There is much to celebrate in these times or is it? This discussion occured after a talk by Ward Churchill, PhD. to students, some were online as well! There is so much revealed and to think about that it was
the editor's feelings regarding Indigenous Peoples to publish this article as it is in hopes of a better understanding and to build insight into the workings of Native America plus views of one of the most noteable minds in Native America today!
A Day to Give Thanks?
By Ward Churchill
Thanksgiving is the day the United States celebrates the fact that the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony successfully avoided starvation during the winter of 1620-21.
But from an American Indian perspective, what is it we're supposed to be so thankful for?
Does anyone really expect us to give thanks for the fact that soon after the Pilgrim Fathers regained their strength, they set out to dispossess and exterminate the very Indians who had fed them that first winter?
Are we to express our gratitude for the colonists' 1637 massacre of the Pequots at Mystic, Conn., or their rhetoric justifying the butchery by comparing Indians to "rats and mice and swarms of lice"?
Or should we be joyous about the endless series of similar slaughters that followed: at St. Francis (1759), Horseshoe Bend (1814), Bad Axe (1833), Blue Water (1854), Sand Creek (1864), Marias River (1870), Camp Robinson (1878) and Wounded Knee (1890), to name only the worst?
Should we be thankful for the scalp bounties paid by every English colony -- as well as every U.S. state and territory in the lower 48 -- for proof of the deaths of individual Indians, including women and children?
How might we best show our appreciation of the order issued by Lord Jeffrey Amherst in 1763, requiring smallpox-infested items be given as gifts to the Ottawas so that "we might extirpate this execrable race"?
Is it reasonable to assume that we might be jubilant that our overall population, numbering perhaps 15 million at the outset of the European invasion, was reduced to less than a quarter-million by 1890?
Maybe we should be glad the "peaceful settlers" didn't kill the rest of us outright. But they didn't really need to, did they? By 1900, they already had 98 percent of our land. The remaining Indians were simply dumped in the mostly arid and unwanted locales, where it was confidently predicted that we'd shortly die off altogether, out of sight and mind of the settler society.
We haven't died off yet, but we comprise far and away the most impoverished, malnourished and disease-ridden population on the continent today. Life expectancy on many reservations is about 50 years; that of Euroamericans more than 75.
We've also endured a pattern of cultural genocide during the 20th century. Our children were processed for generations through government boarding schools designed to "kill the Indian" in every child's consciousness and to replace Native traditions with a "more enlightened" Euroamerican set of values and understandings.
Should we feel grateful for the disastrous self-concept thereby fostered within our kids?
Are we to be thankful that their self-esteem is still degraded every day on cable television by a constant bombardment of recycled Hollywood Westerns and television segments presenting Indians as absurd and utterly dehumanized caricatures?
Should we tell our children to find pride in the sorts of insults to which we are subjected to as a matter of course: Tumbleweeds cartoons, for instance, or the presence of Chief Wahoo and the Redskins in professional sports?
Does anybody really believe we should feel honored by such things, or by place names like Squaw Valley and Squaw Peak? "Squaw," after all, is the Onondaga word for female genitalia. The derogatory effect on Native women should be quite clear.
About three-quarters of all adult Indians suffer alcoholism and/or other forms of substance abuse. This is not a "genetic condition." It is a desperate, collective attempt to escape our horrible reality since "America's Triumph."
It's no mystery why Indians don't observe Thanksgiving. The real question is why do you feast rather than fast on what should be a national day of mourning and atonement.
Before digging into your turkey and dressing on Nov. 23, you might wish to glance in a mirror and see if you can come up with an answer.
Ward Churchill is professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado. He's the author of "A Little Matter of Genocide: Holocaust and Denial in the Americas, 1492 to the Present" (City Lights Books, 1998) and "Struggle For the Land: Indigenous Resistance to Genocide, Ecocide and Expropriation in Contemporary North America" (Common Courage Press, 1992).
Ward Churchill, Ethnic Studies, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309-0339 - Ward.Churchill@Colorado.EDU - office: 303-492-5066
COMMENTS and REPLYS -----<::::::>~
Thankful for European Influence
by Molly McGuire • Wednesday November 21, 2001 at 09:18 PM
Actually, you should be thankful that Europeans brought science and reason to a continent that has made no progress in 10,000 years. Pilgrims were constantly under attack by hostile gangs of natives. North America was host to thousands of tribal battles during all of it pre-Columbian history.
Maybe you should thankful that the influx of Europeans upgraded the standard of living in a few years, that which the "Native American" was unable to do in centuries. The natives were starving to death and constantly roaming for food, always at war with each other.
So, it's not politically correct, and I'm certain you'll tell me to fuck off, but you are living indoors and reading from a computer, perhaps eating prepared foods because of the European influence. You precious natives were incapable of such achievements.
Racist Lies - An Outrage
by mark • Thursday November 22, 2001 at 12:02 AM
This is one of the most appalling comments I have read here - every sentence is just plain wrong. There is really no doubt that Native americans had world-class astronomy, mathematics, writing, architecture, medicine, urban planning, agriculture, sports (such as lacrosse), and political systems (such as the confederacy). There is also no question that Native American civilizations suffered European-sponsored near-total GENOCIDE. Not sure where you get your European history, but as far as I understand for the last few thousand years they've suffered constant full-scale wars, sometimes lasting for 100 years, not to mention the particularly brutal civil wars that encouraged colonization. In order to consolidate and expand their rule, European royalty improved the killing power of Asian firearms, spent vast resources to equip their soldiers with rifles and cannons, and went around the world looking for more gold to finance their wars.
Native Americans taught the "Pilgrims" (they called themselves "Saints", others called them "Separatists") how to survive; that's why some of us celebrate Thanksgiving. Luckily some Native Americans already spoke English thanks to dealing with so many shipwrecked sailors. The not-so-thankful Pilgrims soon turned to raiding and pillaging native villages for a living, and it wasn't long before the Natives were constantly under attack by hostile gangs of "Saints" and had no choice but to counterattack.
In Pre-Columbian times, Native Americans had plenty of food; whether from farming or hunting or gathering. Unfortunately many poor, malnourished Native Americans *are* starving Now. There has been massive environmental degradation of North America - whole ecosystems have vanished; and native American communities have been pushed to the most barren, least productive land by a centuries-long fullscale military assault (not to mention more insidious methods of terrorism, like distributing smallpox-infected blankets). Take a look at the Cherokees, who formed a wealthy, advanced nation state that was broken up and marched off to Oklahoma.
Lets look at some numbers:
Native American Life Expectancy, 1492: 40
European Life Expectancy, 1492: 35
Native American Life Expectancy, 2001: 46
Non-Native American Life Expectancy, 2001: 70
Total Native American Population
1492 approx 7,000,000 to 10,000,000
There is no doubt that the European influence on America is a major force of world history and has, at this point, probably affected almost eveyone in the world to some extent. That's why it is worth reading about before you spout your racist lies here - or anywhere.
Rhetoric or reason?
by llivermore • Friday November 23, 2001 at 09:39 AM
::There is really no doubt that Native americans had world-class astronomy, mathematics, writing, architecture, medicine, urban planning, agriculture, sports (such as lacrosse), and political systems (such as the confederacy). ::
There is no doubt that what happened to Native Americans was/is a tragedy, but you hardly help the case by posting such rhetorical nonsense. While there are germs of truth in what you say, it's so extremely exaggerated that no one but the highly impressionable is going to take you seriously.
In reality, only a handful of Native American societies (there were thousands of different ones, some extremely primitive and some relatively advanced) had any form of writing, and it was a rudimentary form at best. Similarly, to equate Native American astronomy with European science (the Europeans had by then already developed telescopes and the beginnings of a realistic map of the universe, remember) is ludicrous. The remarkable thing about most Native American scientific acccomplishments (and even the use of the term "scientific" is misleading, as Native Americans had not developed the scientific method that is the foundation of European science) is not that they were anywhere near the equal of Europe's, but that they occurred at all in a society that was largely pre-literate and pre-scientific.
Similarly, claims about "urban planning" and "architecture" need to be taken in context: only a handful of Native societies had anything that could be equated with urban development. And if you're going to cite the few that did, it's only fair to consider that one of the most advanced of them, the Aztecs, also practiced slavery and human sacrifice on what writer termed "an industrial scale."
None of this is meant to imply that because Native Americans were not as scientifically or culturally advanced as the Europeans, they deserved to die or to lose their homeland. But if you want people to focus on that essential issue, you need to stick to basic moral values, not throw about wildly inflated rhetorical claims about cultural or technological equivalency. I need only point out that if the Native Americans were as advanced as you claim, they hardly could have been defeated by a relative handful of European invaders.
::There is also no question that Native American civilizations suffered European-sponsored near-total GENOCIDE.::
Actually, there is. While there were certainly instances of very cruel massacres directed against Natives (and, to be fair, by Natives against Europeans), the overwhelming majority - 80-90% -of Natives died not as a result of military action, but from coming in contact with European diseases to which they had never developed immunity. And before you raise the familiar cry about the smallpox-infected blankets, yes, such incidents occurred, but they were not systematic and only accounted for a infinitesimal percentage of Native deaths. The vast majority were simply an unintended and unexpected consequence of Natives not having acquired immunity to European illnesses. The Europeans did have such immunity largely as a result of living in close proximity in urban areas. Read William McNeill's "Plagues and Peoples" or Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs and Steel" if you want scientifc and independent verification of this.
As for differing life expectancies of modern Native and European populations, it might be instructive to compare differing life expectancies between Natives who have integrated themselves into mainstream - i.e., Euro-American - society, and those who have remained marginalised on reservations and urban ghettoes.
by mark • Friday November 23, 2001 at 01:38 PM
Whether or not you consider native American culture - adobe villages, dug-out canoes, herbal medicine, wigwams or WHATEVER - to be noteworthy, my point is to refute the outlandish, racist notion that Europeans are alone capable of "science" and "reason" while American Indians are "incapable of such achievements."
If you'd like to play the civilization vs. civilization game, isn't it somewhat forgetful to blast the Aztecs for enslaving its prisoners of war while you laud the Euro-American societies which have enslaved, persecuted, and incarcerated countless millions of Africans and Native Americans?
"I need only point out that if the Native Americans were as advanced as you claim, they hardly could have been defeated by a relative handful of European invaders." - This exemplifies the sort of mindset typical of Americans who simpy refuse to believe or acknowledge that there has been an organized, militarized, state-and-religion-endorsed campaign to exterminate and assimilate Native Americans for 509 years - 1492 thru today. If you don't believe me perhaps you should ask a Native American - you act as if they were all Gone, Defeated, Nothing but a sad, primitive foot note in history. Actually Native Americans are still marginalized and still resisting. The struggle for indigenous rights continues in every country of the Western Hemisphere and before bodies like the WCAR.
The tone of your last sentence brings to mind the worst sort of antediluvian (or perhaps, not so antediluvian?) Social Darwinism. But you're right, I would be interested in such figures though I haven't come across them yet.
by Francisco Da Costa • Friday November 23, 2001 at 04:01 PM
email@example.com (415)467-4284 2554 San Bruno Avenue, S.F., CA 94134-1516
Here in California 18 treaties have not been ratified by the United States government. The Muwekma Ohlone tribe of the San Francisco area were once on the Federal Register and illegally removed in 1927. I guess the millions of non-Native Americans can come out with all the reasons to put down the Native American at hind sight. Especially those who always love to go on the defensive. We should learn more about the various tribes before we dare to cast our stones and spew out hatred. For starters visit the Muwekma Ohlone site: http://www.muwekma.org There is no doubt that any person who is fair minded gives thanks to the host. This land belongs to the Native Americans, always did. The least we all can say is "thank you". It is a shame in 2001 - after all these years with all the information out there we still cannot think and act right. Thanksgiving is a day set aside to give thanks - one can only really give thanks with humility. You can never be pompous and say "thank you" - it would NOT be right.
Thankful for a Prosperous Life
by Elisa • Friday November 23, 2001 at 06:53 PM
When The Bureau of Tribal Affairs reneges on a treaty, it is terrible, it is a shame, and has led to some deaths sadly. When the hundreds of warring nations in North America violated a peace agreement, genocide resulted. Thousands of Pre-Columbian natives were exterminated long before any Pilgrim gave them cowpox or influenza. However, it has become convenient to trash all European influence, because it's easy to hate isn't it? You are reading a European-based language via a mechanism developed by a European scientific method.
As to the truth of previous posts, that the Native Americans were scientific and mathematical, there is little evidence that their maths had any complexity whatsoever. The life expectancy figures are incorrect, and Molly's comment contained no racist suggest at all. She merely said that the natives were not capable of the progress that the Europeans achieved. Nobody was: the Asians could not, the Africans could not, nor the South Americans.
by mark • Friday November 23, 2001 at 07:26 PM
the life expectancy figures I cited come from reputable government and academic sources. If u have contradicting numbers please publish them here. American Indians and African Americans at retirement age live on average longer than Caucasian Americans at retirement age - because so many of their numbers have already been depleted by inadequate health care, malnutrition, crime, and the like; that is, a not-so-prosperous life.
Mayan mathematics and astronomy, and related systems in other societies of mesoamerica and the southwestern US, is widely understood to be at least as complex and useful as any other such system of the time.
You say: "Molly's comment contained no racist suggest at all. She merely said that the natives were not capable of the progress that the Europeans achieved. Nobody was: the Asians could not, the Africans could not, nor the South Americans." This is exactly what I am talking about: Your statement is without a doubt racist and has no basis in fact. Certainly each society exhibits its own particular sort of "progress," whatever that is. But extending this observation to a hierarchical philosophy and using such terms as "capable" and "incapable" is pure and simple racism.
by Bakunin • Friday November 23, 2001 at 08:02 PM
The presupposition of llivermore and elisa on this comment thread is that we cannot find a pattern of contemporary historical racism between European nations and indigenous populations. This is a proven historical fact, and it is a characteristic of European colonialism. (Other parts of the world also had their own versions of colonialism) It is also a characteristic of modern-day international relationships.
One may say that Native American tribes fought with each other and enslaved each other. Many have also recorded this about the history of Africa. One can also say this about Europe, with a long history of continental warfare. It is hard to find a historian who will suggest that warfare, slavery and exploitation is not a core component of human history within the last 2,000 years. (However, most anthropologists agree that pre-agricultural humankind lived without concepts of war, work, government, slavery, etc) But, if (as it seems mark and others on here are saying) we are looking at modern society ... that is, what are *we* doing now? And how can we be informed by contemoprary historical truths of international relationships? And what opinion should we have on things happening right now, if we are to be informed by historical experience?
In the context of contemporary history, the Europeans and more notably the U.S. Government has shown its reliance on these old and outdate methods of warfare and conquest. If you take contemporary history to mean the last 500 years, and moreso the last 200 years, as a measurement to say where we are today, why are people discounting proven European racism and conquest?
To suggest that Native Americans should be "grateful" for European conquest is an insult. And it is racism. And it is an ideological foundation for the historical colonialism/imperialism that I have just referred to. In the past 500 years, there has not been a global Native American empire which funds death squads and creates nuclear holocausts --- only a European/US one. The racial and cultural history of Europeans' interactions with Native Americans has only *one* history: the savage and brutal conquest of a "Manifest Destiny" perpetrated by Europeans.
Looking at the proven, admitted facts of what European governments (and the U.S. government) have done over the past 500 years in their conquests for territory and profit (even within the past 50 years with debt management, IMF, etc) is not "fashion" or "hate". It is looking at history and saying: "do we want to keep doing this?"
Humans share a quality with few other living creatures on this earth: the ability to pass down abstract information from one generation to another. This gift has given us the ability to have a history that goes beyond genetic memory.
So let's call it what it is. The relationships between Europeans and indigenous populations for the past 500 years including and up to today has been one of master and slave. There are countless historical examples, and any number of examples today.
Those who would denigrate the Native American culture, cheer on the genocide or minimize the historical and modern-day impact on people are nothing more than apologists for colonial domination. And they are propagating the same racist hatred that has characterized European history for the last 500 years.
And, within the context of modern international relations, you can only be on a couple sides: the side of the increasingly exposed international empire or the side of self-determination and cultural diversity?
The only revolution against colonialism that people from the U.S. can sympathize with is the U.S. war for independence. Don't you find that odd? Some would say that the arrogance to assume that only white Americans deserve independence is also racism. Some white Americans, of course, deny that.
More rhetoric and unreason
by llivermore • Saturday November 24, 2001 at 07:16 AM
::the presupposition of llivermore and elisa on this comment thread is that we cannot find a pattern of contemporary historical racism between European nations and indigenous populations.::
No it's not. You're just making things up to provide yourself with a spurious platform for your flights of slogan-rehashing.
Rhetoric-mongers like yourself use charges of "racism" as an all-purpose weapon when facts and reason fail to debunk an argument that doesn't fit neatly into their ideological framework.
In the first place, I never suggested, explicitly or implicitly, that there was no racism on the part of Europeans toward Native Americans. It would be stupid of me to do so in any event, as there are ample historical sources showing that many Europeans regarded Natives as being less than human, or at least, as not fully developed humans. But you conveniently ignore the fact that all human societies tend to regard themselves as intellectually and culturally superior to other societies. If Native Americans had left written records of their initial impressions of Europeans, they no doubt would be replete with descriptions of the perceived inferiority of European civilisation.
But in your eagerness to join the crusade of racist identity politics and self-flagellation that sadly characterises so much of contemporary leftism, you neglect to notice that the original discussion was not about whether racism existed in the colonial era, but whether Native American society was indeed, as Mark assserted, the technological equal of European society. Virtually all historical evidence indicates this is not the case. We can bemoan the tragic fate of Native Americans, and resolve that in the future we should not allow our government to treat people so callously, but to stand logic and history on its head by pretending that hunter-gatherer or simple agrarian tribal societies are in every way the equal of modern and post-modern industrial societies does nothing to accomplish that aim. It just makes you look silly and unworthy of being taken seriously.
Fuck Ward Churchill
by me • Sunday November 25, 2001 at 01:11 AM
Ward Churchill is a professional (academic) race baitor. He has come out in support of the terrorists attacks on the WTC. I wouldn't even bother to read any of this warped fuckers writings.
What is racism?
by Bakunin • Sunday November 25, 2001 at 01:55 AM
First, I should say that my response was to llivermore and elisa's comments compositely, as originally noted.
"leftism, you neglect to notice that the original discussion was not about whether racism existed in the colonial era, but whether Native American society was indeed, as Mark assserted, the technological equal of European society."
I understand why you don't think it is racism. What you have just posted, though, is a form of old colonial racism. Of course they have "inferior technology" ... just as they have "inferior toys" because they are not made out of molded plastic ... just as they have "inferior religion" and "inferior urban planning."
I hope you can understand that while you view this as a simple comparison of technology, you are ignoring that your standard of evaluation is racist to begin with.
There are billions of people who would say that the earth-destroying urban sprawl of contemporary USA is "inferior urban planning". Many would say that weapons of nuclear global holocaust is "inferior technology". Many would argue that the regimented, spend-your-life-working consumer lifestyle is not only "inferior," but dangerously groupthink-oriented and totalitarian in its quest for "productivity" and "technology".
If you think gadgets and superconductors and nuclear fission are the best technology we can come up with, that's a European view and yes, the Europeans were more technologically advanced. We have the ability to see what they did with their historical victory. What if the native Americans had been allowed to flourish? Would their technological development reflected their respect for nature? One can only imagine.
Native American technology was equivalent to European technology, just not where it mattered when you are faced with a genocidal invading army. The whole point of Thanksgiving is that the Native Americans "saved" the Pilgrims by teaching them agricultural concepts, housing concepts, etc that they were not able to figure out on their own.
At any rate, you could argue about whether or not their technology was equivalent all day. I just want to make clear that anyone who looks at it and presumes a European standard for evaluating technological and social progress is holding an historically racist viewpoint, no matter how much you call it "invalid political correctness"
Charges of "racism" = no rational argument
by llivermore • Sunday November 25, 2001 at 04:56 AM
::At any rate, you could argue about whether or not their technology was equivalent all day. I just want to make clear that anyone who looks at it and presumes a European standard for evaluating technological and social progress is holding an historically racist viewpoint, no matter how much you call it "invalid political correctness"::
First off, I never used the term "political correctness" or even referred obliquely to that concept.
Secondly, *you* can argue all day about whether European and Native America technology were equivalent, but few rational or reasonable people would bother, because the disparity between the two is so obvious, regardless of whose standards are used to make the evaluation. If you doubt this, please observe that even the most rabid proponents of cultural or technological equivalence - say Ward Churchill or yourself, for example - employ the white man's technology to expound their views, live in the white man's houses, and use the white man's medical science. In other words, you don't even believe your own rhetoric, or you'd be living in a grass hut and sending your message by smoke signals.
Thirdly, your entire approach is nihilistic, in that anyone who disagrees with you is "guilty of historical racism." That's not reason, that's demagogic name-calling. It really doesn't rise much above the level of a 16 year old calling his parents "fascists" because they won't drive him to the mall and buy him a new anarchy t-shirt.
P.S. Your choice of a namesake is revelatory as well. Bakunin, far from being a revolutionary freedom fighter, was a 19th century nutcase, who never accomplished much beyond getting in barroom brawls and the petty bitch fights that have historically characterised the anarchist left.
Racism exists, but is never a rational reason
by Bakunin • Sunday November 25, 2001 at 05:20 AM
The "white man's technology"? I wonder what the Japanese would say about personal electronics being "white man's technology".
Regardless, your backstepping shows even more that your position is founded on racism (which is by far one of the most irrational foundations ever).
Few "rational or reasonable" people believe this. All the technology we have comes from the "white man". People would be living in "huts".
I think it is plain to any "rational or reasonable" person that your retorts are just more and more layers of racist belief. You could have tried to show why your European social/tech/etc standard of "superior" and "inferior" was actually a more reasonable standard. But instead you resorted to knee-jerk racist bullshit, as cited above.
Earth to Llivermore
by mark • Sunday November 25, 2001 at 04:37 PM
llivermore writes, "If Native Americans had left written records of their initial impressions of Europeans, they no doubt would be replete with descriptions of the perceived inferiority of European civilisation."
Were you not aware that Native Americans do have written records? Have you not even Read any of them? Although much pre-columbian Native american writings were destroyed by European invaders (for instance, many of the holy books of the Mayan religion) that which survives is replete with vivid descriptions of European military technology, involuntary conversions, various difficulties adjusting (or not) to the "new" world, and relations with Indians, whether friendly or hostile.
llivermore writes, "you neglect to notice that the original discussion was not about whether racism existed in the colonial era, but whether Native American society was indeed, as Mark assserted, the technological equal of European society."
The original thread asserted and continued by me is that certain comments on this thread are Racist. For instance, statements that Native Americans are "incapable" of this or that, that Only Europeans are capable of this or that, and so forth. I do not claim that Colonial-era European and Pre-Colombian Native American technologies are "equal," only that large groups of people in their capabilities and capacities are equal. If you would like to argue with that (and you are of course within your rights to do so, as long as this newswire graciously allows racist posts) then I will call you also Racist. Frankly, why would any society ever want to possess the "equivalent" of Colonial European technology - technology used primarily for militaristic purposes and developed and maintained thru exploitation and imperialism on a massive scale...
Llivermore, sorry to steal your words but, to suggest that anyone could suggest that hunter-gatherer or simple agrarian tribal societies are in every way the equal of modern and post-modern industrial societies just makes you look silly and unworthy of being taken seriously.
llivermore writes "the most rabid proponents of cultural or technological equivalence - say Ward Churchill or yourself, for example - employ the white man's technology to expound their views, live in the white man's houses, and use the white man's medical science. In other words, you don't even believe your own rhetoric, or you'd be living in a grass hut and sending your message by smoke signals." What I am arguing is the following:
* Generally speaking, American Indians have not "upgraded their standard of living" since the conquest, since most were killed through war, persecution, and disease, and many Native communities have been pushed to the most unproductive lands and are today economically, politically, and culturally marginalized.
* There has been a pattern of racist attacks, in its totality what we call genocide, perpetrated against Native Americans (and other groups) by European Americans
* Racist attacks are continuing even in this thread
* Despite the fact that certain groups, for instance, American Indians, continue to be victimized and marginalized by the rich and powerful, all races are in fact equivalent in their capabilities and capacities.
* Messages such as Ward Churchill's are vital to remind us of past and present injustice, and to inspire constructive dialogue such as on this thread. Resistance, whether through words or even violence, will continue until there is justice for all peoples.
Ward Churchill is a scumbag
by me • Monday November 26, 2001 at 12:51 AM
To the stupid leftists out their-- Churchill supports the WTC. Any comment on that?
pacifism as pathology
by mark • Monday November 26, 2001 at 01:46 AM