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The Bigoted Relationship:
Transcript of The Bigoted Relationship:
The True History of White European Thought & Policy In America
*While European fisherman had established contact centuries beforehand, Christopher Columbus is generally regarded as having created the first lasting relationship between Europeans and North Americans.
The New Europe
*Not long after Columbus made his voyage for the Spanish all of the European powers were looking to stake a claim in the "New World."
*While the American people do have a very proud history, there is a great history of violence and cultural repression by European leaders and legislators against native peoples in North America.
*This presentation details the reasoning behind the divide between Europeans and the native peoples of America, while at the same time showing the history of the ever present conflict.
Over The Course of Time
*Ever since initial contact with Native Americans was made by Europeans the relationship between the two groups has been that of oppressor and oppressed. Europeans long believing themselves superior to the Native American peoples.
*Columbus was a Spanish explorer who was looking for a new route to Asia. When he found North America instead he exploited the native populations he encountered. His troops murdered children, raped women and took native inhabitants back to Europe as slaves and trophies.
*Columbus's treatment of native peoples would characterize how European settlers in North America would treat the populations they encountered. The new lands were seen as a valuable resource, the people on them as "Noble Savages" a pest needing to be removed.
*Spain, France, and England emerged to be the top competitors for land on the North American continent.
*The English primarily controlled the Eastern coast. France had laid claim to the land West of the English territories, as well as in Canada. Spain controlled what is today Florida, and the Western United States down into Mexico.
*All of the European colonial powers were guilty of mistreating the Native populations of North America. The Spanish were known for cutting off limbs, the French were also known for the practice. English settlers in the East were constantly fighting back and forth with their neighbors such as the Iroquois and the Huron.
*Once the British were in control of the continent rifts began to develop between colonial Americans and native British back in England. Nationalism developed in the British colonies and in 1775 war broke out between the American colonies and Britain at the battle of Lexington-Concord.
*Although the United States of America officially declared independence from Britain in 1776 the goal would not be fully achieved until after the War of 1812 finally came to an end in 1815. Many of the Native American tribes sided with the British during the Revolution and the War of 1812. Natives thought that it was in their best interest to fight for the British since they were trying to stop Americans from expanding further West. When the Americans finally defeated the British in 1815 they took revenge on the Natives for going against them in the past.
*Although all three of the European powers made great efforts to control North America, it would be the British that would emerge victorious after the 7 Years War. Fought between 1754-1763 in the Ohio River Valley, the British defeated the French and their Spanish allies.
A Policy of Removal
After the War of 1812 Americans lost any concern they may have had for the Natives. Andrew Jackson was a General in the War of 1812 who would become President and lead the US against the Native peoples of the continent
In 1830 the United States passed the Indian Removal Act. This act forcibly took the land of several Indian groups such as the Cherokee, Choctaw and the Creek.
In 1832 the United States Supreme Court ruled the Indian Removal Act to be unconstitutional and said that the Indians had protection under the law.
Jackson ignored the Supreme Court and thousands of Indians were marched out of the Southeastern United States to designated areas West of the Mississippi River. The forced march would become known to Native Americans as the Trail of Tears.
Advancement with Science
Although the United States Government had been instituting repressive and cruel policies against Native Americans for a long time, until just after the Jackson Administration it was based purely on self-conjured ideology. Nobody had proposed any real scientific evidence to show that Native Americans were inferior until Samuel George Morton.
Morton was an 19th century anatomy professor who developed the theory of "Polygenesis" which stated that God had created each of the different races separately at different times. Morton argued that racial superiority could be determined by brain mass.
Morton was the first American in the scientific community to gain popularity for claiming that there was scientific reasoning behind American legislative policy towards Native Americans.
It's all in Your Head
Morton argued that cranial capacity was varied between the different races of Anglo-Europeans, Africans and Native Americans. He believed that whichever race had the highest brain mass was the most superior.
Morton collected hundreds of skulls from around the world. He determined that Europeans had the largest brain mass with 87 cubic inches.
Morton also concluded that blacks and Native Americans had a brain mass closer to 80 cubic inches. Morton was highly regarded in the scientific community and his claims were taken seriously.
Back A Winner
Morton's theories gave credence to racist sentiments that Europeans felt towards Native Americans in the United States. He reinforced ideologies that suggested that whites held a superiority over Native Americans and other colored peoples.
After his death in 1851 Morton was held in the highest regard among not only the American scientific community but the greater political community as well. Americans were happy to believe that their efforts to conquer the West and snuff out the Indians were supported by science.
"God, not the environment, had shaped the Indians skull He who has seen one tribe of indians has seen them all." -Samuel George Morton
Results of the Racism
Now having the backing of the scientific community there was nothing stopping Westward expansion by Anglo-Europeans across North America. The fate of the continent was sealed when San Francisco became a strong city, establishing Anglo-European superiority from coast to coast.
The result was that Native peoples were forced onto smaller and smaller reservations. Some groups went completely extinct. In the 1840s cattle ranchers killed hundreds of remaining indians in California.
Ishi would become a famous example of Indian decline. He became well known in the 19th century as being the last member of his tribe.
Shift Towards Justice
Once Anglo-Europeans had conquered the continent there was less and less of a focus on Manifest Destiny and the extermination of the Native Americans. In the 20th century there was new legislation enacted that has begun to heal some of the damage that was done by hundreds of yeas of colonization.
One of the greatest injustices Native Americans have had to endure is the taking of their cultural artifacts and burial remains from grave sites. In the 19th century hundreds of freelance archeologists took millions of artifacts and Indian bones from burial sites all across the country.
In 1990 under the first Bush Administration, Congress passed the Native American Graves Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). The law requires that museums holding sacred artifacts and remains taken from grave excavations must be repatriated back to tribes who can give sufficient evidence for connectivity to the burial. NAGPRA has allowed dozens of tribes to reclaim artifacts taken by men like Samuel George Morton.
Looking To The Future
In the 21st century there is hope that the relationship between Native Americans and Anglo-Americans can be improved. Native Americans have been integrated into almost every level of American society. Native Americans participate in both the private sector as well as with the Federal Government.
Native Americans served with distinction in the US Armed Forces. Ira Hayes of the Arizona Hopi tribe was one of iconic flag raisers at Iwo Jima in February of 1945.
Although Native Americans can never be paid back for their immoral treatment at the hands of European colonizers, today both Native Americans and Anglo-Americans are able to live in the same societies and work towards the same goals. Perhaps one day the Western reservations will be abolished and all Americans will live together under one single banner and flag.
What To Keep In Mind
If there is anything that the troubled history of relations between Anglo-Americans and Native Americans tells us, it is that we must be respectful of other cultures. We must understand that people may value things differently than we do. We must not be so high and mighty as to assume a superiority over others.
If we're not careful we can destroy different cultures and ideologies simply because it is not how we would go about things. We need to allow all peoples of all lifestyles to live together peacefully. Only without oppression will we achieve the stable societies we have always wanted.