My response to Ronald Reagan's infamous opinion of Indians:
Ronnie's ignorant view of Indian life is typically American. "We set up reservations" and forced Indians to live on them against their will. The Indians tried to "maintain their way of life" despite being forcibly removed from their original lands, which were far more productive than the wastelands we banished them to. Once we herded them into their concentration camps like cattle, we broke our promises to help maintain their way of life and instead redoubled our efforts to eradicate it. Considering our many attempts to forbid their customs, whittle their reservations down to nothing, and terminate their tribes out of existence, Reagan's claim that we "humored" them is pathetically wrong.
"Come join us?" Mostly what we've said to Indians is "Join us, or else—or else we'll wipe you out where you stand." Our official government policy of forced assimilation has only begun to change in the last few decades—because of protests like Alcatraz and Wounded Knee II, despite ignorance like Reagan's.
As always, Reagan couldn't be more wrong if he tried. That's why he was possibly the stupidest president ever. The only excuse for an opinion as myopic as this one is incipient Alzheimer's disease.
Mike Kohr also weighed in on Reagan's comments. His response:
He was obviously caught offguard and un-prepared, which explains in part, the nearly incoherent syntax and bewildering logic of his answer. However his lack of understanding of history, his insensitivity, and his Euro-centric sense of superiority and disdain for Native culture and Native People, was unfortunately, and to our collective shame, a fair representation of the nation and the people he served as president.
Of course there is another more ominous and damning explanation of his disjointed, rambling response. Reagan may have well understood the indefensible record of our nation in its treatment of Native People. Perhaps he clearly understood the ramifications of admitting the truth but could not bring himself to tarnish the image of America that he saw as, "A great shining city on a hill."
More appalling Reaganisms
In his 1980 debate with Jimmy Carter, Reagan called pre-contact America "the most undeveloped wilderness possible." Uh, no, nitwit. A place like Antarctica or the moon would be the most undeveloped wilderness possible. Millions of Native inhabitants developed thousands of civilizations and cultures before Columbus arrived. Do the names Cahokia, Chaco Canyon, and Tenochtitlán mean anything to you?
Four years later, in his State of the Union address, Ronnie claimed "Americans resort to force only when we must. We have never been aggressors." Tell it to the Indians, Bonzo. America was almost always the aggressor in its myriad Indian wars.
The "outdated" reservation system
Native vs. non-Native Americans: a summary
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