Truth Be Told

I am currently writing a book about the Doctrine of Discovery along with Dr. Soong-Chan Rah. There is a crowdfunding campaign to support the writing process with reward levels that includes SIGNED COPIES of the book once it is released! Click here for more information.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

It's Not Just the Emperor Who Has No Clothes*

It doesn't really matter what political party you align yourself with. For most Americans the past week has been somewhat surreal. Our President publicly criticized Theresa May, the Prime Minister of the nation he was then visiting. He labeled one of our closest allies and trading partners, the European Union, as a foe. And on Monday he publicly suggested that he believes the "strong denials" of Russian President Vladimir Putin regarding Russia's meddling in U.S. elections, over the broad consensus and conclusion of the entire U.S. Intelligence community. And then he faulted the previous administration, once again stated his own innocence regarding collusion and finally, complained about the fact that some people still question the legitimacy of his victory over Hillary Clinton. All of this, at a press conference on foreign soil and while standing only a few feet from the leader of the nation charged with ongoing efforts to disrupt our democratic elections.

I would dare say, that at some point over the past week, nearly every American felt some sense of shame regarding the spectacle President Trump was making of our nation.

What was most difficult, was that President Trump aired our country’s dirty political laundry in a space, the international stage, that for centuries both parties have worked to exclusively, in fact nearly religiously, reserve for bipartisan demonstration of American exceptionalism.

Our collective tendency is to try to counteract the narrative which President Trump put on display. And this is exactly what most Democrats and even many Republicans are doing. Vehemently arguing that Donald Trump is misrepresenting us, because we want to believe, we need to believe, that we are exceptional. Senator John McCain, as he so often does, stated this argument best when he wrote, "speaking for America to the world, our president failed to defend all that makes us who we are—a republic of free people dedicated to the cause of liberty at home and abroad."

But remember, Senator McCain is talking about us, the nation that separates families at its borders. The nation that has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world. The country where people of color get arrested for sitting quietly in a Starbucks. A republic that annually celebrates a Declaration which dehumanizes its indigenous population as "merciless Indian savages."

As someone who has spent the past decade of my life studying the Doctrine of Discovery and the past year uncovering and lamenting the blatant white supremacist views and vile genocidal policies of the man we celebrate as our greatest president, Abraham Lincoln. I recognize that the way I felt this past week, is the same way I have felt many times prior.

The pain is not that President Trump is misrepresenting our country. The pain is that President Trump is representing our country quite accurately. Our history is colonial. Our most beloved leaders were brutal. And our stated foundational beliefs regarding who deserves freedom, liberty and justice is extremely exclusive.

And there lies the pain. Not in the misrepresentation. But in the honest reflection.

The temptation is to say, “the emperor has no clothes.” But the truth of the matter is, it is our empire that is naked. It is our belief in the mythology of American exceptionalism that is being exposed. President Trump is merely a reflection of our nation’s history and character. And when we see it on full display, so blatant and public, we feel ashamed. As a country we now have a choice to make. We can either begin the humble process of acknowledging and covering our collective nakedness, or we can increase the resolve of our denial and continue parading ourselves around the globe as if we were dressed in the finest of robes. Fooling no one, but ourselves.

I believe it is time we stopped senselessly arguing about when we were last great, or how soon we can be great again. And instead committed ourselves to having an honest conversation regarding if we truly want to be a nation where "We the People" finally means "All the People."

Mark Charles
#TCC2021, #AllThePeople

*In reviewing the responses and comments to this article on social media, I realized the larger point being made in the body was getting lost due to the title and the final paragraph, both which stated "the Emperor Has No Clothes." Therefore, I have updated the title and final 2 paragraphs.
Updated July 18, 2018 at 11 AM EDT.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Regarding the term "merciless Indian savages"

The other day I was asked if Americans can or should celebrate the country we aspire to, instead of the one described in the Declaration of Independence?

For the past decade, I have been working to educate our nation on the Doctrine of Discovery and the white supremacists’ influence it has on the foundations of our nation. This is especially evident in the Declaration of Independence, where, 30 lines below the inclusive and benevolent statement "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal", that document refers to the indigenous peoples of Turtle Island as "merciless Indian savages." Demonstrating very clearly, that the only reason the founding fathers used the inclusive term "all men" is because they had a very narrow definition of who was actually human. I have written many articles regarding the Declaration of Independence, and I did not intend to write yet another one this year. But I appreciated being asked this question, and so I decided to respond.

First, if you are aware of the lie of white supremacy that is rooted in the Declaration of Independence and choose to celebrate the Fourth of July anyway, without acknowledging, owning and correcting the meaning and intent that document was written with, you are perpetuating the myth of American exceptionalism.

Many Americans deal with our white supremacists and racists foundations in this manner. Even MLK and the civil rights leaders referred to these documents as "a blank check" for people of color. While I appreciate all that our Civil Rights leaders fought for, this concession was devastatingly costly. Instead of challenging the foundations of our nation as white supremacist and racist, they essentially told white people that the foundations they established were good, they just needed to be better Americans. In other words, instead of confronting the systemic white supremacy and racism that is embedded in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, they ended up affirming the bipartisan value of American exceptionalism. I'm convinced this is one of the reasons the Black Lives Matter movement is happening today. Because we never addressed the fact that it is our foundations which state “black lives DON'T matter.”

A second approach is to acknowledge the problems in our history but tell ourselves they have already been resolved.  Let me give you an example: In his final State of the Union, President Obama spoke about our nation's need for a 'new politics'. He said "We the people. Our Constitution begins with those three simple words. Words we've come recognize mean ALL the people."

That statement sounds beautiful, and it definitely appealed to white people, and to the mythology of American exceptionalism. But it's simply not true.

The problem is, as a nation, we have never collectively decided that "We the people" now means all the people.
Our Founding Fathers didn't believe it.
Abraham Lincoln didn't believe it.
The Civil Rights movement didn't get us there.
President Trump definitely doesn't believe it.

Yes, you read the last section correctly, Abraham Lincoln did not believe "We the People" meant all the people, nor did he believe that the Declaration of Independence applied to people of color. On October 15, 1858, during his seventh debate with Judge Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln was accused of applying the Declaration of Independence to people of color, specifically to black people. To that accusation he responded, "I think the authors of that notable instrument intended to include all men, but they did not mean to declare all men equal in all respects. They did not mean to say all men were equal in color, size, intellect, moral development or social capacity."



Unfortunately, the carefully constructed mythology of President Abraham Lincoln is just that, a mythology.

Now I know many people will point out that this quote comes from early in Lincoln's political career and therefore argue that he grew and changed in regard to his beliefs on race and equality. I do not have the time or space to respond fully to that argument in this article but, in July of 1862, President Lincoln signed the Pacific Railway Act. This act provided the resources and land to complete the trans-continental railway and telegraph line (manifest destiny). Within two and half years of signing that bill, President Lincoln had ethnically cleansed nearly all the American Indians from the states of Minnesota and Colorado, and from the territory of New Mexico (tribes who were in the direct path of the first proposed routes of the railway). So, during the time he was supposedly growing regarding his beliefs on race and equality, that is the exact time he was literally committing genocide against native peoples. In the 1860 US census, the count of "off reservation, tax paying, assimilated American Indians" was 44,000. Ten years later, after the Presidency of Abraham Lincoln, the population of "off reservation, tax paying, assimilated American Indians" was reduced to 25,713. For those who are counting, that is a genocide rate of 41.56% (and does not even factor in all the “savage Indians” who were slaughtered during that period). I invite you to watch the segment of a lecture I gave recently on the Doctrine of Discovery which addresses the entire legacy of Abraham Lincoln.

Denial is the challenge of our nation. We cannot fix a problem we falsely, and continually, tell ourselves never existed, or has already been resolved. EVERY road to healing begins with acknowledging and owning your problems. And contrary to popular belief, our nation’s primary problems are not individual, but collective and bipartisan. So let’s stop pretending that President Trump is the God-ordained savior or the ultimate demise of our union. The same with President Obama.  Or even Abraham Lincoln.

What our nation needs is not for Democrats to be better Democrats.
Nor do we need Republicans to simply be better Republicans.
We need Americans, ALL Americans, to be better humans.

And collectively, we need to address our foundations.

The United States of America is not white supremacist, racist and sexist in spite of our foundations. Our country is white supremacist, racist and sexist BECAUSE of our foundations.

And until we fix the foundations, our problems will not get resolved.

This is why, especially on the Fourth of July, instead of simply watching more fireworks, I am calling the United States of America to a national dialogue on race, gender & class. A conversation on par with the Truth & Reconciliation Commissions in South Africa, Rwanda and Canada. I'm calling it Truth & Conciliation and my goal is 2021. #TCC2021

Ahe’hee’
(Thank you),

Mark Charles

Mark Charles is the son of an American woman of Dutch heritage and a Navajo man. He speaks and writes regularly about the Doctrine of Discovery. You can learn more about the Doctrine of Discovery and #TCC2021 on his website - Wirelesshogan.com.  Mark is active on Facebook ,  Twitter ,  YouTube  and  Instagram.

Video: The Doctrine of Discovery: A Lecture by Mark Charles

Friday, June 15, 2018

Separating Families? It's What the US has Always Done.

There is a crisis going on at our borders. Children are being separated from their families. Mothers are being separated from their babies. Many Americans are beginning to take notice and cry out, but the problem is not getting resolved. Democrats are blaming Republicans who in turn are blaming Democrats. And Christians from both sides of the aisle are quoting their Bibles to either force change or justify the situation. But most disturbing, are the voices declaring, "This is not who we are."  It is for those voices that I share 5 excerpts of American history.

Slave trade:
"Austin Bearse, a white man from Massachusetts...worked on a Massachusetts-based ship that transported enslaved people from Charleston to New Orleans…The ship sometimes transported as many as 80 people to plantations in New Orleans. Before setting out, Bearse said, 'We used to allow the relatives and friends of the slaves to come on board and stay all night with their friends before the vessel sailed. In the morning it used to be my business to pull off the hatches and warn them that it was time to separate, and the shrieks and cries at these times were enough to make anybody’s heart ache.'”

By State Library and Archives of Florida - https://www.flickr.com/photos/floridamemory/6174670915/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53523858"In 1828, "while mate of the brig ‘Milton,’ of Boston, bound from Charleston, S.C., to New Orleans,” Bearse wrote, “the following incident occurred, which I shall never forget. The traders brought on board four quadroon men in handcuffs. An old negro woman more than eighty years of age, came screaming after them, ‘My son! O, my son!’ She seemed almost frantic.” Bearse recalled that when they left the port and were more than a mile out on the harbor, he could still hear this mother’s piercing screams."
(“Help Me to Find My People” by Heather Andrea Williams, pg. 114-115)

Indian Removal:
"By the middle of December most of the weak and aged had died. There is hardly a Navajo family that cannot remember tales of an aged grandfather, a pregnant mother or a lame child that had to be left behind when the camp had to be quickly deserted. The patrols were not interested in taking captives; it was too much trouble to transport them back to the forts. Any Navajo they saw was shot on sight. Mothers were sometimes forced to suffocate their hungry crying babies to keep their families from being discovered and butchered by an army patrol or taken captive by the slave raiders."
(Locke, The Book of the Navajo, pg. 358)

By Harper's Weekly magazine, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1344739
Manifest Destiny:
Even though California was admitted as a free state in 1850, that same year the newly established California legislature passed the Indian Indenture Act which “establishes a form of legal slavery for the native peoples of the state by allowing whites to declare them vagrant and auction off their services for up to four months. The law also permits whites to indenture Indian children, with the permission of a parent or friend, and leads to widespread kidnapping of Indian children, who are then sold as ‘apprentices.’" (PBS) In his book “The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America,” author Andres Resendez writes, “According to one scholarly estimate, this act may have effected as many as twenty thousand California Indians, including four thousand children kidnapped from their parents and employed primarily as domestic servants and farm laborers” (pg. 2). The wanton killing, enslavement and complete disregard for the lives of the California Indians was so pervasive that even California’s first Governor, Peter Burnett, acknowledged the following in his State of the State Address in 1851, “That a war of extermination will continue to be waged between the races until the Indian race becomes extinct must be expected. While we cannot anticipate this result but with painful regret, the inevitable destiny of the race is beyond the power or wisdom of man to avert.” (Governors.Library.CA)

Internment Camps:
By The original uploader was Shep182 at English Wikipedia. - File:SanPedro to SantaAnita.gif, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37462270
"Today, we call them 'internment camps.' A more accurate term would be “concentration camps.” They were called exactly that by then-President Roosevelt as he confidently endorsed them. The name “enemy alien internment camps” was also used to describe these centers...Japanese Americans were uprooted from their homes and treated like criminals. They experienced enormous loss. They suffered great physical and emotional trauma. A racial minority was concentrated in specific areas for the security of the nation, imprisoned in deplorable conditions, and stripped of their dignity. They were living in concentration camps." (10 Shameful Facts About Japanese-American Internment)

"Within hours of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the FBI began arresting the mostly Issei men flagged as security threats during the decade of government surveillance that preceded the war. Over 1,200 businessmen, Buddhist priests, Japanese language school teachers, and other community leaders were taken into custody within the first 48 hours. That number would eventually swell to more than 5,500. Many of these men left behind wives and children. They were picked up without warrants or charges, and families sometimes waited weeks to find out where they were being detained—in many cases learning that they had already been sent to Department of Justice internment camps like Santa Fe or Missoula. " (Densho Blog: Photo Essay: Japanese American Mothers During WWII)

Indian Boarding Schools:
"In 1961, when I was six years old, my parents were ordered by the U.S. government and the BIA to put me in Kinlichee Boarding School. My father took me there and left me crying after him. I remember crying all the time. I was in Kinlichee for six years, Toyei Boarding School for two years, and Fort Wingate Boarding School for one year.  When we arrived at boarding school, we were assigned a number, were given baths, and were dressed in identical clothes and shoes. I was stripped of my Navajo clothes and moccasins, which had been sewn for me by my mother, and they were thrown away."

"I was always lonely. Every chance I got, I would go to the laundry room. It had a big window, and if I sat in a certain place, I could see the road at the top of the canyon or mesa. I would watch the road to see if my parents were coming to get me. Kinlichee Boarding School was built near a wash and was surrounded by a fence. I tried many times to run away as I got older, but I was always caught. One time at Toyei Boarding School, I crawled through the sagebrush, dirt, trees, and cactus for miles, but they found me and brought me back for more punishment."
(Written by Susie Silversmith, a boarding school survivor – quote taken from CRCNA Doctrine of Discovery Task Force – “Creating a New Family: A Circle of Conversation on the Doctrine of Christian Discovery” - pg. 55)

Throughout our history the United States of America has used the separation of families as a means of controlling people of color. Whether during Indian removal, the slave trade, Western Expansion, Internment Camps, Indian boarding schools or in immigration detention centers today - the U.S. government has been stealing babies from their mother’s breasts for nearly 250 years. It is who we are. It's what our government does.

But it's not who we have to be.

The first step towards change is acknowledging we have a problem. So while this may be who we are, it is not who we have to continue to be. But that is a decision we have to make together, both intentionally and collectively. Our systemic injustice, racism, and implicit bias of white supremacy are not partisan problems. It's a collective problem. And the solution is not for Democrats to be better Democrats. Nor will anything be solved if Republicans can be better Republicans. Instead, we need to call upon all Americans to be better humans.


Mark Charles (Navajo) speaks and writes about the Doctrine of Discovery. He is calling for a National Dialogue on Race, Gender and Class. A Conversation on par with the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions in South Africa, Rwanda and Canada. Mark calls it Truth and Conciliation and his goal is 2021. You can learn more about the Doctrine of Discovery and #TCC2021 on his website - Wirelesshogan.com.  Mark is active on Facebook ,  Twitter ,  YouTube  and  Instagram.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

When your President Motivates Military Graduates by Celebrating the Genocide of Native Peoples

On Friday President Trump gave the commencement address at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. About one third of the way through his speech he attempted to affirm and motivate the graduates by reminding them of America's past military conquests when he said,

“Together, you are the tip of the spear, the edge of the blade, and the front of the shield defending and protecting our great country. You know, there is no mission our pilots can’t handle. There is no hill our Marines can’t take, and there is no stronghold the SEALs can’t reach. There is no sea the Navy can’t brave, and there is no storm the American sailor can’t conquer. Because you know that together, there is nothing Americans can’t do. Absolutely nothing. In recent years and even decades, too many people have forgotten that truth. They have forgotten that our ancestors trounced an empire, tamed a continent, and triumphed over the worst evils in history.”



Tamed a continent?

On May 28, 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal act. This was the Act of Congress that gave the military the right to remove native tribes from their lands in the east to more empty lands further in the west. This resulted in the Trail of Tears for the Cherokee, the Choctaw and the Chickasaw. It also resulted in the Long Walk for the Navajo and Apache. All told about a dozen tribes experienced forced relocation due to this act, and tens of thousands of native people died as a direct result of this act.

Tamed a continent?

Following the conclusion of the Dakota War of 1862 and lasting through the summer of 1863 the US military and the state of Minnesota paid bounties of between $25 - $200 for the scalps of Dakota people. In December of 1862, President Lincoln ordered the largest mass execution in the history of the United States with the hanging of the Dakota 38. In January of 1863, President Lincoln signed a bill nullifying all the Treaties with the Dakota people in the state of Minnesota. In March of 1863 President Lincoln signed a bill granting himself the authority, without treaty or negotiation, to remove tribes from the state of Minnesota.  This inhumane and forced removal began in April and was completed by the fall of 1863.

Tamed a continent?

In the fall of 1863, General Carleton gave the following order to US Army Officer Kit Carson "Henceforth every Navajo male is to be killed or taken prisoner on sight.... Say to them 'Go to the Bosque Redondo or we will pursue and destroy you....We will not make peace with you on any other terms. This war shall be pursued until you cease to exist or move. There can be no other talk on the subject.’ Kit Carson began a campaign of terror against the Navajo people. He burned our hogans, destroyed or crops, killed our livestock and relentlessly pursued us throughout our traditional lands.”

"By the middle of December most of the weak and aged had died. There is hardly a Navajo family that cannot remember tales of an aged grandfather, a pregnant mother or a lame child that had to be left behind when the camp had to be quickly deserted. The patrols were not interested in taking captives; it was too much trouble to transport them back to the forts. Any Navajo they saw was shot on sight. Mothers were sometimes forced to suffocate their hungry crying babies to keep their families from being discovered and butchered by an army patrol or taken captive by the slave raiders.” ("Book of the Navajo" by Raymond Friday Locke)

On January 15, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln approved the creation of the Bosque Redondo Indian reserve, which, for all intents and purposes, functioned as a death camp. Over 10,000 Navajo men, women and children were forcibly marched there. Hundreds died in route, and once relocated, those who attempted to escape were shot. But those who remained did not fare much better as nearly one quarter of the Navajo people who were imprisoned at Bosque Redondo died.

Tamed a continent?

In 1851, the United States signed a treaty with the Cheyenne and Arapahoe tribes, establishing their treaty lands in the area of the southwest that today is eastern Colorado and western Kansas. In 1858, gold was discovered in the Rocky Mountains, and settlers and prospectors began encroaching upon the lands of the Cheyenne and Arapahoe people. In 1862, the United States reduced the lands holdings of the Cheyenne and Arapahoe tribes by 92% through the Treaty of Fort Wise. In November of 1864, Colonel Chivington of the US Army massacred nearly 200 Cheyenne and Arapahoe men, women and children while they were encamped on their own treaty lands. It was later reported that the soldiers paraded the genitalia of the massacred Cheyenne and Arapahoe people down the streets of Denver.  Within 3 years, the Cheyenne and Arapahoe tribes completely surrendered and were removed to Oklahoma.

Tamed a continent?

What do the Dakota in Minnesota, the Cheyenne and Arapahoe in Colorado and the Navajo in New Mexico have in common? In May of 1862, President Lincoln signed the Homestead Act. And in July of 1862 he signed the Pacific Railway Act. The Homestead Act provided 160 acres for any American citizen willing to homestead land in the west for 5 years. And the Pacific Railway Act opened land and provided resources to complete the transcontinental railway and telegraph lines. The Transcontinental Railroad had three proposed routes. A northern route that went through Minnesota. A central route that went through the territory of Colorado. And a southern route that went through the territory of New Mexico. Within two and a half years of signing the Pacific Railroad act, President Lincoln ethnically cleansed the Dakota from the state of Minnesota, the Cheyenne and Arapahoe from the territory of Colorado and the Navajo from the territory of New Mexico.

In his annual address to Congress in 1864, President Lincoln reported "1,538,614 acres were entered under the homestead law...The great enterprise of connecting the Atlantic with the Pacific States by railways and telegraph lines has been entered upon with a vigor that gives assurance of success."

Tamed a continent?

On December 29, 1890, the US Army surrounded a band of Lakota people near Wounded Knee.  During a scuffle, a weapon discharged (unclear from which side) and chaos ensued. The US Army had up to four Hotchkiss Cannons at Wounded Knee. These are 37 mm cannons that shoot up to 70 rounds per minute and are accurate to 2,000 yards. The US Army rained bullets down on the Lakota people, many of whom ran into a nearby ravine to seek cover from the gunfire. The US Army later awarded 18 Medals of Honor to US soldiers who participated in the massacre. Three of the medals, those given to William Austin, John Gresham and Albert McMillan, were awarded specifically for directing fire into and flushing the Lakota people out of the ravine.

Tamed a continent?

In 1500, there were approximately 4 million indigenous people living on the section of Turtle Island that today is known as the continental United States. By 1870, that number had been reduced to 25,713.  That is a 99.36% population reduction.

The United States of America did not "tame a continent", it ethnically cleansed one. Nearly to extinction.

Mr. President, I am not going to ask you to apologize for your truly offensive choice of words. For I observe that they are deeply rooted in your white supremacists (and sexist) world view. In the speech announcing your campaign, you labeled Mexican immigrants as rapists and murders and promised to build a wall along our southern border. You were caught on a live mic before the campaign, telling a young protégé that celebrity and fame gives you the right to sexually assault women. You told a campaign rally in Iowa that you "could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody, and you wouldn't lose voters." You threaten other nations, via Twitter, with nuclear annihilation. You hide your taxes and hire lawyers to pay hush money to porn stars. You attack the press, humiliate your wife and sexually demean your daughter along with Howard Stern on national radio. And on Friday, you sought to motivate the 2018 graduating class of the United States Naval Academy by celebrating the ethnic cleansing and genocide of native peoples here in the United States. Nothing appears sacred to you, except your own fame and glory. I am not asking you to apologize, because I do not believe you are sorry.

Instead, I want to ask the American people. Is “making America great again” really what we want?  American history is a mess. The Doctrine of Discovery, slavery, stolen lands, broken treaties, Jim-crow laws, Indian boarding schools, massacres, segregation, internment camps, nuclear bombs, mass incarceration, a broken immigration system. America's greatness is a myth, rooted in the lie of white supremacy. Do we really want to go back to that?  Make America Great Again?  And for whom?

In his final State of the Union, President Obama tried to address our national need for a new politics. He said, "We the people, our Constitution begins with those three simple words. Words we've come to recognize mean all the people."

Now that may sound beautiful. But I have studied American history and our founding documents extensively. The problem is, we have never decided, as a nation, that “We the People” means All the People. The founding fathers didn't intend that. Abraham Lincoln didn't believe it. The Civil Rights Movement couldn't close the gap. Even our first black President, Barack Obama, didn't get us there. And I promise you, Donald J. Trump does not believe that We the People means All the People.

I see President Trump's definition of greatness, and I don't want any part of it. I would much rather work towards a future where We the People finally means All the People. I know it will take some incredibly hard work, and I believe we can get there. But not if we continue to demean and sexually assault women. Not if we continue to arrest black men for sitting in Starbucks. Not if we insist on criminalizing non-white immigrants. Not if we dehumanize anyone, including our enemies. And not if we continue to celebrate our ethnic cleansing and genocidal history.

We also won't get there by calling Republicans to be better Republicans. Nor will we get there by asking Democrats to be better Democrats. Unfortunately, the myth of American Exceptionalism and the lie of white supremacy are areas of bi-partisan agreement. What we need is for all Americans to be better humans.

For the past 5 years I have had the privilege of traveling the country and speaking with people from all segments of society. Teaching them about the Doctrine of Discovery and the incredibly violent and dehumanizing legacy it imprinted on America.  I recently gave one such lecture in Fresno California. It was recorded and is available on my YouTube Channel. I invite all Americans to watch it (posted below). Not because its easy to hear. But because it presents a history that we have buried, yet desperately need to deal with.

I thank you for taking the time to read this. Walk in beauty my relatives.

Mark Charles
(Navajo)


Monday, February 19, 2018

The Historically Accurate Abraham Lincoln

I've always wondered why Black History month is commemorated in February. So this year I decided to look it up, and learned that one of the reasons is because February is the month which contains the birthdays of both Fredrick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln.

Choosing February as Black History Month because of Frederick Douglass makes sense. "He was a prominent American abolitionist, author and orator. Born a slave, Douglass escaped at age 20 and went on to become a world-renowned anti-slavery activist." (History)

But choosing to put Black History Month in February because of Abraham Lincoln? That makes no sense at all. At least not when you understand the historically accurate Abraham Lincoln. You see, there are two Abraham Lincolns. The historically accurate Abraham Lincoln and the mythological Abraham Lincoln. Most Americans know only the mythological Abraham Lincoln and are clueless as to his actual history, writings, speeches and military exploits as Commander in Chief of the Unites States armed forces.

The mythological Abraham Lincoln is held up by both Democrats and Republicans alike. He is a beacon of freedom and a champion of racial equality. In fact, in the spring of 2016, House Majority Leader Paul Ryan (R-WI) referenced the legacy of Abraham Lincoln when he publicly rebuked GOP Presidential candidate Donald J. Trump for not distancing himself from the political endorsement of David Duke, a well-known KKK member. He said:
"If a person wants to be the nominee of the Republican Party, there can be no evasion and no games. They must reject any group or cause that is built on bigotry. This party does not prey on people's prejudices. We appeal to their highest ideals. This is the party of Lincoln. We believe all people are created equal in the eyes of God and our government. This is fundamental. And if someone wants to be our nominee, they must understand this." (Twitter)
Speaker Ryan was, of course, referencing the Abraham Lincoln most everyone knows and loves, the mythological Abraham Lincoln. I however, would like to invite you to meet the historically accurate Abraham Lincoln.

In the fall of 1858, Abraham Lincoln was in a brutal campaign for the US Senate. He was running against Judge Stephen Douglas, as well as against the perception that he was in favor of freeing the slaves. So, in the first debate, towards the beginning of his remarks, he sought to assure the white voters of where he actually stood in regard to slavery and racial equality:
"I will say here, while upon this subject, that I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so. I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the white and the black races. There is a physical difference between the two, which, in my judgment, will probably forever forbid their living together upon the footing of perfect equality, and inasmuch as it becomes a necessity that there must be a difference, I, as well as Judge Douglas, am in favor of the race to which I belong having the superior position."
- Abraham Lincoln (First Lincoln Douglas Debate - August 21, 1858 - Ottawa, Illinois)
Several weeks later, during his fourth debate with Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln reiterated his stance on both slavery and race, almost verbatim:
"I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, [applause]-that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race."
- Abraham Lincoln (Fourth Lincoln Douglas Debate - September 18, 1858 - Charleston, Illinois)
In 1861, during his inauguration speech, President Lincoln felt the need to once again reminded the nation as to where he stood on race and slavery. He reiterated his intention to not free the slaves in states where it already existed, and in regards to his thoughts on race, he referenced the country back to his speeches in the Douglas debates:
"Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States that by the accession of a Republican Administration their property and their peace and personal security are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the while existed and been open to their inspection. It is found in nearly all the published speeches of him who now addresses you. I do but quote from one of those speeches when I declare that--I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so."(1861 - Inaugural Address)
On August 19, 1862, Horace Greeley, the Editor of the New York Tribune wrote a scathing Op-Ed calling for the immediate emancipation of the slaves. President Lincoln had already written the Emancipation Proclamation but was not yet ready to issue it. He first wanted to assure the slave-owning states of the north (Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware) of his true intentions and beliefs, so he responded to Greeley's Op-Ed with a letter which stated:
"If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that."
It is the latter half of this quote (italicized) that is engraved on a marble plaque which today hangs in the museum at the base of the Lincoln Memorial. It boldly declares President Abraham Lincoln’s belief that black lives did not matter.

1862 was a turbulent year for our country. It was the first full year of the Civil War, but that was not the only fighting taking place. In Minnesota, the US Government had recently signed a treaty with the Dakota Sioux nation, and in the fall of 1862, after the United States failed to meet its treaty obligations with the Dakota people, several Dakota warriors raided an American settlement, killed some of the settlers and stole food. This began a short period of bloody conflict between some of the Dakota people, white settlers, and the U.S. Military. After little more than a month, several hundred of the Dakota warriors surrendered and the rest fled north to what is now Canada. Those who surrendered were quickly tried in military tribunals, and 303 of them were condemned to death.
"The trials of the Dakota were conducted unfairly in a variety of ways. The evidence was sparse, the tribunal was biased, the defendants were unrepresented in unfamiliar proceedings conducted in a foreign language, and authority for convening the tribunal was lacking. More fundamentally, neither the Military Commission nor the reviewing authorities recognized that they were dealing with the aftermath of a war fought with a sovereign nation, and that the men who surrendered were entitled to treatment in accordance with that status."(Carol Chomsky)
Because these were military trials, the executions had to be ordered by the President. 303 deaths seemed too genocidal for President Lincoln. But he didn't order retrials, even though it has been argued that the trials which took place were a legal sham. Instead he simply modified the criteria of which charges warranted a death sentence. Under his new criteria, only two of the Dakota warriors were sentenced to die. That small number seemed too lenient, and President Lincoln was concerned about an uprising by his white American settlers in that area. So, for a second time, instead of ordering retrials, he changed the criteria of what warranted a death sentence.

Ultimately, 39 Dakota men were sentenced to die. And on December 26, 1862, by order of President Lincoln, and with nearly 4,000 white American settlers looking on, the largest mass execution in the history of the United States took place, making it abundantly clear that, not only did Abraham Lincoln not believe that Black Lives Mattered, but he did not believe that Native Lives Mattered either.

Less than a week later, on January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect. But, if you look closely, this proclamation did not free all the slaves. The wording of the Emancipation Proclamation was extremely specific, and limited the locations from which slaves were to be freed:
"Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, (except the Parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the City of New Orleans) Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth[)], and which excepted parts, are for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued."
The Emancipation Proclamation exempted many areas and counties throughout the southern slave-owning states, and never even mentioned freeing slaves from the northern states where slavery was legal (Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware). These states had not seceded from the Union and therefore were exempted by Lincoln from the Proclamation. Some have argued that because President Lincoln was using his wartime powers as commander-in-chief to make the proclamation, it was legally necessary to limit the jurisdiction of the proclamation to states and counties that were actively fighting against the Union.  However, taken in the context of President Lincoln’s response to Horace Greeley, the limited implementation of the Emancipation Proclamation remained true to President Lincoln’s belief that Black Lives did not Matter. He fulfilled his commitment to the slave owners in Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland and Delaware that if he could save the Union “by freeing some and leaving others alone” he would do that.

In the 1860s President Lincoln also sought to put an end to the Indian wars being fought in the Southwest against the Navajo and the Pueblos. The military offensive against our tribes by the US Army intensified with the start of the Civil War in 1861 and steadily increased thereafter. In the fall of 1863, General Carleton of the US Army, the army of which Abraham Lincoln was the commander in chief, gave the following order to US Army Officer, Kit Carson, who had been brought into the Indian War Campaigns for the express purpose of removing the Navajo and Pueblo people to Brosque Redondo.
"Henceforth every Navajo male is to be killed or taken prisoner on sight....Say to them 'Go to the Brosque Redondo or we will pursue and destroy you....We will not make peace with you on any other terms. This war shall be pursued until you cease to exist or move. There can be no other talk on the subject.'" (Locke, "The Book of the Navajo", Mankind Publishing, pg. 356)
The strength and numbers of the Navajo people had already been depleted. Most of our crops were burned and our livestock killed. Raymond Friday Locke, once again, in his book titled "The Book of the Navajo" records the next step of the operation:
"with the coming of the first snows, Carson put his second plan of operation into action. He knew that, even with the loss of most of their livestock and crops, the Navajo people could still survive the winter on game and wild seeds and plants – but not if they were constantly kept on the move. Again breaking his command up into small patrols, he sent them out to crisscross Dinehtah (the traditional lands of the Navajo people) until the Navajos were broken up into small family units and scattered. They could never remain in one place for more than a few days at a time, camped in mountain crevices or caves without sufficient food, shelter or clothing…By the middle of December most of the weak and aged had died. There is hardly a Navajo family that cannot remember tales of an aged grandfather, a pregnant mother or a lame child that had to be left behind when the camp had to be quickly deserted. The patrols were not interested in taking captives; it was too much trouble to transport them back to the forts. Any Navajo they saw was shot on sight. Mothers were sometimes forced to suffocate their hungry crying babies to keep their families from being discovered and butchered by an army patrol or taken captive by the slave raiders.”
(Locke, "The Book of the Navajo", Mankind Publishing, pg. 358)
Ultimately over 8,000 Navajo people were rounded up by President Lincoln’s army, and marched from Fort Wingate to Bosque Redondo in what is known as "The Long Walk."

About that same time (1864), in Colorado, the US Army, still under their Commander in Chief Abraham Lincoln, committed the Massacre at Sand Creek:
"On November 29, 1864, approximately 675 United States soldiers under the command of Colonel John Chivington killed more than 200 Cheyenne and Arapaho villagers, mostly elderly men, women, and children, approximately 180 miles southeast of Denver near Eads, Colorado.  Despite assurance from American negotiators that they would be safe, and despite Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle raising both a United States flag and a white flag as symbols of peace, Colonel Chivington ordered his troops to take no prisoners and to pillage and set the village ablaze, violently forcing the ambushed and outnumbered Cheyenne and Arapaho villagers to flee on foot. Colonel Chivington and his troops paraded mutilated body parts of men, women, and children in downtown Denver, Colorado, in celebration of the massacre." (Colorado Senate Joint Resolution 14-030)
In 1865, the mythological President Lincoln was given credit for abolishing slavery. But that’s because most people have never actually read the text of the 13th Amendment. Here is what it says:
"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."
To this day, slavery in the United States is completely legal. The 13th Amendment did not abolish it, it merely codified slavery and put it under the jurisdiction of the criminal justice system. And I am sure that the historically accurate Abraham Lincoln would be delighted to learn that, 153 years later, the United States of America now has nearly twice as many more black males over the age of 18 in prison, on parole and on probation, than were enslaved in 1850.

As a Navajo man, I find many of the holidays celebrated by the United States of America lamentable. Every Fourth of July we celebrate a Declaration of Independence that refers to Natives as “merciless Indian savages.” Columbus Day celebrates a "discovery" of lands that were already inhabited. On Thanksgiving we celebrate a mythological potluck between natives and settlers (that never happened). But President’s Day. The fact that as a nation we celebrate Abraham Lincoln's birthday. and have white washed the exploits of a racist, genocidal, ethnic-cleansing president like Abraham Lincoln is morally, ethically, politically and socially reprehensible.

Mark Charles
(Navajo)

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Chief Wahoo: A Mascot for the Lie of White Supremacy

On Monday, the Cleveland Indians released a statement that they will remove the logo of Chief Wahoo from their on-field uniforms beginning with the 2019 season. Many people on social media congratulated Major League Baseball for its commitment to inclusivity and diversity and thanked the owner of the Cleveland Indians for making this change. I do not share in those sentiments and here is why.
  Chief Wahoo thru the years  

Owner Paul Dolan only committed to remove Chief Wahoo after the 2018 season has completed.

The nation was rightfully outraged that Michigan State University and US Gymnastics ignored, for years, the voices of women and underage girls who reported that Larry Nassar had been touching them inappropriately during his examinations and treatments.  The pubic was outraged that many studios, friends, co-workers and executives were complicit, through their silence, in the long pattern of abuse and sexual assault by Harvey Weinstein. Sexual assault is unacceptable. Period. And those who bury it, ignore it, and turn the other way are also complicit in it.

When their actions came to light, Larry Nassar and Harvey Weinstein were not merely asked to phase out their behavior, nor were they simply told to promise to cease their behavior at a later, more convenient date. No, they were immediately removed from their positions, shunned by the public, and confronted by those they abused.

White America has a long-standing history of violence and racism against native peoples. Discovery, stolen lands, broken treaties, ethnic cleansing, genocide, boarding schools, massacres, sexual assault, mass incarceration, reservations, #DAPL, and the list goes on, and on, and on.  The problem is much deeper than a mere logo or a simple mascot.  Native mascots in sports are dehumanizing caricatures rooted in our nation’s racist history, mascots for the lie of white supremacy.

Looked at from this perspective, the statements put out by Commissioner Manfred and owner Paul Dolan border on the absurd.
Commissioner Manfred: "During our constructive conversations, Paul Dolan made clear that there are fans who have a longstanding attachment to the logo and its place in the history of the team. Nonetheless, the club ultimately agreed with my position that the logo is no longer appropriate for on-field use in Major League Baseball, and I appreciate Mr. Dolan’s acknowledgement that removing it from the on-field uniform by the start of the 2019 season is the right course."

Paul Dolan: “While we recognize many of our fans have a longstanding attachment to Chief Wahoo, I’m ultimately in agreement with Commissioner Manfred’s desire to remove the logo from our uniforms in 2019.”
If you still don’t see it, try reading the statements again, this time with the implicit racial bias made explicit.
Commissioner Manfred: "During our constructive conversations, Paul Dolan made clear that there are fans who have a longstanding attachment to the white supremacist logo and its place in the history of the team. Nonetheless, the club ultimately agreed with my position that the white supremacist logo is no longer appropriate for on-field use in Major League Baseball, and I appreciate Mr. Dolan’s acknowledgement that removing it from the on-field uniform by the start of the 2019 season is the right course."

Paul Dolan: “While we recognize many of our fans have a longstanding attachment to Chief Wahoo white supremacy, I’m ultimately in agreement with Commissioner Manfred’s desire to remove the white supremacist logo from our uniforms in 2019.
What is true for sexual assault is also true for racism and the lie of white supremacy. It is NEVER acceptable. Period. Not today. Not yesterday. Not 10 years ago. Not even 100 years ago. Racism and the lie of white supremacy are abhorrent whenever and wherever they exist.

I do not congratulate Major League Baseball, nor do I thank the Cleveland Indians for committing to not remove Chief Wahoo from their on-field uniforms until 2019. I lament that it took them this long to commit to anything, and I call on owner Paul Dolan and Commissioner Manfred to change the team name and remove the racist caricature immediately, beginning with the 2018 season. Anything less communicates that racism and the lie of white supremacy are socially acceptable. And they are not.

Mark Charles
(Navajo)

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Abhorrent Lie of White Supremacy

To be clear, President Trump's vulgar and racist comments on Thursday regarding immigrants from the continent of Africa were intended to appeal to his political base and rooted in the abhorrent lie of white supremacy.  After hearing reports of President Trumps remarks I asked my two oldest children to read the following excerpt of a speech by another US President who also held and articulated white supremacist views.  I did this because I wanted them to understand the pervasiveness of white supremacy and just how deeply it is rooted in American history.
"While I was at the hotel to-day, an elderly gentleman called upon me to know whether I was really in favor of producing a perfect equality between the negroes and white people. [Great Laughter.] While I had not proposed to myself on this occasion to say much on that subject, yet as the question was asked me I thought I would occupy perhaps five minutes in saying something in regard to it. I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, [applause]-that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race."
- Abraham Lincoln (Fourth Lincoln Douglas Debate - September 18, 1858 - Charleston, Illinois)
Now, I know what many may be thinking. This is unfair, you are taking an excerpt from a speech early in Lincoln’s political life, 5 years before he issued the emancipation proclamation and six years before he gave the Gettysburg address. Certainly, Abraham Lincoln's beliefs in racial equality must have grown and changed over the course of his political career.

Did they?

In 1864, near the end of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln wrote what is probably the shortest and most famous political speech in American history, the Gettysburg Address. At 272 words, beginning with a reference to the Declaration of Independence and concluding with the often-quoted line "...that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." Many believe this speech to be the perfect capstone to his life and political career.

But we must note that, like the inclusive language used by the authors of the Declaration of Independence ("All men") and the US Constitution, ("We the people"), Lincoln does not in the immediate context of his words, define who he is including when he refers to "All men" and "people". In the Declaration of Independence, 30 lines after the statement "All men are created equal", the authors refer to native tribes as "merciless Indian savages." Making it very clear that they had a very narrow definition of who was actually human. And Article I Section II of the US Constitution, the section that defines who is included in the designation "We the people". Article I, Section II never mentions women, it specifically excludes Indians and it counts African slaves as 3/5th human. This leaves only white, land-owning men.

If you read the Emancipation Proclamation you will note that President Lincoln was incredibly specific as to exactly where he was freeing the slaves:
"Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, (except the Parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the City of New Orleans) Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth[)], and which excepted parts, are for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued."
The Emancipation Proclamation did not apply to the slave owning border states of Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware. These states had not seceded from the Union and therefore were exempted from the Emancipation Proclamation.

Some will argue that because President Lincoln was using his wartime powers as commander-in-chief to make the proclamation, it was legally necessary to limit the proclamation to states and counties that were actively fighting against the Union.  However, President Lincoln himself provides detailed insight into his thinking regarding his reasoning for freeing the slaves just a few months prior.

On August 19, 1862, Horace Greeley, the Editor of the New York Tribune wrote a scathing Op-Ed calling for the immediate emancipation of the slaves. President Lincoln had already written the Emancipation Proclamation but was not yet ready to issue it. He first wanted to reassure the slave-owning states of Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware of his values, so he responded to Greeley's Op-Ed with a letter which stated:
"If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that." 
This quote is engraved on a marble plaque that hangs in the museum at the base of the Lincoln memorial. Boldly announcing to everyone who visits the museum that President Abraham Lincoln did not believe that black lives matter.

On top of that, just a few weeks before he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, President Lincoln ordered the largest mass execution in the history of the United States.

In the fall of 1862, after the United States failed to meet its treaty obligations with the Dakota people, several Dakota warriors raided an American settlement, killed some of the settlers and stole some food. This began a period of bloody conflict between some of the Dakota people, the settlers, and the US Military. After more than a month, several hundred of the Dakota warriors surrendered and the rest fled north to what is now Canada. Those who surrendered were quickly tried in military tribunals, and 303 of them were condemned to death.
"The trials of the Dakota were conducted unfairly in a variety of ways. The evidence was sparse, the tribunal was biased, the defendants were unrepresented in unfamiliar proceedings conducted in a foreign language, and authority for convening the tribunal was lacking. More fundamentally, neither the Military Commission nor the reviewing authorities recognized that they were dealing with the aftermath of a war fought with a sovereign nation and that the men who surrendered were entitled to treatment in accordance with that status." (Carol Chomsky)
Because these were military trials, the executions had to be ordered by President Abraham Lincoln.

Three hundred and three deaths seemed too genocidal for President Lincoln. But he didn't order retrials, even though it has been argued that the trials which took place were a legal sham. Instead he simply modified the criteria of what charges warranted a death sentence. Under his new criteria, only two of the Dakota warriors were sentenced to die. That small number seemed too lenient, and President Lincoln was concerned about an uprising by his white American settlers in that area. So, for a second time, instead of ordering retrials, he changed the criteria of what warranted a death sentence.

Ultimately, 39 Dakota men were sentenced to die. And on December 26, 1862, by order of President Lincoln, and with nearly 4,000 white American settlers looking on, the largest mass execution in the history of the United States took place. The hanging of the Dakota 38.

Clearly, not only did President Lincoln not believe black lives mattered, but he also did not believe native lives mattered.

So how about his inauguration? The election of Abraham Lincoln as President, and his inauguration into office was what spurred several of the southern states to secede from the Union. Surely, he must have stated something in his address that made clear his belief in the value of "all men" and his inclusion of people of color in his definition of humanity.
"Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States that by the accession of a Republican Administration their property and their peace and personal security are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the while existed and been open to their inspection. It is found in nearly all the published speeches of him who now addresses you. I do but quote from one of those speeches when I declare that--I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so." (1861 - Inaugural Address)
And, President Lincoln’s direct quote of a previous speech brings us back to yet another example of what is obviously a deeply held, and life long, belief in the lie of white supremacy:
"Now, gentlemen, I don't want to read at any greater length, but this is the true complexion of all I have ever said in regard to the institution of slavery and the black race. This is the whole of it, and anything that argues me into his idea of perfect social and political equality with the negro, is but a specious and fantastic arrangement of words, by which a man can prove a horse-chestnut to be a chestnut horse. [Laughter.] I will say here, while upon this subject, that I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so. I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the white and the black races. There is a physical difference between the two, which, in my judgment, will probably forever forbid their living together upon the footing of perfect equality, and inasmuch as it becomes a necessity that there must be a difference, I, as well as Judge Douglas, am in favor of the race to which I belong having the superior position."
- Abraham Lincoln (First Lincoln Douglas Debate - August 21, 1858 - Ottawa, Illinois)
After President Trump made his vulgar and racist statement regarding immigrants from Africa, a statement that was rooted in his belief in the abhorrent lie of white supremacy, I had my two oldest children read the above speech by another US Politician who deeply believed the same abhorrent lie. Throughout his political career, President Abraham Lincoln was a white supremacist. I asked my children read his speech because I did not want them to believe that Donald Trump is the sole root of the problem. President Trump is obviously the most explicit and recent manifestation of the problem. But the abhorrent lie of white supremacy runs much deeper and is far more pervasive than most anyone is willing to admit.

I understand why so many white politicians hold up Abraham Lincoln as their political hero regarding matters of race. President Lincoln built and left a legacy that is the envy of many politicians. He won the support and admiration of generations of people of color, all the while blatantly, and repeatedly, reassuring his white base of the abhorrent lie that they were indeed the superior race.

Whether it comes from the vulgar mouth of Donald J. Trump or through the eloquent articulation of Abraham Lincoln, I lament, I weep, I decry, I denounce the pervasive and abhorrent lie of white supremacy.

Mark Charles
(Navajo)

Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Massacre at Wounded Knee and 18 Medals of Dishonor

On Friday December 29, I came across a news article regarding Oskar Groening. Oskar was an accountant who served in the SS in Nazi Germany at Auschwitz, an extermination camp used in the genocide of Jewish people during World War II. In 2015, at the age of 93, he was found guilty of accessory to 300,000 murders for his role in providing administrative support at Auschwitz. He appealed his sentence because of both his age at the time of sentencing and, the fact that his activities came to light due to his decision to speak publicly about his service at Auschwitz in an effort to counteract and silence holocaust deniers. But, on December 29, 2017, several news agencies reported that his appeal had been denied and he would serve his 4-year jail sentence.

This story stood out to me because December 29th is also the day that approximately 300 Sioux men, women and children were slaughtered by the US Army in 1890. The event is known as the Massacre at Wounded Knee. Here is a short description of the massacre:
"From the heights above, the army's Hotchkiss guns raked the Indian teepees with grapeshot. Clouds of gun smoke filled the air as men, women and children scrambled for their lives. Many ran for a ravine next to the camp only to be cut down in a withering cross fire. When the smoke cleared and the shooting stopped, approximately 300 Sioux were dead, Big Foot among them. Twenty-five soldiers lost their lives." (Eyewitness to History)
A few items should be noted about this massacre. First the US Army was using Hotchkiss guns, and some accounts report that a total of four Hotchkiss rapid-fire artillery guns were utilized at Wounded Knee. "The 1-pounder revolving Hotchkiss cannon had five 37 mm barrels, and was capable of firing 68 rounds per minute with an accuracy range of 2,000 yards. Each feed magazine held ten rounds and weighed approximately 18 pounds (Wikipedia)." Comparing their weapons to this, the Sioux never stood a chance.

Second, it was recorded that "many [Sioux] ran for a ravine next to the camp only to be cut down in a withering cross fire."

Most people are not aware of this, but the United States awarded 24 Medals of Honor to US soldiers for their actions throughout the Sioux Campaign of 1890, and 18 of those medals were given specifically to soldiers who participated in the Massacre at Wounded Knee.

The US Army website contains a section detailing the Medals of Honor that have been awarded throughout our country’s history, listed by war and conflict. Between 1839 and 1898, it records that a total of 425 Medals of Honor were awarded to US Soldiers who fought in the ‘Indian War Campaigns’ (but that unfortunate fact is the subject for another article at a later date). The site also records that 3 of the Medals of Honor from Wounded Knee were awarded for the following reasons:
"While the Indians were concealed in a ravine, assisted men on the skirmish line, directing their fire, etc., and using every effort to dislodge the enemy."

"Voluntarily led a party into a ravine to dislodge Sioux Indians concealed therein. He was wounded during this action."

"While engaged with Indians concealed in a ravine, he assisted the men on the skirmish line, directed their fire, encouraged them by example, and used every effort to dislodge the enemy."
So, let’s review. On December 29, 1890, the US Army surrounded an encampment of Sioux men, women and children. When peace talks broke down, the soldiers opened fire with their full artillery, which included up to 4 Hotchkiss guns. Many of the Sioux ran for cover in a nearby ravine. And 3 US soldiers were awarded Medals of Honor for directing fire into, and dislodging the Sioux out of, the ravine, where they could be more easily exterminated by the soldiers above it.

The United States and Germany have similar histories of white supremacy and racially motivated genocide. But while Germany is working hard to deal with their shameful history of ethnic cleansing, the US has chosen to publicly honor its.

On December 29, 2017 most of the major US news agencies, including ABC, NBC, CBS, USA Today, and Fox News, reported on Oskar Groening losing his appeal in the German Courts. A search, during the same news cycle, returned almost no references, on mainstream media, to the 127th Anniversary of the Massacre at Wounded Knee.

The United States of America needs a national dialogue on race, gender and class. A conversation on par with the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions that took place in South Africa, Rwanda and Canada. I'm calling it Truth and Conciliation, and the goal is 2021.

Because until we have such a dialogue, we will continue to be a nation that not only buries its incredibly violent and unjust history, but also ignorantly and brazenly honors our war crimes such as the Massacre at Wounded Knee.

Mark Charles
(Navajo)

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The Hanging of the Dakota 38 and the Troubling Legacy of Abraham Lincoln

In the museum located at the base of the Lincoln Memorial, there is a plaque hanging on the wall which states:
"I would save the Union. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and it is not to save or destroy slavery.  If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that."
I have stood near this plaque and watched lines of people pass by. Most simply read it and move on. Almost no one pauses or even raises an eyebrow. But when I stop them and point out that this plaque is literally stating that according to Abraham Lincoln "Black Lives Don't Matter," they look at me, turn around, read the plaque again, stare at it in disbelief, shake their heads, and then pull out their cameras to take a picture.

I then educate them on even more troubling history regarding our 16th President.

On December 26, 1862, the largest mass execution in the history of the United States, the hanging of the Dakota 38, took place, by the order of President Abraham Lincoln.

In the fall of 1862, after the United States failed to meet its treaty obligations with the Dakota people, several Dakota warriors raided an American settlement, killed 5 settlers and stole some food. This began a period of bloody conflict between some of the Dakota people, the settlers, and the US Military. After more than a month, several hundred of the Dakota warriors surrendered and the rest fled north to what is now Canada. Those who surrendered were quickly tried in military tribunals, and 303 of them were condemned to death.
"The trials of the Dakota were conducted unfairly in a variety of ways. The evidence was sparse, the tribunal was biased, the defendants were unrepresented in unfamiliar proceedings conducted in a foreign language, and authority for convening the tribunal was lacking. More fundamentally, neither the Military Commission nor the reviewing authorities recognized that they were dealing with the aftermath of a war fought with a sovereign nation and that the men who surrendered were entitled to treatment in accordance with that status." (Carol Chomsky)
Because these were military trials, the executions had to be ordered by President Abraham Lincoln.

Three hundred and three deaths seemed too genocidal for President Lincoln. But he didn't order retrials, even though it has been argued that the trials which took place were a legal sham. Instead he simply modified the criteria of what charges warranted a death sentence. Under his new criteria, only 2 of the Dakota warriors were sentenced to die. That small number seemed too lenient, and President Lincoln was concerned about an uprising by his white American settlers in that area. So for a second time, instead of ordering retrials, he merely changed the criteria of what warranted a death sentence.

Ultimately, 39 Dakota men were sentenced to die. And on December 26, 1862, by order of President Lincoln, and with nearly 4,000 white American settlers looking on, the largest mass execution in the history of the United States took place. The hanging of the Dakota 38.

Abraham Lincoln was President of the United States during an incredibly tumultuous time. Disappearing were the days when explicit forms of racism, such as the enslavement of African people and the ethnic cleansing of Native people, were socially acceptable. The country was not necessarily growing a conscience, but it was becoming increasingly difficult to continually justify the actions of 'modern' American society that were so blatantly evil and racist.

And President Lincoln was a product of his time. He did not free the slaves because he believed Black Lives Mattered. Nor did he change the criteria of what warranted a death sentence for the Dakota warriors because he believed Native Lives Mattered. As the quote hanging at the Lincoln Memorial states, he was merely trying to save the Union, an institution with foundations that were written specifically to protect white, land-owning men.

And when you are the leader of a nation whose Declaration of Independence refers to natives as "merciless Indian savages"… When you are the government official constitutionally responsible for appointing judges to a Supreme Court that uses the dehumanizing Doctrine of Discovery as a legal precedent for land titles… When you are the Commander and Chief of a military that (ultimately) awards 425 Congressional Medals of Honor for the ethnic cleansing and genocide of Native peoples…  When you are the democratically elected President of a white male supremacist Union whose Constitution specifically excludes natives, and women, and counts Africans as 3/5th human… Then saving that Union comes at a cost…for people of color.

So you free the slaves but still tell your base that black lives don't matter.

You reduce a mass execution from 303 to 38 but still trample the human rights of native peoples, and thus keep clear the path for your settlers and your nation to complete its self-proclaimed Manifest Destiny.

The challenge we face as a country is that we do not understand the fundamental flaws with our foundations. We think our challenges arise from corrupt individuals who we believe trample our values, like Andrew Jackson. And we think we are justified by other individuals who we believe hold true to the values of our foundations, like Abraham Lincoln.

But the problem is not the individual, the problem is our foundations.

To this day the United States Constitution contains 51 gender specific male pronouns regarding who can run for office, who can hold office and even who is entitled to all privileges and immunities of US citizenship. To this day, we have never completely abolished slavery (the 13th Amendment merely redefines and codifies slavery under the jurisdiction of our criminal justice system). And as recently at 2005 the United States Supreme Court referenced the Doctrine of Discovery in regards to a legal question of Native American land rights.

The Unites States of America is not systemically racist and sexist in spite of our foundations. The United States of America is systemically sexist and racist because of our foundations.

We need a national dialogue on race, gender and class. A conversation on par with the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions that took place in South Africa, Rwanda and Canada. I'm calling it Truth and Conciliation, and the goal is 2021.

Because until we have such a dialogue, we will continue to be a nation that buries its troubling history, like the hanging of the Dakota 38. And we will continue to be a people that holds as heroes Presidents who literally stated, "Black Lives Don't Matter."

Mark Charles
(Navajo)