“The deeply rooted racial prejudice of the Anglo-white Americans against the Red Indians, virtually a national psychosis, is one of the strangest and most terrifying phenomenon in all history. It has no parallel throughout the Western Hemisphere.” Also: “The precedent was set by a Pequot massacre shortly after the Mayflower arrived. Of this Cotton Mather wrote proudly, “The woods were almost cleared of these pernicious creatures, to make room for a better growth.” A century and a half later Benjamin Franklin echoed this opinion when he wrote of “the design of Providence to extirpate those savages in order to make room for the cultivators of the earth.” From “Book Of The Hopi,” by Frank Waters (1963). These two quotes, and many more like them, reflect the basic opinion of the White Europeans who came to this land towards the Indigenous inhabitants of this continent, starting in 1492 with Columbus. The words creatures and savages pretty much sums it up. Not human beings. When I read his article, I realized that Mr. Chalk is just one more in a very long line of White people who still feel this way about the Indians. Of course, there are many hundreds of books that look at these last 500 years in great detail; I’ll list some of my favorites at the end of this article. I’m going to look at a few of the things he said here, and comment. Read Chalk’s original article on The Federalist.
First…the term “Land Acknowledgements” is a ridiculous, new agey, meaningless label that does not remotely reflect the real issue. Which is, that the whole continent was taken from the over 500 tribes/nations that have been here for uncounted thousands of years, and the inhabitants were forcibly transferred to what we quaintly call “reservations.” That simply means that the Europeans took their ancestral lands for themselves, and put the Indians on often the worst, most unproductive lands they could find. I’m betting many Americans have little, or no, knowledge of this history, but it’s easy to do some research and see for oneself that this is what happened. There were/are also many hundreds of treaties between the tribes and the US Government that were broken or ignored; also historical fact. Treaties between nations are legally binding. Which means the Federal Government is breaking it’s own laws. This is what needs to be acknowledged. Mr. Chalk also states “Like most new racial history exercises, Land Acknowledgements are less about a true reflection of the past than grievance politics and superficial gestures.” When I read this, my eyes popped out. Again, meaningless and confusing words that have nothing to do with the reality of the situation. Intellectual gobbledygook is my term for this.
This is not a “new racial history exercise;” it’s about the truth of who were the original inhabitants in N. America, many thousands of years before the Europeans arrived, so it’s actually very ancient. By stating it in this bizarre way, Mr. Chalk makes it seem like some sort of collegiate study program that recently came into being, rather than a 500 year nightmare for the Indigenous people. Using the terms “grievance politics and superficial gestures” is so bonkers that it’s difficult to understand where this man is coming from. No, it’s much simpler and real than that. It’s not about politics or superficial gestures. There’s nothing superficial about what happened to the Indians. It’s about their lands being taken away from them, and all of the horrors that came with that reality.
Many thousands of Indian children were forcibly taken from their families, and put into government “boarding schools.” Their hair was cut; they were forbidden to speak their tribal languages, forbidden to practice their traditional religions, and many, if not most, were sexually and physically abused by their Christian captors. This also happened in Canada and Australia. It was an attempt to destroy their Native cultures and ways of life. This is known as cultural genocide. It caused tremendous grief and anguish to all of the families involved, and destroyed many innocent lives in the process. You might ask yourself; by what mandate did the White people commit this crime? They invented a term called “manifest destiny,” which was the belief that their Christian God gave them the right to “civilize” the savages, and take their lands, “to make room for the cultivators of the earth,” as Franklin stated. Of course, this also happened all over the planet, everywhere the Europeans went. Africa, India, Australia, Southeast Asia; the Europeans believed they had the right to take the lands from the original inhabitants. The 10 million people of the African Congo who were killed by the Belgians under King Leopold are one of the most horrid examples. Again, all historical fact, but not something racists like to talk about much. They also tried to convert as many Indians as they could to Christianity, once again destroying their culture in the process.
Not only did the White people take the Indian lands and children; they also started on a campaign to exterminate most of the wild animals they found, and were very successful. At one point in the late 1800’s, millions of bison were slaughtered, their carcasses left on the plains to rot. This was partially done to deprive the Indians of their main food source. There were once millions of wolves here as well, but for some reason, the White people had a deep seated hatred of these beautiful animals, and they were almost wiped out. To this day, wolves are still being hunted mercilessly in many states. And the Government agency known as Wildlife Services kills many animals every year, in deference to ranching and livestock interests. According to nywolf.org, 1.3 million were killed in 2019, and over 400,000 in 2020. This has been going on for many years. Also, with industrialization came what we call “pollution,” but poison is a better word. This was a pristine land 500 years ago; now the rivers, land and air are full of deadly chemical poisons. Try drinking out of any river on this continent. Not to mention the deadly uranium poisoning on Navajo lands from mining operations, which exposed many people to radiation, causing much physical illness.
Another old racist tactic Mr. Chalk used was talking about how violent the Indians were to each other. As if to say that makes it ok to take their lands. I’ve looked into the history of many cultures around the world, and unfortunately human beings have been a very violent and warlike species for as long as we’ve existed. If there were any essentially peaceful cultures, it’s hard to find them; perhaps the Hopi should be mentioned. Again, this is all very well known, so…why single the Indians out? When I responded to this article on The Federalist site, I quoted from Karen Armstrong’s book “Fields Of Blood; Religion and the History of Violence:” The First Crusade was especially psychotic. From all accounts, the Crusaders seemed half crazed. “They killed all the Saracens and Turks they found,” the author of The Deeds of the Franks reported approvingly. “They killed everyone, male or female.” The streets ran with blood. Jews were rounded up into their synagogue and put to the sword, and ten thousand Muslims who had sought sanctuary in the Haram al-Sharif were brutally massacred. “Piles of heads and hands and feet were to be seen,” wrote the Provencal chronicler Raymond of Aguilers: “Men rode in blood up to their knees and bridle reins. Indeed, it was a just and splendid judgement of God that this place should be filled with the blood of unbelievers.” (p 214)
This is just manifest destiny under another name, the Crusades. For some unknown reason, Europeans have often used the name of God to justify their violence and atrocities, as have many other cultures. And that is the mentality they brought to this continent as well. Yes, Indians were tough and vicious warriors, no doubt. Compared to the wide spread horror and carnage the Europeans brought to every culture they conquered, however, they were amateurs. Check the Catholic Inquisition and the slaughter of the Cathars as well, not to mention the many thousands of pedophile priests and criminal popes. What the racists rarely do, however, is look into the spiritual teachings of the Indigenous people, which were very profound, and often on a level beyond the understanding of the White people. They had deep reverence for the land and animals, and a connection to the Creator that was usually incomprehensible to Christians. It’s so much easier to justify genocide if the people you’re destroying are savages and creatures, like calling Vietnamese “gooks” and worse during the Vietnam war. The Indigenous people everywhere were human beings who did all the things humans do, and that included violence against each other. But, they were not savages and creatures. As I read Mr. Chalk’s article, I was constantly reminded of the great lengths racists have gone to “prove” Black folks were inferior to Whites; like measuring their craniums to show they weren’t as intelligent. I was actually surprised Mr. Chalk did not resort to this reasoning as well. There were scientists who dug up Indian graves, took the bodies to their laboratories and boiled the flesh off to “study” their physical characteristics; look it up.
BTW…the original title of this article was “Why it’s ignorant and racist to pretend U.S. lands still belong to Native Tribes.” Something very strange happened; as I mentioned, I put the Crusades quotes on the Federalist thread; this was on the Tuesday the article appeared. Much to my surprise, on Wednesday my comment had been deleted and the article was gone. Then, it reappeared with the current title, but my comment had vanished permanently. Which leads me to think someone in the Federalist organization didn’t much like what I had said. I can see why. I also wonder why they changed the title of the article, or why The Federalist would even print such a bigoted article as Mr. Chalk’s.
As far as books, here’s a few, and there are plenty of others as well. These are simply some that I’ve read over the years. “Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee,” by Dee Brown, is the history of how the Indians lost their lands. Extensively researched, it’s all there, and a very painful read. “Book Of The Hopi” should be read by every American. Frank Waters lived with the Hopi for 3 years, and with his translator, Oswald White Bear Fredericks, talked to 30 Hopi Elders. The book goes into great detail about their history and mythology, their migrations across this continent many thousands of years ago, their deeply profound mystery plays/ceremonies, and their prophecies. Their ancestors came to this land long long ago, after a great flood, which is of course mentioned in the Bible and in other cultures as well. They say this is actually the 4th world, and that there were two other catastrophes before the flood. The late Lakota Vine Deloria Jr wrote many great books; “Custer Died For Your Sins” is probably his best known. “God Is Red” goes into great depth about Indian concepts of spirituality, and “Red Earth, White Lies” is often very funny in it’s dismantling of many incorrect scientific ideas about Indians, such as that the Indians came from Siberia via the Bering Strait . “Black Elk Speaks,” by John G. Neidhardt, is a legendary book about the life of the great Lakota sage/healer Black Elk; and “The Sacred Pipe,” by Joseph Epes Brown, describes the ancient sacred rituals that the Lakota perform with the Pipe, which was brought to them 2000 years ago by the White Buffalo Calf Woman. Black Elk wanted Brown to write about these before they were lost forever. And both “Crazy Horse, the Strange Man of the Oglalas,” by Mari Sandoz, and “The Killing Of Crazy Horse,” by Thomas Powers, offer a look at the life of one of the most remarkable men that has walked this Earth. And there are countless books regarding the hundreds of other tribes.
I watch a lot of the TV station First Nations Experience (FNX), which has a great many shows about Indigenous people, including their long history, and what’s happening in Indian country today. I find it very encouraging that, even after the hundreds of years of repression and hardship, many Indians are keeping their ceremonies and traditions alive, passing them onto the younger generations, and looking to a better future. Trying to keep a balance between the old ways, and being part of modern society, has always been a difficult process. Some tribes have built casinos, some have invested in energy projects and other businesses, many young Indians have left for the cities, and some reservations are still in deep poverty. The problems that have come with being dispossessed from their ancestral lands have been many, but they are proving to be a very strong and resilient people. They have not given up. Just being who they are, however, is still very difficult in this country.
What I find darkly fascinating in this time of BLM, and now the rising awareness of racism against Asians, is the fact that Mr. Chalk kind of casually writes such a racist article against the Indians. Unfortunately, I believe that’s because this racism is so ingrained among many White Americans that’s it’s taken for granted. One woman on the Federalist site actually mentioned that Ms. Deb Haaland, now Secretary of Interior, may have been a wife of Crazy Horse; wowie. And that’s how Mr. Chalk’s article started out; as a protest against Ms. Haaland’s appointment. Of course, I believe that’s why he attempted to once again paint Indians as the savages and creatures he appears to think they are. As if to say, how dare this savage be Interior Secretary. Ms. Haaland’s confirmation to this important position is a very bright spot for future changes in the way Indians have been treated by the United States. It’s not surprising to see people like Mr. Chalk attacking her in this way, and unfortunately, I believe she’ll be dealing with more racists during her tenure.
Because of this, I wrote this article to say, enough. When civil rights are discussed, the rights of the Indigenous people are rarely, if ever, mentioned. Since Americans of all races and religions walk their ancient lands, I believe it’s time to acknowledge the tragic history of how America actually came to be, and begin to find the way to right this terrible wrong. Which is actually simple; start by honoring the broken treaties, and returning these lands to the people that were appointed by the Creator to be the caretakers many thousands of years ago. Both morally and legally, this is the only correct path forward. Of course, this would involve a great deal of change to the landscape of this country. I am not optimistic this will happen, but with the political will to correct these historic wrongs, steps can be made right now to start this process; perhaps Ms. Haaland’s confirmation is pointing the direction. If these actions are not taken soon, and this travesty is allowed to continue, then we may do well to pay heed to the ancient prophecies, which speak of what is referred to as the Great Purification, which the Hopi say has already happened 3 times previously. In a 1976 talk to the United Nations Habitat Forum in Vancouver, B.C., the late Hopi Spokesman Thomas Banyacya said, referring to the Hopi heartland in the Four Corners area: “This desecration of our spiritual center must not be allowed to continue for if it does, Mother Nature will react in a way that almost all men will suffer the end of life as they now know it. All we ask is that this place be respected and protected by all nations who have sacred duty and responsibility. Every measure must be taken to preserve this spiritual center.” There are many other such warnings from the tribal people, all over the world, and they have been totally ignored. In the last few years, we have seen a huge increase in record setting fires, hurricanes, floods, temperatures, and other natural disasters. Perhaps this is what Mr. Banyacya was referring to. There may not be much time left to act.
“The entire Hopi prophecy takes many days to tell, and many lifetimes to fully understand.” Thomas Banyacya