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                                                               We’re Number One

When somebody has to say that he's number one, it means he's not sure of himself.  - John Lukacs

I never apologize for the United States of America; I don’t care what the facts are – George H. W. Bush (Dumb and Dumber) 1988


White Christian notions of self-righteousness, superiority and dominance do not come by accident. We have all been indoctrinated to accept it from our parents, churches, schools and mass culture as a whole. It is steeped into the fabric of every Western Christian country’s religion, socio-economic system and cultural mythology. Judeo-Christian religions provide a perfect template for hierarchical arrangements and class divisions: One God above all, certain humans above other humans, and humans over the rest of nature. Political and economic systems are similarly arranged and organized along rigid hierarchical lines so that all of nature's resources are regarded only in terms of how they serve the one god - the god of growth, acquisitiveness, greed, power and expansion. Success in this culture is measured by how much “stuff” we can cram into our over-sized homes. In this way, all of these systems have a missionary quality and zeal with the primary objective of domination and control where “stuff” is more important than people and taking more valued than giving. And through their mutual collusion, these cultural values form a seamless web that engulfs and directs us throughout our lives. We live inside these hermetically sealed ethnocentric world views and cultural predispositions and are engulfed and driven by them, never thinking that anything could be different. They excuse and legitimize our behaviors and life’s choices. Most people spend their entire lives on a one way path without a trace of skeptical challenge to them.

These are the values that led to the exploitation and denigration of indigenous people in the Americas and throughout the world by Christian Europeans and the subsequent 500 years of ethnic cleansing and genocide that followed. For over five centuries Europeans have conveniently ignored the exhortation of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”   

What do we gain when we covet the wealth of the world that can come with accepting the systems and structures of power? When feeling self-righteous, we are tempted to say that we agree with Jesus, that when we place too much value on material rewards we lose something greater. But if we are to be honest, we have to acknowledge that those material rewards in the world can be extremely seductive. If you doubt this go visit a shopping mall.

We who prayed and wept
for liberty from kings
and the yoke of liberty
accept the tyranny of things
we do not need.
In plenitude too free,
we have become adept
beneath the yoke of greed.

Wendell Berry, from “We Who Prayed and Wept”

North American Genocide:

“Ethnic cleansing” and “genocide” are twentieth century conceptions that I have dealt with in another essay recently posted on my web site called The Genocide of Indigenous Peoples in the Americas. These two expressions are typically invoked to describe historical events such as the Jewish Holocaust under Hitler’s Third Reich and the War in the Balkans in the former Yugoslavia. Rarely are they applied to the most contemptible example that was perpetrated by the Christian white man, that of indigenous peoples in the Americas from the time of Columbus to the onset of the Twentieth Century.

Columbus, upon his arrival, described the Arawaks, the Native people in the West Indies, as timid, sincere, free-spirited and generous. He rewarded them with slavery and death. For his second voyage to the Americas Columbus took the title 'Admiral of the Ocean Sea' and proceeded to unleash a reign of terror unlike anything seen before or since. When he was finished, eight million Arawaks -- virtually the entire native population of Hispaniola -- had been exterminated by torture, murder, forced labor, starvation, disease and despair.

A Spanish missionary, Bartolome de las Casas, described eye-witness accounts of mass murder, torture and rape. Author Barry Lopez, summarizing Las Casas' report wrote:

One day, in front of Las Casas, the Spanish dismembered, beheaded, or raped 3000 people. “Such inhumanities and barbarisms were committed in my sight,” he says, “as no age can parallel....” The Spanish cut off the legs of children who ran from them. They poured people full of boiling soap. They made bets as to who, with one sweep of his sword, could cut a person in half. They loosed dogs that “devoured an Indian like a hog, at first sight, in less than a moment.” They used nursing infants for dog food.

His Spanish and Portuguese successors, including British and other Western European invaders followed the same policy for the next 500 years, as did the British and Americans.

The British:

The British occupied areas from Virginia northward. Hans Koning wrote:

"From the beginning, the Spaniards saw the native Americans as natural slaves, beasts of burden, part of the loot. When working them to death was more economical than treating them somewhat humanely, they worked them to death. The English, on the other hand, had no use for the native peoples. They saw them as devil worshippers, savages who were beyond salvation by the church, and exterminating them increasingly became accepted policy."

David E. Stannard wrote:

"Hundreds of Indians were killed in skirmish after skirmish. Other hundreds were killed in successful plots of mass poisoning. They were hunted down by dogs, 'blood-Hounds to draw after them, and Mastives [mastiffs] to seize them.' Their canoes and fishing weirs were smashed, their villages and agricultural fields burned to the ground. Indian peace offers were accepted by the English only until their prisoners were returned; then, having lulled the natives into false security, the colonists returned to the attack. It was the colonists' expressed desire that the Indians be exterminated, rooted 'out from being longer a people upon the face of the earth.' In a single raid the settlers destroyed corn sufficient to feed four thousand people for a year. Starvation and the massacre of non-combatants was becoming the preferred British approach to dealing with the natives."

The Americans:

In the early 18th century, the states of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Jersey promoted the genocide of their local Natives by imposing a "scalp bounty" on dead Indians. "In 1703, Massachusetts paid 12 pounds for an Indian scalp. By 1723 the price had soared to 100 pounds."  Ward Churchill wrote: "Indeed, in many areas it [murdering Indians] became an outright business."  This practice of paying a bounty for Indian scalps continued into the 19th century before the public put an end to the practice. (Note: Yes, sorry to explode the comfortable lies hammered into our heads by Western movies but scalping was a European ritual of mutilation that was only carried out by Native Americans in retaliation.)

In the 18th century, George Washington compared them to wolves, "beasts of prey" and called for their total destruction. In 1814, Andrew Jackson "supervised the mutilation of 800 or more Creek Indian corpses" that his troops had killed. 

Extermination of all of the surviving natives was urged by the Governor of California officially in 1851.  An editorial from the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, CO in 1863; and from the Santa Fe New Mexican in 1863 expressed the same sentiment.  In 1867, General William Tecumseh Sherman said, "We must act with vindictive earnestness against the Sioux [Lakotas] even to their extermination: men, women and children." 

In 1848, before the gold rush in California, that state's native population is estimated to have been 150,000. In 1870, after the gold rush, only about 31,000 were still alive. "Over 60 percent of these indigenous people died from disease introduced by hundreds of thousands of so-called 49ers. However, local tribes were also systematically chased off their lands, marched to missions and reservations, enslaved and brutally massacred." The price paid for a native scalp had dropped as low as $0.25. Native historian, Jack Forbes, wrote:

"The bulk of California's Indians were conquered, and died, in innumerable little episodes rather than in large campaigns. it serves to indict not a group of cruel leaders, or a few squads of rough soldiers, but in effect, an entire people; for ...the conquest of the Native Californian was above all else a popular, mass, enterprise."  

Ward Churchill on ethnic cleansing:

In an interview conducted by David Barsamian with Ward Churchill, professor of American Indian Studies in the Center for Studies in Ethnicity and Race in America (CSERA) at the University of Colorado, he had this to say:

Churchill: "Ethnic cleansing" is a relatively polite euphemism, I suppose, for just plain, ordinary old genocide. Genocide is not unique. It's pervasive throughout history. Native America, both north and south, experienced a sustained and incredibly impactful process of genocide, extending over a period of three to five hundred years, depending on which locale you're talking about.

Barsamian: When we take the hemisphere, North and South, various numbers are given of indigenous peoples that were here before the Europeans, the "predators," as you call them, came. What is a minimum-maximum figure?

Churchill: I won't even bother with a minimum figure. These accrue from official sources such as the Smithsonian Institution and are ridiculously low. The method of manipulating the data to make them so low has been amply revealed by Francis Jennings and others over a fairly long period of time. At present, the best estimates that I'm aware of bracket it at somewhere between 100 and 150 million people. That is circa 1500….approximately 97 to 98 percentile liquidation of population by approximately 1890.

Barsamian asked Ward Churchill about Hitler admiring the efficiency of decimation and ethnic cleansing of Native Americans by the United States government. What Churchill describes is shockingly similar to the imperialistic policy of Manifest Destiny.

Churchill: Hitler took note of Native Americans, indigenous people of the Americas, specifically within the area of the U.S. and Canada. He used the treatment of native people, the policies and processes that were imposed upon them, as a model for what he articulated as being Lebensraumpolitik, the politics of living space. In essence, Hitler took the notion of a drive from east to west, clearing the land as the invading population went and resettling it with Anglo-Saxon stock, primarily, as a model by which he drove from west to east into Russia, displacing, relocating, dramatically shifting or liquidating populations to clear the land and replace it with what he called "superior breeding stock," meaning Germanic peoples. It was essentially the same process, and he was very conscious of the fact that he was basing his policies in the prior experience of the Anglo-American population, or Nordic population, as he called it, in the area north of the Rio Grande River.

Here is a link to a recent contribution I posted on my web site called “Genocide in the Americas.”

There is a very good series on You Tube titled “American Genocide”:

Part One: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-G1ed4q3tY

Part Two: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EnnhJGODIag&feature=related

Part Three: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=snKxyxyIOuk&feature=related

Ward Churchill talk posted on You Tube.

Another Ward Churchill lecture series:  Part One , Part Two , Part Three , Part Four , Part Five.

A lecture by Ward Churchill in October 2007 at University of Toronto titled Holocaust Denial as Academic Orthodoxy. Part One , Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven, Part Eight, Part Nine, Part Ten, Part Eleven, Part Twelve, Part Thirteen, Part Fourteen. If you get to Part One you should be able to navigate easily to the other 13 parts at You Tube.


Ward Churchill, A Little Matter of Genocide: Holocaust and denial in the Americas: 1492 to the present," City Lights Publishers, (1998)

Ward Churchill, Fantasies of the Master Race: Literature, Cinema and the Colonization of American Indians" City Lights Books, (1998; 2nd edition)

Ward Churchill, et al, "Perversions of Justice: Indigenous Peoples and Anglo-American Law," City Lights Books, (2003)

David E Stannard, American Holocaust: Columbus and the Conquest of the New World," Oxford University Press, (1992)

Dee Brown, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West, Holt Paperbacks, 1970, (2007 edition)

Barry Lopez, "The Rediscovery of North America: The Thomas D. Clark lectures," University Press of Kentucky, (1990).

Bartolome de las Casas, "The devastation of the Indies: A brief account," Johns Hopkins University Press, (1992).

Russell Thornton, "American Indian Holocaust and Survival: A Population History since 1492 (Civilization of the American Indian, Vol 186)," University of Oklahoma Press, (1990).

Clifford E. Trafzer & Joel R. Hyer, (Eds.), "Exterminate Them": Written Accounts of the Murder, Rape, and Slavery of Native Americans during the California Gold Rush, 1848-1868

James Wilson, "The Earth Shall Weep: A History of Native America," Grove Press, (2003).

Jake Page. "In the Hands of the Great Spirit: The 20,000-Year History of American Indians," Free Press, (2003).

Hans Koning, "The conquest of America: How the Indian nations lost their continent," Monthly Review Press, (1993).


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