The Damaging Three Words of the Declaration of Independence
By Alison Owings
"... the merciless Indian Savages."
Say what? From the elegantly-quotable Jefferson? Yes. "... the merciless Indian Savages, whose known Rule of Warfare, is an undistinguished Destruction, of all Ages, Sexes and Conditions."
While Native Americans celebrate this 4th of July weekend, probably with hotdogs and fireworks, and possibly a powwow (as far as I know, the day has not attained the level of dislike or dismissal in Indian country that there is towards Columbus Day), I wonder whether we might all read the Declaration of Independence out loud, consider what that three word phrase wrought, not to mention the words about "undistinguished Destruction." Destruction of who by whom? Native people, among others, may ask.
Pretty innocuous stuff, you might say. The Founding Fathers had a problem with Indians...so? Newspaper Rock readers see more inflammatory comments almost every day. And this appeared in the Huffington Post, that bastion of the "liberal media."
According to Owings, here's what happened:
The Declaration of Independence, Jefferson’s “Merciless Indian Savages,” and Getting Flamed on Huffington Post
By Alison Owings
Of the many I did read, a majority were wagging finger-ish. “Didn’t I realize that the Declaration reflected thinking in the 18th century, not the 21st?” “Didn’t I know that the passage I quoted is part of a long list of grievances against King George III?” “Please be aware that Jefferson owned slaves…” To which I say, “Duh, duh, and duh.”
Some comments were shocking by perspective alone. Common themes: Look what Indians did to settlers, savagely and mercilessly, wrote several people. Jefferson was right! Or, “Jefferson was referring only to Indians in western settlements”—(“Nothing in that statement shows a belief that ALL Indians were merciless or even savage,” wrote nullcodes). Or, “Now Indians can go to college for free.” A person with the handle of jdjay comments, “There were some pretty evil tribes but focusing on the bad ones as being representative of the whole is obviously not an objectively Christian or spiritual approach.”
Here sunshine14 steps in: “Does not matter if their [sic] were evil tribes or good tribes, not our land was it, regardless?” This rankles Syllogizer. “You are ignoring the facts that even Tocqueville pointed out: the Indians did not even HAVE a concept of land ownership when the Europeans arrived. So no, the land was not ‘stolen’, since it wasn’t ‘owned’ in the first place.”
Oh, Lordy. That one drew a lot of heat.
Thankfully, a number of people, including many self-identified as Native, challenged the challengers, and the challengers’ challengers. One gentleman (as I think of him) took on a creep who wrote that my essay, meant for the 4th of July of all days, was “treasonous.” Eek.
As you can see, there's so much ignorance among Americans, even liberal ones. So much denial of America's genocidal past.
We could rebut all the anti-Indian arguments, but why bother? Sunshine14's point is the basic one to remember. Regardless of the details, Europeans invaded a foreign land and conquered its people. The Indians correctly assumed these attacks would destroy their way of life and fought back in self-defense.
For more on our genocidal history, see US Condemned Indians to Diabetes and Scalia Demands Written Policies.