MCKINLEY’S LEGACY OF PAIN
A GENOCIDAL STROKE OF A PEN
McKinley’s infamous signing of the Curtis Act of 1898 aggressively dismantled five major Tribes, the Chocktaw, Chickasaw, Muscogee (Creek), Cherokee and Seminole. Doing so required a violation of yet another treaty and resulted in the immediate seizure of 90 million acres of land, with more to follow. The profound hardship, sadness and deaths that McKinley’s decision caused cannot be fully conveyed. The U.S would ultimately violate over 500 such treaties in its quest for continent-wide dominance. Source. His actions accentuated the ethnic cleansing of the Indigenous population for white settler space, all for Westward expansion. Source.
McKinley’s actions make him well known for being yet another president who pushed for the idea of Manifest Destiny as the rationale for expansion, subjugation and resource extraction. McKinley likely applied this explicit adherence to Manifest Destiny in all of his expansion efforts as evidenced by his remarks on Hawaii:
“We need Hawaii just as much and a good deal more than we did California. It is Manifest Destiny.”
Some argue that the Curtis Act, written by Charles Curtis who was himself of mixed French, Kansa, Osage and Potawatomi descent could not have been meant as an instrument of harm. This is of conflicting truth. He was just one man, after all, with ideas of assimilation that he attempted to apply to five Indigenous Nations. For an interesting article that covers some of his early life, click here. Regardless, his original bill was so drastically altered after it left his control and made its way to McKinley that he very unhappy with the final outcome. Source. McKinley, of course, was all too happy to sign this document which severely disadvantaged those who stood in the way of his “God-given” right to do as he pleased via unprecedented expansion, thus continuing the harmful legacy of US presidents.
Beginning on January 24, 1848, the Gold Rush was one of the most significant events in California history. Gold was found at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California. The news of the gold found in California brought 300,000 people from the rest of the United States and abroad.
It happened that many of the goldfields in Northern California lay in the ancestral lands of Tribes like the Karuk, the Wintu, and the Miwok and it was a widely held belief in 19th-century California that all of the Indigenous Peoples had to be exterminated. Source.
“Whites are becoming impressed with the belief that it will be absolutely necessary to exterminate the savages before they can labor much longer in the mines with security.”
–Daily Alta California
DISMANTLE, CONTROL, EXTRACT, EXTERMINATE
As described in other parts of this website, government-backed land seizure, massacres and forced re-education were some of the tactics employed by McKinley and his agents in their efforts to advance the doctrine of Manifest Destiny. As stated in another part of this website, these ideas preceded McKinley and followed after him. These tactics and other manifestations of this ideology for the purposes of domination and resource extraction are precisely what led to the local atrocities and the ongoing displacement and assaults on culture experienced by Tribes in and around Humboldt County. Again, a statue of a man so well known for his role in mass assaults on Indigenous Peoples has no place at a location of the bloody commerce of Indigenous Peoples bodies and body parts. The ideals are the same. The effect is the same.
In the 1800’s alone, there were approximately 220 recorded massacres of Indigenous Peoples in North America.
One initial and extremely grim massacre was the Sacramento River Massacre in April of 1846 carried out by Captain Fremont. The tactics employed at this location would resemble the massacres to follow in California. Encirclement, surprise, attack, an initial barrage of long-range small-arms fire, close-range attack, and execution of noncombatants would become a kind of unwritten tactical doctrine in California Indian killing Campaigns. Source.
From the Bear River Massacre, the Sand Creek Massacre, and The Wounded Knee Massacre to those more local such as of the Pomo at the Bloody Lake Massacre in Clear Lake, CA and of the Wiyot at the Indian Island Massacre on Humboldt Bay, 150 Wintu at Hayfork in 1852, hundreds more Wintu at the Sacramento River Massacre of 1846, Klamath Lake Massacre of 1846, The Kaibai Creek massacre of 1854, the details of these and other massacres are numerous and grim. There are too many to cover in this project.
At Clear Lake, The Pomo:
“I had the occasion of visiting with an elderly Pomo woman several years ago, who shared with me a story from her family history. She said her village was attacked somewhere along the Navarro River, by a group of white raiders. She thought perhaps they were trying to seize children for the Indian slave trade at the time. She wasn’t sure. But she knew that they were under attack.
And so a native woman fled with her family, trying to get her children away. She left her smallest child, which was still in a cradleboard, under some brush, and got away across the river. After the whites had left, she returned, trying to find her family. And she could see that her smallest child was still apparently safely there, under this brush. But when she lifted it up, she found that the child had been pinned to the earth with a knife, that the raiders apparently had regarded that child as too small to worry with, but they managed to kill the child instead.” Source.
-JAMES RAWLS, HISTORIAN
Massacre at Yontocket (Burnt Ranch) in 1853, about 450 Tolowa:
“Pyuwa of Enchwo [a Tolowa Village], who lived to be a very old man, one of very few … survivors… People were gathered for Needash (World Renewal) after fall harvest, at the center of the world at Yontocket. Indians from all over gathered to celebrate creation and give thanks to the creator. On the third night of the
ten nightdance, whites came into the village in the early morning hours. They torched the redwood plank houses, and as the Indians attempted to escape through the round holes in the houses, the militia killed them. This village existed as the largest native settlement consisting of over thirty houses. The whites would cut off the heads of the Indians and throw them into the fire. They lined their horses on the slough and as the Indians sought refuge, they were gunned down. One young Indian man ran out of the house with a “big elk hide” over his body, fought, and escaped to the slough. He stayed down there two or three hours: “All quiet down, and I could hear them people talking and laughing, I looked in the water, and the water was just red with blood, with people floating all over.” “The flames of our burning homes reached higher as even our babies were thrown to their deaths.” The center of the world, Yontocket, burned for days and that’s how the place received the name “Burnt Ranch.”
The Tolowa were repeatedly targeted. A timeline demonstrates this and more.
White settlers were able to murder Indigenous Peoples with impunity and without legal and social consequences. Many Indigenous Peoples died in random, near-daily attacks on small groups. The Eel River Rangers were so prolific in their murder of the Yuki that even some white observers became alarmed:
“The killing of Indians is a daily occurrence,” reported California’s head of Indian affairs. “If some means be not speedily devised, by which the unauthorized expeditions that are constantly out in search of them can be restrained, they will soon be exterminated.” Source.
The killing went on for years, though people doing the killing were more often wearing military uniforms as the decades passed. Native eyewitness accounts of attacks are rare: it was mainly whites doing the reporting. One exception comes from the 1850s, when white settlers along what’s now called the Lost Coast targeted a group of Sinkyone Indians for killing. Sally Bell, a Sinkyone girl who was ten years old at the time, survived by hiding in terror. Source. She later reported:
“My grandfather and all of my family — my mother, my father, and we — were around the house and not hurting anyone. Soon, about ten o’clock in the morning, some white men came. They killed my grandmother and my mother and my father. I saw them do it… Then they killed my baby sister and cut her heart out and threw it in the brush where I ran and hid. My little sister was a baby, just crawling around… I was so scared that I guess I just hid there a long time with my little sister’s heart in my hands.”
These events were not entirely carried out by the US military, but also extensively by state militias and vigilante gangs that were provided financial compensation for the murder of Indigenous men, women
Humboldt County became an infamous base for those “in the nefarious trade of stealing Indians …” with traffickers literally hunting and murdering Indigenous parents in the mountains in order to steal their children.
Though not the only state to enact such legislation, in 1850 the California legislature passed an Act for the Government and Protection of Indians that forced many Indigenous Peoples into servitude. This act followed years of capturing, enslavement, and trafficking of Indigenous men, women, and children that were unrestricted and rarely documented. Source.
The law resulted in a profitable slave trade, providing for the enslavement of any Indigenous man, woman or child found to be guilty of “loitering” or other crimes. The same could be forced upon orphaned children. Quite often, the status of “orphan” was forced upon the child by those seeking child slaves. Children were readily bought and sold for household work and women were purchased for both household work and rape. Source.
Humboldt County became an infamous base for those “in the nefarious trade of stealing Indians …” with traffickers literally hunting and murdering Indigenous parents in the mountains in order to steal their children. The incentive was high when buyers would willingly pay $50 or $60 for a young Indian to cook and wait upon them, up to $80 for a hog-driving boy or $100 (an amount equal to more than $2,700 today) for a “likely young girl,” according to a Dec. 6, 1861 story in the Marysville Appeal. Some of these children were kept by local families, but many were sold as far off as Colusa County, more than 200 miles away. Source.
Indian Superintendent George Hanson in 1861 wrote “Indian survivors were either taken as prisoners or sold on the open market…while the troops are engaged in killing the men for alleged offenses, the kidnappers follow in close pursuit, seize the younger Indians and bear them off to the white settlements in every part of the country filling orders for those who have applied for them at rates, varying from $50 to $200 a piece.” Source.
There was a person, up in Humboldt County, who was found with a small child, a young Indian child. And they ask him, “What are you doing with this child?” He said, “I am protecting him. He’s an orphan.” And they say, “Well, how do you know he’s orphan?” He said, “I killed his parents.”
Frank LaPena, professor, Native American Studies Source.
More than 130 schools were in operation, anywhere from 24% to 42% of the children would die. At some schools, 100% of the children were sexually abused and allegations of such abuse were ignored. Source.
It is important to note that there are many people alive today to endured the horrific conditions of the U.S. policy of forced boarding schools.
By the mid-1870s, white Californians had largely lost interest in exterminating the remaining Indigenous Peoples in California on a systematic basis. “Pacification” of the Tribes had been in the hands of the Army for some years, and many Californians seemed to be willing to take a more expansive view of how to rid the nation of Indigenous Peoples: by turning them white, or as close to it as possible. Source.
“Kill the Indian, and Save the Man.”
-Capt. Richard H. Pratt on the Education of Native Americans.
“However excellent the day school may be, whatever the qualifications of the teacher, or however superior the facilities for instruction of the few short hours spent in the day school is, to a great extent, offset by the habits, scenes and surroundings at home — if a mere place to eat and live in can be called a home. Only by complete isolation of the Indian child from his savage antecedents can he be satisfactorily educated, and the extra expense attendant thereon is more than compensated by the thoroughness of the work.”
— John B. Riley, Indian School Superintendent. Source
In the 1870s the United States began a system of boarding schools to be used against the Indigenous populations By 1893 they were mandatory. Source. Like the Curtis Act and other tools of cultural destruction McKinley would employ at home and abroad, this was an instrument of the war the US was waging against all Indigenous Peoples. The aim was cultural destruction in order to clear space and ease the way of Manifest Destiny. Prolonged separation from family was key. Replacement of names, forbidding native language, forced Christian instruction and forced white cultural practices were some of the procedures used to indoctrinate entire generations of children. Corporal punishment, torture, and deprivation were used to enforce the programs. Tens of thousands of Indigenous children would pass through hundreds of schools in the US.
Resisting these policies could result in entire communities having their rations withheld by the government or exposing the community to additional violence as police forcibly removed the children and jailed parents. It would not be until the 1970s that the US would phase out this stage of cultural ethnocide. Source.
A report in the late 1880s defended the early days of the schools. In the 1920s, a report concluded that children at federal boarding schools were malnourished, overworked, harshly punished and poorly educated. And in 1969, a report declared Indian education to be a national tragedy. Source
The end goal was to eradicate all vestiges of Indigenous culture. Beatings and deprivation awaited any child who stepped out of line, and all children faced prevalent physical and sexual abuse as well as murder. Newborns, a product of rape in these schools, would be killed by the rapists who were employed at these institutions. The US was not the only country to do this. In British Columbia, one school used an electric chair to torture children. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission found 150,000 children were forcibly placed into such schools in British Columbia, an act of cultural genocide. More than 130 schools were in operation, anywhere from 24% to 42% of the children would die. At some schools, 100% of the children were sexually abused and allegations of such abuse were ignored. Source. Estimates of the number of children who died as a result of internment into such schools ranges from three to six thousand. The actual numbers cannot be known due to poor record keeping, intentionally or otherwise.
Unseen Tears Parts 1-3
Unseen Tears Native American boarding school documentary. Native American families in Western New York and Ontario continue to feel the impact of the Thomas Indian School and the Mohawk Institute. Survivors speak of traumatic separation from their families, abuse, and a systematic assault on their language and culture. Western New York Native American communities are presently attempting to heal the wounds and break the cycle inter-generational trauma resulting from the boarding (residential) school experience. Unseen Tears documents the stories of boarding school survivors, their families, and social service providers.
From C. Oros (2016):
“The resilience of Indigenous peoples cannot be overstated either. For instance, many Indigenous peoples survived through residential boarding schools and found their way through life, eventually returning to their Indigenous homelands, or urging their children and grandchildren to do so. On the other hand, many individuals did not make it home from these institutions, and their families never knew what became of them. These stories of the boarding school era are not rare in Indigenous histories throughout the world, as residential schools are utilized in colonial projects throughout the world in efforts to marginalize and weaken Indigenous communities by focusing on the breaking down of children into white American society. This aspect of the larger colonial project can also be traced into modern day incarceration rates of Indigenous peoples, and especially that of Indigenous women in the U.S.”
“Barry Brenard (Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria), described how growing up away from his Humboldt Bay homelands led him to learn more about his cultural heritage later in life through research of his historical occurrences of the area, and of his grandmother’s recordings.”
“Mr. Brenard grew up next door to Stewart Indian Boarding School in Carson City, Nevada, but traces his lineage to the Mattole peoples of the Humboldt Bay region. His grandmother Mollie Brainard, had the last name of the landowner on whose land her family worked, (later changed to Brenard), was born approximately in 1844. Mollie was taken against her will to that boarding school from her homelands in California at the approximate age of nine. Without a way of returning home and not knowing how to get there, she stayed in Nevada and married a Washoe man from the area, having a family which included grandson Barry, who is now a Bear River Band of Rohnerville Rancheria councilmember and cultural practitioner who works in traditional healing and sobriety driven mindfulness for his people.”
“Mollie’s story was also told in an interview conducted by Warren Brainard, one of several interviews with local Indigenous peoples, from the early 20th century. Warren Brainard’s transcriptions from the interviews he conducted would be taken care of by his sister Carrie Seidner after his death in 1924. Mr. Barry Brenard’s family stories and knowledge brought light to the normalcy of the relocation of Indigenous children from their homelands during the boarding school era, and how the relocation of one little girl drastically impacted the entire family and their connection and reconnections to their traditional Mattole homelands.”
“…I do believe in the concept of spirituality of the actions that the settlers had, their spirit of intent was passed on, down generations. That we as the target of those intentions, if we don’t appease that spirit, we carry that spirit around in us. Because I myself have had all those anguishes come out in ill form manner. To where I was not good to myself or others around me. And I often wondered why, because I was a grandson, a great-grandson of spiritual healers, of medicine men and women. And I couldn’t understand why I was like that until I had gotten back into my own spiritual walk. And through the elders that helped assist me in that walk, conveyed that I carry around that spirit of those people, and especially the leaders of that encampment they called Fort Humboldt.”
GENOCIDE AND ETHNIC CLEANSING
Typical of the era, humanity had yet to codify reprobation of such heinous acts. The culmination of a
Above: For a visual presentation of some elements from this declaration, click the Facebook icon in the top right corner. For the entire document, click here.
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:
1. Indigenous individuals have the rights to life, physical and mental integrity, liberty and security of person.
2. Indigenous peoples have the collective right to live in freedom, peace and security as distinct peoples and shall not be subjected to any act of genocide or any other act of violence, including forcibly removing children of the group to another group.
1. Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture.
2. States shall provide effective mechanisms for prevention of, and redress for:
(a) Any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of their integrity as distinct peoples, or of their cultural values or ethnic identities
(b) Any action which has the aim or effect of dispossessing them of their lands, territories or resources
(c) Any form of forced population transfer which has the aim or effect of violating or undermining any of their rights
(d) Any form of forced assimilation or integration
(e) Any form of propaganda designed to promote or ethnic discrimination directed against them.Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right to belong to an indigenous community or nation, in accordance with the traditions and customs of the community or nation concerned. No discrimination of any kind may arise from the exercise of such a right.
Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories. No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement on just and fair compensation and, where possible, with the option of return.
It should be noted that “genocide” is not limited to the killing of other people. The UN defined genocide in 1948 as any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
- Killing members of the group
- Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group
- Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part
- Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group
- Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. Source.
For the entire document, click here
Some may say that it is irrelevant to discuss either a declaration or a law that did not exist at the time McKinley took action.
Is it not the actions themselves, rather than the codification of them, that deserve our attention in modern times?
Would you have no qualms admiring and associating with a powerful leader who was well known for raping his various ex-wives simply because it was not against the law at the time he did it? Depending on which state he was in, this could be as late as 1993 in North Carolina. Source.
As people of the 21st century, we do not need laws to tell us what is wrong and what merits correction.
The specific conditions faced by each of the 562 federally recognized Tribes are diverse and beyond the scope of this project. The following highlights are meant as an overview and to illustrate the long-term effects of the belief held by McKinley and others that “God” wanted the United States to dominate North America and other parts of the world.
You cannot have domination of continents that are already occupied without force, murder, dispossession and systemic repression. One must expect the consequences of these tactics to last hundreds of years, at a minimum, and to be clearly evident in present-day conditions and government policies. They are. This project is meant to illustrate this fact.
When one considers what “Manifest Destiny” actually means in terms of systemic, insidious and long-lasting devastation to those on the receiving end, and the role Manifest Destiny played in the local genocide, is it any wonder that a centrally-placed statue of McKinley would be considered, at best, wildly out of place in modern times?
Present day conditions are, naturally, formed by long-existing ideologies. The Trust Doctrine, first articulated in the 1830s, forms the ideological basis for the rationale of intensive federal management of the 562 sovereign nation’s (aka federally recognized tribes) reservation land. Education, economic development, Tribal courts, road maintenance, agriculture and social services are managed either by the Bureau of Indian Affairs or the Bureau of Indian Education. The complex legal frameworks imposed by these systems play a role in keeping Indigenous Peoples in poverty. Allegations of mismanagement have been a problem, and in 2009 the federal government settled one such a claim for 3.4 billion dollars.
Where there are high rates of poverty, so there are high rates of crime. Poverty rates for reservation families and individuals
In 2009, rape in Indian country outpaced the total in Detroit. Violent crime in Indian country increased during the 2000 to 2010 decade. Over the same decade, national violent crime rates fell, while Indian country violent crime rose by 29 percent.
Currently, tribal courts do not have the jurisdiction to prosecute non-tribal members for many crimes like sexual assault and rape, even if they occur on tribal land. This is a huge issue, because non-Native American men commit the majority of assaults against Native American women. Source.
Murder rates in Indian country increased 41 percent between 2000 and 2009 while federal funding for police, courts
There is a crisis in Indian Country of missing and murdered Native American women that
For another video on this topic: Our Sisters In Spirit (MMIWG Documentary)
WATER IS LIFE
A 2003 report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights reported funding for Tribal programs was in a state of crisis so systemic it violated civil rights. There were 60% more water-quality violations compared with nonTribal water systems, according to Environmental Protection Agency data. Source.
Indigenous Peoples are far more likely than any other group to live without plumbing – at up to 30 percent of households, according to the EPA. Source. A recent report by the Democratic staff of the House Committee on Natural Resources entitled Water Delayed is Water Denied: How Congress has Blocked Access to Water for Native Families notes that Tribes consistently receive the lowest funding per dollar of need out of any jurisdiction in the U.S. Source.
Water sources are directly threatened by the legacy of abandoned mines. As a result of the disregard of treaty rights, lands on and proximal to Native lands in the Western states were extensively mined for metals since the mid-1800s and uranium since the 1940s. There are more than 160,000 abandoned hard rock mines (not including coal) in the Western states, more than 4000 of which are abandoned uranium mines. Some accounts estimate that more than 600,000 Indigenous Peoples live within 6 miles of an abandoned mine. Source.
Current mines, and the threat of more (ie Trumps massive reduction of Bears Ears and the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska ), make up another facet of the risks posed to Indigenous Peoples, as in the case of the San Carlos Apache’s ongoing opposition to the proposed Oat Flat Mine an hour east of Phoenix.
For the Navajo Nation, the 2015 Gold King Mine spill was a devastating event in which 3 million gallons of drainage water came rushing out of the Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colorado, spewing 190 tons of heavy metals and other contaminants into waterways used by the Navajo Nation. Triggered by USGS exploratory work, crops and ranching was seriously impacted on the reservation. The EPA would go on to detect elevated lead levels at sites near the mine up to 100 times higher than the danger level for wildlife and the long-term health effects remain to be seen. Source.
Access to clean and safe water was already a battle for the Navajo.
Navajo people on the reservation travel an average of 24 miles each way to haul their drinking water. About 30-35% of reservation households are not connected to public water systems compared to 0.6% of households nationally and 12% for Tribes overall. Of the approximately 14,000 Navajo households and 54,000 individuals without direct public water access, many collect water from unregulated, untreated, shallow-well sources. These water sources are known to be frequently contaminated by fecal bacteria…17% of the 46 stool samples were positive for viruses and parasites such as norovirus, sapovirus and Cryptosporidium hominis. Source.
In Wyoming, the Arapaho Nation has been impacted by water contamination:
The Sioux are a confederacy of several Tribes that speak three different dialects, the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota. Source. Today, the Sioux maintain many separate Tribal governments scattered across several reservations, communities, and reserves in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Montana in the United States; and Manitoba, southern Saskatchewan and Alberta in Canada. Source.
The reservation used to be contiguous but fell victim to the US policy of treaty violations, as in the case the Treaty of Fort Laramie of 1851 which was coercively revised or simply ignored more than once to allow the US access to gold and other resources. This would include seizure of the entire Black Hills of South Dakota. Source.
- Prisoner of War Camp #334 is otherwise known as the Pine Ridge Reservation in southwestern South Dakota, home of the Oglala Lakota people, who are among the poorest in the United States
- The unemployment rate is between 80 and 90%.
- Per capita income is about $4000 per year. Poverty level income for a household of one person is approximately $12,000 per year.
- Alcoholism is estimated by some as high as 80%.
- The dropout rate for Indigenous youth in South Dakota is 70%.
- Life expectancy for men is 46-48 years, and for women is 52 years. This is the lowest in the United States, and the second lowest in the Western Hemisphere. Only Haiti has a lower life expectancy.
- The suicide rate
in generalis twice the national rate, and teen suicide on the reservation is 4 times the national rate.
- Infant mortality is 3 times the national rate.
- Diabetes is 8 times the national rate. It is estimated that 50% of the population over 40 has diabetes.
- Incidence of tuberculosis (TB) is also 8 times the national rate.
- Incidence of cervical cancer in women is 5 times the national rate.
- Incidence of heart disease is twice the national average. Source.
DAKOTA ACCESS PIPELINE
The well-publicized event demonstrated the effects of racism and continued US disregard for Indigenous Peoples’ rights. The pipeline runs through contested lands originally set aside for the Sioux in the 1951 Treaty of Fort Laramie. When initially set aside, it was almost immediately taken away by the US for access to gold and other resources. Source.
The pipeline was originally slated to run much closer to Bismarck, North Dakota and its population of 92% white settlers. Their concerns about their water supply resulted in a change of plan and its present course across another river and under Lake Oahe which is partly located on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. Concerns about this water supply were ultimately ignored and the area was militarized in order to stop water protectors. There were several other protests along the route but this site was home to by far the biggest. Despite early tentative victories against the pipeline, an easement under the lake was approved and the pipeline became commercially operable on June 1, 2017. Proponents of the pipeline tout its “avoidance” of Tribal lands while ignoring outright theft, treaty violations and its proximity that still profoundly endangers the Tribe and the land. This visually engaging map of the pipeline is very informative.
The pipeline has leaked five times in its first six months of operation.
To further illustrate the ongoing legacy of indifference, violation
Soon after being contacted, Trump would report to the media:
“As you know I approved two pipelines that were stuck in limbo forever. I don’t even think it was controversial. You know, I approved them and I haven’t even heard one call from anybody saying, ‘oh, that was a terrible thing you did,”
INDIGENOUS PEOPLES & RESILIENCY
No discussion of Indigenous Peoples in North America would be accurate without a discussion of their resiliency. No discussion in a project of this limited scope could do it justice. Despite hundreds of years of systematic genocide carried about by people who violently embraced the essential philosophies even McKinley would one day cherish, and despite receiving the same from those who came after him, Indigenous Peoples in North America retain their powerful and distinctly vibrant cultures.
From C. Oros (2016):
“The strength and quality of indigenous peoples’ greatest accomplishment is
almost buried under the weight of the problems they confront. That
accomplishment consists in their survival. Indigenous peoples have every right to
celebrate their continued existence and to draw strength from the fact that their
nations live on despite the terrible losses of the past five hundred years…For all
the chaos and pain brought by colonization, and for all the self-inflicted wounds,
the first step in getting beyond the present crisis must be to celebrate the inherent
strength that has allowed indigenous people to resist extinction.”
Healthy Resilient Indigenous
In California alone, there are approximately 75,000 Indigenous Peoples in Tribes that are not recognized by the Federal Government. Denied certain rights and protections by the government, their way of life is especially threatened.
The Winnemem Wintu Tribe of Shasta County struggles to continue practicing its traditions without the legal rights and protections that federal recognition would grant members. Gathering materials for religious rituals, protecting ceremonial sites from development and preventing harassment at ceremonies on public land are all challenges the Tribe faces.
From C. Oros (2016): “Metaphors of death and recovery through reconnection tend to resonate with indigenous people generally, sharing as they do a history of loss. That resonance attests to the need to make tradition more than an artifact – to bring traditional values and approaches to power back to life as guiding principals for contemporary governance. We need to realize that ways of thinking that perpetuate European values can do nothing to ease the pain of colonization and return us to the harmony, balance, and peaceful coexistence that were – and are – the ideals envisioned in all traditional indigenous philosophies….In some places the power of colonial mentality has cut off possibilities of resurgence of traditional culture and life ways because fear, religion, or overall genocide has wiped away memories and the ability to recall. In other places a cultural renaissance and paradigm shift is emerging, with roots stemming back to the civil rights era, and the Indian Religious Freedom Act of the 1970s, when it finally became legal to practice traditional spiritual ways and not be arrested or punished (with the exception of accessing sacred places).”
McKinley lobbied his party to abandon their growing resolve to enhance voting rights for Black citizens of the South. He succeeded. Source.
Many people are satisfied with the token efforts by President McKinley to do good things for some. Somehow it matters more and serves as justification to ignore what McKinley perpetrated on the innocent many, intentionally or otherwise. For example, people say “he appointed black people to office” while they ignore the severe criticisms leveled against McKinley by some of the eventual founders of NAACP. They will also point out his consideration of (white) women’s suffrage while ignoring the fact that his military killed countless women (and their young children) in the Philippines, the pace of which was quickened in anticipation of McKinley’s chance at a second term: A “peace at any price policy was inaugurated to meet the exigency of Mr. McKinley’s campaign for presidency in 1900” Source.
McKinley’s savvy political tactics are admired by some. Now-former Chief Bush campaign strategist Karl Rove referred to McKinley as “a superb politician”. This is the Same Karl Rove who referred to the Wiyot Massacre as “alleged”.“
McKinley is known and admired by some for breaking precedent and appointing Black citizens to various offices. For example, Walter L. Cohen of New Orleans, who was a leader of the “Black and Tan Republican” faction, was appointed as a customs inspector. McKinley also appointed George B. Jackson, a former Virginia slave and a businessman in San Angelo, Texas, to the post of customs collector in Presidio, Texas, on the Mexican border. Source.
To those paying attention at the time, McKinley would broadcast his true priorities before he was even president:
In 1890, as head of the Ways and Means Committee in Congress, McKinley pushed through a major tariff bill. Some Senators blocked this bill the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, demanding as their price that the GOP give up on a voting rights bill to protect the deteriorating access of southern blacks to the ballot box. This voting rights bill, to which McKinley gave lip service, was called for by the Republican platform, urged by President Harrison, and passed in the House by a partisan 155-149 vote. The choice was between the human rights of Black men or silver and the tariff. The GOP leadership, including, prominently, McKinley, chose mammon. Following this, repression of blacks, including Jim Crow laws and lynchings, intensified. Source.
Once president, McKinley’s speeches on the subject of human rights were equal measures of inspiration and meaninglessness….he would prove time and again that his words brought little for those bearing the brunt of racism, aggression
“It must not be equality and justice in the written law only. It must be equality and justice in the law’s administration everywhere and alike administered in every part of the Republic to every citizen thereof. It must not be the cold formality of constitutional enactment. It must be a living birthright.”
“Our black allies must neither be forsaken nor deserted. I weigh my words. This is the great question not only of the present
but is the great question of the future; and this question will never be settled until it is settled upon principles of justice, recognizing the sanctity of the Constitution of the United States.”
In the years between 1889 and 1903, on the average, every week, two Black people were lynched by mobs — hanged, burned, mutilated. Source.
The Willmington, North Carolina massacre on November 10, 1898 was an appalling spectacle of organized lynching by white men directed at Black residents of the entire town. North Carolina had been a relative hold-out against overt white supremacist policies thanks to the Fusion Party, an allegiance of Northern reformers, African American leaders, and progressive white Southerners.
A bid for complete white supremacy in the face of an election sparked the violent coup d’etat and a mob of 2,000 white men moved to overthrow the legitimately elected local Fusionist government, expel Black leaders from the city and destroy the property and businesses of Black citizens built up since the Civil War. The mob was led by Alfred Moore Waddell, the former US Congressman who had given a speech in which he promised to “choke the current of the Cape Fear with [Black] carcasses” Source if it were necessary to ensure a Democratic victory. Estimates of those killed are unclear, as the victors had control of the scene. Estimates range from 60 to more than 300 people. Source.
“When night fell, the firing began. Kirk reported: The shrieks and screams of children, of mothers, of wives were heard, such as caused the blood of the most inhuman person to creep. Thousands of women, children and men rushed to the swamps and there lay upon the earth in the cold to freeze and starve. The woods were filled with colored people. The streets were dotted with their dead bodies. A white gentleman said that he saw ten bodies lying in the undertakers
officeat one time. Some of their bodies were left lying in the streets until up in the next day following the riot. Some were found by the stench and miasma that came forth from their decaying bodies under their houses.”
The Wilmington Massacre was a bloody attack on the African-American community by a heavily armed white mob with the support of the North Carolina Democratic Party on November 10, 1898, in the port city of Wilmington, North Carolina. It is considered one of the only successful examples of a coup d’état in the United States that left countless numbers of African-American citizens dead and exiled from the city. This event was the springboard for the white supremacy movement and Jim Crow segregation throughout the state of North Carolina and the American South. “Wilmington on Fire” gives a compelling historical and present-day look at this event showing how the violent overthrow of an existing government not only cemented white supremacy in the city of Wilmington and the state of North Carolina but also throughout the United States of America. © 2011 Christopher Everett You can buy or rent ‘Wilmington on Fire’ on Vimeo on Demand at http://bit.ly/2eJW5Yq You can also pre-order the DVD at http://bit.ly/2eo0KOk
Where legislative policy had failed to claim (or reclaim) the loyalty of white voters, appeals to their sense of male chivalry, racial victimhood, and supremacy had proven successful. And where white North Carolinians saw Black aspirations and progress as corrupt and oppressive, they had come together to solve that imagined problem through repressive and violent means. Source.
Despite his fondness for decrying such matters, McKinley would not use the power of his voice and position to make any noteworthy challenges to this horrific event. McKinley was unwilling to use federal power to enforce the 15th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. He was also unwilling to lobby for legislation that would prevent state, county and city complicity in lynchings of Black citizens but did take steps to ask Congress to enact federal laws to allow for punishing of American mobs who harmed foreigners.
He was criticized by those in desperate need of “more” for withholding just that.
The discrepancy between his words and his deeds did not go
“Mr. McKinley’s fence straddling and shilly shallying discussion of lynch law. He asks congress to enact a law giving the federal court the power to arrest, try and punish, if convicted, American mobs that ill-treat or murder citizens or subjects of a foreign country, but does not ask any legislation whatever to stop bloody mobs from killing Negro citizens of this nation…Every sensible Negro knows that what he has said means nothing. It is simply a bait to catch Negro votes….”
-Charlotte, NC Star of Zion, organ of A.M.E. Zion Church
[A] man of jelly, who would turn us loose to the mob and not say a word.
— Editor T. Thomas Fortune on William McKinley. Source.
During the war against the Filipino, a group of Black citizens from Massachusetts addressed a message to President McKinley:
“We the colored people of Massachusetts in mass meeting assembled . . . have resolved to address ourselves to you in an open letter, notwithstanding your extraordinary, your incomprehensible silence on the subject of our wrongs. . . .
. . . you have seen our sufferings, witnessed from your high place our awful wrongs and miseries, and yet you have at no time and on no occasion opened your lips on our behalf. . . .
With one accord, with an anxiety that wrenched our hearts with cruel hopes and fears, the Colored people of the United States turned to you when Wilmington, North Carolina was held for two dreadful days and nights in the clutch of a bloody revolution; when Negroes, guilty of no crime except the color of their skin and a desire to exercise the rights of their American citizenship, were butchered like dogs in the streets of that ill-fated town . . . for want of federal aid, which you would not and did not furnish. . . .
It was the same thing with that terrible ebullition of mob spirit at Phoenix, South
Carolina,when black men were hunted and murdered, and white men [these were white radicals in Phoenix] shot and driven out of that place by a set of white savages. . . . We looked in vain for some word or some act from you. . .
And when you made your Southern tour a little later, and we saw how cunningly you catered to Southern race prejudice. . . . How you preached patience, industry, moderation to your long-suffering black fellow citizens, and patriotism, jingoism
andimperialism to your white ones. . . .”
CONNECTING THE DOTS
It is important to remember that the events described on this page include not just the devastating acts carried out by McKinley but also the events that are his, and other’s, legacy. These events are the legacy of Westward expansion and ethnic cleansing. A statue of McKinley in a modern day city such as Arcata should be seen as out of step with the values of its citizens, especially in light of the local history of genocide, and the Wiyot Tribal Council’s position on statue removal.