March 14, 2007

Anne Frank visits New Mexico

Anne Frank and the reservation"The Anne Frank exhibit will help connect the tragic events at Fort Sumner to the larger context of human rights abuses that have taken place across the globe," said Mary Ann Cortese, president of the Friends of Bosque Redondo. While in some ways historic--Bosque Redondo is quite possibly the first Native American memory site to host an exhibition connected to the Holocaust--the joining of Native American and Jewish narratives is not entirely new. In recent decades, Native American scholars and spokesmen have often adopted the language of genocide, in some cases even the word "holocaust," in describing the Native American experience.

Bosque Redondo's Anne Frank exhibition sheds light not only on another battle in the "memory wars," but the long and complicated history of Jewish-Native American interaction in the Southwest, a tale that stretches back to the arrival of Spanish (and converso) settlers in the 16th and 17th centuries and continues today in the small but vibrant Jewish communities of Albuquerque and Santa Fe.


Rob said...

I haven't seen any hard evidence that Hitler modeled the Holocaust on America's genocidal policies, so I look forward to those documents. I hope you'll do something with them once you get them.

Blair said...

The pre-Columbain population debate has ideological underpinnings with estimates ranging from as low as 8.4 million for all the Americas to a high of 112.5 million for all the Americas.The Native American population of the area north of Mexico in pre-Columbian times is conservatively estimated to have been about 1.8 million, with some authorities believing the population to have been as large as 10 million. This, of course, includes Alaska as well as Canada and the United States. However anthropologists believe the Native American population peaked occurred around AD 1200 when the Hopewell culture (the mound builder’s corn chiefdoms) collapsed. (European population experienced similar periods of population increases and decreases. Archaeological evidence indicates that disease was increasing in the Native American population in many regions before the arrival of the Europeans, probably in response to problems of population density, diet, and sanitation.

But lets assume the high estimate of 10 million is correct. According to one study based on casualty estimates of engagements that occurred between 1511 and 1890, Native Americans killed about 9,156 whites while whites killed about 7,193 Native Americans. The 7,193 deaths would have amounted to 0.0007 percent of the Native American population over a period of about 350 years.

These are not genocidal figures.

Since casualty figure do not support charges of genocide, activist assert Europeans intentional wage a campaign of biolgical genocide against the Native American population by intentionally infected them with smallpox. No mainstream historian accepts this allegation. Smallpox was a global contagion that originated in Africa and killed untold millions around the world. It decimated Europeans colonies in the Americas as well as Native American villages. All the smallpox blankets myths but one have been throughly debunk. Still at issue is whether or not British soldiers gave two smallpox-infected blankest to a tribe in the northeast. Two small-pox infected blankes would have had virtually no impact on the spread of a disease as virulent as the smallpox virus, which infects most people through inhalation. The pandemic that did the most damage spread north for the Valley of Mexico along trade routes to Pueblo villages along the Rio Grande in New Mexico. Plains Indians who traded with the Pueblo tribes took the virus home with them. For the plains, it spread west over the Rockies and east across the Mississippi. Most Native Americans who died of smallpox probably never encountered a European.

The notion that the Nazi patterned their death camps after American Indian reservations is absurd. The reservation system put an end to inter-tribal warfare, which was bloodier than wars between Native Americans and Europeans, and provided better shelter, food and medicines. On the reservation, the Native American population quickly rebounded, growing from less than a million in 1890 to six million by 2000. The Jewish population of Nazi death camps didn't grow, it shrank very rapidly.