The Declaration of Independence refers to Native people as "merciless Indian savages." Graphic by Mark Charles / Wireless Hogan

Mark Charles: The 'Indian savages' at the heart of America's so-called independence

Regarding the term “merciless Indian savages”

The other day I was asked if Americans can or should celebrate the country we aspire to, instead of the one described in the Declaration of Independence?

For the past decade, I have been working to educate our nation on the Doctrine of Discovery and the white supremacists’ influence it has on the foundations of our nation. This is especially evident in the Declaration of Independence, where, 30 lines below the inclusive and benevolent statement "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal", that document refers to the indigenous peoples of Turtle Island as "merciless Indian savages."

Demonstrating very clearly, that the only reason the founding fathers used the inclusive term "all men" is because they had a very narrow definition of who was actually human. I have written many articles regarding the Declaration of Independence, and I did not intend to write yet another one this year. But I appreciated being asked this question, and so I decided to respond.

First, if you are aware of the lie of white supremacy that is rooted in the Declaration of Independence and choose to celebrate the Fourth of July anyway, without acknowledging, owning and correcting the meaning and intent that document was written with, you are perpetuating the myth of American exceptionalism, which is rooted in the lie of white supremacy.

Mark Charles sits in front of a framed copy of the Declaration of Independence at a restaurant in Gallup, New Mexico. Photo by Mark Charles / Wireless Hogan

Many Americans deal with our white supremacists and racists foundations in this manner. Even MLK and the civil rights leaders referred to these documents as "a blank check" for people of color. While I appreciate all that our Civil Rights leaders fought for, this concession was devastatingly costly. Instead of challenging the foundations of our nation as white supremacists and racist, they essentially told white people that the foundations they established were good, they just needed to be better Americans.

In other words, instead of confronting the systemic white supremacy and racism that is embedded in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, they ended up affirming the bipartisan value of American exceptionalism. I'm convinced this is one of the reasons the Black Lives Matter movement is happening today. Because we never addressed the fact that it is our foundations which state “black lives DON'T matter.”

A second approach is to acknowledge the problems in our history but tell ourselves they have already been resolved. Let me give you an example: In his final State of the Union, President Obama spoke about our nation's need for a 'new politics'. He said "We the people. Our Constitution begins with those three simple words. Words we've come recognize mean ALL the people."

Abraham Lincoln's thoughts on the Declaration of Independence. Graphic by Mark Charles / Wireless Hogan

That statement sounds beautiful, and it definitely appealed to white people, and to the mythology of American exceptionalism. But it's simply not true.

As a nation, we have never collectively decided that "We the people" now means all the people.

Our Founding Fathers didn't believe it.

Abraham Lincoln didn't believe it.

The Civil Rights movement didn't get us there.

President Trump definitely doesn't believe it.

Yes, you read the last section correctly, Abraham Lincoln did not believe "We the People" meant all the people, nor did he believe that the Declaration of Independence applied to people of color. On October 15, 1858, during his seventh debate with Judge Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln was accused of applying the Declaration of Independence to people of color, specifically to black people.

To that accusation he responded, "I think the authors of that notable instrument intended to include all men, but they did not mean to declare all men equal in all respects. They did not mean to say all men were equal in color, size, intellect, moral development or social capacity."

Unfortunately, the carefully constructed mythology of President Abraham Lincoln is just that, a mythology.

The execution of 38 Dakota men in Mankato, Minnesota, on December 26, 1862, was authorized by president Abraham Lincoln. Drawing: Library of Congress

Now I know many people will point out that this quote comes from early in Lincoln's political career and therefore argue that he grew and changed in regard to his beliefs on race and equality. I do not have the time or space to respond fully to that argument in this article but, in July of 1862, President Lincoln signed the Pacific Railway Act. This act provided the resources and land to complete the trans-continental railway and telegraph line (manifest destiny).

Within two and half years of signing that bill, President Lincoln had ethnically cleansed nearly all the American Indians from the states of Minnesota and Colorado, and from the territory of New Mexico (tribes who were in the direct path of the first proposed routes of the railway). So, during the time he was supposedly growing regarding his beliefs on race and equality, that is the exact time he was literally committing genocide against native peoples. In the 1860 US census, the count of "off reservation, tax paying, assimilated American Indians" was 44,000.

Ten years later, after the Presidency of Abraham Lincoln, the population of "off reservation, tax paying, assimilated American Indians" was reduced to 25,713. For those who are counting, that is a genocide rate of 41.56% (and does not even factor in all the “savage Indians” who were slaughtered during that period). I invite you to watch the segment of a lecture I gave recently on the Doctrine of Discovery which addresses the entire legacy of Abraham Lincoln.

Denial is the challenge of our nation. We cannot fix a problem we falsely, and continually, tell ourselves never existed, or has already been resolved. EVERY road to healing begins with acknowledging and owning your problems. And contrary to popular belief, our nation’s primary problems are not individual, but collective and bipartisan. So let’s stop pretending that President Trump is the God-ordained savior or the ultimate demise of our union. The same with President Obama. Or even Abraham Lincoln.

What our nation needs is not for Democrats to be better Democrats.
Nor do we need Republicans to simply be better Republicans.
We need Americans, ALL Americans, to be better humans.

And collectively, we need to address our foundations.

The United States of America is not white supremacist, racist and sexist in spite of our foundations. Our country is white supremacist, racist and sexist BECAUSE of our foundations.

And until we fix the foundations, our problems will not get resolved.

This is why, especially on the Fourth of July, instead of simply watching more fireworks, I am calling the United States of America to a national dialogue on race, gender & class. A conversation on par with the Truth & Reconciliation Commissions in South Africa, Rwanda and Canada. I'm calling it Truth & Conciliation and my goal is 2021. #TCC2021

(Thank you),

Mark Charles is the son of an American woman of Dutch heritage and a Navajo man. He speaks and writes regularly about the Doctrine of Discovery. You can learn more about the Doctrine of Discovery and #TCC2021 on his website Mark is active on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram under the username: wirelesshogan.

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