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Imperialism in the Pacific Northwest Andrew Walsh and Cherise Fuselier The Evergreen State College
America never became postcolonial. The indigenous inhabitants of North America can stand anywhere on the continent and look in every direction at a home usurped and colonized by strangers who, from the very beginning, laid claim not merely to the land and resources but [also] to the very definition of the Natives. (Owens, 2001, pp. 14-5) The Pacific Northwest (roughly defined in this paper as the states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, as well as parts of British Columbia and Alaska) today is a welldeveloped and modestly prosperous region that has a Euro-American settlement history that would seem to stretch back to time immemorial. However, some details betray this notion: Indian reservations, the presence of citizens – Native Americans – who seem to belong to an extinct race, and various landmarks and tidbits named after Natives. Little is said about the numerous massacres and unfair treaties with Natives, the vast majority of which were legally carried out by the colonizers. Instead, relatively pleasant accounts are substituted and the barbaric atrocities are whitewashed over for the colonizer’s sake. This whitewashing seeps into the present day, where Natives are (as they have been in the past) ignored or denigrated when trying to represent themselves, and instead must face stereotypes perpetuated by both popular culture and academia. This leads to many contemporary Native problems being overlooked. For example, a glance at various socioeconomic statistics indicate that rates among Native Americans for alcoholism, suicide, disease, and crime are significantly higher than the national average for all ethnic groups. Per 100,000 Native American inhabitants in 1982, Native Americans had 35.8 alcohol-related deaths compared with 6.4 nationwide for all ethnic groups; for suicide, 13.4 compared with 11.6; for tuberculosis, 2.0 compared with 0.6; and for homicide, 14.6 compared with 9.7 (Frantz, 1999, p. 99). National statistics
Imperialism on annual family income from 1980 show that the percentage of Native American families in the lowest income bracket (less than $5,0001 for this set of statistics) is about three times higher than the percentage of whites occupying the same bracket, while the percentage of whites in the highest income bracket (more than $50,0002) is about three times higher than the percentage of Native American families. Approximately 28.1% of Native Americans families in the Pacific Northwest are under the national poverty level (p. 112). Though these statistics have improved significantly compared with older
figures, there is still a disparity to be accounted for. This disparity can at least be partially explained by both current imperialism and the aftereffects of past imperialism and colonization, most significantly in the various forms of cultural domination and destruction as well as contemporary representations of native peoples and pressures to assimilate. This weakening of culture, destruction of community, and confusion of identity among Native Americans breaks down the fabric of their society and births many negative consequences for Natives. This paper will give a brief history of colonization and imperialism in the Pacific Northwest from the beginning of the nineteenth century describing in detail discursive techniques used by the American government and its settlers to coerce the Natives out of their land and efforts to assimilate the Native populations. The second half of this paper focuses on the contemporary forms of colonization and imperialism against Native Americans including racist representations, environmental imperialism. Finally, the paper closes with contemporary forms of resistance among Pacific Northwest tribes including forms of cultural revival.
Adjusting for the rate of inflation this would be equivalent to $12,698.29 in 2005. Adjusting for the rate of inflation this would be equivalent to $126,982.94 in 2005.
Imperialism Historical Context prior to Euro-American contact One of the most heavily documented Native American tribes in the Pacific
Northwest is the Nez Perce tribe of Idaho (though their reservation today is in Idaho, their traditional grounds also extend into Washington and Oregon). The Nez Perce had more than three hundred “small, semipermanent villages,” (Landeen & Pinkham, 1999, p. 54) with populations of 30 to 200 people (Slickpoo, 1973, p. 29) located over an area of about 13.5 million acres (Landeen and Pinkham, 1999, p. 54); the overall population of the Nez Perce was about six thousand people when they encountered Lewis and Clark (p. 53). They did not have wholly permanent residences because “survival dictated that the Nez Perce bands move in an annual gathering cycle” (p. 54) – this is different from Natives living on the coast, for they had “natural riches” great enough to hold frequent potlatches, described as “festivals of conspicuous consumption” (Stannard, 1992, p. 22). The Nez Perce have inhabited the Pacific Northwest for tens of thousands of years, “evidence of human occupation in those lands traditionally occupied by the Nez Perce…dates back as far as 11,000 years” (Landeen and Pinkham, 1999, p. 53). That is a conservative estimate; for ancient prehistoric writings in caves have been found on traditional Nez Perce lands (Slickpoo, 1973, p. 6). Some scholars estimate that humans have inhabited North and South America anywhere from 32,000 B.C. to as early as 70,000 B.C. (Stannard, 1992, p. 10). Of course, the Nez Perce were only one among many tribes and constituted only a small portion of the total population: The Makah, the Strait, the Quileute, the Nitinat, the Nooksack, the Chemakum, the Halkomelem, the Squamish, the Quinault, the Pentlatch, the Sechelt, the Twana, and the Luchootseet are a baker’s dozen of linguistically and culturally separate peoples whose communities were confined to the relatively small area that today is bounded by Vancouver in the north and Seattle to the south, a distance of less than 150 miles. … In
addition to the coastal settlements, moreover, even as late as the nineteenth century, after many years of wholesale devastation, more than 100 tribes representing fifteen different language groups lived on in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho – including the Chelan, the Yakima, the Palouse, the Walla Walla, the Nez Perce, the Umatilla, the Cayuse, the Flathead, the Coeur D’Alene, the Kalispel, the Colville, the Kootenay, the Sanpoil, the Wenatchee, the Methow, the Okanagan, the Ntlakyapamuk, the Nicola, the Lollooct, the Shuswap, and more (p. 21). Traditional estimates of the Pacific Northwest’s population “prior to European contact rarely exceed a third of a million people,” but there is evidence that possibly as many as 6,500,000 or more people inhabited the region, 1,000,000 of them in British Columbia alone (p. 21). Lewis and Clark Lewis and Clark certainly weren’t the first Western explorers to come in contact with the Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest; however, their explorations proved to be especially significant to the fate of the tribes they encountered. In the book American Empire in the Pacific (2004), Gunter Barth in an article entitled “Strategies for Finding the Northwest Passage” recounts the importance of Lewis and Clark is devastating Native American tribes. He says Lewis and Clark followed President Jefferson’s instructions to try to bring the Native Americans into peaceful coexistence with white Americans through commerce and trade, also while gathering invaluable information of the region which would buttress the American claim over the region’s land (p. 64). In 1803, Lewis and Clark were commissioned by President Jefferson to lead an expedition into the Northwest United States, Captain Meriwether Lewis as leader and William Clark as second lieutenant of artillery. Their original core of the expedition
Imperialism included twenty-nine men: Lewis and Clark acting as two captains, fourteen Army
regulars, nine young men from Kentucky, an interpreter, two French-Canadian river men, and Clark’s black servant York. In the Mandan villages (along the Missouri River near North Dakota), a French-Canadian interpreter and his Shoshoni wife Sacagawea and their baby was added to the expedition. Their expedition from 1805-1806 would take them 7,000 miles from the Missouri River to the Pacific coast and back, where they sought a Northwest Passage and gathered information on the native peoples, flora, fauna, geography, and resources of this region largely uncharted by Americans. Lewis and Clark’s interpreter also wrongly gave the Nez Perce their name, which in French means, “pierced nose”. The Nez Perce (or NeeMe-Poo, “the people”, as they call themselves) did not actually pierce their noses, and Slickpoo makes mention of this erroneous misnomer (Slickpoo, 1973, p. vii). The use of this name as persists to this day, even within scholarly academic fields. Describing a specific example of Lewis and Clark interactions with the Nez Perce tribe is Kate McBeth in her nineteenth-century diary entitled The Nez Perce Since Lewis and Clark (1993). Kate McBeth was a Eurocentric Presbyterian missionary for the Nez Perce tribe in the late 1870’s. According to her, during the first expedition of Lewis and Clark they did not care for the Nez Perce. On their second expedition, however, Lewis and Clark came to be fond of them. McBeth writes, [Lewis and Clark] thought [the Nez Perce] selfish, avaricious, and so on, but upon their return in 1806, after camping among them for more than a month in the Kamiah Valley waiting for the snow to melt off the mountains, where they were treated as honoured guests, being given the best of their food, the fattest of their horses to slay and eat, they could not say enough in praise of the Nez Perce. (p. 19)
Imperialism Further expanding on Lewis and Clark’s importance to the Pacific Northwest Native Americans, Barth in his article states that Lewis and Clark were the precursors to mapping out an empire. Their journey of gathering information in Oregon Country provided the necessary knowledge for American expansion in the Pacific Northwest, while confirming the importance of settlement in the land ceded in the 1803 Louisiana
Purchase. Oregon Country was the early name for the North American region of the land north 42°N latitude and south of 54°40'N latitude, west of the Rocky Mountains and east to the Pacific Ocean. Oregon Country included all of the modern-day states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, parts of the Canadian province of British Columbia, and parts of Montana and Wyoming. Although Lewis and Clark did not find a Northwest Passage, they did find a route to the Pacific from the Missouri river. Barth theorizes that American entitlement to the settlement of Oregon Country derived from the topographical research conducted by Lewis and Clark on their early expeditions (p. 64). When the uncharted Oregon Country was charted and the knowledge of the inhabiting peoples and flora and fauna was studied, Americans could then safely stake a claim to the Western region. Once the unknown wilderness of Oregon Country was made known through Lewis and Clark’s information-gathering expeditions, America could invoke manifest destiny and safely stake a claim over the now known Oregon Country.
Land treaties, acts, and the establishment of reservations In Wretched of the Earth (1961), Frantz Fanon describes colonial land: The town belonging to the colonized people…the reservation is a place of ill fame, peopled by men of evil repute. They are born there, it matters little where or how; they die there, it matters not where, not how…The native town is a hungry town, starved of bread, of meat, of shoes, of coal,
of light…For a colonized people the land is most essential value, because the most concrete, is first and foremost the land: the land which will bring them bread and, above all, dignity. (as cited in Owens, 2001, p. 18). One of the most obvious discursive techniques implemented to gain ownership of Native American lands were land treaties. Land treaties were legal and recognized by the US government. These land treaties included measures such as fishing right restrictions and established tribal reservation lands for Native American relocation. Land treaties provided legal, documented avenues for the US seizure of Native Americans and subsequent relocation of Native Americans onto reservation lands. These treaties were the main avenues for the legal acquisition of the tribal territory necessary for white settlement as well as limiting Native Americans’ economic rights from natural resources such as fish. Historic examples of land treaties include those established between the US government and governments as well as those established by the US government against Native American tribal governments. Historical examples of land treaties established between the US and other governments include the Treaty of 1818. This treaty, between the governments of the US and Great Britain, called for joint control of Oregon Country for ten years with free settlement and navigation for its settlers. Both countries had equal rights to claiming land within Oregon Country, as well. This treaty preempted the cede of Great Britain’s claim to Oregon Country in 1846 and further propelled America’s claim to settlement of Oregon Country. The Intercourse Act of 1934 was the result of earlier treaties passed between the US government and Native Americans which regulated commerce and travel into tribal lands by non-Native Americans. The Intercourse Act of 1934 (or the Indian Intercourse
Imperialism Act) was the finalized result of earlier treaties beginning in 1790. This finalized act established “Indian Country” as all of the land west of the Mississippi River, excluding the states of Missouri, Louisiana, and Arkansas. The act also started it was illegal for non-Native intrusion into these tribal lands. Shortly after this act was passed the 1850
Oregon Donation Land Claim Act was established, which acted as a precursor to the 1862 Homestead Act. The Oregon Donation Land Claim Act granted white settlers 160 acres to singles and 320 acres to married couples within Oregon Territory (established in 1848). Isaac Stevens, the governor of Washington Territory in the 1850s, officially declared Oregon Territory open to white settlers in 1855. This declaration and the 1850 Oregon Donation Land Claim Act helped Oregon achieve statehood in 1859. Specific examples of treaties imposed on tribes by the US government involving restrictions over fishing rights include the Treaty of Medicine Creek and the Treaty of Point Elliott. Washington Territory’s 1854 Treaty of Medicine Creek included fishing right restrictions for Puget Sound tribes such as the Nisqually and Puyallup, claiming that the white settlers on this land had equal rights to fish as an economic resource. Another treaty limiting Native fishing rights was the Treaty of Point Elliott. This treaty was established in 1855 between the US government and Puget Sound tribes such as the Suquamish and Duwamish. This treaty included fishing right restrictions for the tribes as well as the establishment of several tribal reservations including Tulalip and Port Madison. Startling examples of the atrocity, frequency, and severity of land treaties are those imposed on the Nez Perce Native Americans of Idaho. In 1855, Isaac Stevens signed the first treaty against the Nez Perce. This treaty included seizure of their tribal
Imperialism territory in Idaho, as well as imposing Western-style headchief government instead of
more traditional Native government structures. According to Deward Walker in Conflict and Schism in Nez Perce Acculturation (1968), the 1855 treaty reduced Nez Perce territory to very little, most rights of movement were retained with very little population dislocation, traditional warfare was discouraged, and the treaty reinforced the headchief system (p. 45). Isaac Stevens vowed not to disturb the Nez Perce on their tribal lands, but soon gold strikes and miners were crowding into Nez Perce territory and the second treaty imposed on Nez Perce was established in 1863. This treaty further cut down Nez Perce territory (which was already sparse due to the 1855 treaty). Chief Joseph, while cooperating with the 1855 treaty, refused to sign the 1863 treaty because it excluded his beloved homeland of Wallowa Valley from Nez Perce territory. This caused a permanent schism in Nez Perce culture, and the development of different tribal governmental bands. Nez Perce who refused to sign the 1863 treaty and those who cooperated with the treaty were pitted against each other and the Nez Perce governmental and social structures were surely negatively affected. Finally in 1889, Indian agents were appointed to allot acres of land individual to Native Americans with Alice Fletcher as the Indian agent for the Nez Perce. Of the 756, 960 acres of the original Nez Perce reservation (established with the 1863 treaty), the Nez Perce were individually allotted only 175, 026 of those acres beginning in 1889, or about twenty-three percent. The rest of those acres were given to white settlers because of the 1887 Dawes Act. The 1906 Burke Act allowed for sales of Nez Perce allotments, and by 1923 half of the original 175, 026 acres of Nez Perce allotments had been sold to non-
Imperialism Natives. As of 1963, only 57,062 acres of the original 175, 026 acres allotted to Nez Perce remain (p. 78), or about thirty-two percent.
Indian Wars There are numerous examples of Indian Wars in the Pacific Northwest as well as specific examples of the atrocities committed by the US military in those wars. Examples of Indian wars against specific tribes include those against the Yakama, Coeur D’ Alene, and Nez Perce. Specific battles within Indian Wars include the Battle of Bear Paw, the Battle of Four Lakes and the Bear River Massacre. Additionally, an example of an Indian War as Native resistance is the Whitman massacre. The 1855 war against the Yakama tribe sprang from Steven’s declaration that Oregon Territory was open to white settlement. According to Churchill (1997), in the Oregon Territory “’settlers loudly demanded’ that the army ‘annihilate’ the region’s native peoples, [and] several campaigns for such purposes were undertaken” (p. 221). In order to conquer the land, the military annihilated the Yakama, Walla Walla, Umatilla, Palouse, and Cayuse tribes in the Yakama War (pp. 222-3). An additional war campaign in this area was the 1857 Coeur D’Alene War. This war was fought against the Coeur D’Alene and Spokane tribes along with those remaining of the Yakama, Palouse, Umatilla, and Cayuse tribes. Churchill describes these tribes being pitted “against ‘a superior force… each man having been issued brand-new long-range rifles’” (p. 222). The 1858 Battle of Four Lakes is a specific example of Indian Wars fought with rifles, as Colonel George Wright conquered some 500 Natives from Columbia Basin tribes with the help of Nez Perce scouts, while maintaining no American causalities. This battle was about
Imperialism retaliation, as Wright attempted to punish the Palouse tribe for killing white settlers as well as punish Columbia Basin area tribes for the defeat of Colonel Steptoe earlier that year (Wilma, 2003). Because of these Indian War military campaigns, the Columbia Basin tribes surrendered to the US government and the land treaties imposed by Governor Stevens and settled onto reservation lands ratified by the Senate in 1859 (p. 222). After the Coeur D’Alene, the tribal leaders were executed for resisting dispossession of their lands (p. 222). The Nez Perce War of 1877 is sometimes referred to as “Joseph’s War”. The tribal bands under Chief Joseph (which had split off from other bands as a result of the 1863 land treaty imposed by Stevens) fought in this war. This war culminated in the 1877 Battle of Bear Paw. In this battle, 1/3 of the tribal members under Chief Joseph were murdered while making a 1,400 mile trek to Canada to seek sanctuary and join Chief Sitting Bull. The remaining survivors of the Battle of Bear Paw, including Chief Joseph himself, surrendered to Oliver Otis Howard in the Bear Paw Mountains near the
British Columbia border. The survivors were forcefully transported to Indian Territory in Oklahoma, or the “hot land” as they called it (McBeth, 1993, p. 96). In 1885, those Nez Perce tribal members willing to convert to Christianity were allowed to return to the Nez Perce reservation in Southwestern Idaho, while those who refused to convert to Christianity were transported to the Coeur D’Alene reservation in Northern Idaho. Chief Joseph was among the Nez Perce who resisted conversion to Christianity and was sent to the Coeur D’Alene reservation, far away from his homeland and beloved Wallowa Valley. Specific battles include the 1858 Bear River Massacre. The Shoshoni tribe of Idaho and Utah was said to have grown increasingly “restive” (Churchill, 1997, p. 227)
over Mormon communities being established on their lands. Colonel Patrick E. Connor waged war on the Shoshoni in 1863 with about 1,000 volunteer cavalrymen. In February of 1863, Connor and his forces infiltrated a Shoshoni village in Idaho along the Bear River. Of the approximate 700 Shoshoni natives residing in the village, as many as 500 were slaughtered (Churchill, 1997, p. 227), or about seventy-one percent of the village’s inhabitants. Churchill describes the brutality of this massacre, saying: Soldiers reported…that Indians who were so incapacitated they could not move “were killed by being hit in the head with an axe”…[A] soldier found a dead woman clutching a little infant still alive. The soldier “in mercy to the babe, killed it”…[Numerous women] “were killed because they would not submit quietly to being ravaged, and other squaws were ravaged in the agony of death (p. 227). Finally, the 1847 Whitman Massacre serves as a specific example of Native American resistance to Americans intrusion onto tribal territory. In 1847, an outbreak of measles ravaged the Cayuse tribes, which lived near a Christian mission, arguably as a direct result of European contact because of missions. In November of 1847 the mission was attacked by Cayuse natives. Doctor Whitman, his wife Narcissa, and twelve other whites were killed. It’s arguable whether the murder of fourteen people is considered a “massacre”. In contrast, the Bear River Massacre can truly be called a massacre since seventy-one percent of the village’s inhabitants were slaughtered. However, the Whitman Massacre serves as an example of Native resistance and violence against American settlers in their homelands.
Imperialism Christian missionaries served as vital agents of assimilations for Natives. Encouraging (and often imposing) the conversion to Christianity, these missionaries sought to “civilize” and Americanize the Natives. Discursive techniques were also implemented by missionaries in order to convert, “civilize”, Americanize, and destroy traditional Native social, governmental, and cultural structures. The missionaries of the Northwest Coast sought to end the traditional Native potlatch ceremony. They viewed the potlatch ceremonies as economically wasteful;
however, the criminalization of potlatch ceremonies acted as a way to prevent the Natives from passing on to younger generations their important oral histories and traditional economic and social structures (Wyatt, 1984, 20). Potlatch ceremonies were illegal in Canada from 1884 to 1951 and in American from the late nineteenth century to 1934. Native American’s access to education was often through Christian missions, sometimes as the only option. Some missions established schools to educate the younger generations of Natives while only studying the Bible and other Christian texts. Education was so intertwined with Christianity for the Natives of that era that surely certain tribes had no access to Western education apart from that found in Christian missions. In 1830, a Spokane native named Garry returned to the his tribe from the East as the only Native who could read and write English as result of his Western education. In 1831, the Nez Perce attempted to follow in his footsteps and sent four delegates to St. Louis, Missouri to seek out the knowledge of reading and writing (McBeth, 1993, p. xii). Missionaries of the time took the Nez Perce trip as a sign that they were surely seeking Christianity, and began to dispatch missionaries to their tribe.
Imperialism These missionaries imposed Protestant theology on the Nez Perce, including Christian marriage, adoption of horticulture, sedentary living, and Bible reading. Also imposed by missionaries were the Protestant work ethic and mission and government appointed headchiefs and subchiefs. Walker describes the Nez Perce missionaries and their implementation of discursive techniques, saying:
Several methods were used to enforce [Christianity]...First, the Nez Perces were genuinely eager in the beginning to adopt the attitudes and practices advocated by the missionaries. Second, as enthusiasm began to fade, missionaries adopted economic means of coercion, such as withholding goods. Another method was to withhold the sacraments, and this became a sort of final sanction, usually imposed with accusations of heathenism and threats of hell fire and damnation. A final type of coercive device used from time to time was flogging and physical force. Toward the end of the first period of Christian missionization, when the Nez Perces had become disillusioned, such measures were resorted to frequently (p. 41). Boarding Schools Boarding schools as a discursive technique facilitated a form of cultural imperialism that indoctrinated Native American youth with Eurocentric values for over five successive generations. Boarding schools also served as a form of exerting American and Canadian power and control onto the subjugated Native American youth generations. The overall goal for the dominant Westerners in using boarding schools as a form of cultural imperialism on and to exert social control over Native Americans was to ease the theft of white settlers on Native American territorial lands. Starting around 1880, there were thirty-three boarding schools in the Pacific Northwest states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and the Canadian province of British Columbia.
Imperialism These boarding schools served to remove the child’s Native American identity and encourage assimilation into American culture using several different techniques. These included the systematic use of uniforms, forced use of the English language, sometimes forced Christianity adoption, studies of exclusive Eurocentric history, and Western skills training and labor to teach a Protestant work ethic.
As soon as a Native American child first arrived in a boarding school, the attempt to strip them of their Native American identities began. The children were scrubbed with alcohol and kerosene to disinfect their bodies, often with staff reference to “dirty Indians” (Churchill, 2004, p. 19). Their articles of clothing and personal items were confiscated and they were issued a school uniform to wear. The majority of children’s names were Anglicized and the use of English as the only language was forced, even in daily conversation amongst pupils. Boarding schools were often Christian institutions. The forced adoption of Christianity served to sever ties of the Native American child and his or her traditional native religion. The Bible was often studied like a textbook, and when textbooks were available for studied these often exhibited a Eurocentric bias. One example of a biased textbook noted by Churchill in Kill the Indian, Save the man (2004) is the use of Horace E. Scudder’s A History of the United States of America, published in 1884. In more secular schools, in addition to teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic, emphasis was placed on “civilization” and textbooks such as Scudder’s were used for this purpose. The Native American students studying Scudder’s textbook learned that America is “peopled by men and women who crossed the seas in faith [and that] its foundations [were] laid deep in a divine order…[that] carries with it grave duties: the enlargement of liberty and
justice is the victory of the people over the forces of evil” (as cited in Churchill, 2004, p. 27). The last method used to strip Native Americans of an ethnic self-identity was by forced training of Western skills and forced labor to teach a Protestant work ethic. In 1935, a BIA employee called boarding schools “penal institutions with forced labor” (p. 44). Some boarding schools operated as technical schools, training Native American students in useful skills in order for the student to gain employment after school. These skills included learning fish hatchery methods for males and sewing for women. Or, as Tinker says in the introduction of Kill the Indian, save the man, women’s training consisted of “[Becoming] maids and household servants—or to toil in the commercial laundries” (p. xv) and men’s training consisted of “[Mastering] the skills needed to place them in the cheap hire of ranchers and farmers” (p. xv). These vocational training schools operated similar to sweatshops, making goods for profit by exploiting the labor of students. Additionally, by imposing this Protestant work ethic on Native American students, new generations of cheap labor would be made available to fuel American and Canadian capitalist wage labor economy. Boarding schools also served as a method of control of Native Americans for the dominant Western culture. Under the guise of educating young Native American students, boarding schools were really more about controlling and subjugating new generations of Native Americans in order to displace Native American populations from their territorial lands. George Tinker, an enrolled member of the Osege Nation, Native American activist, and author, presents the theory of boarding school education disguised as social control in the introduction of Ward Churchill’s Kill the Indian, Save the man
(2004). He says, “‘Education’ of the colonized became a central and conscious technique for attaining [Native Americans’ willful concession of land]…The larger goal was always not only the control of native peoples, but the ‘consensual’—i.e. legal—theft of their properties” (p. xiv). In striving to assimilate Native American youth into mainstream American and Canadian Christian culture and exerting tremendous social control over the young generations, Americans made it easier to effectively stake permanent claims in Native American territorial lands. Several techniques were used to control and subjugate Native American students in the residential boarding schools. Students were often taken from their homes by force, sometimes in handcuffs as Tinker recounts the example of his brother Donnie, who was forcibly taken from a reservation in handcuffs at the age of five years old (p. xx). Other measures included the BIA withholding food and other materials from families who refused to send their school-age children to boarding schools in 1839. In Canada, the 1894 Indian Act forced children under the age of 16 to attend boarding schools until they were age 18. Once at these boarding schools, students were rarely allowed visits to their families. The student’s family was seen as potentially corrupting to the efforts being made to assimilate the student in American or Canadian culture. In 1888, visits home were considered “swine return[ing] to their wallowing filth and barbarism” (p. 21). Often, letters from family members were withheld from students for similar reasons. Boarding schools were run with a military-style rule and use forms of physical violence as punishment. Some boarding schools were modeled after military barracks, and some of the student’s uniforms resembled military uniforms. Physical violence was the main form of punishment, and the severity often amounted to torture. Malnutrition
was also consciously implemented. Infliction of physical violence and malnutrition only added to the devastating death rates these schools experienced. In addition, sexual abuse among students was rampant. A1993 Canadian study conducted by the Ministry of National Health and Welfare says that between 1950 and 1990 at some schools 100% of students were sexually abused (p. 64). Students were sexually molested and raped by employees and superiors, including priests and other clergyman, for sometimes many years in a row. The negative impacts of Native American residential boarding schools are vast with lingering aftereffects continuing to contemporary times. Due to many factors such as torture-like violent punishment, malnutrition, and the spread of epidemic disease death rates were high. Reliable death rate data for American boarding schools is practically nonexistent, partly due to the practice of sending home terminally ill children to die and therefore not associating those deaths with boarding schools (p. 34). In Canada, however, the boarding school death rates were fifty percent. History suggests that boarding school conditions were only slightly better in America than Canada, and it follows that American boarding schools had a similar death rate. The emotional trauma boarding school students had to cope with was unfathomable. Efforts to strip their ethnic identities and assimilate them into mainstream American or Canadian culture were traumatic in of themselves, but devices used such as forced labor, torture, and sexual predation only added to the negative effects. Tinker describes a psychological condition similar to post-traumatic stress syndrome that former students often experience called Residential School Syndrome (RSS), a term which has come to be known in Canada with no US equivalent. Tinker describes RSS as “a
Imperialism complex and intractable blend of devastated self-concept and self-esteem, psychic numbness, chronic anxiety, insecurity and depression” (p. xix). Tinker than goes on to
equate RSS, which many boarding school survivors suffer from, as going far to account for modern Native American socioeconomic afflictions such as endemic alcoholism, high suicide rates, pervasive domestic violence, and others (p. xix). The United States' and Canada’s efforts to assimilate five successive generations of Native American children caused great emotional trauma to students who passed through boarding school doors. Instead of assimilating five generations of native children, boarding schools stole the souls of five young generations and made the conquering of land and subjugation of native peoples easier as the older generations were replaced by the younger generations.
Contemporary Imperialism Two examples of contemporary imperialism and discursive techniques are the destruction of native fishing rights concerning salmon and the development of the Hanford nuclear site in Washington State. Salmon, as well as being a major food source and livelihood, has long been an integral part of the culture of many Pacific Northwest Native American tribes. For the Nez Perce, “times of the year were measured by the chinook’s lifestyle…families gathered at traditional fishing sites … to await its miraculous return…[many] stories, legends, and ceremonies” are associated with chinook salmon (Landeen and Pinkham, 1999, p. 1). The lifecycle of the salmon also represents a religious “circle of life” for the Nez Perce. Salmon is also “an essential aspect of [Nez Perce] nutritional health” (p. 21),
and replacing salmon with other foods causes “health problems that are eroding [Native] mortality” (p. 21). Salmon are so integral to Nez Perce culture that the four Columbia River tribes (Nez Perce, Yakama, Umatilla, Warm Springs) say, “without salmon returning to our rivers and streams, we would cease to be Indian people” (p. 110). Colonizing whites have wreaked havoc on both the salmon and the culture that is dependent on it. The first assault against salmon was by the white canning industry’s over-harvesting of salmon. In 1880, “more than 600,000 cases of salmon were packed each year, but by 1889 only 310,000 cases were packed;” despite the intensification of harvesting, less and less salmon were harvested. So extensive was the over-harvesting that the gene pool of larger salmon (60-80 pounds) was wiped out, leaving only small, 20-30 pound salmon. “Now people wonder why we only have small salmon,” says Allen Pinkham, of the Nez Perce tribe (p. 28). Other industries also contributed to the decline in salmon through destruction of prime habitats for salmon: the increases in water temperature and decreases in oxygen concentration in water can be attributed to gravel, silt, and sediment deposits in rivers caused by the logging industry, pulp mills, road construction, grazing, mining, and agriculture (p. 24). In the 1930s, construction of dams, beginning with the Bonneville Dam and ending with thirty-four dams along the Columbia and Snake Rivers (p. 23), began a new era of salmon decline. Salmon require an open river in order to go upstream and spawn, and dams block the river. Though some dams were built with fish ladders, other “dams… were built without fish ladders. These ladderless dams eliminated about half of the spawning habitat for salmon” (p. 23). Dams have also over doubled the amount of time it takes for young salmon to travel downstream, resulting in increased exposure to
Imperialism predators, disease, and also interfere with proper physiological development. Dams themselves kill five to fifteen percent of salmon that go through them; series of dams have resulted in up to 90 percent of salmon passing through to be killed (p. 24). Dams have also had other negative consequences for Natives: Rod Wheeler of the Nez Perce
says, “[his] grandfather’s parents were buried upstream from Ice Harbor Dam. When that dam was built the backwaters covered the site where they were buried” (p. 36). Today, many salmon that are consumed by Native Americans are contaminated with various pollutants from various industries (such as radioactive materials from the Hanford nuclear site and various metals from mining operations), and “the Columbia River United report asserts that Native Americans who annually consume many fish from the river over a long period of time may be exposed to unacceptable risks as defined by Environmental Protection Agency standards” (p. 25). Besides fish ladders, the other main efforts to restore salmon by various governmental institutions have been fairly unsuccessful. Hatcheries, “although well intentioned…have generally been limited to increasing total salmon numbers with little regard for sustaining historical geographic distributions of the species present” (p. 29). These oversights lead to situations such as the Mitchell Act of 1938, which gave $200 million to build salmon hatcheries along the Columbia River, But thirty-six out of thirty-eight of these initial hatcheries were located below Bonneville Dam. This strategy made sense for ensuring that the bulk of the artificially raised fish did not have to pass any dam, but it also meant that new salmon would not swim upstream where Indians could catch them (p. 29). Further contributing to salmon’s destruction by polluting the environment in the Hanford nuclear site in Central Washington. This site has been used for “full-scale
plutonium production,” being the home to “nine plutonium production reactors along the Columbia River” (Landeen and Pinkham, 1999, pp. 33-5). The government chose 640 square acres of land to become the Hanford Site. Before beginning construction, both Natives and white settlers in the area “had their land condemned by the federal government and were given thirty days to leave” (p. 33). The nuclear site began to pollute Native resources through “releasing millions of curies of radioactivity into the Columbia River and tons of toxic pollutants into the soil column surrounding the reactors” (p. 35). This pollution came from underground storage tanks that have leaked. As of 1999, “the Department of Energy [was] working on ways to remove these tanks and monitor the contaminants that have escaped” (p. 35). The Hanford site was also “indirectly responsible for the construction of some of the Snake River dams” – since plutonium production requires large quantities of electricity -- doing further harm to Natives in the region (p. 35).
Native American Representations by the Colonizers Native Americans have been represented by whites and denied the chance to represent themselves to the world since colonization of the New World began. The effect of these misrepresentations is to make Natives into the “Other” – a homogeneous and inferior figure that America, the “Self,” can use to elevate itself and justify oppression. Natives are misrepresented frequently in popular culture. Ward Churchill states that, Since 1925, Hollywood has released more than 2,000 films, many of them rerun on television, portraying Indians as strange, perverted, ridiculous, and often dangerous things of the past. Moreover, we are habitually presented to mass audiences one-dimensionally, devoid of recognizable
human motivations and emotions; Indians thus serve as props, little more. We have thus been thoroughly and systematically dehumanized” (as cited in Jolivette, 2006, p. 3). Words and phrases frequently used in movies, on television, and in novels (along with other mediums) to describe Natives and what they do are “discovered [by whites],” “lurking in the wilderness,” “attacking wagon trains,” “scalping pioneers,” “savages,” “[conducting] massacres,” “nomadic,” “warlike,” “primitive,” and “simple” (Bataille, 2001, p. 5), among many others. Images in the media have shaped many peoples’ views of Natives to such a degree that Winona LaDuke says “whenever I have the occasion to ask people to name Native nations with whom they are familiar, invariably they are only able to produce the names of Native people from Westerns” (LaDuke, 2006, p. 63). Certain other stereotypes are also reinforced through other mediums (and from a very early age), as seen in Mattel’s line of American Indian Barbie dolls. In Kim Shuck’s essay titled “Say Hau to Native American Barbie” (Shuck, 2006, p. 27), Shuck analyzes the language used to describe Native Americans and their culture and lifestyle on the backs of the dolls’ boxes. The box establishes “the historical nature of Indian behavior” (p. 30), stating that their “traditions exist[ed] long ago”. Also, “keeping the traditions alive is so urgent that it is mentioned again in the last bit of the blurb”. The box also describes everything in the past tense, telling children what “Native people used to do” (p. 31). Of the boldface and clarified terms on the box (“teepee” and “moccasins”), Shuck says, “it is probably worth mentioning that these words are from two different Indian languages” (p. 31). These stereotypes contribute to the stereotypical and homogeneous perception of Natives by whites.
Imperialism Racism towards Natives is so ubiquitous and unacknowledged that millions of Americans can watch sports featuring mascots with racist caricatures, names, and other nouns: “Washington Redskins, Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves, Chief Wahoo, the Tomahawk Chop” (Owens, 2001, p. 21). One must then ask: “would we live so comfortably today with the New Jersey Jews, Newark Negroes, Cleveland Chicanos, Houston Honkies, Atlanta Asians, and so on…Would the city of Washington cheer a football team whose mascot scampered around at half-time in blackface or wearing a yarmulke and carrying a menorah?” (p. 21). Native Americans have also been misrepresented academically, whether in standard curriculum or even in eminent scholars and higher education. Dr. Mihesuah writes that “even university programs in Indigenous Studies usually exist within a colonialist structure” (Mihesuah, 2006, pp. 191-2), and that today,
Many AIS [American Indian Studies] and NAS [Native American Studies] programs have become ‘dumping grounds’ for those professors and instructors who, because they cannot succeed in their home departments, are allowed to join an AIS department…Many of these schools have no commitment to quality; their only concern is to have numbers in the classroom…[so] they can fool grant-giving agencies into giving them money so they can perpetuate the programs” (pp. 191-2). One example of misrepresentation is with the Nez Perce. They were given their name, meaning “pierced nose” in French, even though “it was a known fact that the Neeme-poo tribe [the Nez Perce], as a whole, did not practice piercing their noses and wearing ornaments, like many authors have described” (Slickpoo, 1973, p. iii). This name, however, is the standard used to refer to the Nee-me-poo. Another example, A history textbook being used in the 1960s demonstrates that it was not just popular culture that was perpetuating the stereotypes: “… Indian contributions to American history have been so slight that one is justified in suggesting that they might be omitted entirely without appreciably
altering the main trend of development. … American history began therefore not with the Indians but with the arrival of the first Europeans. … As compared with the meager contributions of the Indians, the English brought a complex, well-developed civilization” (Bataille, 2001, p. 5). And another: American educational institutions have done a fairly poor job of teaching American history, particularly from the perspective of Native people. Little is known about the history of genocide in this country… [And] even less is known about the history of the treaty-making period or the present struggles of Native people. By and large, most discussions of Native people take place in the past (LaDuke, 2006, p. 63). Not only have natives been academically misrepresented and omitted by whites, but also their own attempts at representing themselves have largely been ignored or insulted. “In spite of the successes of several novels written by American Indian writers over the last thirty years,” says Carolyn Dunn, “there still has been a reluctance on the part of literary scholars to acknowledge the existence of an American Indian literature or literary tradition” (pp. 139-140). Bataille says that “Native writers were taken seriously by scholars” only after “N. Scott Momaday’s 1968 novel House Made of Dawn had received the Pulitzer prize” (p. 4). Disturbingly, even academics that champion the causes of other misrepresented peoples have ignored or otherwise attacked Native voices. For instance: The most extraordinary denigration of Native American voices is found, however, in Edward Said’s Culture and Imperialism, where this celebrated father of postcolonial theory dismisses Native American writing in a single phrase as “that sad panorama produced by genocide and cultural amnesia which is beginning to be known as ‘native American literature’” (Owens, 2001, p. 13). Colonizing powers are a major part in determining who is legally considered a Native American (and thus who receives the benefits derived from such status). In 1924 the governor of Virginia “decreed that in order to count as an American Indian…it was
necessary to have at least one-sixteenth of Indian blood and no African ancestry” (Frantz, 1999, p. 71). This meant that someone who was seven-eighths American Indian would be listed as ‘colored’ or ‘half-breed’ if they were one-eighth African American (p. 71). In 1960, the population figures for Native Americans spiked because of the adoption of the principle of ethnic self-enumeration – meaning that people could declare themselves to be Natives on the census, rather than being counted as Natives only by strange government standards (p. 71). Interestingly, the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ figures on Native population levels are fairly low, because, as Frantz posits, “each additional Indian puts a new burden on the BIA’s limited budget” (p. 73). Because of certain nuances in the BIA’s requirements for being considered a Native American, “Today thousands of people who can give no evidence of Indian ancestry are officially recognized as American Indians, while…tens of thousands American Indians, some of them full-blooded, are deprived of this status” (p. 73).
Native Representations of Themselves In the face of cultural destruction and domination, Native Americans have always engaged in resistance against this force in various ways. These include representing themselves in writing to engaging in cultural revival that reinforces their identity. One way imperialism has attacked Native culture is through colonialism’s effects on the stories of “oral tradition” – storytelling being the primary way that cultural knowledge is passed down among Native Americans. According to Dunn (2006), “creation stories and myths preserve tribal identity” (p. 142). Other stories also help to
preserve and evolve tribal identity and Native culture. So important to Native culture are these oral histories and stories that Dunn says, “if the stories survive, then the people survive” (p. 142). Nelson (2006) says that pre-colonization stories focused on cultural topics such as “…people’s origins; describing how to gather plants for food or medicine, how to prepare for a puberty ceremony, when to plant corn or other crops; or teachings on ways to govern a village, clan, or nation” (p. 98). The disruption caused by white colonization caused these traditional cultural stories – critical to the preservation of Native culture – to be replaced instead with tales of, The effects of colonization: the boarding school experience, commodity foods, relocation to urban areas, troubles with the BIA and the allotment process, alcoholism, diabetes, AIM and Indian activism, loss of language and native foods…mixed-blood identity, and the challenge of maintaining indigenous traditions in a Western, industrial world (p. 99). Today, the Native oral tradition and literature form “an unbroken line…from ‘time immemorial to the vital now.’ These [act as] instruments of resistance against Western… occupation. These stories…are a means of survival and recognition of self and community in the face of Western stereotype of the ‘vanishing/ed race” (Dunn, 2006, p. 142). Modern Native literature is composed of “stories that incorporate ceremony and myth and legend with traditional Anglo/Euro American story elements” (p. 140) as well as novels that are almost entirely made of Native elements, such as Momaday’s House Made of Dawn. A prevalent theme of Native literature, and one produced by colonialism, is “the endurance of an existence of two very different worlds: the Indian world(s) and the Anglo/Euro American world of North America” (p. 141). Even though “the U.S. government has insinuated itself in determining membership in American Indian tribes”
(p. 143) and thus in the legal identity of Native peoples, Native literature helps form and define a Native identity that predates an identity based on Natives’ relationships to the colonizer. Another form of contemporary resistance is cultural revival through Native education. Heritage University, located on the Yakama Reservation in Washington State, is a non-profit and accredited school that has among its main goals the preservation of Native culture. Their mission statement is to deliver higher education to the isolated, multicultural, and underserved communities of Central Washington. As of May 2006 Heritage University has produced 4,500 students with bachelors and masters degrees – an important achievement considering that only 8-9% of the population of the Lower Yakama Valley has a college education compared with the national figure of 24%. The college offers classes and supports clubs whose goals are the preservation of Native culture; for instance, a multicultural dance class, and a Nez Perce language class (NorthWest Indian News, May 2006, Vol. 15). Cultural revival also takes place on various local levels. At Lake Union in Seattle, urban Native youth carve their own canoes and form a canoe family with others who worked on the canoe to be used in the Canoe Journey, an annual gathering of various tribes and Natives from all along the Pacific coast. According to the Haida Master Carver Saaduutz, the experience helps Natives learn about their spirituality and brings Native peoples and families together. The Muckleshoot tribe couples the canoe journey with wearing regalia, singing songs, dancing, and using traditional drums. The young Native acting group Red Eagle Soaring (also involved in the Canoe Journey) in Seattle produces and performs contemporary and traditional Native American theatre, storytelling, and
Imperialism hosts educational workshops (NorthWest Indian News, May 2006, Vol. 15). Blanketing ceremonies to honor elders, a sacred tradition among many Natives in the Pacific Northwest, still occur today (NorthWest Indian News, March 2006, Vol. 14). Tribes trying to preserve salmon and whales for traditional uses are also participating in the growth of Native culture.
Conclusion The past two centuries of history in the Pacific Northwest are filled with atrocities (massacres, forced labor, cultural destruction, rapes, theft, and more) and to many of those outside of the Native community, these events are not well known. Both outright atrocities such as the Bear River massacre and slightly more subtle forms of imperialism, such as boarding school programs aimed at assimilation, permeate Native history. Even more subtle forms of imperialism, such as denigration of Natives in popular culture and by scholars, still persist today. These problems are not well known because mainstream culture and academia in the U.S. do not make them known. Natives, however, are taking matters into their own hands: they publish books to represent themselves, use legal avenues, and work at keeping their culture intact. However, Native victimization by imperialism is still a contemporary problem. While more overt forms of imperialism and discursive techniques such as boarding schools and land treaties may no longer be implemented, neocolonial forms of imperialism (such as the pressure to assimilate into mainstream Western culture and racist representations) plague Native tribes in modern times. Decolonization and the return of traditional Native homelands is no longer an option in America and Canada. Instead, forms of neocolonialism must be absolved in
Imperialism order for Native Americans to improve their socioeconomic statuses and subsequent
problems. In addition, Native cultural revival serves as an increasingly important form of ethnic identity and cultural pride which contributes to Native development and wellbeing. Cultural revival serves as the main form of Native resistance when faced with the omnipresent pressure to fully assimilate in Western mainstream culture. In order for Native Americans to thrive in contemporary times, the acknowledgement of Native historical contributions must be recognized as well as historic and contemporary atrocities against Natives, institutional racism and its representations must be overcome, and Native cultural revival should take an important role in Native ethnic identity.
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