Opinion

Steven Newcomb: The racist and toxic roots of federal Indian policy






In the Landing of Columbus painting by John Vanderlyn, on display at the U.S. Capitol, indigenous people are depicted as hiding in the trees, with one bowing his head to the ground, at the sight of European explorers. Photo: Architect of the Capitol

Colonization, genocide and racism sound bad, right? But when you put the all together, and throw in religion for good measure, you get federal Indian law and policy. Steven Newcomb (Shawnee / Lenape) of the Indigenous Law Institute takes a closer look at the system of domination imposed on Native nations:
In America As A Civilization (1957), published 60 years ago, Max Lerner includes a section on “The Sources of the Heritage.” “As a colonizing and imperial continent,” says Lerner, “Europe gave largely of its strength and heritage to the [American] civilization which was destined to replace it in power and vitality.”

Lerner is alluding to the imperial trajectory of Western Christendom that worked for centuries to coercively impose itself upon free nations and peoples by colonizing the hemisphere existing west of the Atlantic Ocean. The terms “colonizing” and “imperial” are two synonyms for the patterns of Christian European domination that were carried across the vast ocean in the name of human and Christian “civilization” which has resulted in the creation of a system of domination and dehumanization called “America.”

Lerner provides evidence to support this claim when he writes, “In a long section of De Tocqueville, there is a remarkable study in the contact and clash of three… ethnic cultures in the America of his own day—the Indian, the Negro, and the European.” Notice the many terms for domination in italics in the following sentence: “De Tocqueville describes the extermination of the first by the predacity of the conquerors, the degradation of the second by slavery, and the effects of both in turn on the third, who were the possessors and the pursuers.”

Read More on the Story:
Steven Newcomb: America As A Domination (Indian Country Media Network 5/19)