No, I mean really glum. In April, a new poll revealed that 81 percent of the American people believe that the country is on the "wrong track. Other polls, asking similar questions, found levels of gloom that were even more alarming, often at and year highs. There are reasons to be pessimistic—a financial panic and looming recession, a seemingly endless war in Iraq, and the ongoing threat of terrorism.
To a significant extent, disagreements about the pervasiveness of genocide in the history of the post-Columbian Western Hemisphere, in general, and U. Conservative definitions emphasize intentional actions and policies of governments that result in very large population losses, usually from direct killing.
More liberal definitions call for less stringent criteria for intent, focusing more on outcomes. They do not necessarily require direct sanction by state authorities; rather, they identify societal forces and actors. They also allow for several intersecting forces of destruction, including dispossession and disease.
Because debates about genocide easily devolve into quarrels about definitions, an open-ended approach to the question of genocide that explores several phases and events provides the possibility of moving beyond the present stalemate. However one resolves the question of genocide in American Indian history, it is important to recognize that European and U.
These include violence resulting directly from settler expansion, intertribal violence frequently aggravated by colonial intrusionsenslavement, disease, alcohol, loss of land and resources, forced removals, and assaults on tribal religion, culture, and language.
The configuration and impact of these forces varied considerably in different times and places according to the goals of particular colonial projects and the capacities of colonial societies and institutions to pursue them.
The capacity of Native people and communities to directly resist, blunt, or evade colonial invasions proved equally important. Did the actions and policies of Europeans and U.
Americans toward Indians qualify as genocide or not? Academics, students, citizens, in short, almost everyone has an opinion on the subject. Some are certain that the answer to the question is yes, that the massive depopulation of indigenous America after was a clear-cut case of genocide.
Others, however, are equally certain that the answer is no, namely that European and U. American actions and policies toward Indians were at least sometimes deplorable but cannot be labeled as genocidal.
This essay begins with the premise that the issue of genocide in American Indian history is far too complex to yield a simple yes-or-no answer.
The relevant history, after all, is a long one more than five hundred years involving hundreds of indigenous nations and several European and neo-European empires and imperial nation-states. While it would be absurd to reduce this history to any single category, genocide included, it would be reasonable to predict that genocide was a part of this history.
With this in mind, the essay invites readers to resist a tendency toward a quick or easy resolution of the question of genocide in American Indian history and to engage in an open-ended exploration.
The object is not a definitive answer but a clarification of the issues. More than many debates, those about genocide often center on definitions. Because of this fact, readers might expect an essay on genocide to begin by discussing various definitions of the term and related terms such as ethnic cleansing and cultural genocide and proceed either to argue for one definition as authoritative or to propose a new one.
This approach, however, would work against my objective of facilitating an open-ended exploration of the issue, and so a formal discussion of definitions will be deferred to the historiographical section at the end of this essay, though, as the essay develops, it will pause periodically to consider how specific events or phases might or might not be regarded as genocidal depending on definitions that have been or could be applied to them.
As will become apparent, debates about whether or not specific cases and phases qualify as genocide typically center on these issues: Virgin Soil Epidemics and Native Depopulation Discussions about genocide in the Americas often begin with the moment of initial contact between Europeans and Native people and emphasize the catastrophic impact of European diseases especially smallpox and measles for which Indians had no acquired immunity.
A standard estimate was 8 million for the entire hemisphere and 1 million north of the Rio Grande. In the s, however, the anthropologist Henry Dobyns took account of disease to provide much higher estimates of 75 million for the hemisphere and 10—12 million north of Mexico.
If 75 million people lived in in the Western Hemisphere in and the death toll from epidemic disease was 70, 80, or even 90 percent as was sometimes the casethe sheer numbers 50—60 million are overwhelming and compel recognition as genocide when measured against the numbers for commonly accepted cases of genocide in the twentieth century.
Good reason exists, however, to challenge the premise that the extent and intentionality of initial depopulation from disease is crucial to the question of genocide and American Indian history. Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that European and European American actions toward the Indians of eastern North America during the eighteenth century long after the first epidemics were consistently genocidal according to the most conservative definition of the successful execution of a societal or governmental intention to physically kill all Indians.
An arithmetic approach assigning the majority of total deaths to disease would argue against regarding the last phase in depopulation as genocide, yet why should the number of Indians in that region who had died earlier from disease have any bearing on an assessment of whether the annihilation of the survivors would qualify as genocide or not?
Whether the annihilated survivors were 10, 30, or 50 percent of a pre-Columbian population would be irrelevant. For a discussion of genocide, then, the issue is not so much the impact of initial epidemics but the effects of direct actions Europeans and European Americans took toward Indians through wars of conquest, enslavement, forced dispossession and removal, and destruction of material resources.
War, for example, can result in displacement, impoverishment, and social stress, thus increasing vulnerability to pathogens. Often, in fact, epidemic disease did not appear at the moment of initial contact but instead emerged at a later stage when processes of colonization were well underway.
Disease and Other Forces of Destruction To make these observations more concrete, let us look at what happened in the place where Columbus first landed, the Caribbean. Soon after landing, some of the crew became ill, probably from influenza, and infected the Native populations of Hispaniola, Cuba, and Jamaica.
The severity of the epidemic was probably related to the prior lack of exposure of Indians to the pathogens in question, though the epidemic cannot be separated from other forces of destruction. To create and maintain slavery and to suppress real and imagined insurrections, the Spanish regularly maimed, murdered, and waged war against Native people.
The purpose was not to kill every single Indian some were needed to work but to terrorize them into submission. Rape, evidently common, did not simply reveal individual or group pathologies, it functioned as a tool of terror.Browse and subscribe to RSS feeds of Harvard University Press titles by subject, library, publishing partner, or series, and see a list of featured books and collections.
German-American History in Buffalo, NY - Table of Contents. Illustrations and Essays - German-American History in Buffalo, NY.
Table of Contents: Illustrations from German-American History in Buffalo. An Essay on the Principle of Population An Essay on the Principle of Population, as it Affects the Future Improvement of Society with Remarks on the Speculations of Mr.
Godwin. American Latino Theme Study; The essay suggests that the explosive growth of the nation's pan-Latino population is the result of the intricate interplay of national, regional, and global economic developments, the history of U.S.
military and foreign policy in the Western Hemisphere, the checkered history of international border enforcement. Americans are glum at the moment. No, I mean really glum.
In April, a new poll revealed that 81 percent of the American people believe that the country is on the "wrong track.".
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