Friday, September 25, 2009

American genocide against Indians

I recently started reading The 10 Big Lies about America by Michael Medved. Medved graduated with a degree in American history from Yale with departmental honors. In the first chapter he discusses the accusation by some on the Left that America engaged in genocide against the Indians.

It is a lie.

You would think that evidence for such genocide would come from Presidential proclamations or Congressional legislation. No such evidence exists. What historians do have is some letters written seventy-four years apart by from individual soldiers on the field. Medved writes,
"By far the most famous example involves the ferocious 1763 war known as Pontiac's Rebellion, in which Great Lakes tribes came together to destroy British forts and settlements after the English had defeated the Indians' allies the French in the recently concluded French and Indian War. On May 1, the Ottowa leader Pontiac told and assembled council of various tribes' warriors (according to a French commander): "It is important for us, my brothers, that we exterminate from our lands this nation which seeks only to destroy us" (italics added).

Ultimately, the natives succeeded in wiping out eight forts and murdering hundreds of troops and settlers, including women and children. Victims were variously tortured, scalped, cannibalized, dismembered, and burned at the stake.

In the midst of the wide-ranging butchery, some 550 white farmers and townspeople (including 200 women and children) jammed into the region's most formidable military garrison, Fort Pitt (on the site of present-day Pittsburgh). On June 22, 1763, the Indians began a siege of the fort. Desperate to prevent the enemy from overrunning his mos sugnificant outpost, the British commander, Field Marshal Lord Jeffery Amherst, ordered Colonel henry Bouquet to organize and expedition to relieve Fort Pitt. In a brief postscript to a lenthy June 29 letter full of command details, Amherst reportedly wrote to Bouquet: "Could it not be contrived to send the Small Posx among the disaffected tribes of Indians? We must on this occasion use every strategem in ur power to reduce them" (Medved 17-18).
Amherst responded with approval. Amherst also sent a letter to another British official expressing his desire to "Bring about the Total Extirpation of those indian nations." His reason for this desire comes out in another letter written to Lord Jeffery in which Amherst
cited the monstrous cruelty he had observed from his adversaries (scalping alive for souvenirs, branding, cutting out and occasionally devouring hearts, torture through slow skinning, piercing bodies with as many as a hundred arrows)..." (Medved, 19).
Medved doesn't excuse U.S. soldiers when they committed atrocities but he makes to case that the atrocities took place on both sides and that at no time did America as a nation ever engage in genocide. Medved writes about the Indian Wars,
In most cases the actions represented not one-sided horrors perpetuated by bloodthirsty white militia against peaceful natives but rather fierce battle with casualties on both sides. Only one instance clearly involved rampaging white militia, and the U.S govenment unequivocally condemned this isolated incident (Medved, 23).
So far the book is outstanding. You can buy it here.

No comments: