President Joe Biden makes me laugh. One would think at his age, he would know that you can't heal a major illness, or wound, until you start at the source. I am referring to his continually saying, "We have to heal the soul of the United States (U.S.)." That's never going to happen until the powers-that-be, including President Biden, begin to heal the original illness, or wound, as you wish, which is the mistreatment and injustice they continue to give to the Original Nations, the American Indian Nations who are us. Some call it Karma. We call it the circle. Whoa!! No one wants to think about that let alone verbalize such an idea. Yet, that is precisely what the 1894 Sioux Nation Treaty Council has been doing for the past few years through letters to President Biden. He has been given the opportunity to "heal" the U.S. What is his response? The first year, there was NO response. So another letter was sent.
The playwright Eugene O’Neill said that one of the few events worth celebrating in American history took place on June 25, 1876, when Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho, led by Crazy Horse and Chief Gall, annihilated a unit of the 7th Cavalry under the command of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer. There are few battles in American history that have generated as much controversy or been as meticulously dissected and examined. And with good reason. The death of Custer and his command stunned the nation. It turned Custer into a martyr for the cause of western expansion and imperialism. His death, portrayed as the ultimate sacrifice for the nation that was at the time celebrating its centennial, was used to justify a massive military campaign against Native Americans that would culminate in the massacre of some 300 Native Americans in 1890 at Wounded Knee.
This is the dilemma that Native ‘Americans’ face every day. The foundations of the United States of America are blatantly unjust. This land was stolen. Native peoples, Africans and many other minority communities have long been recipients of systemic racism. And the roots of it are right there for the entire world to see, printed in many of our founding documents; like the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and United States Supreme Court case rulings. We announce it. We flaunt it. We celebrate it.. As a nation we embrace this history because we are largely ignorant of the true nature of our past and have never been held accountable for our actions.
The July 4 holiday in the United States commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Anyone educated in this country has been propagandized with lies about patriotic colonists seeking freedom from a tyrannical British monarch. Our minds were filled with tales of Paul Revere and Betsy Ross which erase the role that indigenous and Black people played as they attempted to end true tyranny over their lives. The present day traditions of enjoying cookouts, vacations, and fireworks should not obscure the true meaning of this date.
In 1621, though Pilgrims celebrated a feast, it was not repeated in the years to follow. In 1636, a murdered white man was found in his boat and the Pequot were blamed. In retaliation, settlers burned Pequot villages. Additionally, English Major John Mason rallied his troops to further burn Pequot wigwams and then attacked and killed hundreds more men, women and children. According to Mason’s reports of the massacre, “We must burn them! Such a dreadful terror let the Almighty fall upon their spirits that they would flee from us and run into the very flames. Thus did the Lord judge the heathen, filling the place with dead bodies.” The Governor of Plymouth William Bradford wrote: “Those that escaped the fire were slain with the sword; some hewed to pieces, others run through with their rapiers, so that they were quickly dispatched and very few escaped.
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.
The scope of violence against Native people in the United States is truly staggering. In fact, it would be safe to say the historical genocide never ended. It is ongoing. It is the violence of stolen lands, of stolen children, of dispossession, of police, of payday lenders, liquor stores and pawnshops, of fracking and mining in Native territory. And yet, despite this furious and barbaric onslaught, Native people persist – unbowed.
Due in part to Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the horrific truths about what children and their families endured and the graves of the children who were murdered in the residential schools are being uncovered. The residential schools originated in the United States, which has yet to recognize their existence and what happened in them. That may be starting to change after many decades of activism to raise awareness and now an initiative by Secretary of the Interior Haaland. Clearing the FOG speaks with Matt Remle, an indigenous human rights activist about the history of the boarding schools, their purpose to enable the exploitation of resources and how they are connected into the bigger picture of genocide and colonization.
Seneca Nation President Matthew Pagels issued the following statement regarding the discovery of the remains of 215 children buried on the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia, Canada. The school, which operated between 1890 and 1969, was once Canada’s largest Indigenous residential school, which hundreds of thousands of Indigenous children were forced to attend. Thousands of children are known to have died at these schools in the United States and Canada, and it is believed that the deaths of hundreds – if not thousands – were never documented. “Senecas are grieving along with the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation in the wake of this recent discovery - another gruesome reminder of the treatment and terror that generations of Indigenous people suffered at the hands of foreign settlers on our own lands.
Toronto, Canada - A small group of people rallied Monday in front of the statue of Egerton Ryerson on the Ryerson University campus to stage a sit-in mourning the 215 children found buried at the Kamloops Indigenous Residential School last week. In an Instagram post, a group called X University, Indigenous Students fighting for social justice & human rights, (@wreckonciliation_x_university) said “we will be occupying the space until we meet 215 pairs of shoes.” The group has adopted ‘X University’ in place of Ryerson University’s current name in protest and to demand it be changed given Ryerson’s role in designing the model for residential schools. Those gathered were seen forming a circle around a drummer who was singing.
Mass shootings happen with appalling regularity in the United States. It is bad enough that recent shootings took place in Atlanta, Boulder, and Indianapolis, but the horror is always followed by the same useless faux debates. Half the population wants to limit gun ownership, the other half doesn’t and continues a gun buying spree to prove their point. Politicians pretend to take action, victims are mourned, thoughts and prayers are uttered, and the cycle repeats itself with the next awful event. What very few people dare to discuss is how these acts are connected with U.S. history and with the state in its current form. This country exists as a result of genocides and terrorism. The indigenous inhabitants were attacked with wars and disease and the survivors were driven from their ancestral lands.
Two years ago, California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a formal apology to tribes in the state for atrocities committed against them and for the history of genocide and oppression they endured. He also decided to put action, and money, behind his words. Through an executive order, the governor established the California Truth and Healing Council to provide an avenue for Native Americans “to clarify the record – and provide their historical perspective – on the troubled relationship between tribes and the state.” This first-of-its-kind panel recently held its initial meeting to discuss what it hopes to accomplish. “Telling the truth is only one small part of this whole healing cycle,” said Caleen Sisk, a council member and chief of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. “It’s taking action and doing things so tribal ways can continue to exist.”
UCLA history professor Benjamin Madley’s book An American Genocide: The United States and the California Catastrophe 1846-1873 details the killing of tens of thousands of Native Americans as the state was being settled in the 19th century. In their conversation, Madley tells Robert Scheer why he believes these massacres did, in fact, constitute genocide in its 20th century United Nations definition. He talks about white settlers’ dehumanization and paranoia about “the other,” and the exceptions to that way of thinking.
Native peoples in the United States continue to struggle for justice. While this year brought some important victories, such as Washington’s NFL team finally dropping its racist name and logo, and a landmark win in the Supreme Court for Native rights in McGirt v. Oklahoma, the difficult work of recognizing and redressing the country’s legacy of oppressing its first inhabitants continues. Efforts by Native and allied activists to spread observance of Indigenous Peoples’ Day as an alternative to Columbus Day is an important part of this work.