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American Genocide 1


The year 2004 commemorated the horror of the wide scale genocide that occurred in Rwanda a decade ago. During this carnage, it is estimated that close to a million Tutsi were methodically butchered by their Hutu neighbours and countrymen. The slaughter was carried out over a few months, marking it with the infamous distinction of being, perhaps, the most intense and accelerated genocide in modern history.

Sadly, the horrendous stain and stench of genocide did not begin or end with the demonic killing spree in 1994 Rwanda, and if we are to make an earnest effort to examine these tendencies, learn from them and ensure that they are less likely to occur again, we must study the dynamics, the ideologies and the practices of a land that has long posed behind a facade of liberty, democracy and justice. We must remove the blinkers and peer into its unique and sordid legacy of racism, sexism, flagrant greed, and genocidal policies and practices.

Haiti and the Dominican Republic

The calculated murder of millions of indigenous people for the core purpose of amassing land, wealth and resources, was initially carried out under the command of Christopher Columbus. In a brazen attempt to find an expedient route to India, Columbus and his crew (lost and half-starved) landed on the large island of what is now called Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Columbus was impressed with the natives generosity, good manners and compassion, yet instead of being inspired by these qualities he considered them signs of weakness, childishness and inferiority. He soon demanded that the natives turn over to him all their gold. When they were unable to satisfy him, they were given quotas and forced to work. Those that failed to produce enough for their enslavers were tortured in fiendish ways. One of the most common was to cut off the limbs. Ward Churchill, explains in his revealing book: Indians Are Us’:

"The tribute system, instituted by the Governor sometime in 1495, was a brutal way of fulfilling the Spanish lust for gold and acknowledging Spanish distaste for labour. Every Taino over the age of fourteen had to supply the rulers with a hawk’s bell of gold every three months (or in gold-deficient areas, twenty-five pounds of spun cotton); those who did were given a token to wear around their necks as proof that they had made their payment; those who did not were, as (Columbus’s brother, Fernando) says discreetly "punished"- by having their hands cut off, and left to bleed to death."[1]

Christopher Columbus spearheaded a system of chattel slavery and systematic extermination that resulted in the deaths of 8 million natives, virtually killing off the entire population in 50 years. Over the next few centuries, the European penchant for greed and violence, culminated in the elimination of over a hundred million of the indigenous people in the land that became known as South America.

There are few episodes in human history as sad or as shameless as the calculated mass murder, displacement, and plunder that was perpetuated against the indigenous population of North America. Although not as extensive in terms of total numbers killed as in South America, for sheer sneakiness, underhandedness and bold-faced hypocrisy, there are few eras that could rival it.

It was, in fact, among the British colonizers of the North American hemisphere where the first documented instance of biological warfare occurred. Sir Jeffrey Amherst, (commander in chief of the British forces) and the correspondence sent between him and a junior officer indicate that a fiendish plan was hatched to intentionally infect the native population with small pox virus. This was facilitated through the procurement of infected blankets and handkerchiefs from army hospitals and the distribution of them to the natives in what was ostensibly a humanitarian gesture. On June 24, captain Ecuyer, of the Royal American British Army recorded in his journal: 

"...We gave them two blankets and a handkerchief out of the smallpox hospital. I hope it will have the desired effect."[2]

To better ensure that it did have the desired result, the natives were then directed to return to their villages so that they would (predictably) be in the ideal position to infect other members of their tribes and nations and the small pox (one of the most dangerous and painful sicknesses imaginable) would spread like wild fire.

Newspapers and eyewitness accounts verify that it did, making one question how much of the spread of "white mans diseases" among the so-called Indians were really just accidental.

Starvation was another tactic utilized by the colonizers. In many reservations and internment camps, the natives were simply isolated on desolate lands and had food and clothing withheld from, or sold away to the highest bidder by unscrupulous Indian agents or camp commanders. Moreover, the purposeful and wasteful killing of the buffalo decimated the Plains Indians by eradicating their major food supply. Another method was to place bounties on the heads of natives, regardless if the possessor was man, woman, or child. The Hollywood depiction of United States cavalry soldiers protecting themselves or peaceful white settlers from the savage onslaught of hostile Indians are simply not true.
More often than not, it was US army units who were the marauders and they would routinely attack the sleeping native encampments during the pre-dawn hours, slaughtering everyone within. (A favourite practice to dispose of Native American infants was to grab them by their ankles and to bash their brains out against the trunks of trees).

Another genocidal technique was to force march the Indians (already weak from starvation and hypothermia) for hundreds of miles to a far off "reservations." Typically, as in the case of the Cheyenne nation, half of them died along the way.

Most historians concur that there were between 12 and 50 million Native Americans on the North American continent when the first European explorers and settlers arrived. Four centuries later, the Native population had been reduced to approximately 200,000.

by Steven Malik Shelton