>The Native Americans were slaughtered, not robbed. Property rights are
>alien to native American culture.

The American Indians did not have a concept of land ownership like Donald
Trump's, but they certainly did have a concept of territoriality.
Heartfield is aware of this, I'm sure, since he has been anxious to remind
us of the intermittent wars between various tribes, who fought over hunting
grounds typically.

Both the American government and the tribes understood the territorial
rights of the Indians, since the evidence of such an agreement can be found
in the myriad of treaties that they hammered out and which the whites
betrayed over and over again. Heartfield hates these treaties as much as
the capitalist class did and finds all sorts of "Marxist" reasons to throw
them into a bonfire and piss on them while they burn. But they were based
on law and were not at all "fictional." The Supreme Court of the United
States and state supreme courts are called upon to adjudicate them
constantly. All these cases involve land claims made by Indians on the
basis of various treaties. Like them or not, they are real, not fictional.

In 1851 the Cheyennes, Arapahos, Sioux, Crows and other tribes met at Fort
Laramie with US officials and hammered out an agreement that would allow
roads and military posts across their territory. The treaty did not
relinquish any rights or claims to the land and guaranteed the Indians
hunting and fishing rights.

In the following decade gold was discovered and miners flooded into the
territory. Little Raven, an Arapaho chief, told them that they could keep
all the gold they found since the Indians had no use for it, but he also
reminded them that the land belonged to the Indians.

Unfortunately the Indians' generosity did not assuage the greed of the
American capitalist class. The treaty of 1851 was subverted through a
provocation by the capitalist government. A single rancher's cow was
slaughtered by a Minneconjou Sioux and the rancher demanded compensation
all out of proportion to the  value of the cow. When the tribe resisted
payment, the cavalry attacked. The ensuing wars had nothing to do with
revenge, but desire for material gain. The Indians stood in the way of
maximum exploitation of the land. Specifically, buffalo-hunting and
cattle-ranching were mutually exclusive "means of production." The
territoriality of the Indian tribes had to be overcome through force and
violence. It was an act of theft. General George Cook, the most renowned of
the campaigners against the Indian, said, "Greed and avarice on the part of
the whites--in other words, the almighty dollar, is at the bottom of all
our Indian troubles."

A new treaty was signed during the Civil War which would permit the
railroad to be built through Indian territory. This treaty was violated,
just as the 1851 treaty was violated. Northern troops launched an
unprovoked attack on a Sand Creek, Colorado encampment and slaughtered 300
sleeping Cheyennes. The troops returned to Denver with the Indian scalps.

This raid provoked a general conflagration on the Plains territories. With
the end of the Civil War, the US ruling class was now able to concentrate
its fire on the Indians who were an impediment to the untrammeled
capitalist growth that Heartfield is so in love with. Black Kettle, the
chief of the Cheyennes, tried vainly to accommodate to the armed might of
the bourgeoisie, but they answered with sword and bullet. The Cheyennes
were camped on the Washita River in the Autumn of 1868 when the US Cavalry
attacked at dawn, slaughtering 150 poorly armed Indians. The architect of
this "victory" was George Custer.

One of the tribes in the great anti-Washington coalition was the Oglala
Sioux, whose leader Red Cloud won a significant victory. He besieged forts
that were built to protect gold mining and other commercial ventures in the
northern Plains states and which the cavalry was forced to abandon. Red
Cloud hammered out a treaty with the US government in 1868 in which
Washington reserved the Black Hills in perpetuity for the Sioux.

This agreement and American failure to live up to it is at the bottom of a
struggle that defines the modern Indian struggle. Red Cloud's war, Sitting
Bull's subsequent victory over the murdering scum George Custer at Little
Big Horn, were factors in Indian power and self-determination. Arrayed
against this are the lust for profits that collide with Indian rights. This
clash explains the revolt at the Wounded Knee reservation in the early
1970s which will be the subject of my next post. This is not ancient history.

Furthermore, I will make the case that the radical movement was correct in
siding with the American Indian Movement and not the FBI, whose
Heartfield's loyalties are with presumably. After all, the FBI was there to
suppress a bunch of primitive, atavistic savages who stood in the way of
"progress" and "civilization". How can you drain every last bit of mineral
wealth from the soil of the Dakotas when there are a bunch of inconvenient
and ignorant Indians who believe in ecology.

Like Rush Limbaugh, Heartfield would like the Indian problem to simply go
away. The Indians are as nettlesome as the black activists who demand
compensation for hundreds of years of unpaid labor. Socialists take just
the opposite stance. We keep such demands in the forefront, since it is in
the interest of working people to fight for social justice across the
board. This is just how a "vanguard" should function, according to Lenin,
by the way.

Louis Proyect

Reply via email to