The North Coast times-eagle. (Wheeler, Oregon) 1971-2007, October 12, 1979, Page 7, Image 7

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Almost 500 years ago a seaman from Genoa made a mistaken landfall
that began immediately a process of obliteration that destroyed entire
peoples. Uncounted millions were enslaved, and having previously been
among the freest peoples of the Earth, the slavery quickly killed them.
Other millions perished without ever having seen or suspected their
killers, struck down by diseases brought by the newcomers that rapidly
spread across an entire hemisphere. The newcomers were another
virulence. Whomever their diseases did not destroy they finished off
themselves in a wild hunger for land, a hunger the native peoples never
understood. To them the land was like the sky, it could never be owned,
but their belief that the people belonged to the Earth was crushed and
trampled by the acquisitive strangers who held a rather opposite view.
by John M ohawk
In New Mexico, an elderly Navajo woman gazes past
her corrals towards the roads which cut across her lands to
the uranium deposits in the distance. In the cities of the
Northern Great Plains, people gather in small groups to dis­
cuss problems as varied as political prisoners and sterilization
abuse. In the State of Washington, yet other people meet
to discuss their problems with state authorities and the fish­
ing industry, and in the Northeast, the people meet to dis­
cuss land claims, water pollution, and nuclear power plants.
Meanwhile, around the United States, groups of non-
Indians are organizing protests against the dangers of the
Nuclear Fuel Cycle . . . protests which were intensified this
Spring by a major nuclear incident at Harrisburg, Pa., and
stimulated by a coincidental movie, “The China Syndrome.”
As difficult as it may be to believe, the Native people and
the anti-nuclear people may have a great deal more in com­
mon than immediately meets the eye. Something may be
beginning during this quarter century which hasn’t truly
happened for a long time, but it may be something of al­
most earth-shaking significance.
It should be clear to anyone familiar with the history of
United States-Indian relations that it is U.S. policy to de­
stroy the Native peoples as peoples. U.S. law and policy has
"We don't celebrate Columbus Day. "
The New Year’s slaughter at Wounded Knee took the final heart out
of the native Americans. For more than half a century they faded into
whiskey and tourist blankets. Then happened the great Civil Rights
struggles of the 1960's, and prominent among them was the American
Indian Movement which went back to Wounded Knee and changed it
from a symbol of defeat to one of renewed strength.
Earlier this year the Non-Government Organizations of the United
Nations declared in Geneva, Switzerland, that the date of the disastrous
landfall by Christopher Columbus upon a Caribbean island hereafter be
made some room for the idea that Native people may ha
some (albeit limited) rights to property, and they may hi
some rights to a “religion,” maybe even some theoretical
rights to a “culture,” by whatever vague definitions thosi
terms are interpreted. But the U.S. has never recognized
Native rights to be a distinct people.
The policies of the U.S. and their English-speaking for
bears has been characterized by a consistent denial of the
rights of Native peoples to exist. Even into the 20th centui
we still find policies which remove Native children from
their families and communities, promote sterilization of
Native women, practice forced acculturation through alie
school systems, and implant foreign systems of governme
in the Indian country to legitimize the alientation of the
land base and to destroy the existing social order.
All of those are acts and policies which have the net ef
feet of destroying the Native peoples as peoples. They ha’
been acts which have inflicted and which continue to inflict
untold misery and suffering upon hundreds of thousands
of innocent victims.
The destruction of Native peoples as peoples is part of a
much larger program of the United States. It may not be
possible, in the long run, to bring the outrageous wrongs
done to the Indian peoples to bear on the conscience of the
vast majority of the American population, because only a
very small percentage of the American people seem to be
capable of understanding the immensity of the crime of
destroying the spirit and physical reality of a whole peo­
ple. Some Americans are capable of understanding the
process in terms of the effects of U.S. policies in terms of
race, others see it in terms of the destruction of a groups
property rights, and a few are offended that the policies
destroy families. A smaller number of people are alarmed
at the fact that these same policies will almost certainly
destroy the remaining Native cultures, just as similar poli­
cies have already destroyed dozens-perhaps hundreds-of
Native cultures in the past. The history and present condi­
tions of Native peoples is a dismal tale indeed Most of our
nations face extinction as peoples during this century.
It doesn't even seem to help that, by and large, the in­
ternational community has adopted a morality which
holds that it is a violation of human decency and the spirit
of international law for a nation state to commit acts which
are intended to destroy groups of national, ethnical, reli­
gious and/or religious identity. Dr. Richard Arens, a pro­
fessor at Temple University Law School, recently stated
that the international compacts on genocide forbid acts
which result in physical or mental harm to “groups” —
peoples such as Native peoples. Governmental policies
which are designed to destroy such peoples are clearly
contradictory to the spirit of such international conventions.
The United States, through its representatives to the
international community, simply denies that it commits
The unwieldy title suggests another change, that the mistakenly
named Indians - the Great Navigator thought he was in India — do not
like the name. They prefer to be known as the Red People, the Native
Americans, or the Indigenous Peoples, though it is doubtful they will
accept a shortened version, Indigens.
Their comeback has been difficult and their future is in doubt. For a
comprehensive view of the continuing oppression against Native Americans,
The TIMES EAGLE turned to the published transcripts of two speeches by
John Mohawk, editor of the Mohawk Nation newspaper, AKWESASNE
any acts of genocide. How they can do this with a straight
face is simply incredulous. They would deny that their
policy since 1784 has been the destruction and absorption
of Native peoples? Would they deny that they have policies
which take Indian land, Indian children, and which have as
an expressed purpose the dismemberment of Native com­
munities? The representatives of the United States would
tell you that things have changed since Colonel Chivington
and his “ troops” butchered innocent women and children
at Sand Creek-things are getting better.
It is possible to agree that things have changed, but it is
highly doubtful that the prospects for the survival of Native
peoples, as peoples, are getting any better. The single pros­
pective positive change on the horizon-the one which offers
some faint shimmer of hope, hasn’t even begun to penetrate
the marble halls of government. But that possibility of change
has made its first faint appearance in American culture. It
could signal the most profound change in many centuries.
Four or five centuries ago, when European peoples first
came to the Americas, changes in cultures were triggered
which were to alter the course of history. The Medieval ad­
venturers who sought trade routes to the Orient belonged
to a culture which even most Europeans have difficulty re­
calling. The Spanish and English of the early 16th century
had evolved a culture which claimed that all the knowledge
of the world was contained essentially within two sources-
the Bible and the philosophies of Aristotle.
When the Spanish first returned to Europe with tales of
landings in strange lands, it was several years before it be­
came widely believed that what had been found was actually
a new land-a New World. Columbus thought that he had
discovered India-he called the people Indians-because it
was widely believed that the “ known world” was the whole
world. To suggest that a continent and a people existed that
were not mentioned in the Bible was something akin to here­
sy, and the customs of the time dealt harshly with heretics.
Soon enough, however, it became obvious that the
Americas were indeed a new world, a world not described
in either the Bible or the wisdom of Aristotle. That dis­
covery set off events of enormous impact in Europe.
American Indians were not supposed to exist, but there
they were, undeniably real. Frantic Biblical scholars sought
to prove that the Indians were a lost tribe of Israel in an ef­
fort to preserve the spiritual and moral universe of the
Medieval world. It was a theory which would be found in
scholarly works into the 20th century and one which was
revived by Joseph Smith and incorporated into the Book
of Mormon
But the psychological universe of the Medieval world
was doomed Something began to happen in Europe follow­
ing the discovery of the Americas -there occurred on a
M ichael M cCusker
E ditor
massive scale what can only be described as a crisis in faith.
It didn’t happen overnight, but happen it did. The Americas
(and the Indians) were living proof that not all knowledge
lies in the Bible, that neither the Bible nor the Pope were
infallable. The Age of Reason was upon the world, and
things would never be the same. All over Europe, groups
arose proclaiming themselves to be agnostics and even
athiests. Martin Luther tacked his 96 thesis to a chapel
door, others scanned the heavens with telescopes, and the
Puritans fled Amsterdam so that their children would not be
corrupted by the liberal thoughts of their Dutch neighbors.
The discovery of the Americas led to great changes in
European thought in other ways also. European traders and
missionaries, especially the French and English, travelled
among North America’s Native nations, most notably the
Algonkians and the Iroquois. Jesuit missionaries partially
financed their exploits through writing what were received
as adventure stories, The Jesuit Relations. On at least sev­
eral occasions, the early Jesuits saw Native people had no
recourse to falsehoods, and that they were generally open
and generous to a fault.
A few of them saw Native people who valued human re­
lationships far above material things, and they recognized
that here was a whole people who practiced the spirit of the
teachings of Jesus as they-the Jesuit missionaries under­
stood those teachings. And they realized, too, that a people
of such “ nobility” -(th e term “ noble savage” arose from
that experience) could not survive in the Modern World.
The early Jesuits feared that Native people could only be
corrupted and destroyed by contact with civilization. Their
writings stirred the imaginations of European peoples, and
set the stage for an image of Native peoples which persists
to this day.
English-speaking missionaries, on the other hand, viewed
Native people quite differently. A number of them came to
the Americas to escape the ravages (as they say it) of the
Modern World in their homeland, and to preserve the mor-
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