I'm sitting here crying as I read the quotes I am moved to share.
May we all allow our hearts and our minds to break open
so awareness and awakening, responsibility and reparations,
healing and wholeness, and profound transformation
can finally, finally occur.
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Quotes from An Indigenous Peoples'
History of the United States
The history of the United States is a history of settler colonialism.
Jodi Byrd writes: “The story of the new world is horror, the story of America a crime.” It is necessary, she argues, to start with the origin of the United States as a settler-state and its explicit intention to occupy the continent. These origins contain the historical seeds of genocide. Any true history of the United States must focus on what has happened to (and with) Indigenous peoples—and what still happens.
European institutions and the worldview of conquest and colonialism had formed several centuries before that. From the eleventh through the thirteenth centuries, Europeans conducted the Crusades to conquer North Africa and the Middle East, leading to unprecedented wealth in the hands of a few.
Euro-American colonialism, an aspect of the capitalist economic globalization, had from its beginnings a genocidal tendency.
The consequences of this amassing of fortunes were first felt in the catastrophe experienced by small farmers in Europe and England. The peasants became impoverished, dependent workers crowded into city slums. For the first time in human history, the majority of Europeans depended for their livelihood on a small wealthy minority, a phenomenon that capitalist-based colonialism would spread worldwide. The symbol of this new development, indeed its currency, was gold. Gold fever drove colonizing ventures, organized at first in pursuit of the metal in its raw form. Later the pursuit of gold became more sophisticated, with planters and merchants establishing whatever conditions were necessary to hoard as much gold as possible. Thus was born an ideology: the belief in the inherent value of gold despite its relative uselessness in reality. Investors, monarchies, and parliamentarians devised methods to control the processes of wealth accumulation and the power that came with it, but the ideology behind gold fever mobilized settlers to cross the Atlantic to an unknown fate. Subjugating entire societies and civilizations, enslaving whole countries, and slaughtering people village by village did not seem too high a price to pay, nor did it appear inhumane. The systems of colonization were modern and rational, but its ideological basis was madness.
The objective of US authorities was to terminate their existence as peoples - not as random individuals. This is the very definition of modern genocide.
The importance of the term "genocide" for many Indigenous Peoples is that it is more than a term or an accusation; it is a word created in the wake of the Shoah in Europe to describe what happens when a people are targeted by a government for extermination, as were the Jews of Europe, and which is the term used in the most important international law related to concerned Indigenous Peoples, as the only international human rights law that pertains specifically to collectivities of people rather than individuals.
Cases of genocide carried out as policy may be found in historical documents as well as in the oral histories of Indigenous communities. An example from 1873 is typical, with General William T. Sherman writing, “We must act with vindictive earnestness against the Sioux, even to their extermination, men, women and children … during an assault, the soldiers can not pause to distinguish between male and female, or even discriminate as to age.”
“Our nation was born in genocide.… We are perhaps the only nation which tried as a matter of national policy to wipe out its indigenous population. Moreover, we elevated that tragic experience into a noble crusade. Indeed, even today we have not permitted ourselves to reject or feel remorse for this shameful episode." —Martin Luther King Jr.
That the continued colonization of American Indian nations, peoples, and lands provides the United States the economic and material resources needed to cast its imperialist gaze globally is a fact that is simultaneously obvious within - and yet continuously obscured by - what is essentially a settler colony's national construction of itself as an ever more perfect multicultural, multiracial democracy...[T]he status of American Indians as sovereign nations colonized by the United States continues to haunt and inflect its raison d'être.
In focusing on “cultural change” and “conflict between cultures,” these studies avoid fundamental questions about the formation of the United States and its implications for the present and future. This approach to history allows one to safely put aside present responsibility for continued harm done by that past and the questions of reparations, restitution, and reordering society.9 Multiculturalism became the cutting edge of post-civil-rights-movement US history revisionism. For this scheme to work—and affirm US historical progress—Indigenous nations and communities had to be left out of the picture. As territorially and treaty-based peoples in North America, they did not fit the grid of multiculturalism but were included by transforming them into an inchoate oppressed racial group, while colonized Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans were dissolved into another such group, variously called “Hispanic” or “Latino.” The multicultural approach emphasized the “contributions” of individuals from oppressed groups to the country’s assumed greatness. Indigenous peoples were thus credited with corn, beans, buckskin, log cabins, parkas, maple syrup, canoes, hundreds of place names, Thanksgiving, and even the concepts of democracy and federalism. But this idea of the gift-giving Indian helping to establish and enrich the development of the United States is an insidious smoke screen meant to obscure the fact that the very existence of the country is a result of the looting of an entire continent and its resources. The fundamental unresolved issues of Indigenous lands, treaties, and sovereignty could not but scuttle the premises of multiculturalism.
It’s not that Jackson had a “dark side,” as his apologists rationalize and which all human beings have, but rather that Jackson was the Dark Knight in the formation of the United States as a colonialist, imperialist democracy, a dynamic formation that continues to constitute the core of US patriotism.
How then can the US society come to terms with its past? How can it acknowledge responsibility? The late Native historian Jack Forbes always stressed that while living persons are not responsible for what their ancestors did, they are responsible for the society they live in, which is a product of that past. Assuming this responsibility provides a means of survival and liberation. Everyone and everything in the world is affected, for the most part negatively, by US dominance and intervention, often violently through direct military means or through proxies.
― Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz