May 09, 2011

Slaughtering buffalo = genocide

Genocide by Other Means:  U.S. Army Slaughtered Buffalo in Plains Indian Wars

By Adrian JawortGeneral William Tecumseh Sherman, who had broken the back of the South during the Civil War with his ruthless March to the Sea, helped negotiate the Fort Laramie and 1867 Medicine Lodge treaties that were supposed to end U.S. hostilities with northern and southern tribes. But that’s when officers started thinking about a new strategy. Sherman knew that during the Civil War the Confederates’ means and will to fight were extinguished by his brutal—and brutally effective—”scorched earth” policy that decimated the infrastructure of the South. Why couldn’t the same strategy be applied to Indians and their buffalo? Greymorning said, “The government realized that as long as this food source was there, as long as this key cultural element was there, it would have difficulty getting Indians onto reservations.”

Isenberg said, “Some Army officers in the Great Plains in the late 1860s and 1870s, including William Sherman and Richard Dodge, as well as the Secretary of the Interior in the 1870s, Columbus Delano, foresaw that if the bison were extinct, the Indians in the Great Plains would have to surrender to the reservation system.” Colonel Dodge said in 1867, “Every buffalo dead is an Indian gone,” and Delano wrote in his 1872 annual report, “The rapid disappearance of game from the former hunting-grounds must operate largely in favor of our efforts to confine the Indians to smaller areas, and compel them to abandon their nomadic customs.”

“As a policy statement, I think that’s pretty clear,” Isenberg said. The Army had already used a similar strategy—In its 1863-1864 campaign against the Navajos, led by Colonel Kit Carson, the Army destroyed tens of thousands of sheep in a successful effort to subdue the Navajos.

There was one tactical flaw with this strategy: too many buffalo. But while it wasn’t feasible for the U.S. Army to kill tens of millions of bison, it was feasible for the Army to let hunters use their forts as bases of operation and stand by as they slaughtered the animals in staggering numbers. Another key strategy here was that the Army made no effort to enforce all those treaty obligations forbidding whites to hunt on Indian lands. Whites could needlessly kill a bison for “sport” but when an Indian killed cattle for food for his family because of the growing scarcity of bison, he was severely reprimanded.
Comment:  Starving people into submission--letting them die of hunger and its associated illnesses--is an example of genocidal behavior. The US was trying to wipe out the Indians and their way of life. If any survived to be herded into concentration camps, that was acceptable. But it was acceptable for them to disappear and die too.

Hence we say that America's policies were genocidal even if no document stated a goal of eliminating the Indians. This goal was implicit, not explicit.

For more on the genocide against Indians, see The South American Genocide and Reagan Aided Atrocities Against Indians.

Below:  "A pile of hides in Dodge City, Kansas, ready to be shipped back to the East Coast."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yeah, in Texas, they still say the Indians killed all the buffalo. And Texas buys most of the textbooks, so Texas gets to decide what goes in them.