The Cree called it
...that ought to be required reading by every high school
Ultimately, humility is the basis for democracy, j
ust as arrogance is the basis for authoritarianism
Jack D Forbes
for every buffalo dead
is an Indian gone
Colonel R. I. Dodge
Fort McPherson, 1867
His response was,
latest manifestation of out-of-control exploitive capitalism has
been discharged onto the world and even more rapidly ravages and
wreaks havoc on the planet and which has now led to the demolition
of the global economy, who can argue with that?
It certainly has precious little to do with "civility" as any interchange with our dysfunctional culture of narcissism and greed quickly demonstrates.
Dictionary definitions I
have not found particularly helpful because they're generally mired
in self-serving ethnocentric bias. The OED is not particularly
helpful, defining it as "a developed or advanced state of human
society," prompting one to ask what is meant by "developed" or
That's why the modern monolithic nation state is founded on the written word, perhaps an offshoot of the ingrained notion of an unchanging Biblical literalism.
It has become the bludgeon that
provides for contraction of meaning and a singular mythology,
loyalty, patriotism and devotion, the framing of discourse,
entitlement and the affirmation of power for those who already have
Castenada, a Franciscan priest who accompanied Coronado's expedition, described the Hopis of New Mexico as living in,
Castenada's remark was a not uncommon observation by white Christian invaders of socialistic libertarian Native North American societies.
Native peoples in North America believed that humans are merely a constituent of the natural world, not a chosen species instructed to master and exploit it with impunity. They had no conception of private property, believing that the world and its bounty was granted to all by their "Creator" and that no group or individual had the right to own any part of it.
To the North American Indians, land had a very different meaning - culturally, economically and spiritually. "Sell a country!" Tecumseh shouted at a meeting of the representatives of the Northwest Territory in 1810.
The Indians in California who had spent decades resisting or evading the Spanish missionaries and conquistadors were finally reduced to near total extermination by the American gold miners who overran their hunting grounds, villages and burial sites, murdered and scalped * for bounties, kidnapped Indian women to serve as prostitutes and Indian children as slaves.
* Contrary to Hollywood mythology, scalping was introduced and originally practiced by white Christian Europeans. In California it was declared "open season" on any Native American who resisted the intrusion of the greedy gold miners.
Historian Alan Josephy called the treatment of California Indians,
By the 1880's 30 million buffalo had been killed merely for their hides and less than one thousand remained.
In the Texas legislature General Sheridan, sounding like Heinrich Himmler, declared,
Also by that time, the Eastern Indians in the United States had been moved to substandard land on reservations on land that was deemed valueless to the Christian White Man at the time.
The reservations were no better than glorified concentration camps and Indians died in the thousands from the inability to sustain themselves, corruption of Indian agents, neglect and disease.
Segregated within reservations, they were excluded from the American economy and political system. They could not vote, had no elected representatives, had no voice in the political process and were forced into a complex web of treaties that had no legal status for them. Of the more than 400 treaties signed with the US government, many of which they did not understand, not a single one was honored.
When the greedy capitalists discovered gold, oil and other valuable minerals on their originally considered useless land, they were ruthlessly exploited once again.
It continues to this day.
It's ironic that Native Americans were referred to as "savages" by their European Christian invaders despite the fact they had a far superior conception of community, egalitarianism, family, justice and fair play than the greedy "enlightened" Christian white men who lied, pillaged, and murdered their way to total dominance, enslavement and subjugation of indigenous peoples throughout the world.
Joseph Brant the great Mohawk Six Nations leader repeatedly argued for these lofty principles when he so eloquently and ironically said,
Unlike Christian Europeans and their Biblical fixations of certainty, Native peoples in North America had no written laws or doctrinaire religious codes, only an ongoing dialogue in which all verbal agreements were never calcified or immutable, but open-ended, often ambiguous and subject to change.
As long as you continued the dialogue, violence as a solution to human conflict could be averted. Native Americans did not believe in inflicting the Old Testament idea of punishment, especially on their children, and cared for those who could not look after themselves.
Their sense of the common good would not permit anyone in the tribe to wander homeless in the uncaring wilderness of a failed civilization.
In our so-called "advanced" society of the 21st Century the majority of food bank users have jobs, forty to 60% of homeless shelter residents have jobs and over an eight month period in 2007, homeless shelters in metropolitan Vancouver had to turn a way 40,000 homeless people for lack of beds.
Is this the best we can do? In my view it's a flagrant
failure of what any civilized society ought to be.
He replied that the natural world is inconsequential to God's 'divine' plan, explaining that the impending rapture and return of Jesus would solve all of mankind's problems, including the devastation to the environment.
It's disturbing to realize that former president George W. Bush * and 178 members of the United States Senate are also Christian fundamentalists who think like Santorum or are at the very least allied with the Christian right.
These are the
unthinking simpletons that Chris Hedges refers to in his book
American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.
Presumably the opening bout will be between the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.
William F Buckley
Albeit very slowly, this has been recently changing with the publication of books such as Howard Zinn's ground breaking A Peoples History of the United States and James Loewen's Lies My Teacher Told Me.
For centuries the traditional historical narratives have comprised the mythology of our culture - creating myths that are constantly in a state of flux.
The idea for a chronology of Native American history grew out of the paradigm shift that resulted from the 500 year centenary celebration of Columbus's arrival in the western hemisphere in 1492.
Like many people expecting a lively celebration of Columbus's heroism, courage, and mythic vision, the imagination of some was captured instead by the "view from the shore" that was later chronicled not only by the books by Loewen and Zinn, but David Stannard's American Holocaust and Ward Churchill's A Little Matter of Genocide.
The point of view presented by indigenous peoples was
one of great native cultural and societal contributions and great
European savagery and injustice. Their perspective changed the
narrative of time and challenged the conventional Hollywood myths of
Once he arrived in the West Indies, Columbus immediately began herding the native Arawaks - "the best people under the sun, with neither ill-will nor treachery" - to take back to Spain to sell in the slave market.
Those remaining were worked to death in the gold mines with a brutality so excessive that a priest who accompanied Columbus called it "fierce and unnatural cruelty."
Spanish violence and cruelty was incomprehensible to the natives:
In graphical contradiction to centuries of national Columbus holidays and mainstream history texts, indigenous peoples throughout the hemisphere launched demonstrations to publicize the historical reality of the Arawak Indians and Columbus's genocidal search for gold.
the time Columbus landed on the island he called
Hispaniola in 1492 there were an estimated 30 million people in
Mexico and the Caribbean Islands (Columbus's brother counted over
one million male inhabitants in what we now call the Dominican
Republic in the census he conducted to determine how many adult
males should be bringing in gold for tribute) and another estimated
50 million in the U.S., Canada, and South America, many of whom
lived in highly complex cultures with sophisticated knowledge of
astronomy, agriculture, metalworking, weaving, geography and
measurement of time.*
The variations are based on the interpretation of the numbers of settlements; the duration of settlements, the areas of land cultivated multiplied by the numbers of people they might have supported. I have used the more conservative of the revised estimates.
About the only fact everyone
agrees on is that there were far more people living in the Americas
than was formerly believed or that our history books have told us.
This contaminated conception of civilization has been commonly argued by so-called 'enlightened' Christian Europeans throughout the world for the past five centuries.
Captain John Chester wrote that the native Indians are to,
It was similarly and universally argued by pious slave owners in the Nineteenth Century as philosopher George Fitzhugh stated that,
It's just as commonly expressed today in the free market dogmas of unfettered capitalism with the relentless Western images of MacDonald's, Coca-Cola and Jesus to the rest of the world, justifying dispossession of the poor in the Third World, forcing them into wage slavery and permanent penurious feudalism.
With the recent calamitous meltdown of the
global economy, the rest of the world appears to be destined to the
The same can be said for Aboriginal, Native Indians in America, the people of pre-colonial India and other hapless victims of the greedy ravages of capitalism throughout recent history.
And nothing much has really
changed since the Spanish conquistadors, as the recent invasion of
Iraq and Afghanistan by the United States imperialist empire clearly
reveals. Our solution to those native people that didn't like what
was being done to them was simple: death.
The anthropologist/philosopher Stanley Diamond put it more succinctly, when he proclaimed that,
Were Columbus and his fellow Christian European cohorts and successors for the next five hundred years simply greedy sociopathic sub-humans who would tolerate mass exploitation, racism, theft, brutality, sadism and genocide?
Native American historian Jack D. Forbes in his book Columbus and other Cannibals: The Wétiko Disease of Exploitation, Imperialism, and Terrorism states that the overriding characteristic of a wétiko, a Cree word literally meaning "cannibal," is,
By cannibalism Forbes does not necessarily mean eating the flesh of another human, but defines the concept in an extended metaphor as a form of spiritual dysfunction and psychopathic behavior, even insanity, in which in all its multifarious ways greedy predatory men have exploited and murdered and destroyed the cultures (most often indigenous peoples) of other humans deemed "savages" via war, colonialism and imperialism.
In his own words Forbes informs us that,
He tells us that for the wétiko,
Forbes would extend this perverse
behavior to those who would transform a pristine old growth forest
into slabs and two-by-fours or dam a salmon filled river and flood a
beautiful valley for hydro-electric power.
In his fascinating novel Three Day Road, the Native Canadian author and Literature Professor Joseph Boyden explains wétiko through one of his characters in the novel.
He reveals it as a terrifying 'windigofication'
of the main character's brother, Elijah. Xavier and Elijah enroll in
World War I as Native Canadian Cree snipers when Elijah starts to
revel in acts of barbarity (ironically, caused by his attempts to
conform to white stereotypes about "Indian savages"), to the extent
that Xavier deems it necessary to kill him in the novel's climactic
They are also the same powerful elites who have provided us with their own distorted propagandized version of history, as history as always been told by those who wield power and control, and like credulous children, we have believed it. Power, like property, the land, water (and not inconceivably, eventually the air we breathe) has become privatized and concentrated.
They are the same people who today might listen to Mozart while reading Aristotle's Ethics in the comfort of their grandiose mansions as they contemplate the bombing of primarily non-Christian brown people in Third World countries, especially those with huge oil reserves.
Today they are by and large highly educated, the graduates of ivy-league universities, theological seminaries and military schools and other elite Western universities.
They claim to have refinement, enlightenment and
wisdom despite the fact they have provided us with arguably the most
power hungry, exploitive and brutal era in human history where there
is little chance for the survival of any charitable non-aggressive
person other than as a lackey or wage slave.
Of the estimated 8 million that inhabited the islands in the Caribbean such as Haiti (where Columbus first landed) and Cuba, by the middle of the sixteenth century, out of these 8 million, none remained.
After this genocidal miscalculation by Columbus his successors were forced to import millions of slaves from Africa, of whom very few survived either the voyage or subsequent enslavement.
This orgy of racism,
slavery and genocide by Western Christian Europeans continued
unabated for another 450 years.
In Columbus and other Cannibals, Jack Forbes writes:
Wétiko continued unabated throughout the 20th century and into the 21st , the United States having taken over the role from the decadence and brutality of the former British Empire and other Western European nations, who have been the primary torch bearers of elitist exploitation, imperialism and genocidal attacks on indigenous peoples throughout the past five centuries.
Thus, the wealthy capitalist exploiter "eats" the flesh of oppressed workers and ravages his natural environment, the wealthy matron "eats" the lives of her servants, the imperialist "eats" the flesh of the conquered, and so on.
That, I would affirm, is truly and literally cannibalism and it is cannibalism accompanied by no spiritually meaningful ceremony or ritual. It is simply raw consumption for profit, carried out often in an ugly and brutal manner.
There is no respect for a peon whose life is being eaten.
No ceremony. No mystical communication - only
He attended the University of Southern California, earning A.B., M.A. and Ph.D. degrees, the latter in history with a minor in North American ethnology.
Forbes worked his way through college, serving
on the fire crew of the Lassen National Forest and driving trucks
for Meadow Gold Dairies. In 1960 he joined the faculty at California
State University, Northridge. There he received a Guggenheim
Fellowship and then in 1964 moved north to the University of Nevada,
He then became a professor at U.C. Davis in 1969. In
1981-82 he was named a Fulbright Visiting Professor at the
University of Warwick, England, and in 1983-84 he was honored with
the Tinbergen Chair at the Erasmus University of Rotterdam. In
1986-87 he served as a Visiting Scholar at the Institute of Social
Anthropology, Oxford University, England.
In 1960 he formed the American Indian College Committee with Navajo artist Carl Gorman and others to create proposals for an Indian university. At Cal State Northridge he developed a proposal for an American Indian Studies program in 1960, ten years ahead of its time.
In 1967 he was a co-founder of the California Indian Education Association and in 1971 of D-Q University, the Indian college near Davis. From 1968 through 1969 Forbes was a co-organizer of United Native Americans in the Bay Area and served as editor of Warpath.
During the same period
and later he served as editor of the Powhatan newspapers Tsen-Akamak
His first book, Apache, Navaho and Spaniard, remains in print after thirty-two years. Columbus and Other Cannibals is the current culmination of Forbes' thinking about the ultimate social causes of white Christian aggression and exploitation and about Native American philosophical beliefs and cultural norms.
version of the book was sketched out in 1976 and published in a
preliminary version in 1978.
He goes beyond a condemnation of aggression to undertake an analysis of how colonialism, imperialism and doctrinaire socio-economic systems of hierarchy systematically alter and brutalize individuals.
Most importantly, he offers cultural options based upon traditional Native American philosophy and antidotes to the disease of cannibalism.
Forbes has modified the Ten Commandments, a revision by what he calls the "Ecumenical Council of Right-Wing Christianity" convened by the Archbishop of Anti-Communism and attended by distinguished theologians following orthodox religious orders:
...and sundry other respected, powerful, and wealthy bodies:
If the indigenous victims of the wetiko imperialists and capitalists
resisted, they were simply exterminated, as Forbes tells us:
Their resistance led General Jeffrey Amherst, British commander, to write to Colonel Henry Bouquet in 1763,
Bouquet answered that he would try to start an epidemic and mentioned a wish to hunt "the vermin" with dogs.
Sadly, this type of viciousness, recognizing no "rules" of warfare, is still commonplace in the Americas, especially where people of American race are involved.
Thus in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, the local right-wing elites supported by the United States have committed in recent decades atrocities against Indians and part-Indians of a type which remind us of Columbus, Nuno de Guzman, Pizarro, and other notorious brutes of 400 years ago.
of thousands of Americans have been tortured, bombed, burned alive,
raped, disemboweled, decapitated, and forced into exile in order to
preserve the privileges and wealth of multi-national corporations,
small white minorities and their corrupted mixed-blood cohorts.
A grotesque "anti-communist" ritual has been created in order to provide the ideological-ceremonial trappings for this secular ceremony of human sacrifice.
We must no longer allow Eurocentric scholars to define "human sacrifice" in such a manner as to lead us to believe that a priest in a weird costume must cut the heart out of a victim in order for the act of sacrifice to become human sacrifice.
Quite the contrary, the greatest and most extensive acts of human sacrifice have been, or are being, carried out by secular forces acting within the framework of ideologies that justify the necessity of sacrificing human lives for some larger goal, be it,
Perhaps most victims are now being sacrificed at the feet
of the god "Profit."
Subsequent US policies in the Philippines after 1898 and in Central America and Caribbean America often continued procedures developed against Native Americans.
But especially in the latter two regions the US leadership learned that it was cheaper to use local white or non-white elites and their armies to control the local (often indigenous) population rather than to send in the marines or to assume direct colonial administration.
This was known as "Dolar Diplomacy" or, as in the British Empire, "indirect rule." In this system brutal treatment of the Maya and other Native peoples occurred from Mexico and Guatemala to Panama, but the US was able to pretend that its hands were clean.
Of course, direct interventions in,
exposed the lie in such claims.
The 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s saw the open use of terrorism against indigenous Americans from Guatemala to Nicaragua by US supported, trained, and supplied forces. Still today, forensic anthropologists are excavating the remains of hundreds of Mayas massacred in Guatemala and buried in secret mass graves.
excavation has uncovered remains of 350 villagers, including 100
children, massacred by the US supported military in December 1982.
Some states (such as perhaps certain "pirate" kingdoms) were expressly organized for the purpose of stealing, looting, extorting, enslaving, and so on.
But many larger states
have also engaged in extensive activities of a similar nature,
activities of such economic-significance as to suggest that "armed
robbery" was, in effect, the state's major activity (overseas, at
...empires, for example, were at various times extensively engaged in the crime of seizing persons and selling or using them as slaves.
trade cannot be viewed as ethically being in any way different from
Mafia kidnapping, murder, or extortion except in the sense that it
was infinitely more bloodthirsty, profitable, and vicious.
This organized thievery, accompanied by threats and murders, was
never corrected and never halted, until virtually all parcels of
value had been secured by white people, as in much of Oklahoma.
state-initiated organized crime must surely set a pattern of
behavior which will be imitated at various levels by private
persons. Historically the state itself, and especially the
European-style expansionist state, is one of the major corrupters of
human morals (although it is itself a creature of
the wetikos who
have seized control of its power apparatus).
Thus many large corporations (such as the Standard Oil Company before 1910 or the Southern Pacific -Central Pacific Railroad) have often operated in a criminal way. That is, the purpose of such bandit corporations has been to secure the greatest possible profit (or resources for producing profit) even if illegal or unethical activities had to be used.
The state usually
winked at such large-scale thievery because it was convenient to do
so (the railroad will be useful to the state so what does it matter
if a few people get rich siphoning off government grants or
bankrupting farmers?); or because the state's leaders (congressmen,
for example) are sharing directly in the loot.
Thus black slavery and Indian removal in
the US south did not ultimately benefit the working-class white
population. Instead it led to the creation of an oligarchic ruling
class which has, even to this day, often depressed wages and living
conditions for both poor whites and poor blacks.
An aggressive foreign policy will keep oil, aluminum, uranium, and other essential raw materials coming in for a few years more, but corporate control of the economy and inequality will ensure that the profits primarily reach the ruling class.
In the meantime, the artificial standard of living created by overseas investments, raw materials, and the exploitation of low-wage labor in,
...and so on will gradually be eroded from
It usually serves to hide the fact that the ruling classes are gobbling up the natural resources of the home territory in an improvident manner and are otherwise utilizing the national wealth largely for their own purposes.
Eventually the general public
is called upon to pay for all of this, frequently after the military
machine can no longer maintain external aggression.
This corporation allowed streetcar service to deteriorate, then it tore up tracks and sold themselves their own buses, rubber tires, and diesel fuel.
The new bus lines contributed greatly to air pollution and traffic problems, and when patronage declined the all-bus systems were sold to the public. So "socialism" was used to unload unprofitable businesses onto the public while a continuing purchase of buses, tires, and diesel fuel was guaranteed.
No significant prosecutions have taken place for what seems to have been an organized conspiracy to destroy rail mass transit systems.
Now, of course, taxpayers are being asked to build new rail lines at
The Vietnam War wasted many tens of billions of dollars (creating an inflation which eroded the earnings of the poor), incredible quantities of petroleum, and other basic resources which precipitated shortages in the US, an adverse balance of payments, and so on.
But the rich did
not suffer from the Vietnam aftermath because they had the means to
raise their incomes to keep ahead of inflation, and being the owners
of multinational corpora-i ions, they could obtain resources from
It is true that individual wetikos, operating on their own, may cause great misery at times, but it is much more common for the most brutal aggression to take place as a part of an organized, systematic assault.
Americas, for example, the terrible Portuguese attacks upon Native
people in Brazil, the actions of Spanish conquistadores, the
expansionist pushes of Anglo-Saxon of pioneers, and the operations
of all manner of exploiters from fur traders to rum sellers to slave
hunters took place within imperialist systems whose overall
objectives revolved around the central purpose of seizing native
lands, resources, and lives for the profit of the system.
Ache Indians could not be sold as slaves in Paraguay without the existence of a pro-Nazi government controlled literally by gangsters. Indians could not have been murdered in South Dakota in the 1970s, with no thorough investigations and prosecutions, unless the terrorizing of Indians was indeed a continuing state-approved objective.
could not have been murdered and terrorized systematically in
Guatemala during the 1970s to 1990s without the approval of the
Guatemalan state (the military) and of the United States, (since the
US pays the bills and provides training for the terrorist officer
If this were part of a general campaign to break up large landholdings, create small farms, and open up resources for development, we could at least see it as a non-racial, non-imperialist issue.
low-income, land-poor Indian people are the sole target and large
landholding corporations (such as the Southern Pacific Railroad) and
government agencies (in other words, the Bureau of Land Management)
experience, little pressure we can be sure that the Native American
is still officially and socially perceived as a legitimate victim.
On the other hand, that same government gave the Southern Pacific and Central Pacific railroads fantastic quantities of Indian land which was to be sold to pay railroad construction costs. Much of the land is still owned by the Southern Pacific or its successor corporations (11 percent of California).
Some of this land was apparently obtained by fraud (for example,
claiming that the Sierra Nevada's extended to Utah in order to get a
larger land grant) but the federal government has never taken any
land back from the S.P. Railroad on legal grounds.
One is tempted to repeat the words of Black Hawk, in reference to the white people who had invaded northwestern Illinois in the 182Os-1830s:
Another facet of organized systems of aggression is that the governments, syndicates, corporations, or groups controlling or profiting from such behavior also control the greater part of the organs of public opinion modification.
...and so on, have conspired frequently to use patriotism, sectarian fervor, news, and propaganda to not only justify aggression, genocide, slavery, and torture but also to make the masses willing (or even anxious) participants.
significantly, as indicated earlier, the entire national culture
becomes pervaded by myths, values, and habits of action and thought
conducive to the perpetuation of a wetiko society. (pp. 156-159)