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On The Election of Barack Obama

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  • On The Election of Barack Obama

    Square Pegs in the Oval Office: But “Change Can Happen”

    American presidents have not had the noblest record of conduct towards America’s original peoples. In 1779, George Washington, known as “Destroyer of Towns” among the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois), ordered Major General John Sullivan to attack Iroquois villages and “lay waste all the settlements…that the country may not be merely overrun, but destroyed.” “Do not listen to any overture of peace,” advised Washington, “before the total ruin of their settlements is effected.” Even after villages were abandoned, cornfields were burned to the ground. After a successful battle, American troops would skin the dead to make boots and leggings. Thomas Jefferson similarly instructed the War Department to meet Indians with “the hatchet.” Andrew Jackson tried to eliminate the future generations by paying soldiers for the scalps of women and children. Abraham Lincoln, though noble in so many ways, did not hesitate to act savagely towards the “savages.” In 1862 he ordered the largest mass execution in U.S. history: the hanging of 38 Dakota Sioux—mostly holy men and political leaders--in Mankato, Minnesota. All were innocent and would have been acquitted in a modern court of law. Theodore Roosevelt supported Edward Curtis as he documented the faces, places, and cultures of Native Americans during what he believed would be their last days. “I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians,” said Roosevelt, “but I believe nine out of ten are, and I shouldn’t like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth.”

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