How to mint white people

Anyone read this book?

The Real All Americans

I’m about fifty pages in and can’t put it down. For those who haven’t read it, the story is about the Carlisle Indians who (before the end of the book) will defeat the number one ranked football team, the U.S. Military Academy. Icon to icon, it will be Jim Thorpe versus Dwight David Eisenhower.

This is much more than a sports book, however. It begins with the telling of how white man encroached upon the red man, but had to retaliate brutally because—well, because the Indians retaliated brutally to the encroachment. Eventually, Richard Pratt, a military guy, has this idea that the Indians could be turned into white people by forcing upon them the acculturation with white society. And I do mean forcing. “Kill the Indian, save the man” was Pratt’s favorite exclamation.

In any event, the book was published in May of 2007 and quickly became a best seller. The author has an interesting way of describing some of the events. Check out this passage (and remember, the United States started this conflict with the Native Americans):

 

Gradually the tribes were forced, starving, cold, and sullen, back to the agencies. On February 26, 1875, Lone Wolf brought his people in and surrendered sixty starving warriors with their women and children. Lone Wolf’s wars were over.

At Fort Sill, they were put in the stone corral and divested of their weapons, horses, war shields, lances, and buffalo robes. Their livestock was taken to a prairie and slaughtered, or sold at auction. The most notorious warriors were put in the guardhouse.

With the war ended, the Army considered how to punish the worst attackers. It was not an easy question, legally. General Philip Sheridan wanted the raiders tried for war crimes by a military commission. But President Grant consulted his attorney general and was advised that “a state of war cannot exist between a nation and its wards.” Criminal proceedings for murder were also impractical; frontier prejudice made a fair trial impossible.

Instead, the government fashioned an extralegal solution. The combatants would be held indefinitely as prisoners of war, without trial, at a remote prison site.

Richard Henry Pratt was detailed to make a list of the worst offenders, and also to identify other agitators who should be deported from the region. For several weeks, Pratt sorted through evidence and offenses, and arrived at a list of seventy-two men and one woman (thirty-three Cheyenne, twenty-seven Kiowa, Nine Comanche, two Arapahoe, and one Caddo.) They ranged in age from fifty-nine years old to just sixteen, and eleven of them were mere teenagers.

Pratt was instructed to escort the prisoners to Fort Leavenworth, where he was to await further orders while the Army decided where to incarcerate them. On a raw spring day, he assembled them for departure. Their families and friends were permitted to come and say goodbye, and a mass of Indians gathered on the Fort Sill hillside. As the captives, manacled in heavy leg irons, were loaded into Army wagons, their women began to loudly wail. The wailing deepened as the wagons moved out.

Many of the prisoners died in passage, or died at the prison. It reminds me how lucky we are to have John McCain running for president, so we can elect him and continue conquering other cultures who aren’t like us.

So far, it’s a very well written book, and balanced in its presentation of this sordid part of US history. The sons and nephews of some of these Indians will end up at Carlisle Indian School, and I’m assuming will be on Pop Warner’s football team.

Posted by poputonian on 09/28/08 at 09:00 AM • Permalink

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Wow, I hadn’t heard of it, but it sounds utterly depressing though informative.

There’s an island near where I live that used to be a military fort. Sometimes we go there by boat (there’s no other way), anchor off the beach and picnic. I’ve heard back during the Seminole wars, prisoners were held there. They say one of the legendary Seminole warriors, Tiger Tail, committed suicide on that beach rather than be transported to a prison in Oklahoma. Can’t say I blame him…

Betty, they took the men to prison at Fort Marion (as it was known then) in St. Augustine. Today, it is the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. I don’t think the whole book is depressing. I just happened to know about the Carlisle Indian School, and that for all the good it did (the acculturation), there was a high price to pay—of deaths, suicides, alcoholism, and depression—by depriving people, cold turkey, of their ways and customs. Many who adapted became quite successful, but this is a brutal way to go. What infuriates me is that America repeats this injustice today, only it is the brown people atop the oil who have become the target. We encroach, they resist, we stick ‘em in Gitmo as enemy combatants, their families cry, they die.

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