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Opinion
Commentary: Indian-hating in the Wizard of Oz


"Lyman Frank Baum (1856-1919) advocated the extermination of the American Indian in his 1899 fantasy, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Baum was an Irish nationalist newspaper editor, a former resident of Aberdeen in the old Dakota Indian territory. His sympathies with the village pioneers caused him to invent the Oz fantasy to justify extermination. All of Baum's "innocent" symbols clearly represent easily recognizable frontier landmarks, political realities, and peoples. These symbols were presented to frontier children, to prepare them for their unavoidably racially violent future.

The Yellow Brick Road represents the yellow brick gold at the end of the Bozeman Road to the Montana gold fields. Chief Red Cloud had forced the razing of several posts, including Fort Phil Kearney and had forced the signing of the Fort Laramie Treaty. When George Armstrong Custer cut "the Thieves' Road" during his 1874 gold expedition invasion of the sacred Black Hills, he violated this treaty and turned U.S. foreign policy toward the Little Big Horn and the Wounded Knee massacre.

The Winged Monkeys are the Irish Baum's satire on the old Northwest Mounted Police, who were modelled on the Irish Constabulary. The scarlet tunic of the Mounties and the distinctive "pillbox" forage cap with the narrow visor and strap are seen clearly in the color plate in the 1900 first edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Villagers across the Dakota territory heartily despised these British police, especially after 1877, when Sitting Bull retreated across the border and into their protection after killing Custer.

The Shifting Sands, the Deadly Desert, the Great Sandy Waste, and the Impassable Desert are Frank Baum's reference to that area of the frontier known always as "the great American desert," west and south of the Great Lakes. Baum creates these fictional, barren areas as protective buffers for his Oz utopia, against hostile, foreign people. This "buffer state" practice had been part of U.S. foreign policy against the Indians, since the earliest colonial days.

The Emerald City of Oz recreates the Irish nationalist's vision of the Emerald Isle, the sacred land, Ireland, set in this American desert like the sacred Paha Sapa of the Lakota people, these mineral-rich Black Hills floored by coal. Irish settlements in the territories, in Kansas, Nebraska, and Minnesota - at Brule City, Limerick, at Lalla Rookh, and at O'Neill two hundred miles south of Aberdeen - founded invasions of the Black Hills."

Get the Story:
Thomas St. John: Indian-Hating in 'The Wizard of Oz' (The Palestine Chronicle 6/8)

Related Stories:
Tim Giago: 'Oz' author called for genocide of the Lakota (6/6)
Oz author was wizard of genocide (10/09)
Documenting racism by 'Oz' creator (05/30)
Indians: 'Pack of whining curs' (05/30)