by Michael Parenti
Writer, Dandelion Salad
November 25, 2015
An excerpt from the recent book by Michael Parenti, Profit Pathology and Other Indecencies (pp. 13-14) for your Thanksgiving consideration:
The lives of indigenous peoples in North America (“Indians”)—from quality of diet and medicine to individual freedom—were superior to the pinched, unwashed, dour lives transported from Christianized England. The Europeans were far more practiced than the “Indians” in dealing with syphilis, gonorrhea, small pox, typhoid, and bubonic plague, not to mention hangings, slavery, prostitution, religious wars, witch hunts, and inquisitions. European superiority registered in a few devilishly crucial areas, specifically the technologies of firearms, armor, and oceanic transport. The Native Americans had no desire to embrace the religiously oppressive, mean-spirited, acquisitive life of the colonizers. They lived comfortably free from any ruinous impulse for massive wealth accumulation. Labeled as “savage beasts” by the invaders, they actually behaved in courteous and kindly ways—that is, until they realized what they were up against.
The indigenous peoples were subjected to heartless butcheries, beginning with the slaughter of the Arawak (a.k.a.Tainos) of Hispaniola in the 1490s. By the 1630s “our Puritan fathers” were launching attacks against the Pequot tribe, massacring hundreds of men, women and children. The meager number of survivors were sold into slavery in the West Indies. In the 1680s, in the Chesapeake tidelands, there came another wave of mass killings. This was followed by two long centuries of merciless wars across the entire continent, ending with the treacherous slaughter of Lakota men, women and children at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, in 1890.
Estimates of the native population of America prior to the European conquest vary from twelve million to eighteen million, composing more than six hundred distinct tribal societies, speaking over five hundred languages. But after four centuries of warfare, massacre, disease, and dispossession, the original population was reduced by over 90 percent, a holocaust whose magnitude remains largely unmatched and unrecognized today. Whole tribes were completely exterminated or whittled down to scattered numbers. In this way the “Wild West” was “tamed” and “settled.”
Today the Native American population has grown back to about 2.9 million, including Native Alaskan and Hawaiian peoples, and additional hundreds of thousands of “mixed race,” out of a total U.S. population of some 310 million. Native Americans are also referred to as “Amerindians”, “American Indians”, or simply “Indians” in the United States. They are officially designated as “Native Americans” by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Indigenous peoples of Alaska were popularly known as “Eskimos,” a term that is still in use. They are more properly referred to collectively as “Alaskan Natives.” (For some strange reason, many progressives in the United States refer to all Alaskan Natives as “Inuits,” even though the Inuit are only one of the Native Alaskan peoples, along with the Aleut, Alutiiq, Athabascan, Iñupiat, Cup’ik, Haida, Tlingit, and Yup’ik. Calling all of these Native Alaskans “Inuits” would be like referring to all Native American Indians as Cherokee.)
Along with the destruction of Native Americans came the expropriation of native lands. “Speaking with forked tongue, the U.S. government broke all of its 600-plus treaties and agreements with various indigenous nations,” Brian Willson reminds us. The native peoples were slaughtered with merciless deliberation and forethought so that their lands might be taken. The lands were not stolen as an afterthought. From the very beginning, the primary goal was not extermination but expropriation, not killing the natives per se, but grabbing the land and the fortune that comes with it: great and glorious expanses of farming lands and plains, mighty forests, green pastures and meadows with wild fruits, powerful rivers, wild herds and plentiful game, pristine waters, bays, lakes, fisheries, and inlets, beautiful hills and majestic mountains, deep ravines and vast deposits of rich minerals—all in unmatched abundance.
In quick order, the hostility felt toward the Native Americans took on a fury of its own. They were seen as “red devils,” “wild dogs,” “blood thirsty savages,” and “heathens with souls consigned to hell.” As the saying went: “The only good injun is a dead injun.” So with most imperialist invasions, the victimized are depicted as victimizers. The heartless destruction of the native population is justified as an act of rectitude and self-defense against subhuman moral inferiors. Racism swiftly becomes the handmaiden of economic exploitation and imperialism.
Michael Parenti is an award winning, internationally known author. His most recent books are The Face of Imperialism (a critique of the U.S. global empire; 2011) and Waiting for Yesterday: Pages from a Street Kid’s Life (an ethnic memoir about his early life in Italian Harlem; 2013); and Profit Pathology and Other Indecencies. For further information about his work, visit his website: www.michaelparenti.org.
From the archives:
Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz: Pre-Colonial Socialism and the Effects of Genocide
Chris Hedges: Draconian Force Used Against Nonviolent Protesters + Police Unleash Water Cannons and Rubber Bullets Against Water Defenders in Standing Rock (#NoDAPL)
Abby Martin: Fighting at Standing Rock (#NoDAPL)
Abby Martin: Native American Genocide + The Unist’ot’en Camp are Blocking Pipelines From Crossing Their Land
Columbus, the Indians, and Human Progress by Howard Zinn
The Indian Uprising — The Fall of Empire by William T. Hathaway
Dennis Kucinich – Prez on the Rez Forum, Cabazon, CA (video; Native Americans)
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Never were four exclamation points more deservedly ironical. The tragedy of America and the “New World” is exactly where we are, why we are and how, we got to this here and now, today.
What more can one say? Perhaps all there is to add is ~ just listen to Abby Martin’s extraordinary conversation with Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. Listen carefully and understand. Reflect, think deeply and then speak about it….
Thank you, Michael Parenti.
Thanks David, yes, this goes well with Abby’s recent interview.