Saturday, September 12, 2015

Jefferson and Native Americans.

The only thing Indians needed, Jefferson insisted, was the civilizing influence of agriculture. (Like English theorists since John Locke, Jefferson willfully ignored extensive and highly productive Native farming which did not use European implements.) By abandoning hunting and adopting farming, he counseled, Indians would rise from "savagery" to "civilization" and eventually be absorbed into American society. As president, he extolled the virtues of agriculture in meetings with Native leaders, in correspondence and in speeches. "In leading [Indians] to agriculture," he told Congress in 1803, "I trust and believe that we are acting for their greatest good."
Mark Hirsch is an historian in the Research Unit of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. He has a Ph.D. in American history from Harvard University.
National Museum of the American Indian, Summer 2009, pages 54-58
© 2009, Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of the American Indian
Another relatively "Fair and Balanced" attack on Jefferson for creating the slippery slope to Native American removal from the Colonial America and the Manifest Destiny.  

Assimilation was the British Colonial paradigm and eventually even the Colonials got restless.  But none could escape the "White man's Burden" of bringing "Civilization" to the differently civilized.  

Culturally Jefferson was a gentleman farmer in a slave economy.  More importantly he was skilled politician determined to bring his vision of an enlightenment society to America. Politics involves compromise even of ones own philosophical principles, to gather the consensus to make a nation.  That the native tribes and the atheists were victims of those compromises is not surprising.  I still like the way he snuck "Their Creator" into the Declaration of Independence, and "Freedom of Religion" into the Constitution.  What the rest of the bigoted Americans have done with it is not really his fault.  


Christine Veazey said...

Well, I have reservations about your comment "not really his fault". Enlightened people look at the far-reaching consequences of their actions and stay away from influencing in any direction that would lead to a downward spiral. Although I love Jefferson for his accomplishments, real progress in thinking looks at BOTH the good and bad consequences of his actions and we can all learn from that. Although he went to bat for American Indians as far as appreciation of their intelligence, his political activities took away from them. Now we are going back to their ways, we must. A good talk is Russell Means "Welcome to the Reservation". Now we are all living on the reservation. I try to look at the big picture.

J'Carlin said...

There is almost nothing that cannot be twisted by bigots to their own use. See Fundagelical use of the teachings of Jesus.

I am not claiming that Jefferson is blameless, he had political blind spots, just that the exploitation by others of those blind spots is their problem not his. I do not like the slippery slope argument for the simple reason that the first careful step is ignored by others who run headlong onto it.

Christine Veazey said...

I have given thought to a certain transparent type of petitioning: "Give back to the native Americans their sacred land". Or, "Stop the native American land grab." Any outsider reading these two statements would think native Americans were the prior owners of the land in question and used it for religious or spiritual purposes, in the first statement, or that native Americans were grabbing the land from others in the second statement.

This type of irresponsible wording has always rubbed me the wrong way. Or, wording was well thought out, for all I know. In both, the implication is wrong. American Indians never thought they possessed or owned the land in the sense that it is thought of today. It was their means for survival, their food and water, no different than for any person living anywhere on the planet. In truth, nobody owns the land or the earth, nor can any celestial body own any being that lives upon it. Ownership, which involves authorities, treaties, or a price tag on anything in the universe where certain people control the lives others, while profiting from the idea of ownership, is ludicrous and repugnant.

The fact is, corporations don't NEED to take formerly designated American Indian land for oil, cattle grazing, lumber, or any pristine environment for any reason. They need to learn to control themselves. The unfortunate fact is, when land is given by a so-called authority, it can be taken by that same authority. Mother earth is tired, she has come of old age. She gives birth to her new self as we look at our eroding image in our mirror.