Mass Killings, Native Erasure

Upon his arrival into the “New World” Columbus and his crew unleashed a vicious and relentless wave of violence against the Indigenous populations. From enslavement, to mass rapes, to mass killings Columbus and his men inflicted grotesque levels of violence never before seen in the Western hemisphere. By 1508, an estimated three to five million Indigenous peoples from the Island Nations had died since the time of Columbus’s arrival.

The genocide had begun, one driven, and backed, by an ideology under the Doctrine of Discovery that claimed European Christians had a God given right to set forth and colonize any lands not occupied by European Christians.

Throughout the Western hemisphere, colonization and genocide followed from the eastern shores to the Pacific Ocean. By the late 1800’s, early 1900’s, an estimated 100 million Indigenous peoples had perished.

Violence throughout the Western hemisphere was not limited to Indigenous populations. The Trans-Atlantic slave trade, followed by the Jim Crow era, saw millions of people of African descent perish at the hands of slavers to later white mobs. From 1890 to 1920, an estimated 3,000-5,000 Black people were lynched primarily in the Southern United States.

The colonization of the Western hemisphere is built upon the blood of millions.

Mass shootings, defined as single shooting incident which kills or injures four or more people, continue to be all too common occurrences throughout the United States. According to the organization Mass Shooter Tracker, there were 372 mass shootings in the US in 2015, killing 475 people and wounding 1,870. There were 64 school shootings in 2015. All total an estimated 13,286 people were killed in the US by firearms in 2015.

In 2016, gun violence continues to plague communities across the country. According to the Chicago Tribune, from January 1st – June 19th there have been 1,709 shootings resulting in 141 people killed in Chicago. And most recently, 49 people were killed at a LGBTQ night club in Orlando, Florida.

With each mass shooting a barrage of media sensationalism tends to follow. Headlines like “Worse Mass Shooting in US History” not only bury the very real trauma faced by survivors of mass shootings and the families of those who lost loved ones in those shootings, but such headlines tend to enrage communities, in particular Native communities, whose genocide typically gets erased.

This same narrative plays out yearly on 9/11, when pundits and politicians alike speak of the “worst terrorist attack ever” while forgetting that man Columbus, and his actions, that they celebrate with a Federal holiday on the second Monday in October every year and the mass act of terror he committed.

Our challenge is to not buy into media sensationalism and to not participate the ongoing erasure of the genocide of Native peoples, nor neglect to address and combat the loss of life in communities of color from police violence to street violence.

It is also upon us to understand that there is a difference between a state sanctioned ideology rooted in the Doctrine of Discovery that called for the extermination of Native peoples to clear our lands for occupation and the violence that stems from inadequate mental health services, poverty and other causes of mass shootings.

It is also upon us to value all life and mourn for those who’ve been lost to acts of violence regardless of where, to whom, and for what reasons it was inflicted. The loss of life of refugees fleeing civil wars is no less than the loss of life of those in the Pulse night club attack, in 2016 an estimated 2,500 refugees have died trying to cross the Mediterranean alone, nor are their lives any less than those who are killed in the streets of Paris, Iraq, Palestine, Chicago, Mexico, etc.

What is needed is a return to an understanding of our inter-relatedness to each other, to earth, to all creation. Our inability to understand our inter-connectedness has led to globe state of conflict and disaster. Human activity and our lack of concern for the consequences of our actions drives our current state of global affairs. According to the World Wildlife Fund, an estimated 200-2000 species go extinct yearly due to human activity.

Our behavior must change, we must relearn to value life, all life.

Below is a summary of mass killings against Native peoples located within the United States. The list is by far incomplete and represents just a small percentage of mass direct killings inflicted on Native peoples.

  • 1539 Napituca Massacre: 200 killed
  • 1541-42 Tiguex Massacres: 250 killed
  • 1599 Acoma Massacre: 800 killed
  • 1601 Sandia Mountains Tompiro Indians massacre: 900 killed
  • 1623 Pamunkey Peace Talks: the English poison wine at peace talks with Powhatan 250 killed
  • 1637 Mystic Massacre: colonist set fire to Pequot village 600-700 killed
  • 1644 Pound Ridge Massacre: Lenape village burned by colonist 500 killed
  • 1675 Great Swamp Massacre: Narragansett village attacked 340 killed
  • 1676 Massacre at Occoneechee Island: Nathaniel Bacon turns on Occaneechi allies 100 killed
  • 1676 Turner Falls Massacre: Indian fishing camp 100 killed
  • 1676 Rhode Island: militia attacks band of Narragansetts 126 killed
  • 1689 Zia Pueblo: Governor of New Mexico orders attack on Pueblos 600 killed
  • 1704 Apalachee Massacre: Former Governor of Florida orders attack on Apalachees 1,000 killed 2,000 enslaved
  • 1712 Massacre at Fort Narhantes: North Carolina Militia attacks Tuscarora village 300 killed
  • 1712 Fox Indian Massacre: French Troops attack Fox Indian village 1,000 killed
  • 1713 Fort Neoheroka: Militia attacks Tuscarora village 1,100-1,200 killed
  • 1730 Massacre at Fox Fort: French Troops attack Fox Indian village 500 killed
  • 1747 Chama River Massacre: Spanish Troops attack Ute village 100 killed
  • 1774 Spanish Peaks: Spanish Troops attack Comanche village 300 killed
  • 1782 Gnadenhutten Massacre: Pennsylvania militiamen attack Lenape village 100 killed
  • 1805 Canyon del Muerto: Spanish Troops attack Navajo village 115 killed
  • 1813 Tallushstchee: Tennessee Troops Attack Creek Town 200 killed
  • 1813 Autossee Massacre: Georgia militia sets fire to Creek village 200 killed
  • 1813 Hillabee Massacre: Tennessee Troops attack Creek village 65 killed
  • 1818 Chehaw Massacre: US Troops attack Muscogee village 50 killed
  • 1826 Dressing Creek Massacre: Texas settlers attack Karankawa village 50 killed
  • 1832 Bad Axe Massacre: US soldiers attack Indian village 150 killed
  • 1840 Council House Massacre: Attack against Comanche 88 killed
  • 1840 Colorado River: Volunteer Rangers attack Comanche village 140 killed
  • 1840 Clear Lake Massacre: Mexican Posse attacks Pomo and Wappo village 150 killed
  • 1846 Sacramento River: US soldiers attack Yanas village 200 killed
  • 1847 Storming of Pueblo de Taos: US soldiers attack Pueblo de Taos 180 killed
  • 1850 Bloody Island Massacre: US soldiers attack Pomo village 100 killed
  • 1851 Old Shasta Town: Miners set fire to Wintu village 300 killed
  • 1852 Hynes Bay Massacre: Texas militiamen attack Karankawa village 45 killed
  • 1852 Bridge Gulch Massacre: California posse attacks Wintu village 150 killed
  • 1852 Wright Massacre: White settlers attack a Modoc peace party 40 killed
  • 1853 Howonquet Massacre: California settler’s attack and burn Howonquet village 70 killed
  • 1853 Yontoket Massacre: Posse of California settlers attack Tolowa prayer ceremony 450 killed
  • 1853 Achulet Massacre: White settlers attack Tolowa village 150 killed
  • 1854 Chetco River Massacre: White settlers attack Chetco village 40 killed
  • 1855 Harney Massacre: US soldiers attack Sioux village 90 killed
  • 1856 Grande Ronde River Valley Massacre: Washington volunteers attack Cayuse and Walla Walla village 60 killed
  • 1858-1859 Round Valley Massacres: White settlers wage continuous attacks on Yuki villages 600 killed
  • 1859 Pit River Massacre: White settlers attack Achomawi village 70 killed
  • 1860 Massacre at Bloody Rock: White settlers attack Yuki village 65 killed
  • 1860 Indian Island Massacre: White settlers attack Wiyot villages 250 killed
  • 1861 Horse Canyon Massacre: White settlers attack Wailaki village 240 killed
  • 1862 Tonkawa Massacre: Union soldiers attack Tonkawa village 400 killed
  • 1863 Bear River Massacre: US soldiers attack Shoshone village 280 killed
  • 1863 Whitestone Massacre US military attacks peaceful village of Lakota 400 killed
  • 1864 Oak Run Massacre: White settlers attack Yana’s at spiritual ceremony 300 killed
  • 1864 Sand Creek Massacre: Colorado militia attacks Cheyenne village 160 killed
  • 1865 Owens Lake Massacre: White vigilantes attack Paiute village 40 killed
  • 1868 Washita Massacre: US soldiers attack Cheyenne village 140 killed
  • 1870 Marias Massacre: US soldiers attack Piegan village 173 killed
  • 1871 Camp Grant Massacre: White and Mexican posse attack Apache village 140 killed, 40 sold into slavery
  • 1872 Skelton Cave Massacre: US troops attack Yavapai’s living in a cave 76 killed
  • 1877 Big Hole Massacre: US troops attack Nez Perce village 90 killed
  • 1879 Fort Robinson Massacre: US troops kill Northern Cheyenne’s fleeing imprisonment 77 killed
  • 1890 Stronghold Massacre: South Dakota militia men attack village in Pine Ridge 75 killed
  • 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre: US troops open fire on Lakota at Wounded Knee 300 killed