Unit 4 Destination Discussion - Lummi Nation
Advance Preparation: Please read Chapter Eight of An Indigenous People’s History of the United States (“‘Indian Country’”).
Which stories most stand out in your memory after reading this chapter? Which ones surprised or perturbed you?
- What other feelings did this chapter inspire in you?
Please have someone read aloud the following quotation, from p. 151:
In 1875, Captain Richard Henry Pratt was in charge of transporting seventy-two captive Cheyenne and other Plains Indian warriors from the West to Fort Marion [….] After the captives were left shackled for a period in a dungeon, Pratt took their clothes away, had their hair cut, dressed them in army uniforms, and drilled them like soldiers. ‘Kill the Indian and save the man’ was Pratt’s motto. This ‘successful’ experiment led Pratt to establish the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania in 1879, the prototype for the many militaristic federal boarding schools set up across the continent soon after […. I]n the US boarding schools the children were beaten for speaking their own languages, among other infractions that expressed their humanity. Although stripped of the languages and skills of their communities, what they learned in boarding school was useless for the purposes of effective assimilation, creating multiple lost generations of traumatized individuals.”
International law today speaks of a category of genocide known as “cultural genocide,” related to but distinct from the physical destruction of whole groups of people.
- What feelings arise for you in considering the idea that actions like those described above constitute a cultural genocide, carried out by the U.S. government?
- In what ways might cultural genocide relate to other forms of genocide or violence?
Dunbar-Ortiz cites in this chapter an article from the early twentieth century by L. Frank Baum, in which he calls for a genocide against Indigenous peoples, writing: “Having wronged [Indigenous peoples] for centuries we had better, in order to protect our civilization, follow it up by one more wrong and wipe [them] from the face of the earth.” (Quoted on p. 156.)
- What thoughts and feelings arise for you in reading this quotation?
- Why do you think Baum’s recognition of past guilt led him to want to pursue further crimes against humanity, rather than to work against them?
Additional materials (optional)
For a change of pace, here are two classic songs that touch on the historical themes of this chapter: “Buffalo Soldier,” by Bob Marley and “Custer,” written by Johnny Cash and sung by him and Buffy Sainte-Marie.