The term “genocide”, made from the ancient Greek word genos (race, nation or tribe) and the Latin caedere (“killing, annihilation”), was first coined by Raphael Lemkin, a Polish-Jewish legal scholar, in his 1944 book Axis Rule in Occupied Europe. It originally means “the destruction of a nation or an ethnic group”.
In 1946, United Nations (UN) General Assembly affirmed genocide as a crime under international law in Resolution 96, which stated that “Genocide is a denial of the right of existence of entire human groups, as homicide is the denial of the right to live of individual human beings; such denial of the right of existence shocks the conscience of mankind … and is contrary to moral law and the spirit and aims of the United Nations.”
On December 9, 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 260A, or the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which entered into force on January 12, 1951. The Resolution noted that “at all periods of history genocide has inflicted great losses on humanity”. Article II of the Convention clearly defines genocide 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: (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the groups to another group. The United States ratified the Convention in 1988.
Genocide is also clearly defined in U.S. domestic law. The United States Code, in Section 1091 of Title 18, defines genocide as violent attacks with the specific intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group, a definition similar to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
According to historical records and media reports, since its founding, the United States has systematically deprived Indians of their rights to life and basic political, economic, and cultural rights through killings, displacements, and forced assimilation, in an attempt to physically and culturally eradicate this group. Even today, Indians still face a serious existential crisis.
According to international law and its domestic law, what the United States did to the Indians covers all the acts that define genocide and indisputably constitutes genocide. The American magazine Foreign Policy commented that the crimes against Native Americans are fully consistent with the definition of genocide under current international law.
The profound sin of genocide is a historical stain that the United States can never clear, and the painful tragedy of Indians is a historical lesson that should never be forgotten.
I. Evidence on U.S. government’s genocide against Indians
1. Government-led action
On July 4, 1776, the United States of America was founded with the Declaration of Independence, which openly stated that “He (the British King) has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages”, and slandered Native Americans as “the merciless Indian Savages”.
The U.S. government and leaders treated Native Americans with a belief in white superiority and supremacy, set out to annihilate the Indians and attempted to eradicate the race through “cultural genocide”.
During the American War of Independence (1775-1783), the Second War of Independence (1812-1815) and the Civil War (1861-1865), the U.S. leaders, eager to transform its plantation economy as an adjunct to European colonialism and to expand their territories, coveted the vast Indian lands and launched thousands of attacks on Indian tribes, slaughtering Indian chiefs, soldiers and even civilians, and taking Indian lands for themselves.
In 1862, the United States enacted the Homestead Act, which provided that every American citizen above the age of 21, with a mere registration fee of 10 U.S. dollars, could acquire no more than 160 acres (about 64.75 hectares) of land in the west. Lured by the land, the white people swarmed into the Indian areas and started a massacre that resulted in the death of thousands of Indians.
Leaders of the U.S. government at that time openly claimed that the skin of Indians could be peeled off to make tall boots,that Indians must be annihilated or driven to places that no one would go, that Indians had to be wiped out swiftly, and that only dead Indians are good Indians. American soldiers saw the slaughter of Indians as natural, even an honor, and would not rest until they were all killed. Similar hate rhetoric and atrocities abound, and are well documented in many Native American extermination monographs.
2. Bloody massacres and atrocities
Since the colonists set foot in North America, they had systematically and extensively hunted American bison, cutting off the source of food and basic livelihood of the Indians, and causing their death from starvation in large numbers.
Statistics reveal that since its independence in 1776, the U.S. government has launched over 1,500 attacks on Indian tribes, slaughtering the Indians, taking their lands, and committing countless crimes. In 1814, the U.S. government decreed that it would award 50 to 100 dollars for each Indian skull surrendered. The American Historian Frederick Turner acknowledged in The Significance of the Frontier in American History, released in 1893, that each frontier was won by a series of wars against the Indians.
The California Gold Rush also brought about the California Massacre. Peter Burnett, the first governor of California, proposed a war of extermination against Native Americans, triggering rising calls for the extermination of Indians in the state. In California in the 1850s and 60s, an Indian skull or scalp was worth 5 dollars, while the average daily wage was 25 cents. From 1846 to 1873, the Indian population in California dropped to 30,000 from 150,000. Countless Indians died as a result of the atrocities. Some of the major massacres include:
◆In 1811, American troops defeated the famous Indian chief Tecumseh and his army in the Battle of Tippecanoe, burned the Indian capital Prophetstown and committed brutal massacres.
◆From November 1813 to January 1814, the U.S. Army launched the Creek War against the Native Americans, also known as the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. On March 27, 1814, about 3,000 soldiers attacked the Creek Indians at Horseshoe Bend, Mississippi Territory. Over 800 Creek warriors were slaughtered in the fight, and as a result, the military strength of the Creeks was significantly weakened. Under the Treaty of Fort Jackson signed on August 9 of the same year, the Creeks ceded more than 23 million acres of land to the U.S. federal government.
◆On November 29, 1864, pastor John Chivington massacred Indians at Sand Creek in southeastern Colorado, due to the opposition of a few Indians to the signing of a land grant agreement. It was one of the most notorious massacres of Native Americans. Maria Montoya, a professor of history at New York University, said in an interview that Chivington’s soldiers scalped women and children, beheaded them, and paraded them through the streets upon their return to Denver.
James Anaya, former UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples,submitted his report after a country visit to the United States in 2012. According to the accounts of the descendants of the victims of the Sand Creek Massacre, in 1864, around 700 armed U.S. soldiers raided and shot at Cheyenne and Arapaho people living on the Sand Creek Indian Reservation in Colorado. Media reports showed that the massacre resulted in the deaths of between 70 and 163 among the 200-plus tribal members. Two-thirds of the dead were women or children, and no one was held responsible for the massacre. The U.S. government had reached a compensation agreement with tribal descendants, which has not been delivered even to this day.
◆On December 29, 1890, near the Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota, U.S. troops fired at the Indians, killing and injuring more than 350 people according to the U.S. Congressional Record. After the Wounded Knee Massacre, armed Indian resistance was largely suppressed. About 20 U.S. soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor.
◆In 1930, the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs began sterilizing Indian women through the Indian Health Service program. Sterilization was conducted in the name of protecting the health of Indian women, and in some cases, even performed without the women’s knowledge. Statistics suggest that in early 1970s, more than 42% of Indian women of childbearing age were sterilized. This resulted in the near extinction for many small tribes. By 1976, approximately 70,000 Indian women had been forcibly sterilized.
3. Westward expansion and forced migration
In its early days, the United States regarded Indian tribes as sovereign entities and dealt with them on land, trade, justice and other issues largely through negotiated treaties, and occasionally through war. By 1840, the United States had concluded more than 200 treaties with various tribes, most of which were unequal treaties that were reached under U.S. military and political pressure and through deception and coercion, and were binding on the Indian tribes only. The treaties were used as a primary tool to take advantage of Indian tribes.
In 1830, the United States passed the Indian Removal Act, which marked the institutionalization of forced relocation of Indians in the country. The Act legally deprived Indian tribes of the right to live in the eastern United States, forcing some 100,000 Indians to move to the west of the Mississippi River from their ancestral lands in the south. The migration began in the summer heat and continued through the winter with subzero temperatures. Trudging 16 miles each day, thousands died along the way as a result of hunger, cold, exhaustion, or disease and plague. The Indian population was decimated, and the forced migration became a “Trail of Blood and Tears”. Tribes that refused to move were left to military suppression, forcible eviction and even massacre by the U.S. government.
In 1839, before Texas joined the United States, the government demanded that Indians remove immediately or face the entire destruction of their possessions and the extermination of their tribe. Large numbers of Cherokees who refused to comply were shot and killed.
In 1863, the U.S. military carried out a “scorched earth” policy to forcibly remove the Navajo tribe, burning houses and crops, slaughtering livestock and vandalizing properties. Under the Army’s watch, Navajos had to walk several hundred kilometers to a reservation in eastern New Mexico. Pregnant women and seniors who fell behind were shot on the spot.
In the mid-19th century, nearly all American Indians were driven to the west of the Mississippi River, and forced by the U.S. government to live in Native American reservations.
As was written in the Cambridge Economic History of the United States, as a result of the U.S. government’s forcible expulsion of the last Indians in the east, only a very small number of Indians who were individual citizens of the nation, or those individual Indians who went into hiding during the forceful expulsion, remained in the region.
Sadly, to whitewash this part of history, U.S. historians often glorify the Westward Expansion as the American people’s pursuit of economic development in the western frontier, claiming that it accelerated the improvement of American democracy, boosted economic prosperity, and contributed to the formation and development of the American national spirit. They make no mention of the brutal massacre of Native Americans.
In fact, it was after the Westward Expansion that the budding civilization of the Americas was destroyed, and the Indians, as one of the several major human races, faced complete extinction.
4. Forced assimilation and cultural extinction
To defend the unjust deeds of the U.S. government, some American scholars in the 19th century trumpeted the dichotomy of “civilization versus barbarism” and portrayed Native Americans as a savage, evil, and inferior group. Francis Parkman, a famous 19th-century American historian, even claimed that the American Indian “will not learn the arts of civilization, and he and his forest must perish together.”
George Bancroft, Parkman’s contemporary and another well-known American historian, also claimed that compared with the white people, Native Americans were “inferior in reason and moral qualities”, adding that “nor is this inferiority simply attached to the individual; it is connected with organization, and is the characteristic of the race.” Such an attempt to justify colonial plundering by demeaning Indians is nothing but racially discriminative.
In the 1870s and ’80s, the U.S. government adopted a more aggressive policy of “forced assimilation” to obliterate the social fabric and culture of Indian tribes. The core objective of the strategy was to destroy the original group affiliation as well as the ethnic and tribal identity of the Indians, and transform them into individual Americans with American citizenship, civic consciousness and identification with mainstream American values. Four measures were taken to this end.
First, fully depriving Indian tribes of their right to self-governance. American Indians had lived in tribal units over the years, and tribes had been their source of strength and spiritual support. The U.S. government forcibly abolished the tribal system and cast individual Indians into a white society with completely different traditions. Unable to find a job or make a living, the Indians became economically destitute, politically deprived and socially discriminated against. They experienced great mental pain and a deep existential and cultural crisis. In the 19th century, the thriving Cherokee tribes enjoyed a material life almost comparable to that of frontier whites. Nevertheless, with their right to self-governance and their tribal system gradually abolished by the U.S. government, the Cherokee community quickly declined and became the poorest group among the indigenous people.
Second, trying to destroy Indian reservations through land distribution and ultimately disintegrate their tribes. The Dawes Act passed in 1887 authorized the U.S. president to dissolve Indian reservations, abolish the tribal land ownership in the original reservations, and allocate land directly to Indians living inside and outside the reservations, forming a de facto land privatization system. The abolition of tribal land ownership disintegrated the American Indian communities, and seriously undermined tribal authority. As the highest form of tribal unity, the traditional ritual “Sun Dance” was regarded as “heresy” and thus banned. Most of the land in the original reservations was transferred to the white people through auction; the Indians who were less prepared for farming lost their newly acquired land as a result of swindling among other reasons, and their lives deteriorated by the day.
Third, taking steps to fully impose American citizenship on the Indians. Native Americans who were identified as mixed-race had to give up their tribal status, and others were “de-tribalized”, which greatly damaged the Indian identity.
Fourth, eradicating the Indians’ sense of community and tribal identity by adopting measures on education, language, culture and religion and a series of social policies. Beginning with the Civilization Fund Act of 1819, the United States established or funded boarding schools across the country and forced Indian children to attend. According to a report by the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, there have been altogether 367 boarding schools throughout the United States. By 1925, 60,889 Indian children had been forced to attend boarding schools. In 1926, 83% of Indian children were enrolled. The total number of students enrolled still remains unclear to this day. Guided by the idea of “Kill the Indian, Save the Man”, the United States banned Indian children from speaking their native language, wearing their traditional clothes, or carrying out traditional activities, thus erasing their language, culture and identity in an act of cultural genocide. Indian children suffered immensely at school, and some died from starvation, disease and abuse. This was followed by a policy of “forced foster care” — children were forcibly placed in the care of whites, which was a continuation of the assimilation policy and denial of cultural identity. These practices were not banned until 1978, when the Indian Child Welfare Act was passed. In passing the Act, it was acknowledged in the Congress that a large number of Indian children had been removed to non-Indian families and institutions without permission, resulting in the breakup of Indian families.
As renowned historians said,with the forced assimilation, one of the most despicable things in American history reached its peak. This was perhaps the most unfortunate chapter for Indians.
II. American Indians remain in serious survival and development crisis
The U.S. government’s genocide of Indians has led to a precipitous drop in the population of Indian communities, deterioration of their living conditions, lack of social security, low economic status, threats to their safety, and plummeted political influence.
1. Sharp decline of population
Before the arrival of white settlers in 1492, there were 5 million Indians, yet by 1800 the number plummeted to 600,000. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of Native Americans in 1900 was only 237,000, the lowest in history. Among them, more than a dozen tribes, such as the Pequot, Mohegan, and Massachusetts, were completely extinct.
Between 1800 and 1900, the American Indians lost more than half of their population, and their proportion in the total U.S. population dropped from 10.15% to 0.31%. Throughout the 19th century, while the U.S. population grew by 20-30% every 10 years, the Indian population experienced a precipitous decline. Currently, the Indian and Alaska Native population accounts for only 1.3% of the total U.S. population.
2. Deteriorating living conditions
Indians were pushed from the east to the barren west, and most of the Indian reservations were located in remote areas unfit for agriculture, much less for investment in industrial development. Most of the tribes, with scattered reservations of varying sizes, were unable to obtain adequate land for development and were therefore subject to severe development restraints.
There are currently about 310 Native American reservations in the United States, accounting for about 2.3% of the U.S. territory, and not all federally recognized tribes have their own reservations. These reservations are mostly located in remote and barren areas with poor living conditions and inadequate access to water and other vital resources, where 60% of the road system are dirt or gravel roads. On the surface, Indians are no longer the subject of “extermination”, but just “forgotten”, “invisible” and “discriminated against”; yet in reality, they are simply left there for self-extermination.
The U.S. government has also systematically used Indian reservations as toxic or nuclear waste dumps through the means of deception and coercion, subjecting them to long-term exposure to uranium and other radioactive materials. As a result, the cancer incidence and fatality rates in the communities concerned is significantly higher than in other parts of the country. Indian communities have effectively become the “garbage cans” in the development process of the United States.
For instance, in the Navajo Nation reservation, the largest Indian tribe in the United States，about a quarter of women and some infants have large amounts of radioactive substances in their bodies. During the 40-plus years prior to 2009, the U.S. government had reportedly conducted a total of 928 nuclear tests in the area inhabited by the Shoshone tribe of American Indians, producing approximately 620,000 tons of radioactive fallout, nearly 48 times the amount of radioactive fallout from the 1945 atomic bombing in Hiroshima, Japan.
3. Lack of social security
According to a report released by the Indian Health Service, life expectancy of American Indians is 5.5 years lower than that of average Americans, and the incidence of diabetes, chronic liver disease and alcohol addiction are 3.2 times, 4.6 times and 6.6 times as much as the U.S. average respectively. Academic studies show that among all ethnic groups in the United States, Indians have the shortest life expectancy and the highest infant mortality rate; the incidence of drug and alcohol abuse among Indian adolescents is 13.3 times and 1.4 times higher than the national average, and the suicide rate 1.9 times that of the national average. These phenomena are closely related to insufficient government investment of public health resources, underlying health inequities, and the overall underdevelopment of minority communities.
The U.S. government provides limited educational and medical assistance to Indians. 99% of such assistance has gone to reservation residents, but 70% of the Indians live in cities and therefore cannot be covered. Apart from the Indian Health Service, many Indians have no access to health insurance and are often subject to discrimination and language barriers in non-Indian health services and non-tribal health facilities.
The underprivileged status of Indians in health care was further exposed amid the COVID-19 pandemic. U.S. CDC statistics show that as of August 18, 2020, the COVID-19 incidence and case-fatality rates among Indians were 2.8 times and 1.4 times, respectively, that of white Americans. A report produced by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 43/14, points out that Native Americans and African Americans are disproportionately affected by COVID-19, with a hospitalization rate five times that of non-Hispanic white Americans. The COVID-19 infection rate in Navajo Nation, the largest Indian reservation in the United States, even surpassed that of New York at one point, reaching the highest in the country.
In terms of education, the conditions of Indian reservations are much poorer than those of white American communities. According to the 2013-2017 statistics of the U.S. Census Bureau, only 14.3% of American Indians held a bachelor’s degree or higher, in contrast to 15.2% for Hispanics, 20.6% for African Americans and 34.5% for white Americans. Many Indian reservations are struggling with dilapidated schools and shattered education systems.
The New York Times reported that only 60% of American Indian students in the Wind River Reservation finished high school, while 80% of white students in Wyoming graduated from high school; the dropout rate in the reservation is 40%, more than twice the state average in Wyoming; and American Indian teens in the reservation are twice more likely to commit suicide compared with their peers in the country.
4. Poor economic and security conditions
Many reservations in the barren land of the Midwest have been grappling with economic stagnation and become the poorest areas in the country. The poverty rate of some reservations has even surpassed 85%. According to statistics of the U.S. Census Bureau in 2018, the poverty rate of American Indians, at 25.4%, was the highest among all ethnic minorities, compared with 20.8% for African Americans, 17.6% for Hispanics, and 8.1% for white Americans. The median income of American Indian families was only 60% that of white families.
In a visit to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, The Atlantic revealed that the local unemployment rate was as high as 80%. Most of the Indians in the reservation lived below the federal poverty line, and many families had no access to tap water and electricity. As the food relief provided by the federal government was generally high in sugar and calorie, the local diabetes incidence rate was eight times higher than the national average, and average life expectancy was only about 50 years.
Poor economic conditions have led to serious law-and-order issues. In the Pine Ridge Reservation, unemployed youngsters often turn to gang culture in search of identity and belonging,while alcoholism, fighting and drug abuse are commonplace in the local communities. According to a research by the U.S. National Institute of Justice, more than 1.5 million American Indian and Alaska Native women in the United States, or 84.3% of the group’s total population, had suffered from violence in their lifetime. In addition, many lawbreakers took advantage of the loopholes in local laws to conduct criminal activities, leading to further deterioration of the security conditions in the reservations.
5. Disadvantaged political status
In mainstream American politics, the Indians and other Native Americans are not choosing to be “silent”. Rather, they have been “silenced” by the system and “systematically erased”. American Indians have a relatively small population and do not have a strong interest in politics. With a lower turnout rate in elections than that of other ethnic groups, their interests and demands are often ignored by politicians. As a result, American Indians have been reduced to second-class citizens in the United States, and they are often called the “invisible minority” or the “vanishing race” in the country. It was not until 1924 that the American Indians were conditionally granted U.S. citizenship and not until 1965 that they were given the right to vote.
In June 2020, the Native American Rights Fund and other institutions conducted a study on the barriers to political participation faced by Native American voters, with the participation of civil societies, legal experts, and scholars from around the country. The results showed that only 66% of the 4.7 million eligible Native American voters were registered, and more than 1.5 million eligible Native American voters could not meaningfully exercise their right to vote due to political barriers. According to the results, Native American voters face 11 pervasive obstacles to political participation, including limited hours of government offices, lack of funding for elections, and discrimination. In the current U.S. Congress, only four members are American Indians, accounting for about 0.74% of the members of Congress in both houses. The political engagement and influence of the Native Americans are disproportionately lower than other groups of the American population.
Native American communities have long suffered neglect and discrimination. Many U.S. government statistical programs either leave them aside completely or simply classify them as “others”. Shannon Keller O’Loughlin, Chief Executive and Attorney of the Association on American Indian Affairs, said that the greatest aspiration of Native Americans is to attain social recognition. Native Americans have diverse cultures and languages, but are often seen not as an ethnic group, but as a political stratum with limited autonomy based on treaties with the federal government. The Brookings Institution recently published an article saying that the U.S. monthly employment report ignores American Indians. The economic well-being of this group receives little attention and is largely left out of the discussion. There are nearly 200 American Indian tribes in California, only half of which are recognized by the federal government. Although the Biden administration appointed the first American Indian cabinet minister, the political participation rate and political influence of Indians are still way too low compared to their share of the American population.
According to a poll conducted by the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health, more than one third of Native Americans have experienced neglect, violence, humiliation and discrimination in the workplace, and American Indians living in Indian populated areas are more likely to be subject to discrimination when dealing with the police, at work and during voting. According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, American Indians are twice as likely to be jailed for minor crimes as other ethnic groups. The incarceration rate of Indian men is four times that of white men, and the rate of Indian women is six times that of white women.
The Atlantic commented that from the expulsion, slaughter and forced assimilation back in history to the current widespread poverty and neglect, the American Indians, once the owner of this continent, now have a very weak voice in American society. American Indian writer Rebecca Nagel pointed out sharply that being made invisible is a new type of racial discrimination against American Indians and other indigenous peoples. The Los Angeles Times commented that the unjust treatment of Native Americans is deeply embedded in the social structure and legal system of the United States.
6. Endangered culture
From the 1870s to the late 1920s, the U.S. government forcibly implemented the system of American Indian boarding schools in Native American areas to impose English and Christian education on Indian children. There were even cases of Indian children being kidnapped and forced to attend schools in many places. The system of American Indian boarding schools imposed on Native Americans, as part of the history of the United States, caused irreparable damage, especially to the youths and children. Many Native Americans of the younger generation found themselves unable to gain a foothold in mainstream society and felt difficult to preserve and promote their own traditional culture, which leaves them bewildered and anguished about their own culture and identity.
In these boarding schools, American Indian children’s braids, a symbol of courage, were cut off, and their traditional clothing burned. They were strictly prohibited from speaking their mother tongue and violators would be beaten hard. In these schools, military-style management was imposed on Native American children who suffered from not only corporal punishment by mentors, but also sexual abuse. Quite a few American Indian children fell ill and even died due to harsh education methods, forced way of living, homesickness and malnutrition.
The U.S. government had also enacted laws prohibiting Native Americans from performing religious rituals which have been passed down through the generations, and those involved in such activities would be arrested and imprisoned. Since the 20th century, with the rise of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, the protection of Native Americans’ traditional culture and history has improved to some extent. However, due to the serious damage that has already been inflicted, what is left now are mostly cultural relics preserved by later generations using the English language instead.
Rebecca Nagle believes that information about Native Americans has been systematically removed from mainstream media and popular culture. According to a report by National Indian Education Association, 87% of state-level U.S. history textbooks do not mention the post-1900 history of indigenous people. According to the Smithsonian Institution, things taught about Native Americans in American schools are full of inaccurate information and fail to present the real picture of the sufferings of indigenous people. Rick Santorum, a former Republican senator from Pennsylvania, said publicly at the Young America’s Foundation that “We birthed a nation from nothing. I mean, there was nothing here ... but candidly, there isn’t much Native American culture in American culture.” His remarks dismissed and negated the influence of indigenous people in American culture.
Ⅲ. Domestic criticism long ignored by the U.S. government over the “genocide” of American Indians
First, the academic community has a shared view on this issue. Since the 1970s, American academics have begun to use the term “genocide” to denounce U.S. policies toward American Indians. In the 1990s, American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World by David E. Stannard, a professor at the University of Hawaii, and A Little Matter of Genocide by Ward L. Churchill, a former professor at the University of Colorado, sent shock waves across the academic community. Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Extermination from Sparta to Darfur by Ben Kiernan, a professor at Yale University, gave a brief account of genocides the United States committed against American Indians at different historical stages. And An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846-1873 by Benjamin Madley, an associate professor at UCLA, unearthed the massacres of Native Americans by the U.S. government during the California Gold Rush.
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, an American historian dedicated to the study of indigenous peoples, concluded that all five acts of genocide listed in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide can be found in the crimes the United States committed against American Indians. Native Americans are undoubtedly victims of genocide, and it is of important significance to admit that U.S. policies toward American Indians are, in fact, acts of genocide.
Second, the media has been calling for change on this issue. An article published in The New York Times reported that the UC Hastings College of the Law was named after a perpetrator of genocide, which accelerated the process of changing the name of the college. According to ABC News, the aspirations from Native Americans range from sovereignty claims to making their voice heard. Some respondents said that the theft of American Indians’ land and the obliteration of indigenous languages were in fact systemic genocides. The Washington Post published an article accusing the United States of never formally admitting that it has taken genocidal policies toward indigenous people. A Foreign Policy article demanded that the United States acknowledge its genocide of American Indians. Bounty, a documentary released in November 2021, in which some Native Americans were invited to read official historical documents on the United States posting high reward for American Indians’ scalps, also triggered reflections on the heinous genocidal policies in the country.
As the affirmative action became prevalent after World War II, American society began to reflect on the issue of American Indians. The government passed a resolution apologizing to indigenous people. In 2019, Gavin Newsom, governor of California, issued a statement to apologize to the indigenous population in California, admitting that the state’s actions against Indian tribes in the mid-19th century were genocides.
However, the reflection of the U.S. government looks more like a “political stunt.” It has not officially admitted that the atrocities against Native Americans are acts of genocide. Real changes still seem a long way off.
To sum up, successive U.S. administrations have not only wiped out a large number of American Indians, but also, through systematic policy design and bullying acts of cultural suppression, thrown them into an irreversible, difficult situation. The indigenous culture was fundamentally crushed, and the inter-generational inheritance of indigenous lives and spirits was under severe threats. The slaughter, forced relocation, cultural assimilation and unjust treatment the United States committed against American Indians have constituted de facto genocides. These acts fully match the definition of genocide in the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, and have continued for hundreds of years to this day. It is imperative that the U.S. government drop its hypocrisy and double standards on human rights issues, and take seriously the severe racial problems and atrocities in its own country.