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Friday, December 02, 2011

"Behold, my friends, the spring is come"

While at a thrift shop in Wisconsin not so long ago, I picked up a book called "Great Speeches by Native Americans," figuring it would make decent bathroom reading. You know, lots of stuff a page or two long, no complicated arguments, no plot. It's turned out to be quite interesting, though. \ Also, infuriating. I never really knew much about the Native Americans until I started reading Derrick Jensen, who talks quite frequently about how so many tribes managed to live in more or less the same places for thousands and tens of thousands of years without depleting them. Somehow my high school textbooks managed to omit this stuff, in addition to most of the stuff about how westward-bound settlers and the Army that cleared the way for and protected them deceived, pillaged, killed, etc, in order to expand. Maybe it was in there, but not much? Or maybe not much attention was given to it? Or maybe I just wasn't ready to hear it? Not sure, but I think that if more students were exposed to the words of the conquered and vanishing Indians, and encouraged to think about them and look for modern parallels, we might become a more humble, considerate, content country.

So, here's an especially striking speech from Sitting Bull, chief of the Hunkpapa Sioux, from around 1875:

"Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has glady received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love! Every seed is awakened, and all animal life. It is through this mysterious power that we too have our being, and we therefore yield to our neighbors, even to our animal neighbors, the same right as ourselves to inhabit this vast land.

"Yet hear me, friends! we have now to deal with another people, small and feeble when our forefathers first met with them, but now great and overbearing. Strangely enough, they have a mind to till the soil, and the love of possessions is a disease in them. These people have made many rules that the rich may break, but the poor may not!  They have a religion in which the poor worship, but the rich will not!  They even take tithes of the poor and weak to support the rich and those who rule. They claim this mother of ours, the Earth, for their own use, and fence their neighbors away from her, and deface her with their buildings and their refuse. They compel her to produce out of season, and when sterile she is made to take medicine in order to produce again. All this is sacrilege.

"This nation is like a spring freshet; it overruns its banks and destroys all who are in its path. We cannot dwell side by side. Only seven years ago we made a treaty by which we were assured that the buffalo country should be left to us forever. Now they threated to take that from us also. My brothers, shall we submit? or shall we say to them: "First kill me,before you can take possession of my fatherland!"

This one in particular struck me as relevant because of the clear connections to Occupy Wall Street. I also recently downloaded a movie called "Nonpossession," about the life and thought of Venerable Beob-seong, a Korean monk whose obituary I wrote about here. I'm thinking of doing the subtitling myself and showing it downtown this month or next. 


Dave said...

I was gearing up to make an Occupy joke and then got to your last paragraph.

Powerful stuff.

Mike said...

Lends a little credence to one of Jensen's premises in Endgame:

"From the beginning, this culture - civilization - has been a culture of occupation."

Also happens that I'm currently reading Kinzner's "Overthrow." Big confluence of lots of not-so-pretty truths.

SandfordWrites said...

I'm reading very overlapping stuff from an anthropological point of view from Jared Diamond.

Agriculture has been war on hunter-gatherer people. Despite civilizations best efforts of placing them on the worst real estate many remain strong like the Massai Warriors or the Kalahari Bushman.

But the Native Americans were effectively neutralized from being hunter gatherers. American policy to kill the Buffalo is a famous example of "Indian Policy," to break the society of nomadic plains Indians.

They were Native American farmers in the river valleys and many grew a few crops but they lived close to the land and survived in the ecosystem.

Native American farmers like the Pima Indians who were impressively healthy in the begining of the 19th century and by the beginning of the 20th century were overweight, because they were pushed into places with poor land and then given nutritionally poor cofee and bread for a diet.

We destroyed their food supply, and then made them fatm. Bad guests we were.

Those poor occupy people being pepper sprayed our being laughed at by stupid people. I understand how easy it is to make occupy wallstreet jokes because thats the cool thing to do. Making a joke is a method of sepparate a person from the people the joke is on. However, I really doubt that all these people making jokes are all employed, happy and wealthy.

SandfordWrites said...

Indian Policies of Some Favorite Americans which justify genocidal actions in self-righteousness and envoking of their divine right, with the exception of Washington who only talks about how to destroy them.

President George Washington:
"The immediate objectives are the total destruction of their settlements. It will be essential to ruin their crops in the ground and prevent their planting more."

President Thomas Jefferson. "This unfortunate race, whom we had been taking so much pains to save and to civilize, have by their unexpected desertion and ferocious barbarities justified extermination and now await our decision ontheir fate."

President John Quincy Adams. "What is the right of the huntsman to the forest of a thousand miles over which he has accidentally ranged in quest of prey?"

President James Monroe: "The hunter or savage state requires a greater extent of territory to sustain it, than is compatible with the progress and just claims of civilized life... and must yield to it.

President Andrew Jackson. "They have neither the intelligence, the industry, the moral habits, nor the desire of improvement which are essential to any favorable change in their condition. Established in the midst of another and a superior race, and without appreciating the causes of their inferiority or seeking to control them, they must necessarily yield to the force of circumstances and ere long disapear."

Chief Justice Johne Marshall. "The tribes of Indian inhabiting this country were savages, whose occupation was war, and whose subsistance was drawn from the forest... That law which regulates, and ought to regulate in general, the relations between the conqueror and conquered was incapable of application to a people under such circumstances. Discovery gave exclusive right to extinguish the Indian title of occupancy, either by purchase or by conquest."

President William Henry Harrison: "Is one of the fairest portions of the globe to remain in the state of nature, the haunt of a few wretched savages, when it seems destined by the Creator to give support to a large population and to be the seat of civilization?"

President Theodore Roosevelt: The settler and pioneer have at bottom had justice on their side; this great continent could not have been kept as nothing but a game preserve for squalid savages."

General Philip Sheridan. "The only good Indians I ever saw were dead."

Sunny (Adaptisaurus Sunny) said...

Thank you for sharing great quotes from the book that you are reading. I would like to read it for myself. And again, I can't help making another trip to Daegu to watch a movie, 'Nonpossession'. PEACE.