Tag Archives: genocide

No Thanks to Thanksgiving

By Robert Jensen, AlterNet

One indication of moral progress in the United States would be the replacement of Thanksgiving Day and its self-indulgent family feasting with a National Day of Atonement accompanied by a self-reflective collective fasting.

In fact, indigenous people have offered such a model; since 1970 they have marked the fourth Thursday of November as a Day of Mourning in a spiritual/political ceremony on Coles Hill overlooking Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts, one of the early sites of the European invasion of the Americas.

Not only is the thought of such a change in this white-supremacist holiday impossible to imagine, but the very mention of the idea sends most Americans into apoplectic fits — which speaks volumes about our historical hypocrisy and its relation to the contemporary politics of empire in the United States.

That the world’s great powers achieved “greatness” through criminal brutality on a grand scale is not news, of course. That those same societies are reluctant to highlight this history of barbarism also is predictable.

But in the United States, this reluctance to acknowledge our original sin — the genocide of indigenous people — is of special importance today. It’s now routine — even among conservative commentators — to describe the United States as an empire, so long as everyone understands we are an inherently benevolent one. Because all our history contradicts that claim, history must be twisted and tortured to serve the purposes of the powerful.

One vehicle for taming history is various patriotic holidays, with Thanksgiving at the heart of U.S. myth-building. From an early age, we Americans hear a story about the hearty Pilgrims, whose search for freedom took them from England to Massachusetts. There, aided by the friendly Wampanoag Indians, they survived in a new and harsh environment, leading to a harvest feast in 1621 following the Pilgrims first winter.

Some aspects of the conventional story are true enough. But it’s also true that by 1637 Massachusetts Gov. John Winthrop was proclaiming a thanksgiving for the successful massacre of hundreds of Pequot Indian men, women and children, part of the long and bloody process of opening up additional land to the English invaders. The pattern would repeat itself across the continent until between 95 and 99 percent of American Indians had been exterminated and the rest were left to assimilate into white society or die off on reservations, out of the view of polite society.

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Genocide and the Thanksgiving Myth

massacre-of-indian-women-and-children-in-idaho-e1385425127256

“Enlightened and Christian Warfare in the 19th Century–Massacre of Indian Women and Children in Idaho” published in “Frank Leslie’s Illustrated,” August 1868.

 

The Defining and Enabling Experience of Our “Civilization”

By S. Brian Willson, Popular Resistance

As we again plan to celebrate what US “Americans”call Thanksgiving, let us pause for a moment of reflection. Let us recognize that accounts of the first Thanksgiving are mythological, and that the holiday is actually a grotesque celebration of our arrogant ethnocentrism built on genocide.

Native Americans in the Caribbean greeted their 1492 European invaders with warm hospitality. They were so innocent that Genoan Cristoforo Colombo wrote in his log, They willingly traded everything they owned . . . They do not bear arms . . . They would make fine servants . . . They could easily be made Christians . . . With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want. This meeting set in motion a 500+-year plunder of the Western Hemisphere, which then spread to the remainder of the globe. And it has not stopped!

Click here to read the full article…

Happy National Genocide (Thanksgiving) Day!

By Nicole Breedlove, Huffington Post

Thanksgiving has never been a celebratory holiday in my family. Whenever my family did cook we always gave thanks that all the Native Americans weren’t wiped out when Columbus “discovered” America. I never understood why my family was so against Thanksgiving. In school we drew turkeys with our hands and it was a happy time. It meant a couple of days off from school. My teachers made it seem like Thanksgiving was a holiday to look forward to. The New York City public education system told me what Thanksgiving was all about. I was very careful to regurgitate what they taught me when tested so I wouldn’t get a failing grade. When I was older though I was told the truth by my family.

My great, great, great, great grandfather was a part of a band of Black Indians in Florida, hence my unique and Native American-sounding last name. It seems I come from a long line of warriors and activists. I am a revolutionary not by choice but by lineage. When I did finally learn, there was no stopping me. Whenever someone asked what I was doing for Thanksgiving I proudly stated that I no longer celebrate it. Thanksgiving day should be known as National Land Theft and American Genocide Day.

I learned that in 1637 the body of a white man was discovered dead in a boat. Armed settlers — which we tell our children were God fearing, gentle, sharing, kind Pilgrims — invaded a Pequot village. They also set the village, which included many children, on fire. Those who were lucky enough to escape the fire were systematically sought, hunted down and killed. While many, including historians, still debate what exactly happened this day, also known as the Pequot Massacre, it directly led to the creation of “Thanksgiving Day.” This is what the governor of Bay Colony had to say days after the massacre, “A day of thanksgiving. Thanking God that they had eliminated over 700 men, women and children.”

William B. Newell, a Penobscot Indian and former chairman of the Anthropology Department at the University of Connecticut stated, “Gathered in this place of meeting, they were attacked by mercenaries and English and Dutch. The Indians were ordered from the building and as they came forth were shot down, The rest were burned alive in the building. The very next day the governor declared a Thanksgiving Day. For the next 100 years, every Thanksgiving Day ordained by a Governor was in honor of the bloody victory, thanking God that the battle had been won.”

When I finally found out the origins of Thanksgiving it made me nauseous. Never again will I celebrate a holiday I know nothing about until I investigate its origins. I am very thankful, pun intended, that I learned about the origins of this holiday. It is a reminder that history can be rewritten and if told enough times eventually becomes the truth!

People always tell me to forget the past. I should just let it go and move on. Why do people of color always have to forget?! Would you tell a Jewish person to forget about the holocaust and just move on?! Would you tell the family of those who lost their lives on 9/11 to just forget about it?! So why are our tragedies forgettable and others are not?! I WILL NEVER forget! I will ALWAYS honor those who lost their lives unjustifiable.

So when you sit down to dinner this year, look at your family, serve the food and tell each other what you are most thankful for, think about the origins of Thanksgiving. Think about the countless Native Americans who lost their lives so you can carve a turkey and get the best deals on Black Friday. Say a prayer for them, especially the children, who died simply because of the color of their skin.

Why I’m Thankful for 500 Years of Indigenous Resistance & Why You Should Be To

By Matt Remle, Last Real Indians

“There is resistance: in Canada it’s coming from First Nations. But it’s worth remembering that that’s a world-wide phenomenon. Throughout the world, the indigenous populations are in the lead. They are actually taking the lead in trying to protect the earth….It’s pretty ironic that the so-called ‘least advanced’ people are the ones taking the lead in trying to protect all of us, while the richest and most powerful among us are the ones who are trying to drive the society to destruction.” ~ Noam Chomsky

Starting in 1452, under the guise of the Papal Bull Romanus Pontifex and later the 1493 Papal Bull Inter Cetera, the Christian Doctrine of Discovery, European Christians began their efforts to expand colonial rule, and the Christian Empire, throughout the world.

These Papal Bulls sanctioned European Christian Nations to “capture, vanquish, and subdue the saracens, pagans, and other enemies of Christ, to put them into perpetual slavery, and to take all their possessions and property” and were authorized “to take possession of any lands discovered that were not under the dominion of any Christian rulers.

Early colonial efforts centered on the western coast of Africa as Portugal “claimed” lands and engaged in the trafficking of African slaves. Spain was quick to follow suit in efforts to “claim” the lands that Columbus had “discovered.” Other European Christian Nations were to later engage in efforts to claim lands, resources, and slaves from the Caribbean Islands to throughout what is now called North, Central and South America extending out the Pacific Islands.

From the onset Indigenous communities have actively resisted colonial efforts. On Columbus’s return voyage to Spain to both report his findings and gather men and materials needed for colonization efforts, he had left about 35 men who were subsequently wiped out by Taino warriors. Resistance to colonization had begun.

Similar scenes of European colonization efforts were repeated with similar responses of Indigenous resistance over the next several hundred years.

The goals of settler colonial state have always been the same, remove Indigenous populations whether through extermination, relocation or assimilation, appropriate lands and resources and expand the reaches of the settler state.

In its wake, 500 years of colonization and European expansionism has brought unparalleled loss of life through mass campaigns of genocide and enslavement, as well as, mass extinction of our other non-human relatives. Maka Ina, Mother Earth, has bore the brunt of this mass desecration and devastation with the loss of forests, pollution of waters and lands.

While Indigenous communities have suffered the greatest impacts of colonization, the environmental impacts can now be felt by all communities. We are living in a time when our first medicine, Mni (water), is both being polluted to the point where no species can drink it and being overused to where underground aquifers are drying up.

Despite colonial efforts to exterminate, terminate, relocate, and assimilate Indigenous populations, Native communities continue to resist efforts to both desecrate Maka Ina and strip Native peoples of their languages, spirituality and communties. From the Mayan Zapatista’s resistance against neo-liberalism, to 1st Nations uprisings against tar sands and hydraulic fracturing, Indigenous peoples continue to resist the efforts of the colonial settler state.

Whether non-Indigenous peoples realize it, or not, these acts of resistance benefit you, your children and your generations to come in that the battles being waged are for life itself. All beings need clean water to drink, clean air to breath and non-polluted foods to eat.

All beings were given original instructions, instructions in how to live as a relative with all relations, how to live for the continuance of life itself. Daily, our other relatives, those seen and unseen, continue to fulfill their roles and responsibilities for life to exist. With the exception of some Indigenous communities most “humans” have strayed from our roles and responsibilities. Because of that, it is no surprise we find ourselves in such a state of unbalance.

On this day I give wopila, thanks, to all those who continue in the 500 year old resistance to colonization.  Mitakuyepi, my relatives, continue to relearn your traditional languages, go to ceremony, strengthen your relationships with your relatives and stand for Maka Ina and the generations yet to come.

Mitakuye oyasin
Wakinyan Waanatan (Matt Remle)

Lexicon: Colonialism

By Maia Ramnath, from the IAS Lexicon pamphlet series, February 2012

(Download it in PDF format for pamphlet printing)

The Lexicon pamphlet series, a new project of the Institute for Anarchist Studies (IAS), aims to convert words into politically useful tools—for those already engaged in a politics from below as well as the newly approaching—by offering definitional understandings of commonly used keywords. Each Lexicon is a two-color pamphlet featuring one keyword or phrase, defined in about 2,000 words of text, and all pamphlets are available for free from the IAS, or can be downloaded here for printing and sharing. The first five pamphlets, designed by Josh MacPhee of Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative and printed by P&L Printing in Denver, are: “Power” by Todd May, “Colonialism” by Maia Ramnath, “Gender” by Jamie Heckert. “Anarchism” by Cindy Milstein, and “White Supremacy” by Joel Olson. Stay tuned for more titles in this growing series.

Colonialism can refer to a transnational process of domination, the policies by which it is carried out, and the ideologies that underwrite it. Modern colonialism has taken various forms since the Iberian, British, and French (and later German, Belgian, and Italian) incursions into Asia, Africa, and the Americas—whether for armed trade, armed missionizing, or armed settlement—began to escalate from the late fifteenth century onward.

In its “classical” historical form (roughly the late eighteenth to mid-twentieth century), the colonial relationship consisted of a metropolitan center ruling its conquered satellites from afar, through a combination of proxy rulers and local colonial administration answerable to the “home” power. For the metropole, holding colonies maximized its advantage relative to other so-called Great Powers by securing access to resources and strategic points. Meanwhile, a colony would be cemented into a position of economic dependency by which the metropole sucked surplus value from its claimed possessions in the form of plundered raw materials (mineral wealth, flora and fauna, and plantation cash crops), while selling manufactured goods back to them. The residents of a conquered region thus played the roles of superexploited cheap or coerced labor and captive consumer markets, while their own prior modes of subsistence and production were decimated. This economic pattern required colonial rulers to maintain a strong military presence as well as a trained class of native collaborators to make its local administration and policing feasible.

The act of initial takeover, from the perspective of surplus wealth extraction (aka developmental aid), is sometimes called the moment of primitive accumulation, or accumulation by dispossession. The latter term makes it clear that this wasn’t just a singular, originary event long in the past but rather a process that constantly continues to expand, regularized through a symbiotic combination of direct governmentality and subsidized corporate activity.

This kind of formalized system collapsed when the two world wars broke up the European imperial powers. New superpowers, however, were already emerging to take their place as global imperial rivals. As international politics froze into their cold war polarization while the newly independent countries of Asia and Africa attempted to maintain their hard-won independence outside either bloc, Kwame Nkrumah popularized the phrase neocolonialism to describe the situation they now risked. What he meant by calling neocolonialism “the highest stage of imperialism” (in reference to Vladimir Lenin’s famous formulation of imperialism as “the highest form of capitalism”) was that even if formal political independence was recognized, “freedom” was in substance meaningless if global economic power imbalances still replicated or even exceeded those of the classical colonial period.

Nkrumah was Ghana’s first democratically elected leader, and one of the key figures in both the Pan-Africanist movement and Non-Aligned Movement of decolonizing countries in Africa and Asia as well as in India, Egypt, Indonesia, and Yugoslavia. Joined by Latin America— which by then had already been struggling for almost 150 years against exactly that kind of relationship to the United States—the countries of what we now call the Global South formed the “Tricontinental” alliance against recolonization in all but name: by proxy in local conflicts, covert ops to install dictators subservient to the desired interests, or economic domination.

More recently still, what’s been called globalization since the 1980s and 1990s manifests as more of the same, but in a drastically intensified form. With the Soviet Union out of the way, the Washington Consensus laid out the principles of neoliberalism to be exercised on the same regions, now primarily through mechanisms like the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, G20, and World Economic Forum. The conditions for International Monetary Fund loans required adherence to structural adjustment programs demanding that the entirety of a recipient country’s social programs be eliminated, privatized, and deregulated, and that all its financial resources previously geared toward public goods like health, education, housing, and transportation be moved toward servicing debt—that is to say, wealth redistribution toward a transnational capitalist elite, or a tiny point of a pyramid supported by a vast base of the dispossessed.

In this way, decolonizing or “developing” countries have been locked in perpetual debt, sacrificing collective welfare to the demands of corporations and their sponsors—by no coincidence, the same pool of corporations that have profited the most from the U.S. occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq over the last ten years. What we’re now seeing in North America and Europe—the widespread loss of homes and livelihoods—are the effects of neoliberalism, or exactly what’s been going on for decades in the Global South. (Here’s a parallel: when fascism overtook Europe in the 1930s, many recognized that the same genocidal logics and draconian techniques had long been routine in the colonies. What was new was the application of these dehumanizing techniques and ideologies to the metropoles, to people previously classified—though in some cases precariously—on the near side of the racial and cultural divide instead of to those conveniently far away.)

Hence, what North Americans now experience resonates in form with the most recent manifestation of colonization. But there’s an important difference: history, along with our resulting locations, literally and figuratively.

The continued expansion of capitalism has always depended on colonialism—that is, on externalizing its costs and reaching ever farther afield for inputs. This means that a political entity with an interest in generating profit has to project its power outside its territorial jurisdiction in order to do so—and that’s imperialism. This may occur through economic or military means, hard power or soft, or some combination thereof.

Furthermore, colonial projects and imperial projections require some form of racism as a legitimizing base. The stability of all colonial systems has ultimately depended on maintaining, at great effort, a strict line, supposedly existential but in truth ideological, of which one side must be portrayed as irredeemably alien, primitive, inferior, evil, scary, and/or less human. That was the only way to create justification for enslavement or genocide, whether to a public whose participation was required or another power. Some forms of this have included Christian missionary efforts, Orientalism, racialist pseudoscience, and the liberal civilizing mission, aka the white man’s burden. This is why anticolonial resistance movements in the Global South have so often been interconnected with antiracist mobilizations in the Global North; they were both linked manifestations of the same phenomenon, same logic, and same historical processes.

Two of these processes—two related techniques of colonization—are of particular relevance to contemporary repertoires of civil disobedience and their relationship to space. The first is military occupation, in which an imperial power moves its army into a place to demand its submission by brute force. The second is a subset of the colonial enterprise known as settler colonialism—in which an imperial power engages in what amounts to ethnic cleansing or a massive population transfer, by moving its own people permanently into a region, rather than just defending bases or enclaves. Occupation in these contexts means the illegitimate claiming of space: invasion, conquest, sanctioned vigilantism against prior residents. That, of course, is the dirty open secret on which the United States was founded: there is no unoccupied land here.

This is why decolonization may actually be a more accurate term for what protest movements that utilize occupation as a tactic intend to do when they establish a sustained presence in a space claimed by government, military, or corporate entities, such as (to name just a few examples) the American Indian Movement did at Alcatraz, the Bureau of Indian Affairs headquarters, and elsewhere since the 1970s; students did at universities throughout California and New York in 2008–9; and Argentinean workers did in their factories in 2001. The first example is certainly a more direct opposition to explicit colonization and conquest in the textbook sense. Nevertheless, all such actions are essentially moves toward reversing the process of dispossession; dismantling relationships of inequity and the legal/governmental structures that protect them; halting the suck of wealth extraction from the bottom to the top of the pyramid; restoration of the commons; and refusal to sacrifice the priorities of collective social well- being to the profits of an elite few. When externalized and mapped onto racialized divisions between an elite and a population to which it is seen as external, these grievances are all aspects of the colonization process.

To struggle against it, then, must also include historically contextualizing our own economic, political, and geographic locations. This enables us, among other things, to understand the connections between the rights of immigrants and indigenous peoples, both forcibly displaced by the demands of the global economy and militarization of borders, and recognize, unweave, and replace persistent racism, sexism, and all other related patterns of oppression by which colonial dominion has been justified.

American Holocaust: When It’s All Over I’ll Still Be Indian

From Films For Action:

The powerful and hard-hitting documentary, American Holocaust, is quite possibly the only film that reveals the link between the Nazi holocaust, which claimed at least 6 million Jews, and the American Holocaust which claimed, according to conservative estimates, 19 million Indigenous People.

It is seldom noted anywhere in fact, be it in textbooks or on the internet, that Hitler studied America’s “Indian policy”, and used it as a model for what he termed “the final solution.”

He wasn’t the only one either. It’s not explicitly mentioned in the film, but it’s well known that members of the National Party government in South Africa studied “the American approach” before they introduced the system of racial apartheid, which lasted from 1948 to 1994. Other fascist regimes, for instance, in South and Central America, studied the same policy.

Noted even less frequently, Canada’s “Aboriginal policy” was also closely examined for its psychological properties. America always took the more ‘wide-open’ approach, for example, by decimating the Buffalo to get rid of a primary food source, by introducing pox blankets, and by giving $1 rewards to settlers in return for scalps of Indigenous Men, women, and children, among many, many other horrendous acts. Canada, on the other hand, was more bureaucratic about it. They used what I like to call “the gentleman’s touch”, because instead of extinguishment, Canada sought to “remove the Indian from the Man” and the Women and the Child, through a long-term, and very specific program of internal breakdown and replacement – call it “assimilation”. America had it’s own assimilation program, but Canada was far more technical about it.

Perhaps these points would have been more closely examined in American Holocaust if the film had been completed. The film’s director, Joanelle Romero, says she’s been turned down from all sources of funding since she began putting it together in 1995.

Perhaps it’s just not “good business” to invest in something that tells so much truth? In any event, Romero produced a shortened, 29-minute version of the film in 2001, with the hope of encouraging new funders so she could complete American Holocaust. Eight years on, Romero is still looking for funds.

American Holocaust may never become the 90-minute documentary Romero hoped to create, to help expose the most substantial act of genocide that the world has ever seen… one that continues even as you read these words.

American Holocaust: The Destruction of America’s Native Peoples

American Holocaust: The Destruction of America’s Native Peoples, a lecture by David Stannard, professor and chair of the American Studies Department at the University of Hawaii. Stannard, author of American Holocaust, asserts that the European and white American destruction of the native peoples of the Americas was the most substantial act of genocide in world history. A combination of atrocities and imported plagues resulted in the death of roughly 95 percent of the native population in the Americas. Stannard argues that the perpetrators of the American Holocaust operated from the same ideological source as the architects of the Nazi Holocaust. That ideology remains alive today in American foreign policy, Stannard avers.