[400 years of Racial Genocide with over 50 Million victims]
Does that sound like something that took place long ago in some far off place? The terms “genocide” conjures up memories of Hitler or Stalin. It has a tendency to make us think about Sudan or Kosovo.
I am constantly amazed by the fact that folks residing in Canada, the USA or the America’s prefer to measure our own societies against the primitive background of such war ravaged places. It is called denial.
In his first campaign for president in the USA, Barack Obama once said, “It doesn’t matter if you are black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old, rich or poor, able or disabled, gay or straight. You can make it here in America if you are willing to try.
United States has been very kind to Mr. Obama. At age 53, there are now no higher ranking jobs for him to seek. For the son of immigrant parents, he personifies the great American dream.
Culling through the mountains of speeches he has made as well as hundreds of campaign promises, I note that there is one glaring exception. In none of those thousands of speeches did Obama acknowledge the plight of 2.9 million Native Americans and 2.3 million mixed breeds (Metis) presently in the USA. Their numbers have declined to presently represent about 2% of the USA population.
A look at the number in the USA reveals a stark truth and a glaring omission of an embarrassing report card and indictment of the great democracy, the United States of America.
Poverty? Over 60% of Native Americans live beneath the poverty line. Housing? Over 15% fewer Native families live suitable housing.
The numbers lag behind in education where lack of funding means that almost 20% of that population group never achieves GED levels and thus have a 26% unemployment rate.
The incarceration rate of Native Americans is 38% higher than the national rate despite the facts that The American native crime victimization rate is twice that of non-Indians. National crime victimization surveys reveal that whites perpetrate 57% of the violent crimes committed against American Indians. 80% of sexual assaults against Native Americans are perpetrated by whites.
Mr. Obama, the evidence speaks for itself. In the USA, it appears one’s race certainly does limit potential IF one is Native American. The world deserves to know the facts about the treatment of Native Americans.
Ethnologists can make very scientific estimates of the number of Native Americans who have perished since Columbus as a result of wars, displacement (such as the Trail of Tears), starvation and disease have estimated that 90% of the Indigenous population has been eradicated by way of non-natural causes.
As disgusting as these facts are, they are even worse when one measures what has been taken in order to build a great nation called the USA. Economists weigh in with a stark financial statement that fully 80% of the minerals and timber included in USA economic statements originates from lands that were taken by force and cunning.
The Genocide Convention was approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1948 and came into force on January 12, 1951; after a long delay, it was ratified by the United States in 1986. Since genocide is now a technical term in international criminal law, the definition established by the convention has assumed prima-facie authority, and it is with this definition that we should begin in assessing the applicability of the concept of genocide to the events we have been considering.
According to Article II of the convention, the crime of genocide consists of a series of acts” committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group as such”
I make no defense for Canada, Mexico or the south American states. A great ethical deficit exists when it comes to Aboriginal and Indigenous people. One would think that after 500 years since “first contact” and with wide spread Christian beliefs prevailing, that all countries on Turtle Island had time and opportunity to “get it right”.
Yesterday, we marked the 124 anniversary of military massacre that took place at Wounded Knee, South Dakota on December 29, 1890. That skirmish saw a crack Regiment of the USA Army (the 7th Calvary) muster over 500 troops onto a barren field on a snowy winter morning and summarily execute over 300 Lakota (Sioux) tribe members. The statistic revealed that two thirds of those victims were women and young children and that countless others were elderly.
It was called a “battle” in military annals and marked the unveiling of experimental weapons: Hotchkiss guns which made killing much easier. Twenty Congressional Medals were awarded to military personnel that took place in the massacre. Despite public outcry and despite and official apology from the USA government a few years ago, the nearby villages like Pine Ridge, Rosebud and Standing Rock are areas of genuine abject poverty within the borders of USA.
I speak of these places with the knowledge that came through visitations. I came to know and understand our Anishanabe (the proud Oglala and Lakota Sioux) and came to understand the harsh effects the winter has on the folks residing there in abject poverty.
The cumulative effect of abject poverty and greedy desire to harvest uranium from the sacred Black Hills led to a show down/stand off at the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1973. Two FBI agents lost their lives in the skirmish that ensued. It was imperative to FBI credibility that justice by meted out for those deaths.
By way of circumstantial evidence, Leonard Peltier was convicted as being responsible for the deaths of the two FBI agents. He is currently in Coleman Penitentiary (Florida). After 37 years in prison, he is now the world’s longest serving political prisoner. He is over 70 years old and in failing health. Amnesty International and many other organizations including the parliament of the European Union have pleaded for his release so that he can spend his remaining days with family.
The President of the United States possess the authority to grant clemency to Leonard Peltier. Obama can be contacted at: Barack Obama, President of Untied States of America, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, West Wing, Washington, District of Columbia, 20500.
None of this will eradicate centuries of doing the wrong things. Let us hope that during Mr. Obama’s final days in the White House he can see to it that an order of clemency is granted for Leonard Peltier.
(A special note to students. If this story touches your heart, why not take it with you to school when you return from your Christmas holiday? Share it with your class mates and suggest that these letter to the President on behalf of Leonard Peltier is a pretty good clas project)