Native American Genocide

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Channel72
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Native American Genocide

Post by Channel72 » 2014-07-07 01:29pm

This is a touchy subject, because it involves the possibility of downplaying massive suffering. If anyone were to deny or downplay the Nazi Holocaust, for example, we would rightly regard this as totally unacceptable.

However, there seems to be some debate as to whether the harsh treatment and depopulation of the Native Americans actually amounted to genocide. The reason is that, despite rampant oppression, massacres, forced relocations, and other atrocities as a result of the Indian Removal Act, the Native Americans were mostly depopulated incidentally by disease, rather than a Nazi-like systematic policy of state-sanctioned murder. The number of Native Americans who died by purposeful acts of cruelty, or exhaustion due to relocation (e.g. the Trail of Tears) is far less than those that died of disease.

However, since the Europeans were responsible for bringing the disease, we could say that it was, indeed, genocide - almost biological warfare, which depopulated the Native Americans. However, there seems to be only one documented case of Europeans/Americans intentionally using disease to kill Native Americans. The evidence for this comes from a letter from Sir Jeffrey Amherst, a British general in North America, who wrote to an underling: "You will do well to try to inoculate the Indians [with smallpox] by means of blankets, as well as to try every other method, that can serve to extirpate this execrable race." This sounds every bit as ominous as some kind of statement coming from the Wannsee Conference, yet there is no evidence this was ever actually implemented as a matter of policy. It seems to be a one-off thing that some asshole general did in response to a particular uprising.

There's no doubt that Americans and Europeans were barbarically cruel to the Native Americans, in terms of forced relocations, harsh treatment, out-right massacres, and other atrocities. But does it all amount to genocide? And does the distinction really matter?

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Re: Native American Genocide

Post by Channel72 » 2014-07-07 01:49pm

Addendum: After Googling around, I found that there are a few other alleged incidents of the US government or Europeans intentionally using disease to wipe out large numbers of Native Americans - but none are substantiated by documented, historical evidence. In Fort Clark, North Dakota, the Mandans were allegedly exterminated when the US Army handed out infected blankets. However, while it is historical fact that a massive smallpox epidemic afflicted the Mandans, there is apparently no documented evidence that it was done intentionally by the US Army. The idea that the US Army intentionally did this is apparently attributable to one professor at Colorado University, and has generally been discredited.

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Re: Native American Genocide

Post by Broomstick » 2014-07-07 02:39pm

Genocide can be either intentional or unintentional.

The Nazi created Holocaust was deliberate genocide with the conscious goal of exterminating certain groups of people.

The Native American genocide was not deliberate. The invaders wanted land and resources and certainly pushed the Natives out, at times massacring them, but here was never an overall goal of exterminating all of them as any sort of official policy (there are instances of individuals expressing a desire for all Natives to die, but it was not policy). If the Natives fled ahead of the invaders they might survive awhile longer. Some successfully relocated. Some have even held onto a portion of their original lands.

The result of the invasion of North America by outsiders often had the result of genocide for a particular sub-set of Natives, and it was certainly horrific and morally wrong by our present standards. Some of it was ignorance - the Europeans had a poor to non-existent understanding of how diseases spread, particularly in the early part of it all, and a lot of the epidemics were certainly unintentionally spread. That doesn't make the dead any less dead, of course.

I guess the question is whether or not there is a meaningful distinction between deliberate and unintentional genocide.
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Re: Native American Genocide

Post by Channel72 » 2014-07-07 02:49pm

Our laws do tend to distinguish between deliberate and unintentional actions (e.g. murder vs. manslaughter), but I'm not sure if, rather like how classical physics breaks down over huge distances, normal shades of grey break down at genocidal scales.

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Re: Native American Genocide

Post by Thanas » 2014-07-07 02:59pm

If you do something which you know has negative consequences but do it any way, does it matter if you intended the victim to die or just didn't care whether they lived or died? Everybody knew shooting mass buffalo would collapse the food supply, nobody cared. Everybody knew that introducing alcohol and firearms would wreck societies, nobody cared. Everybody knew that nomads were ill suited to be farmers, nobody cared.

And while there might not have been an official extermination plan against the natives, there are enough actions to show that nobody cared if they just happened to go extinct ever since the foundation of the USA.
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Re: Native American Genocide

Post by Channel72 » 2014-07-07 03:11pm

Thanas wrote:And while there might not have been an official extermination plan against the natives, there are enough actions to show that nobody cared if they just happened to go extinct ever since the foundation of the USA.
That was probably the general sentiment among the average American, but official policy was more complicated. Thomas Jefferson made serious efforts to vaccinate the Native Americans for smallpox on a large scale, and his general policy was to transform their society into an agricultural one, not kill or relocate them.

It wasn't really until Andrew Johnson that official US policy became deliberately cruel. Even then, there was a lot of opposition in Congress to Johnson's Indian Removal Act.

I'm not saying the USA is even close to guiltless here, it's just that I don't know if "genocidal apathy" is necessarily the complete picture.

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Re: Native American Genocide

Post by Elheru Aran » 2014-07-07 03:38pm

The closer parallel might be "ethnic cleansing" or some such term. There were many military actions against the Native Americans that could be considered massacres, but nothing on the scale of, say, Armenia. It's a broader picture than just genocide or ethnic cleansing, though. You also have to look at how the whites changed the ecosystem in a way that disadvantaged the tribes (clear-cutting the East, killing off the buffalo, etc). There were large-scale attempts at forced integration into society-- schools, Western style economics on the reservations, etc. For a long time as well, there was a blatantly racist component to all of it-- "they're subhuman, therefore we are justified in taking their land from them and I don't care what happens to them in the process".

Bearing in mind that it took place over something like 200-300 years, it's a much larger time-span than your typical genocide or ethnic cleansing, with many more factors in the larger picture to be considered. There was never an organized plan (kill so many Indians here, take their lands there) or any such; there was only "You're where we want to be. Go away or we'll make you go".
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Re: Native American Genocide

Post by Thanas » 2014-07-07 04:06pm

Channel72 wrote: That was probably the general sentiment among the average American, but official policy was more complicated. Thomas Jefferson made serious efforts to vaccinate the Native Americans for smallpox on a large scale, and his general policy was to transform their society into an agricultural one, not kill or relocate them.

It wasn't really until Andrew Johnson that official US policy became deliberately cruel. Even then, there was a lot of opposition in Congress to Johnson's Indian Removal Act.

I'm not saying the USA is even close to guiltless here, it's just that I don't know if "genocidal apathy" is necessarily the complete picture.
So? There was opposition within the SA, Wehrmacht and SS against plans of the Nazis as well, but really, like in the case of the USA, it amounted to little more than window dressing. I don't think I need to remind people here that one of the reasons the US rebelled in the first place was because the British forbade them to move west and remove indians in the first place. The US was no better than any other colonial powers of its day and probably even worse than some of the others.
Elheru Aran wrote:There was never an organized plan (kill so many Indians here, take their lands there)
Not true, the later encroachments were made deliberately with the expressed planning of creating new states. If there had been no deliberate plan from up top there, the US states would not have such clean, neat and deliberate box shapes - they would look more like the "naturally" grown borders of states in the EU, which are far from clean and boxy.
There were many military actions against the Native Americans that could be considered massacres, but nothing on the scale of, say, Armenia.
In absolute numbers? No. In percentages of those killed either by direct massacres or the effects of relocation and collapse of economies and lifestock it was even worse. Even if we assume that disease was responsible for most deaths the reduction in numbers of 12-18 million to 250.000 people is significant enough for me to call it a genocide.

I am not in the mood to debate whether ethnic cleansing with genocidal consequences which were accepted as a fair trade off or whether straight genocide was the intent. We do not absolve the Ottomans from the deaths caused by hunger and disease in their occupied territories because they happened to be byproducts of the occupation, so why should the USA get a pass?
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Re: Native American Genocide

Post by Channel72 » 2014-07-07 04:40pm

Thanas wrote:So? There was opposition within the SA, Wehrmacht and SS against plans of the Nazis as well, but really, like in the case of the USA, it amounted to little more than window dressing. I don't think I need to remind people here that one of the reasons the US rebelled in the first place was because the British forbade them to move west and remove indians in the first place. The US was no better than any other colonial powers of its day and probably even worse than some of the others.
Relax - we're talking about the technical definition of genocide, not trying to vindicate the US of crimes here.
Thanas wrote:In absolute numbers? No. In percentages of those killed either by direct massacres or the effects of relocation and collapse of economies and lifestock it was even worse. Even if we assume that disease was responsible for most deaths the reduction in numbers of 12-18 million to 250.000 people is significant enough for me to call it a genocide.
The numbers I heard quoted were something like 90% of the population reduction was by disease, meaning that the deaths by relocation, massacre, etc. would still be over 1 million, so yeah... that would qualify as genocide to most people. However, genocide also has a technical meaning, as defined in the Geneva convention:
In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
So the US relocation of the Native Americans certainly qualifies, with the caveat that the intent wasn't necessarily to "destroy" the group, but that strikes me as splitting hairs, I suppose.
Last edited by Channel72 on 2014-07-07 04:43pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Native American Genocide

Post by Thanas » 2014-07-07 04:42pm

On a lot of tribes, sure. Look for example of the Yuki, who as a result of direct settler militia killings declined from 5000 to 300. They are just one example.
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Re: Native American Genocide

Post by Channel72 » 2014-07-07 04:53pm

On another note... the wording of the Geneva convention kind of sucks. Given the clause:
In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
along with:
(a) Killing members of the group;
...then any random hate crime that results in death could qualify as genocide.

And I think almost any reasonable person would make a distinction between a murderous hate crime and genocide. Then again, the type of person who commits a hate crime wouldn't necessarily be against the genocide of his target group. But it's nice when words... you know, mean things.

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Re: Native American Genocide

Post by Broomstick » 2014-07-07 11:11pm

Thanas wrote:If you do something which you know has negative consequences but do it any way, does it matter if you intended the victim to die or just didn't care whether they lived or died? Everybody knew shooting mass buffalo would collapse the food supply, nobody cared. Everybody knew that introducing alcohol and firearms would wreck societies, nobody cared. Everybody knew that nomads were ill suited to be farmers, nobody cared.
Can't argue with the buffalo massacres, they were done not only to profit from selected bits and provide entertainment for train travelers but there really was an element of "take away the Plains Indians food and means of survival" to the slaughter.

However, during the initial phases of colonization I question if it really was known how damaging alcohol and firearms would be. After all, you had a cross section of European society transplanted to foreign shores and suddenly both sides have to deal with strangers and none of them had our modern knowledge about what happens when dissimilar cultures meet. I could see where, in the dead of those early winters, trading whiskey or rum for food would make sense to the whites and be done with an intent to survive and not harm. Likewise, the Natives could clearly see that firearms were pretty damn useful for both hunting and defense. I doubt that initially anyone on either side saw much harm there. Sure, you had drunk Natives - you had drunk Europeans, too. Accidental and/or deliberate shootings on both sides. The Natives probably had some better success at hunting for awhile with firearms. I don't think that up until the 1750's there was really any systematic intention of harm. Given the number of people marrying across ethnic lines it would seem that there were those in favor of or at least tolerant of the other side to match the bigots.

Also, a lot of the Natives weren't nomads. That was a feature of the Plains. The "Five Civilized Tribes" of the south eastern US - the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Chocktaw, Creek, and Seminole - were primarily agricultural even before the Europeans showed up and willingly adopted the newcomers techniques and technologies. The problem, from the white European point of view, is that the Natives were too successful - the biggest and most successful farms and plantations in the region were all Native owned. And the whites were jealous and took the Natives lands and possessions by force. It wasn't the adoption of European stuff that harmed those tribes, it was the jealousy of the newcomers.
And while there might not have been an official extermination plan against the natives, there are enough actions to show that nobody cared if they just happened to go extinct ever since the foundation of the USA.
Please - it was never that monolithic. Please do not conflate Andrew Jackson with the entire population of North America. George Washington, for example, supported the Natives adopting aspects of white culture and technology - which is not to imply he was any sort of saint or believed in racial equality because he didn't, but the point is that he was NOT in favor of any sort of a Native extermination. One can argue about cultural extermination but the Five Civilized Tribes voluntarily adopted these changes, including the Cherokee developing their own written language and virtually the entire tribe achieving at least rudimentary literacy (able to sign their names, for example) within 10 years. Those five tribes were sending their brightest young men to Harvard even before the Revolutionary War.

It really was the administration under Andrew Jackson where things went off the rails for those five groups. After seeing how those groups - the ones who had adopted and assimilated - were treated the rest of the Natives started a lot more resistance to the invaders.
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Re: Native American Genocide

Post by madd0ct0r » 2014-07-08 03:04am

question - given the specifics of genocide, wouldn't a seperate case be required for each tribe driven to extinction or near extinction?

might be easier then try to weigh to huge amorphous blobs of people against each other.
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Re: Native American Genocide

Post by Broomstick » 2014-07-08 08:27am

madd0ct0r wrote:question - given the specifics of genocide, wouldn't a seperate case be required for each tribe driven to extinction or near extinction?
From the viewpoint of the tribes - probably. There were some larger conglomerations like the Five Civilized Tribes or the Six Nations which were alliances/unions of different but related tribes that might be considered as a whole.

From the viewpoint of the Euro-descended conquerors... there was often a tendency to see all Natives the same.

There were also cases like the Apache which were not wiped out - once driven to surrender they were put on a reservation. Of course, that was pretty horrific, especially from the viewpoint of the tribe members. There is no question the US could have utterly wiped some Apache groups out (at time of surrender Geronimo's band was down to less than 50 exhausted and starving people who could have been easily wiped out), but did not.

Other tribes, like the Yahi, were always very small - the Yahi were overwhelmed by the influx of settlers during the California gold rush of the late 1840's that destroyed the streams and other resources the exclusively hunter-gathering tribe depended on. Add in a couple of massacres, perpetrated by locals and not the government or army, and quite possibly completely unrelated to each other (one involved two cowboys killing 30 Yahi), and by 1910 there was only one left. Odds are the people polluting the streams, cutting down the trees (they were heavily dependent on acorns for food), and driving off the game were unaware they were starving their neighbors out as they were pretty much focused on gold. When the Yahi tried to resist it was pitiful - they had never acquired firearms or metal, they were a small stone age tribe attempting to resist people with late 19th Century technology.

So the Apache were in the end preserved to some degree by the US government and the Yahi were wiped out by '49er's. In those two cases the tribes suffered massive population loss due to human-on-human violence, not disease.

In the Hawaiian islands it really was disease that nearly wiped out the natives, disease probably brought unintentionally by people on sailing ships arriving at the islands. Keep in mind that prior to the modern era all isolated groups were subject to epidemics - Iceland suffered significant mortality during their measles outbreaks of 1842 and 1882, and that among people of European descent.

So, it's complicated - there really was a lot of disease floating around, and most of it probably spread unintentionally and roared through populations never exposed before (and made significant in-road even in populations with prior exposures). If a group was large, well organized, had some form of military and adopted iron age tech rapidly they were much more likely to survive (albeit quite battered) than small, socially/culturally simple, lacking military, pure stone age groups. The invaders' governments (because it wasn't just the US involved in this stuff) might slaughter most of a tribe, relocate them, and outlaw parts of their culture but were actually less likely to go all the way to extermination than asshole civilian locals. There were times and places where the US government attempted to enforce treaties, even relocating white settlers/squatters off Native lands back to where the whites were supposed to stay but, needless to say, that was very unpopular with the voting US public.
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Re: Native American Genocide

Post by Elheru Aran » 2014-07-08 09:49am

Broomstick wrote:There were times and places where the US government attempted to enforce treaties, even relocating white settlers/squatters off Native lands back to where the whites were supposed to stay but, needless to say, that was very unpopular with the voting US public.
An example, amusingly enough, can be found in the Little House books. Laura Ingalls Wilder's family settled in (modern) Oklahoma for a time, but it was considered "Indian Territory". Eventually they were evicted as part of a push by the federal government to remove white settlers from the Indian Territory.

All this was futile, of course, as a few years later the government opened Oklahoma to settlement, resulting in one of the bigger land rushes in American history; there were literally thousands of people sitting right on the border waiting to run in and grab primo territory.

While there were certainly orchestrated efforts by the state and federal governments to push the Indians out of their territory, there was a certain awareness that they had signed treaties with the various Native American nations and on some level there were efforts made to respect those treaties. The larger proportion of deliberate actions against the Native Americans were incited by settlers trying to usurp the land (or simply feeling like killing some Indians), and then followed up by "official" authorities who would use the fighting as a pretext.
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Re: Native American Genocide

Post by Thanas » 2014-07-08 10:59am

Broomstick wrote:However, during the initial phases of colonization I question if it really was known how damaging alcohol and firearms would be. After all, you had a cross section of European society transplanted to foreign shores and suddenly both sides have to deal with strangers and none of them had our modern knowledge about what happens when dissimilar cultures meet. I could see where, in the dead of those early winters, trading whiskey or rum for food would make sense to the whites and be done with an intent to survive and not harm.
It was well known at least to authorities based on earlier experiences across the americas. Heck, columbus and de la casa wrote at length about the destruction of primitive societies.
The problem, from the white European point of view, is that the Natives were too successful - the biggest and most successful farms and plantations in the region were all Native owned. And the whites were jealous and took the Natives lands and possessions by force. It wasn't the adoption of European stuff that harmed those tribes, it was the jealousy of the newcomers.
True, though that makes it even worse.
Please - it was never that monolithic.
On the whole, it certainly was. Otherwise we would see a widespread reversal of encroachment over time. But it just happened that it became more and more, no matter if in detail some things were reversed.

And of course these things weren't entirely monolithic, no large organization ever is (look at the debates among the conquistadors). Doesn't absolve the organization as a whole from the actual effects of their policies, nor does it preclude things from being called what they are.
It really was the administration under Andrew Jackson where things went off the rails for those five groups. After seeing how those groups - the ones who had adopted and assimilated - were treated the rest of the Natives started a lot more resistance to the invaders.
And yet, Jackson had widespread support. Heck, when he ignored the Supreme Court, where was the popular uprising to remove him? There was none because the US society overwhelmingly approved of removing the natives.
madd0ct0r wrote:question - given the specifics of genocide, wouldn't a seperate case be required for each tribe driven to extinction or near extinction?
Sure, but when you get about 98% less people than before, I fail to see how this cannot be called anything but a case of extinction. It might be worth it to list the seperate cases but really, with the effects being that large, the best you could hope for is "so, some of these tribes weren't totally wiped out". That to me is not enough to call this not a genocide, not when the percentages far surpass anything else in history, including the many genocides of the 20th century.
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Re: Native American Genocide

Post by Broomstick » 2014-07-08 11:28am

Thanas wrote:
Broomstick wrote:However, during the initial phases of colonization I question if it really was known how damaging alcohol and firearms would be. After all, you had a cross section of European society transplanted to foreign shores and suddenly both sides have to deal with strangers and none of them had our modern knowledge about what happens when dissimilar cultures meet. I could see where, in the dead of those early winters, trading whiskey or rum for food would make sense to the whites and be done with an intent to survive and not harm.
It was well known at least to authorities based on earlier experiences across the americas. Heck, columbus and de la casa wrote at length about the destruction of primitive societies.
The authorities were aware of it, the average settler was not, and those average settlers far, far outnumbered the "authorities".

That doesn't mean genocide did not take place, around, say, Massachusetts Bay Colony, but it was due to the ignorant actions of individuals plus the spread of disease, not by deliberate intent. Deliberate intent came later.

Does that matter? I'm not sure - is there a distinction between intentional and unintentional genocide?
And of course these things weren't entirely monolithic, no large organization ever is (look at the debates among the conquistadors). Doesn't absolve the organization as a whole from the actual effects of their policies, nor does it preclude things from being called what they are.
No one is denying genocide took place.
It really was the administration under Andrew Jackson where things went off the rails for those five groups. After seeing how those groups - the ones who had adopted and assimilated - were treated the rest of the Natives started a lot more resistance to the invaders.
And yet, Jackson had widespread support. Heck, when he ignored the Supreme Court, where was the popular uprising to remove him? There was none because the US society overwhelmingly approved of removing the natives.
The southeast approved. The northeast/New England didn't give a damn. You know the old line about indifference is all that is required for evil to flourish? There's an example. No one in the north saw any interest in seriously going to bat for the FCT.
Thanas wrote:
madd0ct0r wrote:question - given the specifics of genocide, wouldn't a seperate case be required for each tribe driven to extinction or near extinction?
Sure, but when you get about 98% less people than before, I fail to see how this cannot be called anything but a case of extinction. It might be worth it to list the seperate cases but really, with the effects being that large, the best you could hope for is "so, some of these tribes weren't totally wiped out". That to me is not enough to call this not a genocide, not when the percentages far surpass anything else in history, including the many genocides of the 20th century.
Again - no one here is arguing genocide didn't occur. It's the details we're discussing, and whether there's any meaningful distinction between intentional and unintentional.

Not all groups were slaughtered down to 2%. The variability of outcomes was enormous and affected by all sorts of factors.
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Re: Native American Genocide

Post by Channel72 » 2014-07-08 01:27pm

The reason I started this thread was really semantic; I wanted to explore the meaning of genocide, and discuss whether or not we should even care.

I realize, of course, that since genocide is probably the worst possible crime ever, as an American I run the risk of coming off as some misguided nationalist if I even suggest that the fate of the Native Americans was anything other than outright genocide.

Still, words mean things, okay? If they don't, they lose significance and power (i.e. consider the fate of the word "terrorist" in current US discourse.) And the massive depopulation of the Native Americans is in many ways qualitatively different than what we typically refer to as genocide. Typically, the term genocide refers to a concentrated, purposeful state-driven effort to eradicate an ethnic group, as exemplified by the Nazis, the Ottoman Turks, and the Rwandan Hutus. Note that things like the Japanese Unit 731 or the rape of Nan-King probably shouldn't qualify as genocide, because while they involved mass killings, it wasn't necessarily directed against a specific ethnic group with the goal of eliminating said group. I'd question whether Pol Pot or Stalin were "genocidal" either, since while they both were horrific people who caused mass death, they weren't specifically trying to wipe out an ethnic group; they were basically just trying to forcefully transform society, human life be damned.

In other words, not all horrific, large-scale killings should qualify as genocide, if the word is to have any meaning. Otherwise, we may as well admit that genocide does not really mean "trying to wipe out an ethnic group", but it just means "lots of people dying on a large scale due to policy decisions of a state which were either intentionally or unintentionally designed to cause large scale death."

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Re: Native American Genocide

Post by K. A. Pital » 2014-07-08 02:17pm

For the definition of genocide, intent matters a lot. This is why in the absence of coordinated policy, or in case of policy poorly coordinated, the definition is often disputed.

And indeed, was the Irish famine a genocide? It was a lot more clear-cut than the decimation of Native Americans, which did not start with the US settlers, but rather with the Spanish invaders, and by the time the first settlers arrived, a whole lot already perished with more yet to die.

Though of course the decimation from several million to mere hundreds of thousands required some coordination during the latter stage of the process. This is why genocide is often invoked when people talk about reservations and forcible expulsions and killings.

Intent is a tricky matter. While it is clear that the settlers, many of them, had the intent to 'get rid' of the natives (no matter the means) and were glad when they were killed by disease, but when they somehow survived and stood in the way, they were more than ready to kill them, it still begs the question whether a coordinated policy was really present during the very first years of colonization. Not sure if the colonists were even able to coordinate policy.

This is why it is certainly extermination, but without a centralized entity overseeing the process or driving it to an end result (at first). I'd say it is very much like a pogrom, mob violence, only amplified to a national scale.
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Re: Native American Genocide

Post by Broomstick » 2014-07-08 04:51pm

Stas Bush wrote:Intent is a tricky matter. While it is clear that the settlers, many of them, had the intent to 'get rid' of the natives (no matter the means) and were glad when they were killed by disease, but when they somehow survived and stood in the way, they were more than ready to kill them, it still begs the question whether a coordinated policy was really present during the very first years of colonization. Not sure if the colonists were even able to coordinate policy.
Before 1776 no, there was no ability to coordinate policy over large regions.

First of all, you had different European powers mucking around different areas. In North America you had the Spanish down in Florida and what is now southern Texas and Mexico doing their thing. You had the French from the Gulf all the way up the Mississippi watershed doing their thing - which was mostly trapping/hunting and trading the Natives for furs. You had the British on the east coast on up to what is now Canada doing yet another thing (or collection of things). Out by Alaska and the northern part of the west coast you had the Russians (can't recall exactly when they showed up, but they were yet another large European power). You had the Dutch dabbling around what is now New York (we all remember New York City was originally New Amsterdam, right?)

Among the British colonies each was separately administered and treated like separate entities, and they were all different on various sorts of policies. Massachusetts was started as a Protestant colony (Natives convert or else, but also pushed off the best land - supposedly founded for "religious freedom" but only if your religion was variation of Protestant). Rhode Island was founded after a split with Massachusetts with not just religious freedom but also separation of church and state. Same for Connecticut. New Hampshire was explicitly a farming colony (Natives unwanted due to need for farmland). Pennsylvania was explicitly founded as a Quaker colony with an emphasis on freedom of religion. New York was originally for trading furs - Natives welcome because they did the lion's share of the hunting and trapping. Maryland was a Catholic colony. Virginia was founded to find gold (didn't work out) and later moved to cash crops on the plantation system (bye-bye Natives). Georgia was originally a dumping ground for poor English and a buffer between the other English colonies and the Spanish. On top of all that, Britain had explicit treaties with some tribes and treated them as allied nations (well, mostly - that was theory, practice as usual was a little different).

The point being that all of the various colonies had different reasons for being founded, for their continued existence, and how they viewed Natives. If your colony did a lot of fur trading you wanted Natives. If yours was a religious colony you wanted them to either convert or leave. In some place like Georgia probably initially no one gave a damn but the increasing population of impoverished English dumped there soon needed more room in which to live and came to see the Natives as direct competition. They really didn't care if the Natives died or left, they just wanted the land (and their stuff).

So no, prior to the US Revolutionary War there really wasn't a coherent, overall policy, just a bunch of different (and sometimes conflicting) policies and colonies. Post revolution yes, the US government started to become more consistent although not completely so.

Then you had situations like that between the Hopi and Navajo, where the Hopi explicitly asked the US government for help against the Navajo (while still resisting a lot of other things the US government wanted from them). Of course, the Hopi lived in the desert, which the whites largely didn't want for farming, and the villages were almost like little forts anyway (they'd been battling the Navajo for centuries, and possibly the Aztec before that). The Hopi had almost no pressure from white settlers but the Navajo arguably were slowly driving them to extinction. (The Hopi also successfully threw off Spanish rule in 1680 as well. They might be farmers and hold peace as a cultural ideal but they're not pushovers.) It wasn't just white vs. Native, you had conflicts between Native tribes as well, some of those approaching or even achieving genocide as well. (In case anyone is wondering, currently most Hopi revenues are from coal mining and tourism. The tribe keeps voting down any notion of casinos. They also continue subsistence farming and have some revenue from sale of art and handicrafts).

All of which is why I say, particularly in the early part of the European Invasion, it is nonsensical to speak of "overall policy" because it didn't exist, and it's certainly folly to simply speak of "Natives" given the wide variation between groups, and because of inter-group conflicts between the Natives that could be just as brutal and bloody as those between Native and newcomer.
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Re: Native American Genocide

Post by Broomstick » 2014-07-08 05:11pm

Oh, and I'd also like to note that the Navajo did, in fact, get their lands back. As far as I know, they were the only tribe ever to undo their forcible relocation.

Maybe by the time the US got to the Hopi and the Navajo prior experience with Natives have taught them a few lessons. Well, that and the Hopi and Navajo lands weren't as desired by whites as some other places.
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Re: Native American Genocide

Post by Edi » 2014-07-09 02:32am

Broomstick wrote:Please - it was never that monolithic. Please do not conflate Andrew Jackson with the entire population of North America. George Washington, for example, supported the Natives adopting aspects of white culture and technology - which is not to imply he was any sort of saint or believed in racial equality because he didn't, but the point is that he was NOT in favor of any sort of a Native extermination.
With regard to the Native Americans, George Washington has a reputation that has little to do with reality. Immediately after the war of independence, he was one of the driving forces behind forceful expansion into Native American territories and he pretended to negotiate for peace even as he was moving thousands of troops to drive off the native tribes from large sections of Kentucky and Oklahoma.

It is never talked about in the context of American history, but prior to the war of independence, expansion of settlers westward was directly curtailed by England, because the King of England had made treaties with the native tribes and he forbade the American settlers from expanding. The desire and need to expand west and take the land from the natives was an important element in the decision to declare independence, though it has been mostly obscured behind the slogans of "Freedom!" and "No taxation without representation".

Further, ever since the American independence, it was the general policy in all states to push the native Americans off their land by simply expanding settlements to their land and then kill any Natives who objected to being abused. It was not written down or explicitly stated to be a policy goal, but it was the way things were routinely done. Everywhere, which makes it de facto systematic. The history of Native Americans after the arrival of European settlers is one long chronicle of disease, war, treaty violations initiated by the Europeans followed by genocidal wars of extermination or forcible relocation to to far less habitable lands.

On moral grounds, there really is nothing that can be said in defense of the settlers, especially those coming form the Anglosphere. The French were much less brutal, but they still exterminated and subjugated their share of the natives. Their actions in general are still on a far lesser scale compared to the British-originated settlers and their descendants.

And I still haven't gotten to the end of that book on Native Americans I mentioned in the "What are you reading part 2.0" thread. It's an excellent source, but sadly only available in Finnish.
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Re: Native American Genocide

Post by Broomstick » 2014-07-09 07:40am

Edi wrote:
Broomstick wrote:Please - it was never that monolithic. Please do not conflate Andrew Jackson with the entire population of North America. George Washington, for example, supported the Natives adopting aspects of white culture and technology - which is not to imply he was any sort of saint or believed in racial equality because he didn't, but the point is that he was NOT in favor of any sort of a Native extermination.
With regard to the Native Americans, George Washington has a reputation that has little to do with reality. Immediately after the war of independence, he was one of the driving forces behind forceful expansion into Native American territories and he pretended to negotiate for peace even as he was moving thousands of troops to drive off the native tribes from large sections of Kentucky and Oklahoma.
The point was that while some wanted outright extermination others were OK with "merely" pushing people off their land - the latter still being terrible and inexcusable by our standards.

Although this is the first I've heard of Washington getting as far as Oklahoma - I thought in his era Oklahoma was seen as a dumping ground for Natives forced off their lands east of the Appalachians and later the Ohio Valley.
The history of Native Americans after the arrival of European settlers is one long chronicle of disease, war, treaty violations initiated by the Europeans followed by genocidal wars of extermination or forcible relocation to to far less habitable lands.
Yes, that is not in any way disputed.

But in the context of discussing genocide, while deliberately exterminating a group is clearly genocide, is forcibly relocating a group from North Carolina to Oklahoma genocide, or is that a different sort of crime?
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Re: Native American Genocide

Post by Thanas » 2014-07-09 08:12am

The Armenian "genocide" was largely forced relocation, with the deaths largely being caused by the effects of forced marching, banditry and the inhospitality where they were marched into.

So I don't see why this should be different.
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Re: Native American Genocide

Post by Edi » 2014-07-09 08:13am

I'll need to recheck that reference wrt Oklahoma, it may have only talked about Kentucky, Oklahoma may have been the place where some of those displaced wound up. This post, like the previous one, was made from work, where I don't have that book at hand.
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