more than 150 Indian casualties, many of them women and children. The Battle of the Washita symbolizes the struggle of the Southern Great Plains tribes to maintain their traditional lifeways and not to submit to reservation confinement.
The act establishes the site as the Washita Battlefield National Historic Site, Oklahoma. In addition it authorizes, among other things, consultation and training regarding the site, and provides that the Secretary of the Interior, acting through the Director of the National Park Service, shall consult regularly with the Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribe [sic - this should be Cheyenne and Arapaho Nations] the preparation of educational programs provided to the public. It also requires the Secretary to work in partnership with citizens and governmental bodies, including Federal, State, local, and tribal governments, as well as other public entities, such as educational institutions and private nonprofit organizations, in identifying, researching, evaluating and interpreting the site.
We, the undersigned, object to the site being termed a battlefield. Such an identification is an incorrect interpretation of the historical facts, resulting in misinformation. It is no more a battlefield than Auschwitz was a battlefield. Instead, we request that the site be designated the Washita National Historic Site of Genocide.
Yes, Custer attacked the peaceful Cheyenne village of Chief Black Kettle. However, the attack does not symbolizes the struggle of the Southern Great Plains tribes not to submit to reservation confinement, as stated by the act. Instead, the 8,500 Plains Indians who were camped along the Washita were there to signify their willingness to go onto the reservation, namely, Indian Territory. These people had been ordered by the military to go to the vicinity of Fort Cobb along the Washita (which was within the reservation boundaries of Indian Territory) to demonstrate their desire to not participate in any war. The assembled tribes were recorded as congregating along the Washita by the military and were categorized according to their desire for peace. When Black Kettle reached Fort Cobb, he offered to surrender to the military and was told to make peace with General Sheridan.
The military, instead of proceeding against any known hostile Indians, attacked the tribes along the Washita, the head of which was Black Kettle's village, forcing men, women and children to abandon their homes and to flee in the dead of winter, resulting in 150 Native Americans killed by gunfire, plus the countless loss of life due to exposure and starvation. The attacking force, of which the 7th calvalry was a component, comprised approximately five columns, consisting of 10,000 troops. The Native American families were ordered by the military to that designated area specifically to facility attacking and killing those complying with the military order. It is one of the blackest marks in American history and should not be dignified nor legitimized by the term "battlefield."
Part of the reason for such genocidal activity (beginning in part with the Sand Creek Massacre) was an attempt by the United States government, especially the military, to dispossess the Native American of land guaranteed by theTreaty of Fort Laramie, encompassing essentially the entire Great Plains.
The National Park Service has certifed the Sand Creek Massacre as a Union Victory.
For this reason, we the undersigned, make the following petition to the Secretary of the Interior for a change in the name of that site:
A Petition for the Establishment of the Site of the Attack by the United States Military Against 8,500 Plains Indians Camped as Prisoners of War along the Washita River in 1868 as the Washita National Historic Site of Genocide:
8,500 Native Americans in 1868 were ordered by the government to congregate at Fort Cobb in Indian Territory, now Oklahoma, as an indication of their peaceful status;
Once encamped there, they were recorded by the United States government as to their intent for peace, each tribe being listed by the military in official records;
Black Kettle and his band, among others, offered to surrender and was told by the military in command at Fort Cobb to await General Sheridan for the purpose of surrender;
General Custer, under orders of Generals Sherman and Sheridan, attacked Black Kettle's village while peacefully camped along the Washita, destroying that village;
further, General Custer, as part of a five column attack involving over 10,000 United States troops, charged those villages camped peacefully along the Washita, including men, women and children, causing these inhabitants to abandon their homes in the dead of winter, resulting in untold death due to exposure and starvation;
These activities were part of an attempt beginning with the Sand Creek Massacre to dispossess the Native American of land guaranteed by the Treaty of Fort Laramie, encompassing essentially the entire Great Plains;
AND WHERE AS:
According to the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethical, racial or religious group as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life
calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
WE, the undersigned members of the Native American community and the public at large, request that this site of the attack by the United States military against 8,500 Plains Indians camped as prisoners of war along the Washita River in 1868 be designated as the Washita National Historic Site of Genocide.
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