AMERICA WAS NOT TO BLAME
When liberal governor Cuomo claimed that America was never great, he was expressing the sentiments of many progressives. They believe that America is guilty of crimes against humanity. One of their favorite accusations is that we have blood on our hands for the death of millions of Native Americans. The left blames the U.S. for the extermination of the Indians. That’s a falsehood. Many millions of these aborigines died, but the U.S. had nothing to do with it. When Columbus set sail, the population of Indians was 35 to 40 million. Most of these were Aztecs, Mayans and Incas centered in Mexico, Central and South America. The Spaniards conquered them, brutalized them and enslaved them. They carried with them smallpox and other diseases that decimated their population. You can say the Europeans should have never come, but it was inevitable. Spaniards were also responsible for the extermination of Florida tribes like the Colusa. Florida was Spanish until 1819.
In the U.S. the native population was small, perhaps as low as one million. Many of the Indian Wars had witnesses among the whites on the number of Native Americans present for battle. They were never able to marshal large numbers of warriors. Only 1,500 braves were at the Battle of Tippecanoe. Less than a thousand fought at Fallen Timbers where 40 were killed. These were among the major battles from the time of the French and Indian War (1754-1763) to the War of 1812 a period of great brutality on both sides and of great property loss to the Indians. The Sioux chief Red Cloud managed to put together a fighting force of 4,000 Lakota Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho. The seven tribes of the Iroquois totaled 10,000 members. Around 14,000 Cherokees were marched west in the “trail of tears.” One hundred and fifty Sioux were killed at Wounded Knee (and 31 soldiers). The Comanche, the dominant tribe on the southern plains numbered 20,000 to 30,000. Casualties in all the Indian wars within the U.S. amounted to 30,000 Indians and 10,000 whites. These low figures refute claims that the U.S. was responsible for millions of deaths.
That’s not to say that smallpox, measles and flu did not kill significant numbers of Native Americans in the U.S. So did destroying their food stores, forcing them to flee their villages and disrupting their hunting grounds. Coping with manipulative whites also took its toll. On the other hand, these natives could be brutal beyond measure and brought hatred to bear on themselves through their torture, kidnapping and raids that killed settlers. For example, after Braddock was defeated at Fort Duquesne (what now is Pittsburgh) in 1755 a number of British prisoners were taken by the Indians.
In his book Wilderness Empire, Allan W. Eckert describes the scene, “It was about sundown that the last of them came in – a smaller group prodding before them twenty or thirty prisoners, including at least half a dozen of the women that had followed Braddock’s army across the river… The faces and upper bodies of half of them had been smudged with charcoal, and James Smith knew it was the mark of the Cut-ta-ho-tha – the mark of the condemned.
“The prisoners were marched to the river bank and taken across to the Ottawa and Chippewa camps on the west bank of the Allegheny directly opposite the fort. With a fascination bred of horror, Smith watched posts being erected and a dozen of the blackened men were tied to them. Roaring fires were quickly built around them – not close enough to burn them with living flame, but close enough so that little by little their skin cooked and blistered and then charred. It was a process that took hours and the hideous cries of the tortured men reached peaks of frenzied intensity as flaming brands and red-hot ramrods were poked at their eyes and mouth and genitals.”
Hard to believe but some of the surviving prisoners experienced still worse outcomes. Events like this explain why hatred boiled over on the Ohio Frontier. We only hear about the evils that the U.S. visited upon our Native Americans. However, the Indians were often mistreated in response to their savagery. That led to the injustices of the reservation system and the behavioral predicament of today. The blame-America crowd has got it mostly wrong.