Truth Be Told

Signed copies of the book I co-authored with Soong-Chan Rah, "Unsettling Truths - The Ongoing Dehumanizing Legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery" are available from my website:

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


Unknown said...

Thank you, Mark. In 1992 I was elated to be hired for my first teaching job, freshly graduated with a History and English double major plus Elem. Ed. certification from Calvin College. I began teaching 5th grade at a Christian school in Eugene, OR. I was horrified by the history curriculum that was in place at that school, which I was supposed to teach. It was published by ABeka out of Pensacola Christian College. It reported glowingly how "the gospel was brought to the Indians." It did not mention the word smallpox once. Not once. More than 90% of the Native population destroyed? Pandemic diseases brought by the European people? ABeka sure didn't mention that! I refused to teach this revisionist curriculum. I didn't have a lot, but I did own a poster showing the lands inhabited by different tribes, how those lands were taken away from them, and how little land Native American peoples were left to somehow survive on. Thankfully, the school's new administrator wanted to remove the revisionist history curriculum as well-- so we did! These changes were followed by changes to their language arts and math curricula, and I am proud to have played a role in those changes. I think of this experience from almost 30 years ago when I consider supporters of Trump. I think that when you are taught history that is almost entirely a lie, it's not surprising that your understanding of your world will be full of falsehoods. I am so grateful for the work that you are doing. You seem tireless. Wishing you strength, courage and wisdom as you try to set the record straight!

Heidi Renee said...

As always I'm ashamed and thankful. Your words and dedication to correcting my education is tireless and so moving. I am go grateful you don't leave us in our ignorance but work with such dedication to remind us to know the truth so that one day we may all be free. Thank you again Mark. I pray for your endurance and strength during this very dark time. Thank you for holding out the light.

Anonymous said...

While there are plenty of historical errors of the past being flagged, present real-time is much more interesting.

Trump administration finally informs tribes about dramatic reorganization

After months of complaints in Indian Country and on Capitol Hill, the Trump administration is finally going to consult tribes about a controversial reorganization at the Department of the Interior. Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke has been conducting “listening sessions” throughout Indian Country. Most recently May 22, 2018.

Here are some concerns:

"We are moving backwards, and we oppose that," President Russell Begaye told key members of Congress earlier this month as he said his tribe had yet to be consulted about the organization.

"We Indian people, we're excluded from everything," said Chairman Harold Frazier of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, "and we were here first."

Gary.eddings4157 said...

I grew up here in Forest Grove, OR. I had no idea that the city block across the street from my family's house was the site of the first "Indian School" location in Oregon. When the failed "christian missionaries" (lower case intentional) failed to find enough natives to save (90+% dead from disease, etc) they set up a school to totally destroy the culture, heritage, and languages of the few remaining young natives. The beautiful vision of Manifest Destiny taught to me in school failed to detail any of that "glorious legacy" perpetrated by my people.
These days I ask The Christ in the role of One Who Forgives, to open our hearts and minds to the horrible past so we may be able to find that way forward to where All People means just that.

Shalom Pastor Mark, and all in Christ

Anonymous said...

Real-time news….Here’s 1 of many videos that Pine Ridge OST posted May 24, 2018

A listening session with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke & Great Plains Tribal Leaders about reorganization not done in over 100 years. Chairman Harold Frazier of CRST was the host. Ryan Zinke says it’s up to you, Indian Country.

Anonymous said...

The continent did not need to be tamed. Contrary or in odds with the eurowestern value tt had been functioning very well. The population was knowledgeable about medicines, science, math, travel, stars, spirituality, harmony, balance and were here for eons without destroying, polluting, or driving entire species to extinction.
Perhaps, the europeano should have paid better attention...
ow we live in a system that is greed driven and destroying our Mother Earth. Maybe,they should apologize for what they did to America! We need to let this mans words fall to the ground and not to our ears. We need to put our energies into organizing so every Native can Vote. We need to get our people into their camp by running for political offices at every level.

Unknown said...

Amazing! Well done!

Randy Woodley said...

Well said Mark, I agree 100% except for one small matter....I think your population estimates of Indigenous peoples in America in 1500 is a bit low. According to Charles C. Mann, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, what is now the contiguous United States had about 24 million. He also estimates that North America (Alaska, Canada, US and Mexico) was between 60-110 million. His research and logic is pretty sound, which is discussed in the book, as well as some of the reasons why particular demographics in the past have been low. The implications of these figures are astounding making the genocide of the Indigenous peoples of North America the largest in world history, comprising about 1/5 of the world's population at the time. Keep bringing it...

Anonymous said...

Mark, look south, and it’s not a tamed continent yet. That would be South America. In the Amazon near the Peru-Brazil boarder. This area is the only place in the whole world where isolated Indians have gathered and make their final stand against the outside world.

Check them out in this extremely rare video dated 2014. They are the Mashco-Piro.
This was recorded by indigenous Yine rangers at the village of Monte Salvado, Peru.
The Yine can communicate with the Mashco-Piro, knowing 80% of the language.

Anonymous said...

I think until a few years ago i had not thought much about "This land is your land . . ." in any critical way. Wasn't Woody Guthrie a voice for the oppressed, after all, and a voice for unity! He had gone through some hard, hard times. I doubt that he had much information on pronouns, or Native Am. history, so how could he have thought about the real import of his words? Basically: from one shore of the continent to the other, it belongs to those who took over. So here i am now, wondering yet knowing who is meant by "you and me." And by "belongs." I think there ought to be new stanzas written, more inclusive of who had stewardship of the land. And while "all of us" are at this new version, though it's hard to do art by committee--- collaboration being better-- we may also write the history of the Earth into it, who nurtured it as the Creator's work with us all, who claimed it and in the name of what, who did the hospitality, tragically welcoming mostly ungrateful 'recipients' . . . hmmppff. Because the future must be better for us all, with real and actual guides to it in our past.