Saturday, February 26, 2005



[Editor’s Note: A reader’s response to the commentary “The Wounds of Wounded Knee” posted on CounterPunch 2/26/05 triggered the following interchange.]

GREG BROOK 2/26/05 at 10:16 am:

Subject: Wake up

Your essay about Wounded Knee was another example of self-imposed guilt that no rational person would take part in. What's done is done. Native Americans do not have any sort of "birth right" to the Americas simply because their ancestors lived there, just like you don't have any sort of birth right to Europe or wherever your ancestors were from. The land belongs to the people who were born to it. People have been living on American soil for generations and had nothing to do with its stealing. Telling them that it is isn't really their land is like telling the Palestinians that none of Palestine is really their land because it used to belong to the Jews about 2,000 years ago, or telling all of the Hispanic Cubans to get lost because [they’re] on conquered land, or the Mexican Hispanics or any other of a hundred displaced and reconquered peoples/terroritories. Native Americans aren't still stewing over Wounded Knee, so speak for yourself and stop pretending like you speak for them, because no one is owed an apology for something that wasn't done to them, wasn't done by anyone living today, and to state the opposite is pure arrogance. Grow up.

RANDOM RESPONSE 2/26/05 at 12:05 pm:

In all sincerity, the quickest way to short circuit reasoned discourse is to punctuate your argument with personal insult. You are clearly a rationale person with a distinct point of view so please take it as a constructive criticism: Your case would be more persuasive without the last two words.

That said, I would offer the following points of contention:

> However I might feel personally, I do realize that giving the nation back to the Indians is not on the table. Does it follow that the indigenous peoples have forfeited equal justice under the law? Given the terms of the Fort Laramie Treaty, that is precisely what is at stake in the land of the Lakota. Moreover, the mismanagement of BIA funds is the finding of a court of law, the resolution of which is pending the government's refusal to comply with a court order.

> There is a world of difference between ancestors who left the land of their birth and those who were dispossessed.

> You must have miswrote when you stated: "The land belongs to the people who were born to it." As Crazy Horse said, "My land is where my people lay buried." I couldn't agree more.

> I'm not asking for guilt, only for justice and the nation's misdeeds (genocide) are a part of the equation.

> Where do you draw the line of accountability? A hundred years? Fifty years? Twenty years? It seems an arbitrary delineation.

> Are you sure about your history? Were not the Palestinians there as well?

> Did I give the impression that I was speaking for anyone but myself? I am not.

> Apologies are neither called for nor particularly important: It is a matter of justice.

> Arrogance? I'm afraid I don't see it.

I do wish to thank you for taking the time to to set down your thoughts and forward them. Despite our disagreement, I appreciate the interchange.


P.S. With your permission, I may wish to post this exchange on my site.

GREG BROOK 2/26/05 at 1:01 pm:

"There is a world of difference between ancestors who left the land of their birth and those who were dispossessed."

Right, and that's unfortunate, however you seem to be missing the word of critical importance here: ANCESTORS. It doesn't matter where your ANCESTORS were displaced from, since that has no bearing on who you are or where you grew up. My ancestors were forced to flee Ireland because of British oppression and apathy towards the potato famine, which is arguably equal to being dispossessed, yet I don't rant on about how the British owe me reparations, nor has the Irish government ever done the same, nor do I hold some insane belief that I own a little crop of land in some corner of Ireland.

You must have miswrote when you stated: "The land belongs to the people who were born to it." As Crazy Horse said, "My land is where my people lay buried." I couldn't agree more."

Our ancestors are buried in Africa from generally 10 - 20 thousand years ago, does that give us a right to African land. Tell me, when was the last time you brushed up on your Zulu? No one has a right to claim that because their ancestors are buried in a certain land that it is theirs. You offer no reasonable argument, you simply say it is.

"I'm not asking for guilt, only for justice and the nation's misdeeds (genocide) are a part of the equation."

I take it you are one of the cult followers of the belief that the Native American people were purposely "massacred". Indeed, there were many massacres. However, if you truly believe that 15 million (Yes the actual number of Native Americans living in North America was 15 million not 10 million, you should conduct better research) Native Americans were exterminated by lethal force, then you must not have gone to college. Disease wiped them out. Yes, their land was robbed, congratulations on knowing something so fundamental about American history that it would qualify you for a second grader's student of the month award (indeed the other 99% of America is ignorant of this because they teach us in school that Native Americans left on a flying saucer). The only argument you can put up that they were "genocided" as it were, is the [fictitious] rant forwarded by Ward Churchill about American soldiers purposely giving infected blankets to Native Americans, which has been discounted by credited sources across the academic board.

"Where do you draw the line of accountability? A hundred years? Fifty years? Twenty years? It seems an arbitrary delineation."

I found this question particularly odd. Aren't you supposed to be the one who answers this? What is your proposal? That every civilization [in] history suddenly be held to account for the mistakes of its ancestors? That Italy step up for the misdeeds of the Roman Empire? That Turkey step up for the Hittites? How about Mongolia [paying] reparations for Ghengis Khan's rampages? Japan for Korean and Chinese colonization? England for half the planet? While we're at it, let's loot the Vatican's banks because those sons-of-bitches launched the crusades and set up the Inquisition.

To answer your question though, in order to be rational, you HAVE to draw the line somewhere, and I personally say 80 years seems an appropriate time. I don't care how arbitrary that number is, you HAVE to set some number or you can't just start randomly deciding who deserves this and who deserves that. I personally supported reparations to the Japanese-Americans wrongfully interred in camps during WWII because when they were paid many of them were still alive and their children certainly were (and of course that was a monetary transaction and they weren't asking for half the West Coast).

"Are you sure about your history? Were not the Palestinians there as well?"

Yes, there were no Palestinians. Everyone living in Israel was either a Pagan Roman or a Jewish Israelite. In 33 AD the Jews were finally massacred and the temple destroyed, and in the years afterward Semitic Animists began to drift in in nomadic tribes until the coming of Islam centuries later. So yes, the Jews were there first.

RANDOM RESPONSE 2/26/05 at 2:23 pm:

There is a concept in rhetoric known as bird walking. Your argument runs all over the map and each step takes you further from the point.

What is your point? That Native Americans do not deserve reparations but interned Japanese Americans and Holocaust victims do? That indigenous peoples do not deserve equal justice under the law because the original crimes predate an arbitrary line of delineation? How about the crimes of the last eighty years? That Native American genocide was an accidental manifestation of European destiny (and not official US policy for some forty years: "Nits make fleas.") and therefore all crimes must be deleted from the national conscience?

No mention of John Graham, Leonard Peltier, [the Fort Laramie Treaty], BIA mismanagement (very deliberate), or Wounded Knee? Apparently, your pool of knowledge is limited after all. By the way, even a second grade teacher knows that early estimates of native populations vary widely. My source is Native American History (Ballantine Books 1996) by that famous radical Judith Nies. What's yours?

As a conservative once said to me, "You have acquitted yourself well." I say the same to you. You rant with the best of them.

Meantime, permission to post your comments? Yes? No?


GREG BROOK 2/26/05 at 3:25 pm:

Post away, since you didn't actually answer any of my points. Regarding the mismanagement of Native American funds, I have no interest in that and if it is true then yes, they deserve reparations, but only for that, because that has happened recently in history according to you, and is still happening. Perhaps you should answer my question if you want to continue pretending that you are the one who isn't drawing an arbitrary line in the middle of history: how far back is too far? When do we stop going back into history trying to "make right" the wrongs of the past? If you're going back a full two and a half to four centuries, then should we also set right all of the other wrongs committed by all the peoples all across the world in that time span? Should we go even further? Should the Church take financial responsibility for the crusades? Should all of the countries of North/South America pay reparations to their respective Indigenous populations, and Australia? Should all of the whites be forced to leave Africa? Where do you personally draw the line, because you have obviously drawn it somewhere, and why?

RANDOM'S LAST COMMENT: Justice has no bounds. Estimates of BIA mismanagement include 5.8 billion in uncollected funds from oil and gas extraction since 1979. The BIA admits 1.97 billion in “unreconciled transactions.” Meantime, free Leonard Peltier, give the Black Hills back to the Lakota and we’ll call it a good beginning. Let the reader decide.

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