In 1887 Congress mounted a multi-pronged attack on Indigenous life through Senator Henry Dawes’s General Allotment Act. First, the law mandated the largest American property transfer in history. In less than half a century Indigenous Americans lost two thirds of what they still owned — 90,000,000 acres of land. Almost a hundred million people became landless peasants in the home of their ancestors. Though some plots passed to eager white homesteaders the largest gainers were railroad builders and unscrupulous speculators.
How Not to Celebrate an Anniversary
From the Declaration of Independence to the NDAA
by WILLIAM LOREN KATZ at Counter Punch
As 2011 ended the U.S. Senate voted 92 to 6 for the McCain-Levin amendments [S 1867] to the National Defense Authorization Act, and President Obama signed it. In the name of fighting terrorism, an astounding majority of Democratic and Republican leaders granted unlimited authority to the President [and future Presidents] and the Army to arrest anyone, citizen or foreigner, here or abroad, and imprison them in Poland, Pennsylvania, or Guantanamo or anywhere else — indefinitely. 92 of our Senators agreed the detained could be denied access to attorneys and loved ones, and “enhanced interrogation” rather than legal procedures would determine if they are guilty of terrorist plots. True, some rigid Constitutionalists and Libertarians from Senator Rand Paul on the right to the ACLU on the left have condemned S 1867 as a threat to our core beliefs and democratic system. But S 1867 swept through with the President’s signature on the 135th anniversary of our Declaration of Independence.
Actually celebrating our founding document while undermining of its principles also marked the Declaration’s Centennial year of 1876. That year what might be called a federal-state task force that included a majority of members of Congress and the Supreme Court, and the President chose to override the Declaration’s bold assertion of liberty, the Constitution’s “more perfect Union” and Abraham Lincoln’s “new birth of freedom.” They did so to serve an unholy alliance of northern railroad builders and land speculators, unrepentant former slaveholders and assorted white supremacists — and their obedient lobbyists and media. What followed was a severe and simultaneous assault on the basic rights of Native Americans and African Americans that sent the country careening in a new direction.
It all began in late June 1876 as Americans prepared a massive coast to coast July Fourth celebration. But as the bunting went up, bands rehearsed and corks began to pop, shocking news came from the Little Big Horn.
2000 Lakota and Cheyenne commanded by Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and Rain In the Face surrounded a dashing, brilliant and somewhat arrogant George Armstrong Custer and the 226 men in his Seventh Cavalry. Not one Bluecoat survived.
Custer was not on a peaceful mission but seeking to open the Black Hills to white gold prospectors, teach the Indians a lesson, and make a media splash during the summer’s Presidential nominating conventions. If logic had ruled government officials would have exploded in anger at Custer. On his own he choose to ignore the U.S. Treaty of
1868 stating “no white person or persons shall be permitted” to “enter” the Black Hills. He knew the Lakota loudly proclaimed this was their sacred ground. He was aware that President Grant publicly pledged, “it is secured to the Indians.” And he chose to ignore Sitting Bull’s flat warning, “If the whites try . . . I will fight.”