Thursday, January 13, 2011

Murdered In the Name of Freedom

Native American bodies tossed into a hole after the Wounded Knee Massacre

Learning American history infuriates me sometimes. I hate that people think America was a Christian nation and that we “need to go back to the faith of our forefathers” when in reality, our forefathers were racist.

The reason I bring this up is because today in history I learned about western expansion. Americans called it “manifest destiny” and they said they were following the providence of God. He was blessing them with the free-roaming west, full of promise and hope. This was America’s faith.
In the process of living out our destiny, we cruelly shoved Native Americans out of our way. They either had to be “tamed” or they had to get out of the way. If they resisted, American militia would massacre their villages.

The Wounded Knee Massacre is just one example, which was a very tragic end to the Indian wars. The natives were longing for the freedom they once had in the past and this is probably why the “prophet” Wovoka was such an inspiration to natives all around the west from many different tribes. He preached of restoration, where the fields would be full of cattle again and the people would live nomadically like they had in the past, without the interruption of white settlers. Their ritual Ghost Dance was supposed to hasten the day of their revival, so they did it often and in large groups.

Obviously the people in charge, the white people, did not like what Wovoka was saying. They disliked the hope that was being instilled in the hearts of Native Americans, that they would someday get their land back. Because of this, the dance was banned from all territories and even on the reservations.

As conflict arose between whites and Native Americans, a warrant was sent out to arrest Chief Sitting Bull, who was a leader in the resistance. He was journeying to see Wovoka when he was arrested and in the process shot and killed.

This served as a warning to another leader, Big Foot, who went with his followers and retreated to Wounded Knee Creek. Militia was soon to follow. They demanded all of the natives’ hand over their weapons to the military.

While weapons were being handed over, someone fired. It is unknown who fired, but this broke the ice and turned the scene into a battle.

 “The men were separated from the women and were surrounded by the soldiers…the firing began and of course, the people who were standing by the man who shot first, were fired at first,” wrote a man named American Horse who escaped from the massacre “…Right near the flag of truce, a mother was shot down with her child. The child, not knowing his mother was dead, was still nursing… The women, as they were fleeing with their babies were killed together, shot right through...and after most all of them had been killed a cry was made that all those who were not killed or wounded should come forth and they would be safe. Little boys...came out of their places of refuge, and as soon as they came in sight a number of soldiers surrounded them and butchered them there."

Three hundred natives were left dead. A few days later the soldiers returned and shoved the bodies into mass graves, and buried them away with their murderous sins.

The Native Americans were quietly destroyed and shoved into back corner reservations. They are on the top of the list for poverty stricken minority groups in America today. They also have the highest rate for suicides and infant mortality. Their life expectancy is 25 years shorter than that of a white man.

What about their right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness? America expanded to the west preaching of God’s providence. The west represents freedom and opportunity, but the price we paid for it was the lives and opportunities of countless Native Americans.

This makes me very angry but I’m not really sure what I should do. Jesus was an advocate to the oppressed and the poor, so calling America a Christian nation is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. A history like this doesn’t portray the love of Christ.

I even believe that America as the land of the free is a joke. One will only have freedom if he fit into a specific class and race. Sure, the 60’s civil rights movement made the situation better for some minorities. Yet I don’t think we can deny that America is still a white nation when we close our eyes and think of what an American looks like.

I have no resolution, except that I hope that God will show us what to do. Natives Americans live in a similar situation that blacks lived in after the civil war. They live in a culture of poverty, with few rights, and they are still discriminated against.

 I think there should be another civil rights movement, but I suppose I should ask the questions, “What do the natives want to change? What do they want us to do, if anything?”

All in all, what happened was obviously part of God’s plan, so western expansion was no doubt providential. But turning expansion into a romantic idea called “manifest destiny” was a lie. I believe God will judge America for the way they oppressed Native Americans in the name of freedom.  

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