February 02, 2009

LBJ slighted Indians too

Tim Giago:  Native people out of sight, out of mindWhen President Lyndon B. Johnson was about to sign the Immigration and Nationality Act on Oct. 3, 1965, he chose to do it at the foot of the Statue of Liberty. That day he said, “Our beautiful America was built by a nation of strangers. From a hundred different places or more they poured forth into an empty land, joining and blending in one mighty and irresistible tide.”

Built by a nation of strangers? An empty land? Joining and blending? Every Native American worth his or her salt would bridle at those words of such monumental ignorance and for those paltry words to be spoken by the President of the United States makes it overwhelmingly appalling. Johnson was probably parroting the opinions of the majority of Americans about America’s indigenous people: out of sight, out of mind, out of consideration. What in the hell are Native Americans: chopped liver?

Every human being that landed on the shores of America was an immigrant. They came to this land from Europe bringing along their baggage filled with religious strife and racial prejudice. They discovered that this was not an empty land, but a land filled with thousands upon thousands of industrious and spiritual people. They took from the Natives their industriousness in order to survive and crushed the spiritual because it was not only beyond their comprehension, but a challenge to the teachings of their Holy Bible.

The immigrants certainly did no “joining and blending” after their initial contact with the Natives. Instead armed with guns and the diseases that nearly decimated a race of people, they set out in the name of Manifest Destiny to take by hook, crook and force the lands they deemed to have been willed to them by their Almighty God.

The “joining and blending” was totally one-sided. The Natives either joined or blended or they were obliterated. The “irresistible tide” flowed from east to west until it reached the shores of California and every human being in its path either joined the flow or was drowned in its inexorable journey.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see "Settling the West" in the Inaugural Address.


Anonymous said...

As much as I normally enjoy reading Giago; I think it's a bit of a biased generalization to claim that all settlers were guilty of genocide. However I do believe that the US government deserves nothing but scorn for the genocide of Indians however especially considering that they were still sterializing them in the 20th century. It's also biased to leave out such 'incidents' as the Jamestown massacre and the role of Indians (ie the Mohegan) in the Pequot genocide. Also while it's true the English weren't escaping religious persecution, the Scots-Irish (just one example) were fleeing oppression and some of the worst conditions imaginable. That said errr typed ;) I still respect Giago; certainly more then means and all the other AIM attention whores.

dmarks said...

How much are the settlers to blame for the genocide?

In the chapter "The Reservation", in Everyday Life of the North American Indian by Jon Manchip White, the author summarizes the plight of Native Americans in the United States, mostly during the 19th century.

He says, "From the outset, it was the settler that did the most damage. Always the key factor was the pressure the people on the frontier could bring to bear on the central authorities. They had newspapers [see Blue Corn Comics' L. Frank Baum page for an example of this], they had their own rascally and fanatical politicians, and above all they had votes...... The government, while it usually professed humane sentiments, and on a few occasions acting on them, was too weak and cowardly to withstand the clamour of such a vocal group"

Examples of settlers on the leading edge of this human-rights catastrophe were the sooners in different places who settled Indian lands even against the wishes and law of the United States government, and the ones who pushed for the removal of the Cherokee and others in the East.

Anonymous said...

I didn't claim that they all had clean hands; however to suggest that they were all guilty of genocide is absurd. The US government on the other hand deserves such scorn.

Rob said...

For my response, Anonymous, see Blame Government, Not Settlers?

kalisetsi said...

Well, that picture of LBJ pretty much proves my theory that crossing NDNs causes you to get hit with "the ugly stick". (To quote Reese Witherspoon in "Freeway", one of the greatest films of all time). Other cases in point, Andrew Jackson, Lincoln, etc..... Or maybe it's the other way around. Maybe they were spiteful BECAUSE of how they looked.....regardless, horrible picture. Obama's a prettier one; hope that bodes well.