Trail of Tears

The Genocide of the Native American Indian

“War is hell,” said Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and given the conquests we see unfolding every day in the Middle East, now is a good time to look at the reality of what happens to people who get in our way.

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After the American Revolutionary War, newly elected President George Washington wanted to "civilize" the Native American into U.S. citizens. Ten million otherwise peaceful Indians already belonged to their own Sovereign Nations in North America, but Washington wanted to assimilate them into the new American way of life. Thoughtful, Americans. Until in 1830 when the U.S. Congress passed the “Indian Removal Act” which effectively authorized itself to relocate Native Americans from their homes and heartlands to Reservations.

What isn’t widely known is that General George Washington was far less sympathetic during the war. As alien as it may seem now, by the late 1700s, many American leaders were openly advocating for the extermination of the encampments and tribes. For instance, in 1779, a decade before he became first president of the U.S., Washington told the military commander attacking the Iroquois to “lay waste all the settlements around that the country may not be merely overrun but destroyed” and not to “listen to any overture of peace before the total ruin of their settlements is effected.” He insisted upon the military need to fill the Indians with “a terror with which the severity of the chastisement they receive will inspire them.” By the twenty-first century, this people, which once represented one hundred percent of North America’s population, had been reduced and dwindled to a scant one percent.

The U.S. effectively exterminated the Indian population
The United States Bureau of Indian Affairs

The U.S. was not the first to marginalize the Indigenous Peoples of North America. Christopher Columbus never set foot on the mainland United States. In fact, he never even saw it. His four voyages took him to the Caribbean, a small detour to Central America, and a hop to the northeast coast of Venezuela. He had no idea the continent of North America existed, or that he’d stumbled onto a New World. He actually ran aground at San Salvador (a yet undisclosed island in the Bahamas) before proclaiming that had found India! What he’d categorically not done was discover anything, as approximately one hundred million people already lived in North America quite happily. On the other hand, what he did was to start a brutal slave trade in The Americas, and usher in four centuries of genocide that would cull them into virtual extinction. Within a generation of Columbus’ landing, a mere ten percent of the American Indian population remained before passing the baton of extermination to the United States.

“War is hell,” as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld so eloquently put it, and, given the conquests and consequences we see unfolding every day in the Middle East, now is a good time to look at the reality of what happens to people who get in our way. The United States Bureau of Indian Affairs recently apologized for these crimes against humanity with this however convenient statement of contrition: “As the nation looked to the West for more land, this agency participated in the ethnic cleansing that befell the western tribes. It must be acknowledged that the deliberate spread of disease, the decimation of the mighty bison herds, the use of the poison alcohol to destroy mind and body, and the cowardly killing of women and children made for tragedy on a scale so ghastly that it cannot be dismissed as merely the inevitable consequence of the clash of competing ways of life. We accept this inheritance, this legacy of racism and inhumanity.”



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