Major breakups change you and change how you view the world around you.
I’m sure most of you are having one of those “No shit!” reactions right now.
But you have to understand, I’ve almost never experienced that before.
Prior to my and my wife’s separation last year, I had only experienced one other serious breakup. And that was back in the mid-90s when I was in 9th grade.
The road I’m walking now finds me doing so with a new lens through which to interpret life. I’m discovering that very familiar movies and characters and music are resonating with me on an entirely different level now. Countless songs have taken on a completely new texture.
One recent example of this is Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumors” album. I’d grown up with an appreciation of the band and enjoyed their hits, but recently I listened to that album again, start to finish – twice – on one of my nighttime walks. It was then that I realized I no longer merely enjoyed those songs, but now I felt those songs on a cellular level.
The emotional and physical anguish. The anger. The longing.
All of it visceral and strangely comforting all in a weird sort of dance, their bodies intertwined.
Hey, Ricky boy, want to know WHY there “isn’t much Native American culture in American Culture”? Let me shed some light on this.
SPOILER ALERT: It’s all due to racist white people. Shocking. I know.
First, let’s take a look at Native American culture and society that flourished for thousands of years before white Europeans stepped onto North American soil.
RELIGION Native Americans were animistic, meaning they believed that everything had a soul. As such, they treated everything and everyone with reverence, respect, and dignity. Ceremonies were held to mark important life events, such as births, deaths, coming of age, marriage, etc.
SOCIAL SYSTEM Every known Native American tribe was egalitarian, and therefore men and women were equal. Work and responsibilities were divided up based upon skill and capabilities but not on European gender roles. For the most part, the exception was that women typically were not hunters because they could give birth to continue the culture and heritage. If a bunch of the tribe’s women got trampled by a herd of buffalo, well, there wouldn’t be very many women around to have new babies to keep the tribe flourishing.
ECONOMIC SYSTEM Native Americans did not embrace the European concepts of property ownership or profit. They did not domesticate animals, they even shared their resources with others of their tribe, and some tribes engaged in bartered trade with each other.
POLITICAL SYSTEM The Native American tribes had their own complex governing methods based upon confederations, tribal councils, and chiefdoms. Typically speaking, tribes in the west followed a chiefdom model, plains tribes (my specific ancestors) used a tribal council, and tribes in the east were confederations. Native American confederations were a council of elders which were organized into a central government with separate state governments. Each state had a council that reported to the General/Grand or Higher Council, who then reported to an even Higher Chief/Governor.
Sound familiar? That’s because the Founding Fathers, after learning about confederations from members of the Iroquois nation, based the government of baby America on Native American confederations.
From here, Americans basically did everything possible to eradicate Native Americans and they justified this genocide of culture and humanity largely out of religion-based xenophobia. Europeans found it hard to understand that societies existed where Christianity was not universally followed. Since they were not about to accept that perhaps their religion was not the true religion, they viewed new cultures as inferior.
The Europeans believed that any foreign society or indigenous peoples they encountered who were not included in their religion or mentioned in the bible, as not having been created by God and therefore were not equal to white, Christian Europeans. The only explanation they let for themselves was that those new people were the creation of the devil and, as such, were not as human as Europeans.
Native Americans were viewed as savages because they were accused of performing human sacrifices. This belief became one of the ways that the English could justify their repeated theft of the land, labor, women, resources, freedom, religion, and culture from the Native Americans who showed up and helped them survive the first winters in the new world. Ironically, Christians were the ones who carried out human sacrifices during earlier European history, as well as in America when they thought women were witches. But I digress.
Let’s take a look at the first Thanksgiving. Remember how we were taught that Native Americans and the pilgrims shared a joyous, generous feast together and lived happily ever after? Didn’t happen. I mean, the feast happened, but the rest was left out of most history books. Thanksgiving was a time-honored tradition among most Native American tribes who had been celebrating a Thanksgiving ceremony at the end of their harvest season, before winter arrived, for thousands of years.
The Pilgrims invited the Pequot and Wampanoag nations to join them at their first Thanksgiving feast. The pilgrims asked about 100 Pequots to remain behind after the festivities. The next morning, the Pequots were asked to come to the center of the community where they were promptly attacked, killed, and/or disfigured by the Pilgrims.
The survivors were then sent back to their villages to tell their people that the land belonged to the Pilgrims and they would do and take what they wanted because God had provided it to them.
Afterward, Thanksgiving was not standard practice among the settlers until President Lincoln declared it a national holiday to try and heal the nation’s wounds.
The pilgrims discovered the Native Americans’ food stores in “empty fields” and took it for themselves while claiming it was providence and provided by God.
Fast forward many decades and we see that American settlers’ treatment of Native American “savages” only became worse.
The Office of Indian Affairs was established in 1774 and immediately set to the task of removing no less than 12 Native tribes from their sacred ancestral lands because Americans just felt that they deserved it more. So, the American government went to work forcing the Wyandot, Delaware, Shawnee, Ottawa, Chippewa, Potawatomi, Miami, Eel-River, Weea, Kickapoo, Piankashaw, and Kaskaskia tribes to relocate so that white people could expand westward without those pesky “savages” getting in the way.
Then along came the Intercourse Act (originally of 1790, then renewed in 1793, 1796, and again in 1799), which stated that the Federal government was the only US institution that had the right to remove Native Americans from their lands. Stay with me; we’ll come back to this.
Also passed around the same time was the Naturalization Act of 1790, which limited access to U.S. citizenship to white immigrants (read: people from Western Europe). It also granted citizenship to children born abroad to U.S. citizens. Know who wasn’t granted citizenship in a country forced upon them on their own sacred land? Native Americans. Because they weren’t white. Or Christian.
Barely a decade after winning its independence, the American government passed the Sedition Act of 1790, which was allegedly passed to keep people from rebelling against the state. The Sedition Act contained a convenient little clause stating that it was forbidden for another government to exist within the territory of the United States government. This brings us back to America’s bullying of Native peoples because that one clause gave the U.S. the “right” to force Native tribes to stop operating their own forms of government. Even the one upon which America itself was based on. With a scribble of ink, Native Americans had their entire basis for governing themselves ruled illegal.
Five years later in 1795, the Treaty of Greenville was signed which was hailed as a peace treaty between Native Americans and the United States government. What it really did, however, was prohibit Native American nations from forming alliances. The U.S. government stated that Native Americans were considered to be carrying out seditious acts by way of rebellion if they formed alliances with other tribes. In which case, Native American nations would be prosecuted under the Sedition Act.
These removal Acts created a two-fold problem for Native Americans:
1) On one hand, tribes now had to fight with other tribes over the now-limited resources, after the white settlers took what they wanted. Tribes were no longer allowed to trade amongst themselves for resources as they had been doing for thousands of years because doing so was considered to be forming an alliance.
2) Tribes went to war with each other because as tribes were forced off their lands and to the west, they were forced to encroached upon another tribe’s lands. Rinse; repeat.
Several years later, the Bureau of Indian Affairs was established in 1824. This Bureau became the representative middle-man government between the Native Americans and the United States government. Directors of the Bureau were military generals and leaders and no Native Americans were appointed to leadership roles within the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
But the Bureau made sure to hire lawyers, accountants, geologists, and so forth, whose sole jobs were to determine where and how often to relocate tribes based upon what valuable resources were discovered on the lands they were currently occupying.
Then along came President Andrew Jackson, you know, the dude on the $20 bill? On May 28, 1830, Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act. Normally this would go through the then-established channels for checks-and-balances and the such. Except that Jackson passed the Indian Removal Act independently and on his own without consulting Congress or his own cabinet.
This meant that President Jackson 100% violated the Intercourse Act by removing power from the Federal government to remove Native Americans from their lands and gave that freedom to everyone. Like, literally anyone: local governments, individual citizens, etc.
As a result, five Native American nations (the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Creek, and Seminole) were forced to relocate to the west. To accomplish this, the government hired independent contractors to forcibly move the tribes because they didn’t want to allocate Federal resources to do the job. These contractors deprived Native Americans of essential needs (food, water, winter clothing, etc.) during the Trail of Tears because they realized that they could save money that was paid to them by the government.
For example: If Dave was forcing a tribe to relocate and was paid $300 by the United States government to provide provisions for the Natives during the journey, well hell, Dave could pocket most of that by refusing to provide the Native Americans with the essentials to safely arrive at their destination!
What impact did this have? Historical estimates reveal that roughly 100 Native American men, women, and children were buried every week during their removal. These independent contractors even knowingly put warring tribes together on the same reservation for obvious reasons. Around this time is where the phrase “the only good Indian is a dead Indian” became popular.
Once these poor Native Americans were finally on their new land, the only thing the federal government provided in abundance to the Native Americans on reservations was alcohol. Food rations were picked over by white people first, the remaining desirable items were sold to nearby white towns, and whatever was left over was given to the Native Americans for their survival. Oh, and Native Americans who were forced onto reservations were not allowed to hunt, fish, or provide for themselves because to do so would mean they would be “armed.”
Then along came a man named Richart Henry Pratt. Pratt was a humanist who opened the first boarding school for Native American children in Carlisle, Pennsylvania in 1879. On paper, the goal was to provide an education for these children to help them find their place in the new world that was being built around them. In reality and true to their abhorrent track record, this gave the U.S. government the “right” to round up (aka: abduct) Native American children ages 5-17, remove them from the reservation and their families, and intentionally send them to far-away boarding schools.
These boarding schools were actually institutions where these children were literally stripped of their traditional clothing, they were forced to have their hair cut, and their cultural jewelry was taken from them. These children were forced to dress in military-style uniforms, taught to march, forced to choose their new Christian name, taught Christianity, and most were denied visits with their families until they had sufficiently proven to the school administrators that they were no longer a threat to America and were considered to be broken of their heathen ways.
For more on Pratt’s boarding schools, I highly recommend you watch the documentary “In The White Man’s Image.” If you can’t find a copy of it, you can watch it on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUCIMqlztd0
So yeah. Those are just a few of the reasons of why there “isn’t much Native American culture in American Culture.” Because. ‘Murica!
Buckle up, folks, because here’s another long post. This time, about Christopher Columbus and Trump’s latest proclamation, trying to put Columbus back atop a flawed pedestal.
On October 9th, Trump issued “Proclamation on Columbus Day, 2020,” wherein he says:
“Sadly, in recent years, radical activists have sought to undermine Christopher Columbus’s legacy. These extremists seek to replace discussion of his vast contributions with talk of failings, his discoveries with atrocities, and his achievements with transgressions. Rather than learn from our history, this radical ideology and its adherents seek to revise it, deprive it of any splendor, and mark it as inherently sinister.”1
I wonder if Trump realizes that when he says “radical activists,” he’s referring to written historical documents and evidence clearly laying out that Columbus’s legacy is one of genocide, rape, kidnapping, and slavery. In reality, us “radical activists” are shining light on this “great Italian,” to use Trump’s words of admiration, and what he did to the peoples and lands he “discovered.”
First off, let’s set the stage for how the Spanish explorers typically handled new peoples they encountered for the first time.
Europeans in Columbus’s time were fanatical about spreading the good word of Jesus and Christianity to everybody they could. So when Spanish explorers came across a new tribe of peoples who were unknown to them, they would read what they referred to as “the Requirement” to these new people. One version recorded by history reads as follows:
“I implore you to recognize the Church as a lady and in the name of the Pope take the King as lord of this land and obey his mandates. If you do not do it, I tell you that with the help of God I will enter powerfully against you all. I will make ware everywhere and every way that I can. I will subject you to the yoke and obedience to the Church and to his majesty. I will take your women and children and make them slaves. The deaths and injuries that you will receive from here on will be your own fault and not that of his majesty nor of the gentlemen that company me.”2
Oh, teensy important note on the reading of the Requirement. It was read to these new people in Spanish, which as you could imagine, sounded like gibberish to tribes of native peoples who had their own dialect and zero experience with Europeans, let alone, the Spanish language.
In 1492 when Columbus “discovered” the Americas, which he thought was India, the first people he observed turned out to be those of the Arawak tribe, which apparently inhabited most of the islands in the Caribbean.
Columbus wrote in his journal, on October 13, 1492, saying in closing, “I could conquer the whole of them with fifty men and govern them as I pleased.” And he set out to do just that on his second voyage (more on this in a moment). Before setting sail back to Spain at the end of his first voyage, he kidnapped roughly 10-30 natives and took them back to Spain. Only 7 or 8 of his victims survived the voyage and arrived on Spanish shores alive.
Columbus was rewarded for his exploration and the kidnappings by being provided with another 17 ships, plus upwards of 1,500 men, weapons, cavalry, and attack dogs for a second voyage, by Ferdinand and Isabella.
During his second voyage in 1493 to what is now Haiti, Columbus demanded whatever the natives had that he wanted (i.e.: gold, spun cotton, food, etc.), including demanding sex with native women (read: raping native women). Any Arawaks who refused were punished. Columbus also made examples of any natives who committed even minor offenses by cutting off their ears and/or noses then sent them back to their villages to serve as examples of what happens if you don’t give the Spanish what they want.
As one can imagine, the natives got tired of this treatment and attempted to rebel by doing what they could – refusing to plant crops and growing food which they knew the Spanish would just steal from them. This gave Columbus an excuse to wage war on the Arawaks.
Columbus’s own son, Ferdinand Columbus, wrote in the biography of his father, describing the battle(s):
“The soldiers mowed down dozens with point-blank volleys, loosed the dogs to rip open limbs and bellies, chased fleeing Indians into the bush to skewer them on sword and pike, and with God’s aid soon gained a complete victory, killing many Indians and capturing others who were also killed.”
One of the goals of Columbus’s second voyage was to return with much of Haiti’s rumored gold, to give to Spain. Mining the gold prosed a problem for Columbus who came up with a solution, so as to not return to Spain empty handed: slaves. Columbus and the Spanish rounded up 1,500 Arawaks. Through some means of evaluation, 500 Arawaks were deemed the best specimens, and were stolen from their homeland and brought back to Spain (200 of which died en route). Another 500 were taken as slaves by the Spaniards staying behind in Haiti. The remaining 1,000 Arawaks were supposedly released.
Columbus also implemented a system of tributes where natives were required to pay tributes to the Spanish every three months. When a tribute was paid, the individual would be given a bass or copper token which must be worn around their neck to indicate they were safe (for lack of a better term) for three months. If a native person was caught without a token, they were punished by having their hands cut off.
Other forms of domination of the natives by Columbus and the Spanish included being forced to carry the Spanish wherever they went and forcing the “Indians” to work in the gold mines to provide riches for Spain instead of being able to tend to their crops, which lead to widespread malnutrition among the Arawaks since there was not enough food left behind once the Spaniards took what they wanted.
A man named Pedro de Cordoba wrote in a letter to King Ferdinand in 1517, “As a result of the sufferings and hard labor they endured, the Indians choose and have chosen suicide. Occasionally a hundred have committed mass suicide. The women, exhausted by labor, have shunned conception and childbirth…Many, when pregnant, have taken something to abort and have aborted. Others after delivery have killed their children with their own hands, so as not to leave them in such oppressive slavery.”3
To put the genocide of the indigenous peoples who fell victim to Columbus’s “discovery” into a different perspective, consider this:
“Estimates of Haiti’s pre-Columbian population range as high as 8,000,000 people.” (Source: James W. Loewen, Lies My Teacher Told Me). Benjamin Keen wrote, “thanks to the sinister Indian slave trade and labor policies initiated by Columbus, only some 12,000 remained,” (Source: Benjamin Keen, “Black Legend,” in The Christopher Columbus Encyclopedia) and Las Casas states that fewer than 200 “Indians” were alive in 1542 and that by 1555, they were all gone.4
It makes sense why Trump said what he did in his proclamation, “These extremists seek to replace discussion of his vast contributions with talk of failings, his discoveries with atrocities, and his achievements with transgressions.” Because Donald Trump is a man who desperately wants to go down in history as a great man, a brilliant man, and a savior of America.
Donald Trump wants us to talk of Columbus’s “achievements,” “contributions,” and “discoveries,” and ignore his “failings,” “atrocities,” and “transgressions.” This is foreshadowing.
Donald Trump is afraid that history will judge him for his countless failures, transgressions, and atrocities. THAT is why Trump wants Americans to ignore the genocide, rape, scheming, kidnapping, and slavery committed and condoned by Columbus.
He wants us to ignore his own tear gassing of peaceful protesters for an abomination of a photo op.
He wants us to ignore his gross ineptitude, lies, cover ups, and lack of leadership which directly lead to the deaths of over 210,000 Americans from Covid-19 (as of the time of this writing).
He wants us to ignore his policy of separating desperate refugee families and locking children in cages.
He wants us to ignore that he sent unidentified troops into American cities to kidnap protesters.
He wants us to ignore his repeated defense of white supremacists and his inexcusable support of racism.
He wants us to ignore his admiration and imitation of the world’s vile dictators.
Donald Trump does not want history to show him for what he is: An embarrassing stain on the tapestry of American history.
“The integrity of men is to be measured by their conduct, not by their professions.” – Junius