How the Civil War Became the Indian Wars

This article is required reading. United States imperialism began with forts in Indian Country. The wars in the Middle East are an expansion of 19th century Indian policy. Pacification of our people is complete when we salute the flag and send our young men to the other side of the globe to fight for the empire that destroyed our tribes.

Crazy Horse and his band of Indians on their way from Camp Sheridan to surrender at Red Cloud Agency, 1877.Credit Library of Congress

By BOYD COTHRAN and ARI KELMAN
New York Times

Excerpt:

One hundred and fifty years after the Civil War, collective memory casts that conflict as a war of liberation, entirely distinct from the Indian wars. President Lincoln died, schoolchildren throughout the United States learn, so that the nation might live again, resurrected and redeemed for having freed the South’s slaves. And though Reconstruction is typically recalled in the popular imagination as both more convoluted and contested – whether thwarted by intransigent Southerners, doomed to fail by incompetent and overweening federal officials, or perhaps some combination of the two – it was well intended nevertheless, an effort to make good on the nation’s commitment to freedom and equality.

But this is only part of the story. The Civil War emerged out of struggles between the North and South over how best to settle the West – struggles, in short, over who would shape an emerging American empire. Reconstruction in the West then devolved into a series of conflicts with Native Americans. And so, while the Civil War and its aftermath boasted moments of redemption and days of jubilee, the era also featured episodes of subjugation and dispossession, patterns that would repeat themselves in the coming years. When Chief Joseph surrendered, the United States secured its empire in the West. The Indian wars were over, but an era of American imperialism was just beginning.

Read the whole article at New York Times

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About Vince

I am a Tlingit, born and raised in Tlingit Country, and a proud member of the Tlingit Nation.
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