The "Merciless Indian Savages" t-shirt was a limited edition offered by NTVS Clothing. Photo: NTVS Clothing
Opinion

Alison Owings: Americans remain as ignorant of Native peoples as ever





The three little words words are right there in the Declaration of Independence: "merciless Indian savages." But when author and self-admitted outsider Alison Owings wrote about them for The Huffington Post, a firestorm broke out on social media:
Mention of “merciless Indian savage” kicked up such a huge and ferocious storm that I have not read all the comments: 3,187 of them when I last checked.

Of the many I did read, a majority were wagging finger-ish. “Didn’t I realize that the Declaration reflected thinking in the 18th century, not the 21st?” “Didn’t I know that the passage I quoted is part of a long list of grievances against King George III?” “Please be aware that Jefferson owned slaves…” To which I say, “Duh, duh, and duh.”

Some comments were shocking by perspective alone. Common themes: Look what Indians did to settlers, savagely and mercilessly, wrote several people. Jefferson was right! Or, “Jefferson was referring only to Indians in western settlements”—(“Nothing in that statement shows a belief that ALL Indians were merciless or even savage,” wrote nullcodes). Or, “Now Indians can go to college for free.” A person with the handle of jdjay comments, “There were some pretty evil tribes but focusing on the bad ones as being representa­tive of the whole is obviously not an objectivel­y Christian or spiritual approach.”

Here sunshine14 steps in: “Does not matter if their [sic] were evil tribes or good tribes, not our land was it, regardless­?” This rankles Syllogizer. “You are ignoring the facts that even Tocquevill­e pointed out: the Indians did not even HAVE a concept of land ownership when the Europeans arrived. So no, the land was not ‘stolen’, since it wasn’t ‘owned’ in the first place.”

Read More on the Story:
Alison Owings: The Declaration of Independence, Jefferson’s ‘Merciless Indian Savages,’ and Getting Flamed on Huffington Post (Indian Country Media Network 7/6)

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Mark Charles: Native people dehumanized in Declaration of Independence (July 4, 2016)
Mark Charles: All men are created equal except 'Indian savages' (June 15, 2015)