The issue of our history with the various American Indian tribes is certainly one that is still a present issue today. So often, as I've commented before, the subject is brought up by those on the left -- and even some on the right -- in criticizing our policies on immigration or our relationships with nonwhites in general. There is always a kind of presumption of White guilt, just as with slavery, when the treatment of Indians is discussed.
The usual accusation, or more accurately, pronouncement of guilt, is that our ancestors 'committed genocide' against Indians, that we 'stole' the Indians' lands or obtained it through a combination of trickery and brutality. People who make these accusations usually cite some wild statistic as to how many Indians lived on this continent before our European ancestors arrived, and claim that there were 20 million or 50 million or even more. John S. Bolton addresses this question on his Open City blog.
A Revealing Feature Of Official Anti-Caucasianism...
is the gross exaggerration of aboriginal populations' size in pre-contact times. One million indians in the conterminous U.S., are said by suborned scholars to have been 10 million. Several milllion Mexican indians are said to have been tens of millions before Cortez.
[...] These lies are told, by those who know that they are lying, to promote and support official anti-caucasianism. The message they hope to put over, is that whites are genetically predisposed to exterminate other populations.''
I agree with JSB; I think these wild claims are made by those who know that we have no reliable and definitive numbers of aboriginal inhabitants of this continent. Therefore people cite numbers that they seem to be pulling out of a hat, with no corroboration. Again, it's for the reason cited: to make the case that Whites are 'genocidal' and a dangerous race.
It's always best to go back to the original documents, written by people of the time, rather than relying on the modern writings, which are always the past as seen through the prism of today's prejudices. Each generation has some blind spot; we are never bias-free, but our age seems much more ideology-bound and less devoted to truth than most past generations. It would be good if 21st century Americans went to primary sources more and tried to understand events through the eyes of those who were actually there during the past eras in question, rather than relying on our distorted modern accounts written by multiculturalist/postmodernist academics and ignorant journalists or even worse, Hollywood movies. Unfortunately today most Americans derive much of their 'history' from Hollywood interpretations. So much the worse for truth and accuracy.
The writings of the early colonists and the succeeding generations of early Americans show a range of opinions and statements about Indians. For example, it seems that some of the Virginians expressed the most 'liberal' opinions of Indians. Some were not averse to intermarrying with the Indians. We all know the story of John Rolfe and Pocahontas, who did of course marry. Their progeny were assimilated among the Virginia colonists.
Virginian William Byrd, writing in the early 18th century, seemed to favor blending with the Indian inhabitants of Virginia. He said:
"The Indians are generally tall and well-proportion'd, which may make full amends for the Darkness of their Complexions. Add to this, that they are healthy & Strong, with Constitutions untainted by Lewdness, and not enfeebled by Luxury. Besides, Morals and all considered, I can't think the Indians were much greater Heathens than the first Adventurers [the Jamestown colonists], who, had they been good Christians, would have had the charity to take this only method of converting the Natives to Christianity. [...]Besides, the poor Indians would have had less reason to Complain that the English took away their land, if they had received it by way of portion with their Daughters. Had such affinities been contracted in the Beginning, how much Bloodshed had been prevented, and how populous the country would have been, and consequently, how considerable? Nor would the shade of the skin have been any reproach at this day; for if a Moor may be washt white in 3 Generations, Surely an Indian might have been blancht in two.
[...]Had the English done this at the first Settlement of the Colony, the Infidelity of the Indians had been worn out at this Day, with their Dark Complexions, and the Country had swarm'd with People more than it does with Insects.
It was certainly an unreasonable Nicety, that prevented their entering into so good-Natur'd an Alliance. All Nations of men have the same Natural Dignity, and we all know that very bright Talents may be lodg'd under a very dark Skin. The principal Difference between one People and another proceeds only from the Different Opportunities of Improvement."
Benjamin Franklin, the Northerner, had more restrictive ideas about admixture of races, and stated his partiality to the 'complexion' of his own kind, and further, asserted that such a preference was natural.
Thomas Jefferson, while expressing a belief in racial separation, made an exception for Indians, along the same lines as Byrd did.
In truth, the ultimate point of rest and happiness for them is to let our settlements and theirs [the Indians] meet and mix together, to intermix, and become one people. Incorporating themselves with us as citizens of the United States, this is what the natural progress of things will, of course, bring on, and it will be better to promote than retard it. Surely it will be better for them to be identified with us, and preserved in the occupation of their lands, than be exposed to the many casualities which may endanger them while a separate people”
“They [the Indians] would have mixed their blood with ours, and been amalgamated and identified with us within no distant period of time.”
The Puritan settlers showed, at first, a willingness to try to befriend and live alongside the Indians, but after attacks by Indians, became less open towards them, though still trying to evangelize the Indians and 'civilize' them. I've read many accounts of those times in New England in the course of doing genealogical research on my Massachusetts Puritan forebears. My impression is that the Puritans were not 'genocidal' towards the Indians, but hoped to save their souls and to show them a better mode of life. No doubt by our 21st century standards, that smacks of 'paternalism', condescension, and let's not forget 'racism' but that was how they saw things. The Puritans in general did not seem, at least in their earlier contacts with Indians, to be in favor of amalgamation and intermarriage. My impression from reading many of the written records is that the races stayed apart, for the most part. There were the 'praying Indians', the Christianized Indians with whom they had amicable relations, but I've found little evidence of intermarriage.
The Dutch, too, seem to have had a rather less than flattering impression of the Indians they encountered and evangelized. I can hardly imagine a missionary of today making statements like those made by Jonas Michaelius, a Dutch minister who evangelized the Indians. He wrote, in 1628:
As to the natives of this country, I find them entirely savage and wild, strangers to all decency, yea, uncivil and stupid as garden stakes, proficient in all wickedness and ungodliness, devilish men who serve nobody but the devil, that is, the spirit which in their language they call Menetto [Manitou], under which title they comprehend everything that is subtle and crafty and beyond human skill and power. They have so much divination, witchcraft, divination, sorcery, and wicked arts that they can hardly be held in by any bands or locks. They are as thievish and treacherous as they are tall, and in cruelty they are altogether inhuman, more than barbarous, far exceeding the Africans.
How these people can best be led to the true knowledge of God and of the Mediator Christ is hard to say. I cannot myself wonder enough who it is that has imposed so much upon Your Reverence and many others in the fatherland concerning the docility of this people and their good nature, the proper principia religionis and vestigia legis naturae which are said to be among them, in whom I have as yet been able to discover hardly a single good point, except that they do not speak so jeeringly and so scoffingly of the godlike and glorious majesty of their Creator as the Africans dare to do. But it may be because they have not such a certain knowledge of Him, not under the name of Menetto, whom they know and serve, for that would be blasphemy...Now, by what means are we to prepare this people for salvation?''
Michaelius advocated a policy that was later carried out, and for which our government is still being condemned today: separating the children from their parents and trying to integrate them.
Shall we then leave the parents as they are, and begin with the children, who are still young. Let it be so. But they ought in youth to be separated from their parents, yea, from their whole nation. For, without this, they would forthwith be as much accustomed as their elders to the heathenish tricks and deviltries which of itself are kneaded in their hearts by nature by a just judgment of God, so that having once, by habit, obtained deep root, they would, with great difficulty be brought away from it.
[...]Nevertheless, we must proceed in this direction, although it would be attended with some expense, to obtain the children by means of presents and promises, with the gratitude and consent of the parents, in order to place them under the instruction of some experienced and godly schoolmaster, where they may be instructed not only to speak, read, and write in our language, but especially in the fundaments of our Christian religion, and where, besides, they will see nothing but good examples of virtuous living. But they must sometimes speak their native tongue among themselves in order not to forget it, as being evidently a principal means of spreading the knowledge of religion through the whole nation...Perchance God may finally have mercy upon them, that the fullness of the heathen may be gradually brought in, and the salvation of our God may be here also seen among these wild and savage men.''
Benjamin Franklin, while not quite so critical of Indians, doubted the practicality of 'educating' them. He did say, though, that
''...securing the friendship of the Indians is of the greatest consequence to these colonies; and that the surest means of doing it are to regulate the Indian trade..."
In 'On the Futility of Educating the Indians', Franklin remarked on how when the Indians agreed to send some of their young men to be educated by the Puritan colonists, the Indians afterwards declined any offers to educate their young, saying that after having been schooled in the White man's ways, the young Indian men were good for nothing among their own people.
The proposition they looked on, however, as a mark of kindess and goodwill of the English to the Indian nations, which merited a grateful return, and therefore, if the English gentlemen would send a dozen or two of their children to Onondago, the Great Council would take care of their education, bring them up in what was really the best manner, and make men of them."
I have to wonder if the statement of the Indians is not wry Indian humor or irony.
And I've wondered why there were such contradictory impressions of the Indians. Why did they seem hopelessly alien to some White observers and compatible enough to mingle with according to others?
One reason might be that the tribes of Indians were not all the same; they were not all cut from the same cloth. A popular misconception of liberals and others is that there was some homogeneous, monolithic people called 'Indians' or 'Native Americans' in PC-speak, when in fact there were thousands of scattered, disunited tribes, with widely differing customs, standards, and mores. Some were in fact more amicable and able to accommodate to the White colonists, while some were less so. Some were more pacific by nature and others quite warlike and savage.
Liberals suffer from the delusion that there was some kind of coast-to-coast Indian people with a coherent 'nation' living on this continent. Even in terms of appearance and physical characteristics, there was a great deal of variety.
The most often-cited slur against the colonists and settlers was that they set out to eradicate the Indians, or in modern PC jargon, to 'commit genocide' against the Indians. The canard about how the colonists gave the Indians smallpox-infested blankets with the intent to kill them all is apparently based on the proposal by Lord Jeffrey Amherst in a letter or series of letters. It was not a general policy or plot, as is usually asserted by the left and the Politically Correct parrots.
In fairness, we should consider the context of some of these actions against the Indians, Pontiac's Uprising, specifically, in this context.
The situation was ultimately 'them or us'; both peoples could not possess this continent and the two sides could not coexist peacefully, it seemed, until the Indians were completely subdued.
History is the ongoing story of conflicts between groups of people, and disputes over territory. The Indian-colonist conflict is one of many such conflicts. It simply makes no sense to single out European settlers for their 'crimes' against the Indians. Only Europeans seem to suffer guilt pangs over having prevailed against weaker or more disorganized peoples. And this guilt is having devastating effects on us and potentially on our progeny. We either deal with this out-of-control guilt or we become a vanishing people. And our supplanters, who claim ownership of this land based on their 'indigenous' blood, won't be generous enough to allow us to have our own lands on which to carry on our way of life.
Even if they did, we couldn't live that way. For us, it's live free or die, and those who would do otherwise will simply disappear into the 'Aztlan' gene pool or the big blender, and lose all memory of their origins. Those who can't bear the burden of our history will choose oblivion.