Our Ghost Dance » Counterpunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names
This began in 1890, just a few years after the General Allotment or Dawes Act. This legislation was viewed as a benevolent method to force Native Americans into the world of progress. But, as was to be expected, benevolent became malevolent in almost record time.
Native American lands were taken up by the US government and split into distinct lots, based on ownership, not communal living as was the norm for those cultures. Poor land was provided to the recipients, and an enforced hierarchy based upon social status was placed on people who generally didn’t think that way. Men were designated as heads of households, placing European designations on male-female relationships. Before, there had more of a distinct, but equal footing. Oh, and they needed to take on Anglicized names. For paperwork clarification and expediency, of course.
In a leap of empathy probably never considered by grouchy rally sign-holders, one considers how they would cope if those considered to be illegal immigrants to the United States got edgy. Perhaps organizing and mounting a full assault, confiscating lands occupied by US citizens and doling back the stretches of scrubland. But only if the recipient would take a Hispanic surname, of course. Some uncomfortable truths lurk in our origin myths- happily they won’t likely cause even the firing of a single neuron of consideration in the minds of most Americans.
The fight of course, was never fair. The microbes fought on the behalf of hierarchy and misery as many places fell victim before the first physical European contact in their area even occurred. All it took was for one member to return to the tribe after a brush with those microbes. Often the areas were conveniently cleared prior to arrival. Many generations of Europeans had lived in filthy conditions crowded near domesticated animals, and this created the vicious zoonotic diseases able to remove large swaths of life at will.
Those Native Americans with amazing immune systems who survived were left to bear witness to the annihilation of their cultures. There was no room for freedom, only domestication. Henry Rowe Schoolcraft commented in 1820 that the bison was “wild and ungovernable”. Such was the Americas, prior to the imposed structure. The bison was the keystone, and a symbol of all that had to be removed or at the very least, governed.
It is worth mentioning that this tale of death and the removal of the beautiful wild is not just simple history- for as they say, history rhymes. And as we chat, the gods are writing with a perverse poetry. Our ghost dance likely begins now.
The worst case scenarios are emerging as far as climate change. It is no longer unthinkable to consider that the earth may be unable to carry such a capacity under the devastating conditions that industry seems to be unleashing.
As with the microbes carried on the skins of the Europeans, the souls carried something devastating as well. Its incubation period was longer, that of the industrial revolution and beyond, but those wheels are grinding exceedingly fine. The justice is steeped in irony that most don’t even consider. Our culture is to be wiped out by the very growth at any cost paradigm that wiped out Native cultures.
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