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The Legacy: U.S. Boarding Schools of Domination & the Native Vote

In “Doubts About Voting? Just Think Montana," journalist Mark Trahant, Shoshone-Bannock, says “American Indian voters are registered to vote in Montana at a higher rate than other ethnic group.” He thereby fails to classify us as belonging to Native nations that are distinct from the United States; he defines us instead as part of one “ethnic group” among many minority groups existing in the United States.

Trahant’s article calls to mind a phrase U.S. President Barack Obama invoked at a White House gathering for the Native leaders of Indian Nations: “E Pluribus Unum,” which is Latin for “From Many One.” Because the United States was founded as the American Empire (Richard Van Alstyne, The Rising American Empire, 1962) the phrase is accurately expressed as E Pluribus Unum Imperium, “From Many One Imperium.” A legal imperium, notes René Maunier, in his book The Sociology of Colonies Vol. I (1942) is “a domination, or a subjection in a proper sense” (p 14). Maunier further observes: “When we speak of the power a State exercises, we may imply an actual domination” (Ibid.).

The American Imperium, or American empire, as George Washington, James Madison, John Marshall, and many others conceived it, has been working steadily to diminish and, eventually end the very existence of our Original Nations on this continent. When Native writers decide to write about us as belonging to some “ethnic group” of the United States (the American empire), they play directly into the anti-Native nationhood agenda that dates back to the founding of the United States. It has been a long- standing goal of the United States to put an end to any national consciousness of our Native nations, and replace it with the national consciousness of the United States.

Evidence of the U.S. war on our Native nations, so as to keep our nations down or altogether destroy them, abounds. Such evidence is found, for example, in Ely Parker’s Annual Report as Commissioner of Indian Affairs, which he issued on December 23, 1869. Part of his address speaks to treaty making between the United States and Indian nations, something which Parker ridiculed.

Parker was a Seneca Indian who apparently became more devoted to the United States than to Native Nations. He became a U.S. General in the Civil War and an attorney in the white man’s system of law. He served as Commissioner of Indian Affairs for two years from 1869 to 1871. Parker wrote what follows as a dismissal of the very idea of Indian nationhood:

The Indian tribes of the United States are not sovereign nations, capable of making treaties, as none of them have an organized government of such inherent strength as would secure a faithful observance of compacts of this character. They are held to be wards of the [U.S.] government, and the only title the law concedes to them to the lands they occupy is a mere possessory one.

Parker was evidently of the view that Indian nations are not sovereign nations because they do not have the political or military muscle to compel the United States to comply with treaty agreements they had pledged to abide by. Commissioner Parker further said:

But, because treaties have been made with them, generally for the extinguishment of their supposed absolute title to land inhabited by them, or over which they roam, they have become falsely impressed with the notion of national independence.

Today, the idea of national independence for Indian nations, meaning, “a desire to exist independent of U.S. political domination,” seems to be the farthest thing from the mind of many Native people.

In 1882, a decade after Parker’s statement on Indian treaties, Indian Commissioner Hiram Price advocated using “religious societies for regular and missionary purposes among the Indians.” He proposed using those religious societies

for the higher and nobler purpose of helping these untutored and uncivilized people to a higher place of existence. In no other manner and by no other means, in my judgment, can our Indian population be so speedily and permanently reclaimed from the barbarism, idolatry, and savage life, as by the educational and missionary operations of the Christian people of our country (Prucha, p. 157). (emphasis added)

In 1889, one year before the Wounded Knee Massacre of Chief Big Foot and his Hunkpapa people, Thomas J. Morgan, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, introduced a new U.S. Indian policy. Morgan launched what I would term a form of psychological warfare designed to assimilate Indian children into the dominating society’s mentality. He called it “Inculcation of Patriotism in Indian Schools.” The word “inculcate” traces to the obscure word “calcare,” “to tread on, to trample.” It generally means “to teach or impress by frequent repetitions.” By such a process, said Morgan, the “Indians are destined to become absorbed into the national life, not as Indians, but as Americans.” Morgan announced that:

On the campus of all the more important schools there should be erected a flagstaff, from which should float constantly, in suitable weather, the American flag. In all schools of whatever size and character, supported wholly or in part by the Government, the “Stars and Stripes” should be a familiar object, and students should be taught to reverence the flag as a symbol of their nation’s power and protection. (emphasis added)

The big push for “the Native vote” in U.S. elections strikes me as evidence of the success of the long range U.S. plan to brainwash Indian children with patriotism toward the United States so as to remove from our Native nations any national self-consciousness in relation to our own nations. Today, “the Native vote” in Indian Country is a direct consequence of psychological warfare having been waged against our ancestors when they were children in the U.S. boarding schools of domination. The original independence and political existence of our Native Nations is routinely ignored in favor of the demeaning terms “tribe” and “tribal”; our own people characterize us in a subordinating manner as a mere “ethnic group” of the United States; in keeping with Parker’s policy, the American flag is often treated as if it were the flag of our own Native nations.

Native people voting in U.S. elections as “Americans” was predicted by Commissioner Morgan when he wrote: “The Indians are destined to become absorbed into the national life, not as Indians, but as Americans.” “The Native vote” creates the false impression that we have given our free consent to the U.S. system of domination that has been and is still being imposed on our Nations and Peoples.

Steven Newcomb (Shawnee, Lenape) is co-founder and co-director of the Indigenous Law Institute, and author of Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery(Fulcrum, 2008). He is a producer of the documentary movie, The Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code, directed and produced by Sheldon Wolfchild (Dakota), with narration by Buffy Sainte-Marie (Cree). The movie can be ordered from 38Plus2Productions.com.