". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The American War of Independence Was Also a War of Removal

The War of Removal was waged against the Native Americans. For Native Americans, this war, whether called a Revolution, a war for Independence or a Civil War (U.S. and England), it was unmitigated disaster for Native Americans.

In fact the War of Independence was fueled here in this nation to great degree by the whites, north and south, determined to take-over Indian lands, from which they were legally barred by a variety of treaties the English crown had made with Native Americans.  These treaties, among other objectives, protected the lucrative fur trade between English merchants and the Native tribes.

The Mississippi River corridor was the super highway between clans and tribes living in the south all the way up through Canada.  The sheer rapidity by which members up in Canada could communicate -- and visit -- with members in what would become the Louisiana Territory some decades later, is only a single proof of how capable of organization the tribes were, and how well they knew their territories.

Those territories ... with what lust the North American colonists looked at them.  Treaties did not stop them from moving into and claiming these lands -- thus wars, wars that were the justification for the wars themselves.

In some ways what is most interesting about this phase of our history is that General Washington, who so often proved himself a unsuccessful battle leader on the ground against the English forces, was so good at fighting Indians. During the War of Independence, General Washington personally led campaigns into Iroquois lands.  The objective, which he carried out with devastating success, was to kill the men, and destroy town and crops. These were fire-and-blood campaigns unlike those he led elsewhere in this period.

The overt purpose of these campaigns was to undermine the English, by destroying the members of their Native alliances.  This succeeded so well, that even when the negotiations for peace between the Americans and the English went on, anything for the Native and the Iroquois confederations such as compensation, never was even put on the table.  Nor were there any Native representatives at the negotiations.

This was principally the Ohio Valley territory, which Washington had surveyed when young, and not incidentally, starting the French and Indian War as it was called here in the Americas, and not incidentally either, obtaining immense grants of the land for himself.

These wars against the Natives continued after the Peace, and during Washington's two administrations.

I've had such respect and admiration for Washington.  But this part of his career as a Revolutionary and as a military man, makes my admiration less easy.

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