The history of the United States has its share of blemishes. When most people think of atrocities and crimes against humanity, their thoughts linger on slavery. Yes. Slavery was an abomination. It is a dark blight, a broken, disfigured skeleton we push back in our closet. But, at least we discus it. We teach it in American History classes, even if it is watered down. We accept the principle that slavery is wrong and that people should not be bought and sold and shackled in the servitude of another. But there is a darker past to our nation. It paved a shining road to slavery; a path of Anglo supremacy and xenophobia which defined everyone who was not a white protestant as sub human. This ideology justified the greatest atrocities in our history: the genocide of indigenous, Native Americans and the theft of their land and resources.
First, let’s dismiss the ideology that Native Americans were backwards, uncivilized and ignorant savages. They had sprawling cities and trade routes which spanned from the Great lakes all the way down to the gulf of Mexico. The Iroquois Confederacy was a sophisticated treaty governing over six nations guaranteeing freedom of speech, freedom of religion and separation of powers in government with checks and balances. It is recognized as a fundamental blueprint for many of the primary elements of our constitution. Yeah, it was actually the land of the free and the home of the brave long before we got here.
So, what did those Anglos contribute? Well, they brought plague. Not just The Plague, but measles, small pox, scarlet fever, typhoid, influenza, pertussis, tuberculosis, cholera, diphtheria and more. In fact, they didn’t even suffer from the common cold until Europeans brought it over. The reality is that North America was densely populated with a rich, cultural society. Europeans couldn’t get a real foothold of a settlement anywhere, but not for lack of trying. Those early illegal immigrants brought the apocalypse with them. With almost zero immunity to these new diseases, a plague spread across Eastern America, killing what is estimated between 90%-96% of the population. (estimates are between 70-140 million people.) The first colonies were not forged from the wilderness, but reconstituted from abandoned cities lost to the plagues.
It is important because it is only because Europeans chose to colonize in this post apocalyptic territory that they were successful. Despite their gun power, without this event, Europe would never have been able to push the native tribes from their homes.
But that is not even the genocide. The genocide came when Anglo Protestants got a foothold and enough numbers to pose a threat. They pushed more and more into Native lands and the Native Americans began pushing back. The immigrants felt entitled to the lands (because they were told they were), and the government reacted violently to any hostility, attacking entire villages, killing men, women, children and even babies. The native people were called savages, labeling them as something barely better than animals. Oddly enough, while this was the governmental stance, much of the general population had to be guarded so as not to leave the settlements to join the Native American culture and society. Maybe that had something to do with the government and religious sponsorship of propaganda dehumanizing Native Americans. Yep, that is right! Much of the anti-indigenous racism that still exists today was intentionally introduced by government and religious leaders to ensure the success of the Anglo Protestant Colonies. If it is one thing government leaders and religious leaders have in common, it is a love of power over people. So, if the people defect, then there is no one left to govern, no one left to preach to. Not much power in that, is there?
You heard me right, the Native Americans were deemed threats not nearly so much because they defended their lands from illegal immigrants, but because they had a rich culture with more to offer that appealed to a large number of settlers. Now, the Europeans had been successfully manipulating the masses with propaganda for centuries. They were real pros at this already. So, a pound of distrust in people who look different, a cup of suspicion in a different culture, throw in a few diced up lies about their customs, three tablespoons of religious fervor, and salt to taste makes a compelling recipe to motivate almost any ignorant mob. Thus inspired, we began killing them and pushing them back, forcing nations against nations as they struggled for lands and resources to survive. And still the ‘pioneers’ pushed on, grabbing more and more territory.
These lands were not purchased from their original owners. They were stolen and claimed. Finally, when the white man had pushed from coast to coast and deemed it all his own, he had to come to some terms with the indigenous peoples. Outright slaughter of a defeated people was too unseemly, so they chose to “give” them lands by treaty. Of course, they chose land that seemed inhospitable and unwanted. They forced the tribes onto these reservations of land but did not stop humiliating them or their efforts to eradicate Native Americans from the continent. Children were stolen from their families and forced into boarding schools where they were not allowed to speak their native language, were dressed like white men and even forced to attend church. They were not allowed to grow their hair or practice their customs.
Then, as those reserved lands became valuable, the government stole them back. The tribes had no recourse, they had no right to the courts and they only had voting rights if they renounced their Native tribe for U.S. Citizenship. They had no representation nor right to representation. The government simply decided to change the treaty and did so, reducing native lands and taking what they wanted. Over and over again.
Today, what is left of a great society which once numbered in the hundreds of millions, is gathering at Standing Rock, unified. They are fighting to preserve the integrity of their water source for what is left of their land. The pipeline does not cross their present boundaries, only because the government stole the land it is passing through. The oil pipeline was not even supposed to go through that area, but the much more Anglo population of Bismark did not want the pipeline near them, because they feared it might pollute their water. Evidently the water for white people is more important than the water for others.
Unlike the warriors of years past, these Native Americans are protesting peacefully, trying to save not only themselves from the pollution that is sure to come, but also for the millions of people downstream who depend upon the river for their lives. But this really does symbolize so much more. How much is the government and greedy corporations allowed to take before we say no more? Corporations have no conscience. If their products fail, they lose profits, while the people pay with their lives. There has to be a time we say no. The convenience and profit of a corporation is not more important than the life of even one citizen. The pipes leak, not if, but when. Therefore, we have to say no now, because if we wait, it is too late.
Are we going to be a country ruled by corporations or by the people? That is the choice at Standing Rock. That is a choice which was clear to a people who refused to be defeated, who refused to have their culture and history wiped from the earth. They are showing the rest of us how to be strong and how to say, “No more.”
And will it be in vain? No. No matter the outcome, it will not. It will be the rally cry to stand at the next injustice, and the next. Stand with Standing Rock. Without water there is no life, without life, there is no freedom.
We are One Woman, One World.
Links: More ways to find me or colleagues of mine to check out!