April 10, 2007

"Devious and conniving" Jefferson

Lost historyThomas Jefferson was one of the United States’ biggest promoters of the Doctrine of Discovery, Miller said. “He was a devious and conniving character. He was the originator of the Indian Removal Act. We blame Andrew Jackson.” But it was Jefferson who deemed Indians “the wild beasts of the forests” and proclaimed that “we will drive them to the Rocky Mountains.”

Jefferson applied Doctrine of Discovery principles, which allowed explorers to claim land by simply spotting it or by planting a flag in the ground to stake ownership, even if indigenous people lived on it. The Oregon law professor said he would exercise discovery principles while in Montana.

“I’m coming to your house this afternoon and I’m planting my flag,” he told his law school audience. “You’ll probably call the cops or shoot me.”

How did Natives react when they didn’t agree to sign a land-cession treaty?

“Indians fought,” Miller said.

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