FIVE TIMES IN HISTORY WHERE WHITE PEOPLE FAILED OUR INDIGENOUS PEOPLE
Image by: Ryan Vissions (IG: @amoderghost)
Written by: Sofia Colombo
Throughout the history of our young nation, the American government has, time and time again, trodden on the rights and disrespected the existence of our minority populations. But, they have treated no one more despicably than the first people of America, the Indigenous peoples.
Recently we saw this disrespect most apparent in the national protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The DAPL is a 3.7 billion dollar underground pipeline that was routed to go through ancient tribal lands and a major water source in the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. During the protest, militarized police forces were sent out to try and crush their rebellion, a violation of their first amendment rights. Protesters were abused by the police with attack dogs, pepper spray, water cannons, rubber bullets, mace, they were beaten, and arrested. All for exercising their rights, and protesting the violation of their property. Which, technically they shouldn’t have to claim as theirs because their ancestors were the first to inhabit the Americas, and they were the ones who were violated and stripped, forcefully, of what was rightfully theirs. The rallying cry of the protest is/was, ‘Mni Wiconi’, meaning, ‘Water is Life’. The center point of their protest was that the pipeline would contaminate their source of water, and potentially contaminate the water sources of other Americans. They protested not only for their own safety and health, but for the fear of other Americans losing their clean sources of water.
“We should not continue to trample on Native American Sovereignty. We should not endanger the water supply of millions of people.” -Senator Bernie Sanders
The US Army Corps of Engineers made the decision on December 5th to reroute the pipeline from the reservation and to investigate alternative routes, and the potential environmental impact. Moving forward, the opponents of the pipeline want to maintain pressure on the commissioners of the pipeline, Energy Transfer and Sunoco Logistics Partners, who have stated that they “fully expect to complete construction of the pipeline without any additional rerouting”. They say that the decision is not necessarily permanent, especially with the upcoming transition of administrations, and the views the next administration has shared on the pipeline. Only time will tell.
Now for 5 instances where the government failed our Natives,(and we hope to never see the DAPL situation on this list)
1. The “Discovery of America”(please say this as sarcastically as possible)
Everyone learns in like the 4th or 5th grade that ‘In 1492 he sailed the ocean blue’, meaning that Christopher Columbus was granted permission by the King and Queen of Spain to sail to ‘India’ encountered by Europeans, the Taíno. He called them Indians, took their gold, forced them to search for even more gold to feed his greed, the consequence for not doing this was mutilation and, most likely, death, and he raped them, and burned their villages. They were the first of many to be subject to his evil. He left and came back a few times, and in each instance he brought death and destruction. By the time of his final voyage and return back to Spain an estimated 125,000 indigenous peoples had died by his hand or influence. Christopher Columbus is called the “first terrorist in America” by Natives. And on the topic of his (absurd) holiday, from the point of view of Native Americans, “It always was weird to me to have that day off in celebration… we don’t have a day for Hitler.”
2. Pickering Treaty aka The Treaty with the Six Nations
The Pickering Treaty was created in 1794 between the United States and six Native nations. It talked about peace, and friendship, and respect, all those good things the United States has a great reputation in. The treaty reserved lands in New York to the Oneida, Onondaga, and Cayuga Nations. The United States promised to never claim the same lands, disturb them, and the said reservation would remain theirs. The treaty was signed by Representative Pickering, with the permission of the U.S. government, but it was never ratified by the Senate. Something that has to be done in the our government system for a treaty to be valid. But none of the Natives knew this, or were ever informed of this. The Pickering Treaty official document is on display in the American Indian Museum in the ‘Broken Promises’ Exhibit on Native American treaties.
3. The Trail of Tears
The story of the Trail of Tears begins with passage of the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Which was ratified and signed into law by Andrew Jackson, nicknamed in modern times the “Hitler” of the Indians. In the case of the Cherokee Nation vs. Georgia, the Cherokee Nation sued the U.S. government for their right to stay on their lands, and surprisingly they won. What happens after is the tragedy. Jackson told the Supreme Court that they could go ahead and enforce their decision (which they obviously couldn’t do) and got his way anyways and thus began the Trail of Tears. He forcefully had about 15,000 - 16,000 Natives removed from their lands and had them march 2,200 miles to Oklahoma. About 3,000 - 4,000 died along the way. Even Davy Crockett, famed American frontiersman said that, “ I would sooner be honestly, and politically damned than hypocritically demoralized”, on his opposition to the Act and the actions of Andrew Jackson in handling its implementation.
4. The Kit Carson Treaty
In 1863 Kit Carson existed. Sadly. Carson was a pretty famous trapper and guide to the ‘wilds’ of the West. He was a pretty nice and accommodating guy when it came to tribes such as the Mescaleros and Kiowas. But when it came to the Navajo? Not so much. The Navajo had been given set reservation to stay on, once again, who is so much of an asshole to take away people’s land then comes back and says, “oh wait, yah you can keep it but only this little piece and if you leave it you’re in trouble and you’re in the wrong." So many questions. Anyways, so some of the Navajo were (obviously) like, “uh, haha, no,” and refused to accept the confinement, so Kit came on down to make them obey, and burned their crops, destroyed their villages, and slaughtered their livestock. Then he marched the 8,000 Navajo people 300 miles across New Mexico to another reservation, the Bosque Redondo Reservation, and had them imprisoned there. What a fun time.
5. The Dawes Act of 1887
Now at first this law doesn't sound too bad. The U. S. government passed the Dawes Act to allow them to give individual allotments of land to Natives. Every Native American was treated as an individual of a whole, not as a member of a tribe, or several nations. Do you see where this is going? What the U. S. government did was treat them as one giant entity instead of a giant mass of people who main commonality was the color of their skin. The Dawes Act actually ruined a lot of Native American culture because it forced tribes to split up, leaving cultures to wither because people of the same languages and traditions were now, forcibly, nowhere near one another. The Dawes Act overstepped and took control of the lives of people the U. S. government had no right to interfere with.
And that concludes yet another atrocious list of the treatment of Native Americans in history. May they be a reminder for the future, so past mistakes are not once again repeated.