The events which changed all of this began--on a worldwide scale, at least--in 1492. What happened is so terrible, so massive, so traumatic, that humankind the world over has still not come to be appropriately conscious of it (although all societies have been affected by it). There is now, however, a word for the thing. The word is ethnocide, meaning the extermination of entire nations or communities. This is what it looked like: beginning in Western Europe, from the mid-1300s (and on through to the mid-1600s) people were becoming accustomed' to mass-death on an unprecedented scale. Disease, in the form of the Black Plague, famine caused by widespread crop failures, and bloody warfare involving civilian populations--most notably the Hundred Years' and the Thirty Years' wars--carried off scores of millions.
By the mid-1400s, the greatest political powers of Europe--Spain and the Roman Universal Church --were ready to export mass-death to the world as a whole. The lesser powers, Portugal, England, France, were willing to go along.
As a result of this readiness and willingness, in the Western Hemisphere, at the hands of the Spanish, by the sword, by the crossbow, by the lance, by the fire of the cannon and the arquebus, and by the plagues (the Spaniards understood how to use disease as an agent of warfare), from 1492 to 1650, over 90,000,000 human beings were slaughtered. And in Africa--in the cause of the slave trade, between the mid 1400s and early 1800s--some scholars have contended that at least 60,000,000 died. When the newly-developed Modern-style societies of Western Europe turned their attention toward Asia, a similar death-toll resulted.
The massively negative psychological effect of all of this murder upon individuals and entire societies of the Ancient world order should not be difficult to imagine. It, and the concept of "race" which began to be used at this time were enough to establish (just as Hitler realized hundreds of years later) "an entirely new and anti-historic order." By the time the slave trade of Africa had ceased, for example, there were no longer any "White" tribesmen to be found among the "Black" tribes. Yet it is known that such "White" tribesmen existed, because Portuguese slavers in the 1400s recorded their existence.
The origins of the great terror, ethnocide, probably lie in the growth of the Roman Empire. Rome's was a perverse society which took delight in the spectacle of people (some were slaves, some were prisoners, such as Christians, some were simply crazy volunteers) fighting to the death against each other and against animals--often in great numbers--in gladiatorial contests' as a form of mass public entertainment.
In warfare, Rome was the first power to consistently destroy entire nations--the first such power, at least, to stand undefeated for hundreds of years. It held military superiority by virtue of its obsession with practical engineering, and its ability to organize its citizens into huge armies with a discipline akin to that of army ants.
The Carthaginians never recovered from their final defeat by Rome. The tribal nations of Western Europe (principally the Gauls) were destroyed forever by Rome: about 2,000,000 persons were annihilated during Julius Caesar's conquest of the region. At the same time, enormous tracts of forest were cleared (never to recover), and the European bison was exterminated in the area.
To be brief, Roman society was motivated by greed and jealousy, and a desire to monopolize or control as much trade and as many resources as possible. To make matters worse, Romans were bloodthirsty, non-spiritual, and bored. After the so-called "collapse" of Rome, the principal elements of Roman lifestyle (including the engineering and military ones) were maintained, idealized, and further developed within the social framework established throughout Europe by the Christian church known as Roman. This incubation led rather directly to the development of the first Modern nation-state--Spain of the 16th century.
Spain possessed even greater resource-control and trade monopoly desires than Rome. And Spanish military technology (and that of the nations of Europe generally) was even more ruthlessly overpowering than that of the Romans. Yet like the Romans, the Spanish (and the world-conquering powers which followed, especially Great Britain and the United States of America) were for some reason obsessed with the need for having a "legal" excuse for going to War with other nations. Spain had to have an ideological "excuse" for its bloody actions. This is where Columbus, "Discovery," and "race" come in.
Columbus was an accomplished mathematician and geographer. He was also an accomplished liar.
Nearly all learned men in Western Europe during Columbus' time knew perfectly well that the earth is roughly spherical in shape. Most knew the earth's size, for among intellectuals of that time, Eratosthenes and his calculation were common knowledge. The St. Brendan voyage, The Vinland Sagas, and Adam of Bremen's Geography were all common knowledge as well.
Columbus, geographer and mathematician, is known by the account of his own son to have sailed to Iceland. That voyage doubtless provided him with enough astronomical information regarding the ascendancy of certain constellations (such as the Big Dipper) to enable him to recheck Eratsothenes figures.
Columbus had very close connections with the Roman Church, and the Vatican had been gathering information concerning the Western Hemisphere during the previous five hundred years from the Christian Vikings who were trading there. Columbus' connections in Rome would doubtless have even appraised him of the 1398 Sinclair voyage to Greenland and Nova Scotia.
Some scholars have argued that Columbus sailed to the Caribbean more than ten years before his "discovery" voyage, or that he had gone to Greenland and made inquiries about the flow of the Gulf Stream current.
Yet Columbus' claim for a round earth was that the earth was 1/5 smaller than its actual size. This is way off for a man who knew as much as he did. What was he doing?
He was preparing the way for a "Racial" concept to be used as an ideological justification for Spain (along with full Church approval) to undertake a bloody "Crusade" against the entire Western Hemisphere. He was preparing to pretend to "discover" new land, which, of course, would have "new" unclassified humans inhabiting it. They would have to be "dealt with" in order to get the riches of the land, but since they were to be classified as one "race," they could easily be handled with one policy, as a single "type." There would be no need to take their individual nations into account. They would all be "Indians."
They would be "Indians" because Columbus would pretend to be sailing to Taiwan (which was part of what was called the Indies in those days), and when he got to his destination in the Bahamas, he would pretend to be confused about where he was--not being sure it was the Indies, yet insisting that it had to be--thereby leaving the way open for others to realize' his mistake' and assert that he had found' "new" land. The Spanish Kings and the Church quickly did just that. And in honot of Columbus' mistake' they named the "new race" of humans he had "discovered"--what else?--"Indians!"
It was through Columbus' deliberately false estimate of the earth's size that his "discovery" was accomplished. With the estimate he used, he could pretend that 160° of Western Hemisphere longitude did not exist. This was enough to take all of North and South America off of the map so that when he struck land in the Western Hemisphere, the claim of having "discovered" something "new" could be made, once everybody realized that the land wasn't the Indies.
He pretended to believe that the westward sailing distance from the Canary Islands to the Bahamas was actually the distance to Taiwan.
But it is also a matter of record that Columbus conferred with Prince Henry of Portugal. On the eve of the "discovery" voyage, they discussed the route to South America, and the long-standing trade between Africa and the Western Hemisphere. So Columbus, to the day, struck land in the time he predicted he would, and precisely on the latitude where he had expected to.
What Columbus himself thought about his Enterprise is clear enough from his own remark:
"Over there I have placed under their Highnesses' sovereignty more land than there is in Africa and Europe, and more than 1,700 islands....Your Highnesses will win these lands, which are an Other World, and where Christianity will have so much enjoyment, and our faith in time so great an increase."
Following the establishment of Columbus' "discovery," it took scarcely seventy years for a Spanish ideology concerning the "Indian" "race" to become formalized as a defense of unmentionable Spanish atrocities being committed in the Western Hemisphere. Most useful about the "race" concept was the imperative for conversion which it carried (and still does carry). The new "Indian" "race" would have, of course, to be converted to Christianity, and in the end, to Modern social forms as well. Those who refused such conversion were taken to be rather backward, or even devilish, and were considered to deserve what they got (which was annihilation at the hands of the Spanish). Bearing both the State's legal sanction and the Church's religious one, the "race" concept was for the first time ever in human existence invented during this period.
These are some highlights of that invention: 1.) In 1512, Law number 24 of the Spanish Laws of Burgos ruled that all of the people of the Americas be classified as "Indians." 2.) In 1513, the word "race" (in the human biological sense) was added to the Spanish dictionary (and also to the Portuguese, English, French, and Italian ones). 3.) In 1541, Spanish soldier Ignatius Loyola proposed to his followers in the newly-formed Jesuit Order, that if the Church calls a white thing black, it must be called black. 4.) In 1550, the Spanish crown sponsored a foreign policy debate about the correctness of Spanish ethnocidal activity in the Americas. Both the pro- and anti-"Indian" advocates discussed "the Indian" as a "racial" type. 5.) In 1572, a new "Basic Law" ruled that in all official Spanish records, retroactively and from then on, the word "pacification" would replace the word "conquest."
Out of this crucible of blood arose Great Britain's and all other Modern nations' "context" for a "legal claim" to Western Hemisphere territory. This is why the celebration of "Columbus Day" is of such importance in the United States, and in other Modern Western Hemisphere nations. That day, however, might as well be known as ideology day or "race" day.
At this point, it is very appropriate to next consider the "racial" self-contradiction in the United States' laws, as well as some aspects of the behavior of sovereign nations.
America, Sovereignty, and "Race"
For quite a number of thousands of years there were hundreds of self-governing nations in the Western Hemisphere realm of North, Central and South America, and the Pacific Islands. The well over one hundred million people living there lived free of War in the Modern sense, free of "racial" thinking (although within most nations there and elsewhere, great variations in skin tone occurred among citizens, this was simply thought of as complexion, and did not serve as the basis for "racial" discrimination), and they lived free of ethnocide.
The hundreds of self-governing free nations of the Western Hemisphere also lived free of money-economy, and although they had been inter-linked by mutual trade for thousands of years, the identity--the culture--of each nation was ancient, distinct, and unique to itself. The trade connections of the Ancient world simply provided--in the Ancient atmosphere of human brotherhood--the means whereby many cultures the world over were able to meet, and if they chose to, learn from many other cultures the world over. This in no way jeopardized the very special individual cultural identities of nations in the Ancient world. Neither did the absence of racism undermine national identities.
It was the artificial division of humans into "racial" groupings--the ideology which spread around the world along with the lifestyle known as Modern Society (perhaps Conquest Society would be a better name for the type), beginning in the fifteenth century--which has more than anything else led to the destruction of entire nations, identities and all. It is the simple differentiation of humans into "racial" groupings which is racism itself. It can be directed outward, with hostility, or inward, with pride'. But racism has only one purpose, to justify ethnocide (be it in the past, present, or future).
So preceding ethnocide, commencing roughly in the sixteenth century, in the islands of Southeast Asia, Filipinos were called "Indians;" in the Pacific Islands, New Zealanders, Samoans, Hawaiians, Tahitians, and Easter Islanders were all called "Indians;" and in North America, Central America, South America and the Caribbean Islands, all were labeled "Indians" by the military propagandists (the "explorers") of Modern, Conquest nations.
The supposed "racial" identity of the citizens of the ancient first nations of the Western Hemisphere has consistently been of first importance to Conquest Societies in their dealings with the nations those citizens have been standing up for. This was certainly the case for the English colonies in North America, as it was for the Spanish, and as it is for the states derived from them as well. To define all citizens of all previously-existing North American nations simply and singly as "Indians" enabled English colonists in North America to deal "lawfully" with people who were not real (who were not the complex and differing nations which actually faced the English colonists), but who had instead been made over into symbols.
Thus, through ideology similar to that used in Spanish America (and the similarities are of much more importance than the differences), English colonists in North America defined Ancient, long-standing nations out of existence with the "race" word "Indian." As in Spanish America, "Indians" were offered' forced conversion (religiously, which also ultimately meant culturally), and when they of course refused (preferring their own customs, as all nations--as distinguished form individuals--will always do), they were considered to have proven their "savagery." Savagery was supposedly a "racial" "condition" which the English took as "justifying" their ignoring of "the Indian's" humanity. It was enough to establish an "entirely new and anti-historic order."
So, thanks to ideology--thanks to Columbus, let us say--North America became known as "a land without history," the most probable site for "the first new nation."
The political design of Conquest Societies established on North American soil stemmed mostly from an English tradition, although there were also strong Spanish, French, Dutch, and German influences present. All of the influences of the Ancient past were marked for eventual extermination.
The start of the English tradition in America was "An Agreement Between The Settlers At New Plymouth," the Mayflower Compact, executed in 1620. It failed to mention even the existence of the Ancient nations of the area which was to become the Plymouth Colony. Yet the symbolism, the ideology of the New England Colonists was far from subtle, when in 1637, after the first War of Puritan Conquest in which the Pequot nation was devastated, surviving Pequot prisoners were sent aboard the ship Desire to the Caribbean island Providence, there to be exchanged for a shipment of slaves from Africa who were bound for New England, and the Pequots themselves sold into slavery.
In 1646, the Commissioners of the United Colonies of New England publicly recorded their views on ideology. They "desired...that history may be compiled according to truth with due weight..." The result of their desire was John Winthrop Sr's History of New England, which "showed" how "God's hand" had favored the English colonists to prevail over "the Indians." In 1677, after the Second War of Puritan Conquest had demolished the Naragnasett nation and its confederates, the Reverend William Hubbard published his Narrative of the Indian Wars in New England. Hubbard's Narrative again affirmed "God's blessing" of the triumph of the "civilized" over the "savage."
As a whole, English treaty-making with the Ancient North American nations, from 1607 through the independence of the United States, was mostly ideological. Historian Virgil Vogel has characterized it as follows:
"In the stage of weakness, friendly relations were to be maintained in the interest of self-preservation....When settlements appeared to be permanent, the numbers...grown, and their stock of arms was adequate, the attitude shifted to one of overbearing arrogance. The English then took the position that they were not guests in the country, but masters, and that the...(original nations there) were subjects bound to obey their laws, and submit to whatever demands the English might make of them. If an accommodation was occasionally necessary, it would last only so long as to accumulate strength for another blow."
Toward the End of Racism?
From its very beginning, the United States of America also promoted an ideology of self-justification regarding its relations with the original political states of North America which symbolized--that is stereotyped them--all singly, "racially" as "Indians" (and therefore as "savages").
In 1776, Thomas Jefferson, in his Declaration of Independence, wrote of "the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions."
The first basic law of the United States, The Articles of Confederation of 1777, only twice mentioned the Ancient original nations of North America. Both times they were simply "Indians," (once, "some nation of Indians") and they were ideologically devoid, therefore, of history, culture, politics, or spirituality.
The 1787 Ordinance for the Government of the Territory of the United States northwest of the river Ohio--the Northwest Ordinance--usually taken to contain statements of strong "support" for "Indians," provided for law and justice to "the Indians" in the following manner in Article III: "...in their property, rights, and liberty they shall never be invaded or disturbed, unless in just and lawful wars authorized by Congress...."
The Constitution of 1789 twice mentions the "race" "Indians." In Article I, Section 2, Paragraph 3: those "Indians" living within the borders of "the several states which may be included among this Union," were expressly excluded from U.S. citizenship. And in the 8th Section, 3rd Paragraph of the same Article, Congress was given "the power...to regulate commerce with...the Indian Tribes."
In 1805, the U.S. made its first Treaty With the Sioux Nation, the next year President Thomas Jefferson addressed a Dakota delegation visiting Washington, D.C., with these words:
"My Children, we are strong, we are numerous as the stars in the heavens, and we are all gunmen. Yet we live in peace with all nations; and all nations esteem and honor us because we are peaceable and just."
Then, in 1808, after the Senate ratified the 1805 treaty, President Jefferson refused to proclaim it, and so it failed to go into effect (at least as far as the United States' obligations were concerned). In the U.S.--British War of 1812 which followed shortly, the alliances between Ancient American and overseas nations were forcibly terminated, in all instances where the Ancient nations lay within, or even potentially in some imagined future within the borders of the United States.
From 1815 through 1867, a number of treaties were negotiated between the United States and various Sioux "tribes and bands." Those completed from 1815 through 1816, specifically called for an end to War between the U.S. and the named "tribe or band," as well as calling for the named "tribe or band" to cease making alliances or treaties with nations other than the U.S. Similar treaty-making sequences were experienced by other North American nations besides the Sioux. And this is one point at which a number of the original American nations lost a large portion of what is called "sovereignty." Here they lost the power to make treaties and alliances with nations other than the United States.
(At this point, sovereignty may, within reason, be defined as: supremacy of authority or rule, as exercised by a sovereign or a sovereign state; complete independence and self government.)
In the next two decades, two important court cases further reduced the sovereignties of America's Ancient nations by turning "racial" and "anti-historic" ideology into legal "fact." The first, Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, in the U.S. Supreme Court, opposed the historical political reality sovereignty, with the fictional "domestic dependency." Rendering the Court's majority opinion, Chief Justice John Marshall wrote:
"...the relation of the Indians to the United States, is marked by peculiar and cardinal distinctions....they may more correctly, perhaps be denominated domestic dependent nations....Their relation to the United States resembles that of a ward to his guardian."
In the Supreme Court of the State of Alabama, in Caldwell v. The State of Alabama, in 1832, the "racial" "savage" was established as a legal "historical fact" in the body of U.S. law. In the Court's majority decision, Chief Justice Lipscomb asserted the following fiction to be truth:
"The natives of this vast continent, at the period of the advent of the first Europeans,...were composed of numerous tribes, subsisting by fishing and hunting, without any uniform or established system of government. Whatever authority exercised was adventitious and temproary, passing from one warrior to another, as accident might determine; and what was essential to national character, they had no geographical boundaries."
On the occasion of the Medicine Lodge Treaty of 1867, U.S. Senator Edmund G. Ross, apparently paraphrasing the old British Colonial position, expressed this opinion of U.S.--"Indian" treaties: when the enemy was stronger, connive to have him talk peace instead of make war; when the tables were turned, refuse him the chance to do the same.
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