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Barton: Natives Had to Be Killed to Civilize Them

There is a myth that we often hear that the Native Americans were peaceful people who lived in a virtual utopia and loved the environment and one another until the evil white man came along (in fact, they often warred with one another; they were, after all, human beings). But this myth was created to counter the equally absurd claim that white Europeans came here to civilize the savages. Unsurprisingly, David Barton prefers the latter myth:

You have to deal, a lot of it, with how the enemy responds. It’s got to be based on what the enemy responds [to,] you cannot reason with certain types of terrorists; and see that’s why we could not get the Indians to the table to negotiate with us on treaties until after we had thoroughly whipped so many tribes … What happened was the Indian leaders said “they’re trying to change our culture” and so they declared war on all the white guys and went after the white guys and that was King Philip’s War. It was really trying to be civilized on one side and end torture and the Indians were threatened by the ending of torture and so we had to go in and we had to destroy Indian tribes all over until they said “oh, got the point, you’re doing to us what we’re doing to them, okay, we’ll sign a treaty.”

Take, for example, what happened in the western plains wars in the late 1800s when we were taking on the plains Indians. I’m not talking about treaties, I’m not talking about behavior of Americans toward Indians or vice versa, there were violations on both sides of nearly every treaty. I’m talking about what happened in ending those wars after Custer and everything that went on.

People complain about the fact that the American military and buffalo hunters went out and wiped out all the buffalo in the western plains. Doing that was what brought the Indians to their knees because the Indians lived on those wide western plains where there were very few towns; Indians didn’t go into town to buy supplies, they went to the buffalo herds, that’s where they got their meat, that’s where they got their coats, the hides provided coats, they provided covering for their teepees.

If you don’t have the buffalos, those Indians cannot live on the open western plains without those buffalo and so what happened was the military wiped out the supply line by wiping out the buffalo. That’s what brought those wars to an end, that’s what brought the Indians to their knees and ended all the western conflict.

No, the Native American were not terrible savages that needed to be civilized by Christian crusaders. They also weren’t noble savages who lived in perfect harmony with nature and one another. They were (and are) human beings, prone to all the same tendencies, good and bad, that all human beings are. The difference is that the white man really was an invading force. And like all invading forces, they convinced themselves that they were fighting a holy crusade for everything that is good and right against a savage enemy that might as well have been the devil himself.

Comments

  1. says

    Wow. How does a reasonable person even reply that sheer amount of racism and privilege?

    And I’ve yet to be convinced that Christianity is in any way “civilizing”.

  2. Ben P says

    And I’ve yet to be convinced that Christianity is in any way “civilizing”.

    Ah…but the immortal soul…lol.

    You have to remember the choice that was presented lots of natives, as well as “witches,” jews and other “heretics” in Europe during the same time period that colonization of the new world began.

    You can acknowledge Christ and repent your sins, and you will be beheaded/hung. Or you can persist in your heresy and you will be burned at the stake.

  3. imrryr says

    The lead-up to the ‘Trail of Tears’ proved that even when the natives adopted the ways of the ‘civilizing white-folk’, it still wasn’t good enough. They were sitting on land that white people wanted.

    That’s what brought those wars to an end, that’s what brought the Indians to their knees and ended all the western conflict.

    Well, that and the massacres… not to mention taking Native children away from their parents so they could be raised in boarding schools.

  4. raven says

    And I’ve yet to be convinced that Christianity is in any way “civilizing”.

    Look what happened after the xians took over the Roman empire. The time when the xians had power was know as the Dark Ages. For good reasons.

    In “Jerusalem Countdown: A Prelude To war” Hagee has stated that Jews brought the Holocaust upon themselves by rebelling against God and that the Holocaust was God’s way of forcing Jews to move to Israel where, Hagee predicts according to his interpretation of Biblical scripture, they will be mostly killed in the apocalyptic Mideast conflict.

    Hagee said that the Holocaust was the Jews fault and god’s plan to move them to Israel.

    The xian god’s solutions to problems usually seem to involve mass murder and genocide.

    There is another and more parsimonious explanation. A lot of the fundie xian leaders seem to be sociopaths.

  5. nooneinparticular says

    When I was young a Mohegan by the name of Harold Tantaquidgeon, who was famous for his native American art, came to talk to my school. I remember that one of the things he talked about was that he felt that mythologizing of native Americans as being paragons of peaceful, virtuous living in tune with nature was greatly insulting to him. He felt it stole his humanity. He said that it made them less members of humanity and more comic book characters.

  6. marcus says

    Yeah, don’t fucking get me started on that bullshit! Because they were “savages” we were fully justified raping their women, kidnapping their children, destroying their culture, eliminating their source of sustenance, starving them out, lying, cheating and stealing from them and all of the other niceties comprising “civilized” genocide. Andrew Jackson should have been tried for war crimes. He was a murderer and a con man plain and simple. IMNSHFO George Armstrong Custer got exactly what he fucking deserved.

  7. nooneinparticular says

    Cheesynougats

    It looks that way. At least that’s how I read his statement;

    “It was really trying to be civilized on one side and end torture and the Indians were threatened by the ending of torture and so we had to go in and we had to destroy Indian tribes all over until they said “oh, got the point, you’re doing to us what we’re doing to them, okay, we’ll sign a treaty.”

    (bolding mine)

    It is true that native Americans committed torture; they are human beings and humans everywhere do that. Including the people Barton says were trying to “end” it. But we, unlike them, are still doing it.

  8. jws1 says

    @11: I think he’s referring to the practice of ritual human sacrifice. Ironic, since his religion is based around ritual human sacrifice and torture.

  9. Synfandel says

    Ignorance, racism, jingoism, and inarticulateness all rolled up together in a chocolatey coating. Barton really satisfies.

  10. Synfandel says

    Indians did sometimes torture captive enemy combatants, whether native or European, as a way to intimidate their enemies and deter direct military conflicts that could result in a lot of deaths. Americans, on the other hand, preferred to practise wholesale genocide, indiscriminately killing men, women, children, the elderly, pets, and livestock in previously peaceful, and often unarmed, villages that had the temerity to be on land that settlers wanted.

  11. jnorris says

    I don’t see where the American Christian White Man ever got the time to get the country built. If he wasn’t civilizing the natives he had to go to Africa and fetch black people here to civilize. Lordy, the Christian Bible God sure did make the White Man’s Burden heavy.

  12. peterh says

    A simple (perhaps self-answering) question: has Barton ever been right about anything?

  13. Abby Normal says

    There is a myth that we often hear that the Native Americans were peaceful people who lived in a virtual utopia and loved the environment and one another until the evil white man came along

    I’ve often heard that I often hear that myth. But I don’t recall anyone actually making the claim I supposedly hear so often. Am I just particularly fortunate or is it a myth that people often hear such a myth?

  14. nooneinparticular says

    Synfandel @15

    Righty right, but don’t undersell native American atrocities either. For example, what the Iroquois did to the Hurons, Algonquins, and Wenro people (and what the Mohawk Iroquois did to the St Lawrence Iroquois) was similarly indiscriminate; they wiped out entire villages and tribes. Men, women, children.

    My point, before any feather get ruffled; native Americans are human beings and they did what human beings everywhere have always done. No amount of sweeping under the rug by apologists for European atrocities absolves them of their crimes but nor does it mean that native Americans, like all humans, did not also commit atrocities, though of far smaller scale.

  15. greg1466 says

    you cannot reason with certain types of terrorists; and see that’s why we could not get the Indians to the table to negotiate with us on treaties until after we had thoroughly whipped so many tribes … What happened was the Indian leaders said “they’re trying to change our culture” and so they declared war on all the white guys and went after the white guys and that was King Philip’s War.

    Riiiggghhhttt. It couldn’t possibly have been because the ‘white guys’ repeatedly demonstrated that they only honored treaties as long as it was convenient for them.

  16. slc1 says

    One need only quote General Philip Sheridan: “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.”

  17. jba55 says

    @14 The coating may be brown but it sure as hell isn’t chocolate.

    @19 Fortunate, I’d have to say. I heard it constantly while growing up west of Boston. Course I also heard how they were all savages, murdering and raping with impunity. Often from the same teachers.

  18. Synfandel says

    nooneinparticular @ 22:

    …but don’t undersell native American atrocities either.

    Your facts are correct and your point is well taken, but I would point out that before European contact, the Iroquois lived side-by-side with the Huron in a relatively stable arrangement with occasional skirmishes for centuries until the French allied themselves with the Huron, the English allied themselves with the Iroquois, and a proxy war (along with European communicable diseases) resulted in the near annihilation of the Huron.

  19. Synfandel says

    jba55 @ 25:

    The coating may be brown but it sure as hell isn’t chocolate.

    Chocolatey, not chocolate. My lawyers tell me that makes it all right.

  20. ottod says

    Wiping out the buffalo herds may have had the blessing of the military, but it was done with rapacious commercial intent, with no regard for the consequences or for the effect on the Indians. In this case, Barton’s bullshit is even stinkier and more viscous than usual.

  21. DaveL says

    It was really trying to be civilized on one side and end torture and the Indians were threatened by the ending of torture

    Really? Because this is what Wikipedia has under “Failure of Diplomacy” in their entry for King Phillip’s War:

    Metacomet began negotiating with the other Algonquian tribes against the Plymouth Colony soon after the deaths of his father Massasoit and his brother Wamsutta. His action was a reaction to the colonists’ refusal to stop buying land and establishment of new settlements, combined with Wamsutta’s suspicious death.

    It seems there may have been a teensy bit more to it than “What? No torture? TO WAR!!”

  22. scottlesch says

    “……Comanche Chief Tosawi reputedly told Sheridan in 1869, “Me, Tosawi; me good Injun,” to which Sheridan supposedly replied, “The only good Indians I ever saw were dead.” Biographer Roy Morris Jr. states that, nevertheless, history credits Sheridan with saying “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.” This variation “has been used by friends and enemies ever since to characterize and castigate his Indian-fighting career.”[46]..”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_Sheridan

  23. says

    I had, previous to this post, not been subjected to any of David Barton’s actual wordsaladmaking, beyond a few quotes by Ed Brayton. I have this to say, HOLY FUCK, is this idiot in possession of a HS diploma? Not only is his history deficient, he writes like a seventh grader.

    The King Philip War and others that were begun by native americans were more often than not the result of various tribes and their leaders having been fucked in the ass long enough to simply not give a fuck if they won or lost.

  24. marcus says

    scottlesch @ 30
    “A long time ago the Penateka Comanches were the strongest band in the nation. The Great Father sent a big chief down to us and promised medicines, houses and many other things. A great great many years have gone by, but those things have never come. My band is dwindling away fast. [...] I shall wait till next spring to see if these things shall be given to us; if they are not, I and my young men will return to our wild brothers to live on the prairie.” Chief Tosawa (Silver Brooch) at the treaty of Medicine Lodge.
    Must’ve missed the “Me good injun…”part
    Yeah obviously just another bloodthirsty savage that could only understand violence and subjugation.

  25. says

    The King Philip War and others that were begun by native americans were more often than not the result of various tribes and their leaders having been fucked in the ass long enough to simply not give a fuck if they won or lost.

    Well, if you’re all,going to be killed (because it was obvious that was what was happening) you may as well try to take a few of the bastards down with you.

    I just finished reading a really good (appears to be solidly researched and well argued) book that touches a bit on the relationship between the settlers and the indigenous peoples. It’s “1493” and it’s one of those “big scope of history” books like “guns, germs, and steel” etc. cracking good stuff I rate it a 9/10.

  26. marcus says

    Marcus Ranum @ 33 I can also highly recommend “1491” by the same author it gives a well-researched view of what life was for Native Americans before Columbus landed.

  27. says

    Thing is, even after some of them converted to Christianity, they still got slaughtered.

    At daybreak on December 14, 1763, a vigilante group made up of Scots-Irish frontiersmen, the Paxton Boys, attacked the local Conestoga, a Susquehannock tribe who had lived since the 1690s on land donated by William Penn to their ancestors. Many Conestoga were Christian, and they had lived peacefully with their European neighbors for decades. They lived by bartering handicrafts, hunting, and from subsistence food given them by the Pennsylvania government. The Conestoga were in church at the time of the massacre. Those at the camp were scalped, or otherwise mutilated, and their huts were set on fired. Most of the camp burned down.[citation needed]

    Although there had been no Indian attacks in the area, the Paxton Boys claimed that the Conestoga secretly provided aid and intelligence to the hostiles. On December 14, 1763, more than fifty Paxton Boys marched on Conestoga homes near Conestoga Town (now Millersville), murdered six, and burned their cabins. The colonial government held an inquest and determined that the killings were murder. The new governor, John Penn offered a reward for capture of the Paxton Boys.

    He placed the remaining sixteen Conestoga in protective custody in Lancaster but the Paxton Boys broke in on December 27, 1763. They killed and scalped six adults and eight children, leaving two survivors. The government of Pennsylvania offered a new reward after this second attack, this time $600, for the capture of anyone involved. The attackers were never identified.

  28. iangould says

    ” It was really trying to be civilized on one side and end torture and the Indians were threatened by the ending of torture”

    Ending torture?

    I thought American conservatives were pro-torture.

  29. iangould says

    There’s a very interesting book called Black Elk Speaks based on a series of recordings made by Black Elk, an Olgala Sioux Shaman, in the 1920’s.

    In talking about the wars he says that both Native Americans and whites committed crimes and that both sides had brave men and cowards.

    The ultimate reason the whites won he says,wasn’t that they were better or smarter or even that they had better technology. It was just that there were so damn many of them.

  30. Akira MacKenzie says

    Not a new meme in fundagelical circles. Before it became a wretched hive of bootlicking accommodationism, I used to hang out at the JREF forums where one of the resident fundies called “DOC” was a big fan of Barton and would often opine that the Native Americans , especially those barbarous mesoamerican people’s, were ultimately “saved” from the sins sexual indecency and human sacrifice by white, European Christians. While it was regrettable that millions died from starvation, disease, and outright murder, at least the survivors and their descendants will not have to suffer in Hell for their heathen ways.

    The fucker never understood why we called hims a goddamn racist.

  31. Doc Bill says

    I think Barton is too stupid to lie about the buffaloes. He’s just making up bullshit.

    As a kid, when everyone was a conservative, women were barefoot, etc, we were taught in school that the buffalo was hunted nearly to extinction by commercial hunters, “sportsmen” who engaged in buffalo killing contests and for their tongues, the rest of the animal left to rot. The herds were nearly wiped out in a few years.

    Refreshing my memory today through Google I learned that most of the slaughter happened in 1872-1873. Custer bought the farm in 1876. Neither Custer’s demise nor the Army had anything to do with it and the slaughter had nothing to do with “cutting the supply line.”

    However, the danger is that Barton is what Conservatives want taught as history. Barton is on the “expert” panel to select text books in Texas. Can you imagine?

  32. Camomile Lox says

    For a second, I thought this was going to be an article truly countering the first “Peaceful” myth by justifying the killing… *phew*. Yes, BOLLOCKS, they did not need to be killed. It was mass murder. End of story, and SUCH a shame. Im glad I wasnt my ancestors going through that though.. I hope that isn’t sinful.

  33. says

    Americans have sympathy for the Indians of the past, but none for the Palestinians, who face a similar fate at the hands of another group of religious fanatics who think God willed them the land.

  34. Ichthyic says

    Oh, and, please – the Abekanis did “enhanced interrogation”, not torture.

    heh.

    I studied North American history and anthropology for a year when I was an undergrad. some of the tribes really were masters of torture.

    for a very interesting take on the history and anthropology of the Native Americans that lived in the NE, I recommend:

    The Huron: Farmers of the North.

    Not only does it cover how the tribes in that area formed a functional democracy long before European settlers came, but it traces the development of agriculture amongst the tribes, and even details their torture regimes.

    There is a rather gruesome 7 page detailed account of how the Huron treated their captive enemy warriors.

    It was a fun time for the whole village….

  35. Ichthyic says

    …oh, and FWIW, the goal of torture was to indeed inflict as much pain and suffering as possible, without permanently disabling the captive.

    The idea being that the longer the captive could withstand it, the more powerful his spirit and the more honor for each tribe (enemy included) when they finally got around to finishing it.

    sometimes it would go on for up to a week.

  36. Ichthyic says

    Native Americans , especially those barbarous mesoamerican people’s, were ultimately “saved” from the sins sexual indecency and human sacrifice by white, European Christians.

    If you ever travel in the South Pacific, you will hear the exact same stories. There is a kernel of truth to the idea that missionaries worked to stop cannibalism in certain societies, but one, it wasn’t done for the benefit of those societies so much as it was done for the Europeans who wanted to be able to visit and trade… or steal… without fear of being eaten.

    same ridiculous stories about the sexual indecency thing though.

    Interestingly, I spent several months in French Polynesia, and there you will find Westernized Christianized Polynesians living in neighborhoods exactly next to Polynesians who still live in the traditional way. What’s even MORE interesting… they don’t fight with each other at all, or try to tell each other what to do; they seem to get along just fine and groovy for the most part.

  37. Ichthyic says

    oh, forgot…

    …and two, it didn’t always work out that the missionaries were successful in curbing cannibalism.

    In fact, you will still hear of the occasional traveler having disappeared, with evidence that they have been eaten.

    not kidding.

    really, from what I have seen traveling the islands, and speaking with immigrants from them here in NZ, is that all Christianity accomplished was to encourage authoritarianism and credulousness in those populations that embraced it.

    which, of course, is pretty much the case for ALL populations that have embraced it, but it does seem to be noticeably more so in Pacific Islanders.

  38. says

    from what I have seen traveling the islands, and speaking with immigrants from them here in NZ, is that all Christianity accomplished was to encourage authoritarianism and credulousness in those populations that embraced it.

    Come across that approach all the time. A difficulty I often come across is a desire amongst some of our PI students to have the authority (i.e. me) tell them the answer so they can repeat the answer and be validated as intelligent. It is very difficult to put across to them the idea that in science there isn’t an overarching authority deciding what is true and what isn’t. They’ll happily do experiements etc. but using them to learn and understand the idea that you observe, record and conclude based on data rather than what the authority says is a completely alien concept.

  39. martinc says

    democommie @ 31:

    I had, previous to this post, not been subjected to any of David Barton’s actual wordsaladmaking, beyond a few quotes by Ed Brayton. I have this to say, HOLY FUCK, is this idiot in possession of a HS diploma? Not only is his history deficient, he writes like a seventh grader.

    I was thinking exactly the same thing. I had assumed Barton was one of those intelligent-but-deluded types who grab onto some nutty belief and won’t let go. I had assumed, especially given his rather pathetic wailing that his latest book should be acknowledged as the work of a genuine historian, that he could at least perform basic historical analysis and separate fact from fiction. In other words I assumed his failures as a historian were due to a deliberate blindness on the religious topics dear to his heart – we have all seen many examples of that. But this rubbish is stuff you would write “Fail” on as a high school history analysis. How on earth could anyone find this convincing?

  40. says

    Icthyic:
    …oh, and FWIW, the goal of torture was to indeed inflict as much pain and suffering as possible, without permanently disabling the captive.

    Surely, they must have also gained useful intelligence about enemy plans and methods?!
    I’m sure that some of the intelligence collected was even useful for catching Bin Laden.

  41. DaveL says

    Surely, they must have also gained useful intelligence about enemy plans and methods?!
    I’m sure that some of the intelligence collected was even useful for catching Bin Laden.

    Well, I think you’ll have to agree that no radioactive dirty bombs were detonated on Manhattan Island in the 18th century.

  42. says

    Did Barton accuse the Indians of torture in that statement?

    Yes, and worse yet, he equated them with “certain types of terrorists.” This Barton guy is both a flaming racist and a pathological liar.

  43. caseloweraz says

    Iangould: “The ultimate reason the whites won he says,wasn’t that they were better or smarter or even that they had better technology. It was just that there were so damn many of them.”

    As a military leader of our own time has said, “Quantity has a quality all its own.”

  44. pacal says

    Ed you say:

    There is a myth that we often hear that the Native Americans were peaceful people who lived in a virtual utopia and loved the environment and one another until the evil white man came along (in fact, they often warred with one another; they were, after all, human beings). But this myth was created to counter the equally absurd claim that white Europeans came here to civilize the savages.

    I don’t know were you head the myth of the Noble Savage,s who were living in a virtual utopia but that is in itself is a myth. The idea that the doctrine of the Noble savage was widely held among Europeans is largely bogus. The myth was in many respects largely the creation of those who disparaged Native Americans and accused those who sided with them of believing the natives were pure and noble. Thus creating a strawman easy to demolish. This idea serves the same purpose today.

    I suggest the book The Myth of the Noble Savage by Ter Ellingson.

  45. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    @42. Morrigan Nic Cormac :

    Americans have sympathy for the Indians of the past, but none for the Palestinians, who face a similar fate at the hands of another group of religious fanatics who think God willed them the land.

    Of course, the Palestinians have no religious fanatics at all, nothing religious about, y’know, Hamas(s), Islamic Jihad and the others plus the idolising of homicide-suicide bombers. Plus, of course the fact that the Palestinians keep firing rockets indiscriminately at innocent Israeli civilians and have famously rejected every peace offer ever made to them insisting on destroying all the worlds only Jewish state rather than accepting even 95% of their demands has nothing to do with their current miserable situation does it? Oh wait, yeah it does.

    FYI. Most Palestinians are actually recent immigrants from Syria, Egypt and surrounding Arab lands incl. what is now called Jordan which comprises two-thirds of the original Mandate territory. Yasser Arafat, for example, was actually born in Cairo.

    OTOH, the Jewish (& Samaritan) people have always had a presence in what is now (& will remain) Israel and have considered it their homeland since before the Kingdom of David but, meh, guess little things like historical reality aren’t going to bother your wildly off topic partisan views are they?

  46. says

    The Mohican, Sioux, Yaqui, Navajo, Cherokee, Seminole, Cree, Blackfoot, Wampanoags, Abenaki and hundreds to thousands of various groups of native americans had a presence for thousands of years, before their homeland became the U.S.A. but I guess little things like historical reality aren’t going to bother YOUR views.

    Maybe they should let the Palestinians build casinos?

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