I am currently watching the series The West by Ken Burns. It was originally made and shown on PBS in 1995, and I believe I saw it then, but if I did I have forgotten most of it. It is a searing history of how the United States, first consisting of only 13 colonies and then adding more, until the Louisiana Purchase from France doubled its size, then conquered the West. From St. Louis MO, the gateway to the West, first Lewis and Clark’s expedition in 1803-6 set out to cross the unknown territory to reach the Pacific Ocean. They were followed by wagon trains of tens of thousands of settlers. But, when gold was discovered in California in 1848, this became a flood of hundreds of thousands of settlers. What then happened to the indigenous native American peoples (incorrectly termed Indians) was nothing less than an American genocide.
I will not deal here with the treatment of the Indians in the North East and Southern USA prior to 1800. except to say that it is estimated that at the time of the establishment of the USA there were between 3-8 million native Americans living in the area that became the USA, but by the end of the 19th century there were only several hundred thousand. Most of this disastrous decline was due to European infectious disease, such as smallpox, against which the native Americans had no resistance. But much was also due to breaking of treaties that the USA signed and regularly broke and subsequent wars of extermination. It is not generally known that when California became a State in 1850 it refunded local cities and counties a sum for each Indian scalp or head that they had paid to local citizens who had murdered them. If that isn’t ethnic cleansing what is?
I shall start in detail with the treatment of the Indian tribes of the West with the Indian Removal Act of 1825. This mandated the US Government to remove all Indian tribes that then lived in the States of Alabama, Georgia and Florida, namely the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole tribes, to the Indian Territory across the Missouri river, also known as Oklahoma (that translates as Red Man’s Territory, at that time consisting of the current states of Oklahoma, Kansas and as far north west as Wyoming). These tribes had been in contact with the white man for hundreds of years and were considered “civilized.” Nevertheless, ca. 65,000 people were force-marched by the US Army across a thousand miles under all weather conditions during which ca. 10% of them died, known as The Trail of Tears. The Indian Territory was ceded by the US Government to these and other Indian tribes as their land “in perpetuity.” This promise lasted less than 50 years.
The Treaty of Laramie of 1851 was intended to bring about peace between the USA and the various Indian tribes inhabiting the Plains, of which the Lakota (also known as Sioux) were the most numerous. They agreed to allow white settlers to pass through their lands and not prevent the building of US Forts in exchange for the sum of $50,000 per year for 50 years. But, in view of changed circumstances the US broke this treaty and asked for a new Treaty of Laramie to be signed in 1868. The Lakota considered the Black Hills of Dakota as sacred territory and had claimed it as theirs. The USA signed the treaty ceding this area to them as part of their reservation. As part of this treaty the USA also agreed to prevent settlers from entering this territory. However, when gold was supposedly discovered in the Black Hills in 1874, there was a gold rush and tens of thousands of people entered the area, without any attempt by the USA to prevent them. Naturally the tribes rose up and attacked the settlers who had illegally moved onto their land. This initiated the Indian War that led to the initial defeat of Gen. Custer at the Little Big Horn, by Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians under Chief sitting Bull. During this campaign on several occasions (Sand Creek, Bear River) Indian villages were attacked and destroyed by US cavalry, and women and children were massacred, a clear case of genocide. Eventually the Indians were defeated and forced into reservations.
The Nez Perce tribe was a special case. Their Chief Joseph had proclaimed from the beginning that he would not fight the United States. But, when their territory had been whittled down to one valley, which they claimed as their own, the US negotiator proposed that it be given to them as a peaceful tribe. But, the US Government disagreed and allowed it to be annexed to Oregon. The residual Nez Perce led by Chief Joseph then fought back, and left on an amazing nearly 1,200 mile trek with only 750 people and 200 warriors seeking sanctuary in Canada. They won 18 skirmishes and battles with the Union soldiers, but were stopped 40 miles form the Canadian border. Chief Joseph is famously quoted as saying “From where the Sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.” They were then forced to accept a reservation in Idaho, foreign land to them.
The relationship between the Indian tribes and the US Government was regularized by the Indian Appropriations Act of 1871, which effectively ended the existence of sovereign native Indian reservations. Since the reservations were then broken up, whites moved in and took most of the land. A fatal religious fervor gripped the expropriated Indians, known as the Ghost Dance, in which they believed themselves impervious to bullets. To put down any sign of Indian resistance, the US cavalry was called in once again, and mowed down over 300 men, women and children camped at Wounded Knee. In 1890 this was the last act of massacre by the US forces.
The Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 extended individual US citizenship to all Indian peoples. After the disastrous repressions of the 19th century, today the number of native Americans has swelled to over 5 million, with ca. 80% living off the reservations. But, the fact is that most Americans live on land stolen from the native Americans, They should remember this when castigating others in a self-righteous and ignorant manner. Put your own house in order first, reparations are in order. Remember that Jews are the indigenous people of this Holy Land and have reclaimed it back from the imperialist colonialist Arab Muslims.