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Genocide Against the Native Americans - Historical Essay Example

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Boston College
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Since time immemorial, man has been prone to going to war with one another. History reveals that many people have always lost their lives in case of an outbreak of war. Some of the bloodiest wars that have occurred in our recent past include the world war one and the world war two. During this period, over 65 million people lost their lives most of them in apparent crimes of war. One of the most chilling occurrence during this period is the massacre of over 6 million Jews by the ruthless Hitler regime. However, one of the most barbaric and atrocious of acts is the massacre of the Wiyot people who were native Americans in the 1860s.This group was attacked and almost exterminated by a group of men from Eureka. Another barbaric act committed by the US government was the forceful relocation of the native American Indians from South Eastern United States to Indian Territory during the 1830s. Some people have been quick to dispel the notion that acts of genocide were committed against the two native groups in the United States. However, according to the Article II of the U.N. Convention on Genocide, it can successfully be shown that acts of genocide took place in the US, particularly against the native Americans.

The Article II of the U.N. Convention on Genocide provides the official standard for determining if something done against a group of people qualifies as genocide. It defines genocide as any act that is committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group. These acts include targeting and killing members who belong to a certain group, forceful transferring of children belonging to one particular group to another different group and inflicting considerable mental or bodily harm to members belonging to a group. It goes on to define genocide also as imposing some calculated measures on a group that are meant to prevent births or population of that group. Also, deliberately taking steps that are supposed to impose conditions that will destroy or inflict harm on a group of people is also termed as an act of genocide by the Article II of the U.N. convention. The Cherokees and the other native Native Americans were subjected to almost all the acts that are termed by the Article II of the U.N. convention as genocide.

Michael Medveds assertion in his book that neither the colonial governments nor, later, the U.S. government ever endorsed or practised a policy of Indian extermination is entirely baseless and unfounded when subjected to the Article II of the U.N. convention (Michael 56). For example, according to Russel, a population of up to 100000 native Americans mainly comprising of the Cherokees were forcefully evicted from their native homelands west of River Mississippi to the Indian territory during the early 1800s. This eviction caused massive loss of lives and property to the Native American Indian population. The colonial government deliberately did this act against the native Indians who were regarded as an insignificant group of the American population. In fact, according to Russel, the eviction of the Indians was arduous such that many of them did not survive the journey. Most of them succumbed to disease, mistreatment of soldiers along the way and starvation. This act thus is successfully shown to be an act of genocide since it involved the forceful removal of the American Indian group from their ancestral homeland.

The Cherokees were a targeted group subjected to acts meant to depopulate them significantly. The introduction of the smallpox epidemic into their population by the fledgeling United States in 1783 caused an outbreak which decimated thousands of the Cherokees. George Washingtons rebel forces used this biological weapon against them because they were allied with the British Forces from which the Americans were seeking independence (Lenore 31). The use of biological and chemical weapons against a group of people has been declared a war crime by the United Nations convention on war. The smallpox pandemic which broke out after the successful introduction of smallpox into the Indian population was so overwhelming that over 100000native Indians died in a span of a few years (Lenore 33). This made the conquest of the Native American Indian population so easy for George Washingtons rebel forces that it only took them less than three years to successfully subdues them. Apart from the targeting the native Indian population using the smallpox epidemic, there were also concerted efforts by George Washingtons the rebel forces to destroy their agricultural base. An example is the extermination of up to 6o million buffalos in an attempt to starve the Cheyenne and Lakota native Americans of the Great Plains (Lenore 33). The rebel forces made this deliberate attempt in an effort to subject them to starvation and weaken their immune system to resistance against diseases amounts to acts genocide.

There were direct massacres committed against the Native Americans in the mid-1800s. Example of such massacres was the extermination of 200 sleeping men and women from the Wiyot tribe in an Indian Island (Lorna 1). The killing was committed by a paramilitary from the Eureka tribe in an apparent cooperation with the American government. There were also other massacres such as the 1854 massacre of 150 Lakotas forming part of the Native American Indian population and the1863 massacre of over 500 Western Shoshones in Bear River. In fact, there were over 40 cases of Indian was instigated by the postcolonial American government aimed at exterminating the Indians (Lenore 35). In the 1860s the US policymakers and army generals were openly quoted several times stating in fluent English that the object of these wars was the complete extermination of any Native American Indians who resisted being evicted from their land. Conservative estimates show that over 100000 native American Indians were killed during these was by the Euromerican forces (Russell 312). Over 8000 Native American Indians were also exterminated in individual affairs with the state. These cases of targeted extermination against the Native Americans, according to Article II of the UN Convention fall under Acts of Genocide. More recently, leaders from the Eureka Tribe have come out to offer a formal apology to the massacre of 200 people form the Wiyot Tribe in 1860(Lorna 1). This is an apparent recognition of the brutal acts of genocide against the Indian Americans.

The Native Americans have undergone atrocious acts in the past 170 years. These acts have amounted to acts of genocide. The targeted decimation of their numbers using smallpox epidemic in the 1860s, the destruction of their source of livelihood to starve them to death, forceful evictions from their ancestral homelands with the intent to kill and damage property are all acts of genocide committed against them.


Works Cited

Stiffarm, Lenore A., and Phil Lane Jr. "The demography of native North America: A question of American Indian survival." The state of native America (1992): 23-53.

Thornton, Russell. "Cherokee population losses during the Trail of Tears: a new perspective and a new estimate." Ethnohistory (1984): 289-300.

Thornton, Russell. "Aboriginal North American Population and Rates of Decline, ca. ad 1500-19001." Current Anthropology38.2 (1997): 310-315.

Medved, Michael. "The 10 Big Lies about America: Combating Destructive Distortions about Our Nation." Crown Forum, 2008.

Lorna Rodriguez City releases letter formally apologizing for Indian Island massacre The Eureka Times-Standard (2014).


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