TheAmerican Holocaust, also known as "500-year war” was asystematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder ofover nineteen million indigenous Native Americans. It is the world`slongest holocaust in the history of humanity with the highest loss oflives. Before the arrival of the European colonialists, Nativesocieties were stewards of the North America landscape living incomplex cultural and political structures. History reveals thatwherever the Europeans or white settlers went, the natives werecaught between barbarous atrocities and plagues that typicallyresulted in the annihilation of over ninety percent of theirpopulation. This was the case when Columbus found and first landed onthe shores of western America with claims of discovering the area.What followed was a systematic elimination of the Native Americansthrough the military slaughter of tribal villages, biologicalwarfare, and offering bounties on native scalps. Today the historythat the masses are taught about the Holocaust is what the history`svictors and their descendants want to be written. This essaydiscusses the civilization and culture of indigenous Americans, theirpolitical mythology and their experience of conquest and genocide.
TheCivilization and Cultures of the Indigenous Americans
Beforethe European conquest of America began in the sixteenth century, theIndigenous Americans resided throughout the western hemisphere.According to Stannard, culturally the Natives are usually recognizedas constituting two broad groups, the American Indians and the Arcticpeople (56). As time passed, they were pushed south and east adaptingto their new environment as they went. They have since been dividedinto culture areas or rough groupings of contiguous people who sharedsimilar characteristics and habitats to keep track of theirdiversity. The Native Americans were majorly hunters and gathererwhile others practiced agriculture as a way of life. They used theirfarm produces to support their communities which included largesedentary chiefdom that had advanced state level societies withlarge-scale and monumental architecture (Stannard 117). The also hadadvanced technology that they used in facilitating their lifestyle.They participated in activities such as spear and harpoon throwing asthey sought to encourage unity and association in their society. Theimpact of the indigenous people’s culture and civilization is todayseen to support the reshaping, taming and cultivating flora and faunato Americans.
PoliticalMythology Pertaining To American Indians and Its Underlying Purpose
Thereare numerous political mythologies pertaining the Native Americansthat have shaped the public view about the history of NativeAmericans. Non-Indians have consistently failed to appreciate theculture and distinct identities of the Native Americans which haveled to a history of confusion, stereotypes, and myths (Stannard 117).Many Americans have been swayed to believe that the pre-ColumbianAmerica was a sparsely populated virgin land. This has been debunkedas false as history shows that millions of Native Americans inhabitedthe area that would become the United States. Specialists and thegeneral public are also unable to set aside their understanding ofwhat constitutes a political unit or structure and realize thatNative Americans political structures are not the product of economicindividualism and liberal representative democracy. Native Americansform of political discussion spurs from attempting to reach aconsensus with the idea of crushing rivals by simple majority votebeing alien to them (Stannard 139). The underlying purpose of thesemyths is to try and sanitize the cruel injustice done by the Europeanconquerors to the Native Americans. These myths have been used todiscredit views of the Native Americans on government policies andtheir claim as the first residents of the present day America.
AmericanIndian Experience of Conquest and Genocide
Thereis no doubt that American Indians experience of conquest and genocidewas one of the worst and the longest in the history of humankind. Theextermination started with Christopher Columbus and was continued byEuropean Christian invaders who murdered the natives through warfare,death matches, and poisoning, forced relocation to barren lands,destruction of the food supply, and the introduction of diseases thenatives had no resistance. From the beginning the indigenous groupswere seen as natural slaves and working them to death was consideredto be more economical than treating them somewhat humanly. Later theoppression continued through actions by governments and religiousorganization which systematically destroyed religious heritage andthe native’s cultural values (Stannard 206). State-sponsoredmurders rose in the early 18th century with states promoting thegenocide of local natives by providing scalp bounties. The killing ofthe natives increasingly became an accepted policy across America.
TheAmerican Holocaust still ranges debates with many people havingdivergent views about it. Some believe that the natives were simplyvictims of America’s growth while other think it is useless forAmericans to live up to their democratic ideas of justice andequality, taking responsibility and respect for diversity unless theyunderstand the interactions between the natives and the Americansettler government. That said, indications point to the directionthat many are now drawn to the facts of what transpired to thenatives and their struggles at the hands of the European settlerswith the public viewing the incidents as genocide.
Stannard,E., David. AmericanHolocaust: The Conquest of the New World.New York: Oxford University Press, 1993. Print.