We are witnessing a growing trend of angry attempts to erase past racial injustices through attacks upon Civil War monuments, those symbolically associated with a tragic era of slavery.
Inflamed by violence leading to a death characterized in the media as a "white supremacist rally" protesting removal of a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia hundreds of other statues, markers and other symbols memorializing important Confederate figures and events are now also under siege throughout the nation.
If we are to erase evidence and symbols of historical injustices, where does this end? After all, why stop with Confederate leaders when great blame for racial intolerance and misery can be attributed to Northern leaders for terrible oppressions directed to indigenous Indian populations?
Injustices against people like my great grandmother’s Winnebago tribal members who were forcibly relocated to reservations in Minnesota and Nebraska, for example.
So if we’re really serious about removing public memorials to "white supremacists," shouldn’t those who perpetrated devastating racial assaults upon true Native Americans be included? And why not begin with Grant’s Tomb in New York, N.Y.?
I’m referring, of course, to President Ulysses S. Grant, whose administration transferred vast tribal lands to private pioneers, land speculators, and railroad and mining companies.
If not actual genocide, his solution to the "Indian problem" certainly influenced a cultural genocide. As he explained, "I see no substitute for such a system, except in placing all the Indians on large reservations, as rapidly as it can be done."
As white settlers continued to push Indians off their tribal lands, those on reservations experienced increasing poverty and desperation. Meanwhile, Grant’s administration oversaw the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad and the great slaughters of the Plains buffalo which destroyed their traditional ways of life.
Rebellions against Grant’s Indian "peace policies" led to tragic massacres and military conflicts. Included were the Modoc War in California, the Red River War in Texas, the Nez Perce conflict in Oregon, and the Black Hills campaign and Battle of the Little Bighorn led by George Armstrong Custer.
Efforts by great chiefs such as Sitting Bull, Chief Joseph, Geronimo and Cochise who led battles to preserve their lands and ways of life were ultimately defeated. They were no match for frontier generals commanding ever-growing armies and devastating weaponry.
As Oglala Chief Red Cloud told Grant upon visiting the White House in 1870, "The riches we have in this world . . . we cannot take with us to the next world. . . . "Then I wish to know why agents are sent out to us who do nothing but rob us and get the riches of this world away from us."
Grant predicted in 1874 that "a few years more will relieve our frontiers from danger of Indian depredations." Assisted by another Union leader, his prediction was provident.
General William Tecumseh Sherman who began his military career under then-General Grant in the first Battle of Bull Run of 1862 worked to bring about a "final Indian solution." In 1865 Sherman assumed command of a campaign against the Plains Indians in support of powerful politically-connected interests, including corporations involved in building the transcontinental railroads.
Following the War Between the States and his 1864 "scorched-earth" torching of Atlanta and pillaging of civilian properties which laid waste to lives and livelihoods along a large swath of Northern Georgia, Sherman renewed his Indian extermination conquest. In 1865 he was given command of the Military District of the Missouri which commenced a 25-year-long war against the Plains Indians.
As Sherman wrote to Grant in 1867, "We are not going to let a few thieving, ragged Indians check and stop the progress [of the railroads]." He clearly described his assigned Indian extermination objective as being "to prosecute the war with vindictive earnestness . . . till [the Indians] are obliterated or beg for mercy."
Sherman assured his subordinate General Philip H. Sheridan, "I will back you with my whole authority, and stand between you and any efforts that may be attempted in your rear to restrain your purpose or check your troops." This referred to prior authorization to kill as many women and children that Sheridan and his subordinates thought necessary when attacking Indian villages.
Both Sherman and Sheridan are forever associated with the slogan "The only good Indian is a dead Indian." So let’s also schedule the two large Washington, D.C. equestrian monuments dedicated to Sherman and Sheridan for demolition too.
Alternatively, we might heed some advice offered by Texas Governor Greg Abbot in an American Statesman article, "We must remember that our history isn’t perfect. If we do not learn from our history, we are doomed to repeat it . . . instead of trying to bury our past, we must learn from it and ensure it doesn’t happen again." He added that "tearing down" those symbols won’t change the past, nor will it help the nation’s future."
Larry Bell is an endowed professor of space architecture at the University of Houston where he founded the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA) and the graduate program in space architecture. He is the author of "Scared Witless: Prophets and Profits of Climate Doom" (2015) and "Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax" (2012). Read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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