Somedays you just have to scratch your head and wonder at what we have become as a society. Our attention inevitably is drawn to the latest shiny object, to fascination over the personal failings of other human beings, and what is happening with this celebrity or that celebrity.
This past evening I injected myself into a conversation where it was said that Syria, Iran and North Korea were bullies. My contribution was yes they have been bullies for decades. A comment in reply to my observation was “Our government only has two real jobs. Protect our people and mind our treaties.”
My response to that was, “If governments job is to mind our treaties I have a few hundred suggestions of where they could start doing that without leaving home.”
Every treaty ever made with an Indian nation has been broken. Every single one. To be fair most Americans understanding of Indians, Indian nations, and the historic relationship between the United States government and the Indian nations has been derived from television and films that have used Indians as plot devices for fiction. This fictional context is the understanding most Americans have of Indians – and most Americans do not grasp that their context for understanding Indians is fiction.
Article VI of the Constitution says “This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.” while Article I of the Constitution says “To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes.”
John Marshall, Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, said in the landmark Worcester v Georgia decision: “Certain it is that our history furnishes no example, from the first settlement of our country, of any attempt, on the part of the Crown, to interfere with the internal affairs of the Indians farther than to keep out the agents of foreign powers who, as traders or otherwise, might seduct them into foreign alliances. The King purchased their lands when they were willing to sell, at a price they were willing to take, but never coerced a surrender of them. He also purchased their alliance and dependence by subsidies, but never intruded into the interior of their affairs or interfered with their self-government so far as respected themselves only.
It merely bound the Nation to the British Crown as a dependent ally, claiming the protection of a powerful friend and neighbour and receiving the advantages of that protection without involving a surrender of their national character.
This is the true meaning of the stipulation, and is undoubtedly the sense in which it was made. Neither the British Government nor the Cherokees ever understood it otherwise.
The same stipulation entered into with the United States is undoubtedly to be construed in the same manner. They receive the Cherokee Nation into their favour and protection. The Cherokees acknowledge themselves to be under the protection of the United States, and of no other power. Protection does not imply the destruction of the protected. The manner in which this stipulation was understood by the American Government is explained by the language and acts of our first President.
The Indian nations had always been considered as distinct, independent political communities retaining their original natural rights as undisputed possessors of the soil, from time immemorial, with the single exception of that imposed by irresistible power, which excluded them from intercourse with any other European potentate than the first discoverer of the coast of the particular region claimed, and this was a restriction which those European potentates imposed on themselves, as well as on the Indians. The very term “nation,” so generally applied to them, means “a people distinct from others.” The Constitution, by declaring treaties already made, as well as those to be made, to be the supreme law of the land, has adopted and sanctioned the previous treaties with the Indian nations, and consequently admits their rank among the powers who are capable of making treaties. The words “treaty” and “nation” are words of our own language, selected in our diplomatic and legislative proceedings by ourselves, having each a definite and well understood meaning. We have applied them to Indians as we have applied them to the other nations of the earth. They are applied to all in the same sense.”
Andrew Jackson’s response to the Worcester v Georgia decision allegedly was “John Marshall has made his decision now let him enforce it.”
If Jackson actually made the remark or not is irrelevant in that ignoring this Supreme Court decision became the policy of the executive branch and has been the policy of each President since.
Most Americans would be aghast if the United States were to break a treaty with South Korea or Belgium. The same Americans by and large have no moral issues violating a treaty with the Cherokee or Lakota – even though the Constitution draws no distinction between each of those treaties being the law of the land. I could write a hundred thousand words on how this situation came to be and why that is – but I won’t do that today so you can breathe easy.
Suffice it to say what most Americans believe in regard to Indians is rooted in fiction. In 1826 James Fenimore Cooper published a very fine novel entitled “The Last of the Mohicans.” Cooper had no actual knowledge of Indians but as a plot device he used Indians as a blank canvas on which he could deploy his creative palette in order to paint a picture on a topic about which most of his readers were completely naive. Cooper set the precedent of employing Indians as a blank canvas on which the creators of fiction could tell what ever story their plot required in regard to Indians. Fine novels, pulp fiction, television, films – they have all continued the tradition of making Indians out to be whatever they needed them to be as a plot device.
This body of work – fine novels, pulp fiction, television, films – has been adopted into the American conscience as what Indians are without any actual understanding of the current situation or how the current situation came about.
A portion of the Insurgent Tribe effort is to remedy this situation and help educate people on how things got from here to there – and it is not the story you saw in the movies.
Back in the 1980’s I lived in Los Angeles and at that time the LAPD had acquired a military type armored car. LAPD then attached a pipe or something similar to the front of the armored car and made it a battering ram to break into houses. Once they possessed this beast they used it often – going by the news reports weekly or so.
The typical news report would be along the lines “LAPD used its’ battering ram to enter a suspected drug dealers house. No drugs were found but they did find cash and firearms.”
This same basic storyline repeated over and over. It is not illegal to have cash and firearms and that is by no means evidence of being a drug dealer or any other criminal enterprise – but this was inevitably cited by LAPD as ‘evidence’ when it started to become patently obvious that they had the wrong houses – over and over and over.
Being a young man in Los Angeles the 1980’s I can tell you it wasn’t that difficult to find houses that did have drugs in them. I have no rational explanation of why the Los Angeles Police Department had such a difficult time finding houses with drugs in them. I knew of many.
The moral to this story? It was the first real time I started to truly understand that the police were considerably less infallible than they appeared on TV and as the teachers told you they were in elementary school.
I have since experienced this same pattern of mistakes and an unwillingness to own up to mistakes throughout government and business and with individuals.
However – there is a key difference with government. If a business makes a mistake they get sued and they pay for it with their own money. If an individual makes a mistake they get sued and they pay for it with their own money. If government makes a mistake they get to decide if you get to sue them and if they allow for you to sue them and you win – they pay for it with your money – not their money.
If someone in business makes a mistake that ends up in losing a lawsuit they will in all probability be fired.
If someone in government makes a mistake that ends up in losing a lawsuit they will in all probability not be fired and stand a good chance of being eventually promoted somewhere down the line. For many years I joked that the only way a school teacher could get fired was if they committed felony – but then some teachers started committing felonies and they still did not get fired. Consequently I changed my joke to the only way a teacher could get fired was if they committed a felony against a child – but lo and behold we got to the point where some teachers who committed felonies against children were not being fired.
The point is that the difference in public and private employment is significant in terms of the consequences of mistakes. Long ago Bastiat said, “If the natural tendencies of mankind are so bad that it is not safe to permit people to be free, how is it that the tendencies of these organizers are always good? Do not the legislators and their appointed agents also belong to the human race? Or do they believe that they themselves are made of a finer clay than the rest of mankind?”
I imagine that few people will admit that they believe that the legislators and their appointed agents “are made of a finer clay than the rest of mankind.” However while we may almost universally deny we believe that to be true the government system we have constructed at all levels belies that. The unionization of government employees has made it all but impossible to fire a government employee. Beyond that – if you sue and win you will simply be winning back the money they took from you in the first place.
Leftist mobs suppressing campus speech is not a new thing; it’s just getting worse. Middlebury College, Berkeley, UCLA, Claremont McKenna, and sure to be repeated soon. The trend exposes several serious pathologies:
A. Non-leftist ideas are hounded off campus; diversity of thought withers.
B Generations of students are conditioned to believe brute censorship is acceptable and expected.
C. Generations of students are “educated” but unable to understand, let alone explain that protests that shut speech down are not themselves free speech, but an assault on free speech; and
D: Generations of faculty and administrators either agree with the suppression, or are too weak and ineffectual to oppose and discipline it.