Genocide: The Extermination of Native Americans
Native Americans, as a race, have suffered from the very beginning of contact with the European colonists. Statistics largely support the case of genocide against the Natives. In fact, Native Americans once constituted 100% of the population in North America, whereas today they represent two percent of the population. The term genocide refers to the systematic killing of a whole national or ethnic group, and the denial of the right of existence to entire human groups, as homicide is the denial of the right to live (Churchill, 365). This paper will give evidence that genocide was committed against the Native Americans by the European colonists, whether it was entirely premeditated or not.
This paper will also show that the United States government failed to sign on to the Genocide Convention for forty years. This, in itself, makes a very apparent statement.
The decline in population of the Native Americans began in 1492 with the settling of the European colonists. Initially, the colonists had no intent on eliminating the Natives. Instead, they were amazed at their technological ingenuity, marveling as well at their smooth functioning but complex machineries of government (Stannard, 103). At the beginning of the colonization process, the colonists and the Natives for the most part kept to themselves.
In fact, the early settlers praised the Natives for their peacefulness, generosity, trustworthiness, and egalitarianism, all of which were conspicuously absent from English social relations of the time (Stannard, 103). The two groups even exchanged items with one another. The Natives would give the colonists beans, pumpkins, corn, and many other vegetables, while the colonists would give the Natives measles, small pox, and the flu.
Disease was not the only factor that transformed the Natives. Pigs, cows, and horses began running wild and free across most of the Americas, which had an affect on the ecosystem.
In the book, The Columbian Exchange, Alfred W.
Crosby, JR. concludes by stating, We, all of the life on this planet, are the less for Columbus, and the impoverishment will increase (Crosby, 219). It was not until land became an issue, that the Natives and the colonists began battling. In the eyes of the Europeans, land was unclaimed unless it had a fence around it. The Natives, on the other hand, had no such belief. The Natives believed they were borrowing the land from the Gods.
When good, or habitable land began to run thin, the colonists would take the land of the Natives. There were several ways the colonists would take the land from the Natives, but there was one way in which the colonists would take land that was just awful. This method involved the kidnapping of young Native children and holding them hostage until the land was given to them (Stannard, 105). This began the turning point of Native and colonist relations. From then on, any Native who encountered the colonists were captured, accused of being spies, and executed (Stannard, 106). Furthermore, Natives were lured into English settlements on the pretence of peace and sharing of entertainment, where there they were attacked and killed (Stannard, 106).
This type of entrapment continued while hundreds upon hundreds of Natives were executed at the hands of the Europeans. The hatred of the Natives became so great that if any European were found peacefully associating with the Natives, they too would be executed. In the minds of the Europeans, This was the treatment for those who wished to act like Indians (Stannard, 105).
Two hundred years after the Europeans arrived, thousands of Natives had been killed by deception, poisons, and some were even hunted. They were hunted by Blood-Hounds to draw after them, and Mastives to seaze them (Stannard, 106). In addition, the mental approach to warfare was extremely different between the Natives and the Europeans.
For the Natives, taking a life was an occasion. Their type of warfare was described as a kind of play (Stannard, 111). European soldier, Captain Henry Spelman, said that warfare among the Natives had no dicipline, so that when the Natives fought there was no great slawter of nether side (Stannard, 111). During warfare, the Natives followed a strict code of honor that usually .