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Stereotype of the Month Entry

Another Stereotype of the Month entry:

July 27, 2001

I want a piece of this First People's action

Elizabeth Nickson
National Post

SALTSPRING ISLAND -- I too would like to live the way my ancestors did. Or rather the way some of my ancestors did, the ones who arrived in 1629, who had lots of land, and servants, and money, not the ones engaged in constant warfare, the being or keeping of slaves, the ones who starved to death, were burned alive or died early in indescribable pain or childbirth. I'd also like all those other people who arrived on this continent after say, 1700, to bugger off or pay me a great deal of money. I was here first, or rather my ancestors were, and they were great and good people without exception and all you folks from the very worst parts of Europe, Africa and Asia have ruined things, and have no right to be here unless you pay me a great deal of money. I also, as a tax on top of the tax, want the use of all the things you invented. I want hospitals. I want universities. I want a highway system. Free. But all that cultural stuff — the Pilgrims, the pointy hats, Thanksgiving, that you think is yours? It's not. We invented harvests. It's all mine, you can't use it. It insults my dignity. Last week, I came across a house paint colour named after my ancestors: Phelps tan or mouse or something. I was so upset I've blocked it. I fumed for days. I had to have lots and lots of meetings, I've talked to lawyers, and I've decided I want royalties. Plus I'm tough, I'll take it all the way to the Supreme Court and you are going to pay for that too.

On the face of it, this is the argument Canada's native population is using to hold back progress of all of us, but mostly for their own people, who are forced by the irresponsible among them to stay in catastrophic isolation, infantile, dependent, in a constant miasma of self-pity and resentment, convinced they are surrounded by seas of racists. And in British Columbia, the rest of us, which is to say the 3.29 million who are not the 93,000 natives, or the weak-minded and petty larcenists who feed on the aggrievement business, are feeling in a state of major GRRRR. A referendum? Bring it on. It can't come fast enough. We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it any more.

This, of course, is pure treason to the vast native rights bureaucracy, who for the past 30 years have, in the words of Comanche columnist David A. Yeagley, "been walking the black man's road, of baiting, belittling, provoking and bullying white people then running for cover, screaming racist when their white victims react." The only anonymous hate mail I've ever received is from natives who object to my expressing my belief that the native business is a thorough-going racket.

But my argument does make sense, for many reasons, not least among which being that archeologists, physical anthropologists and even geneticists, are beginning to suspect that the First Peoples on this continent may have, in fact, been Europeans. An important part of native Canadian and American identity is based on the belief that they, and no other race, were here first. They therefore make a strong moral claim on our national conscience. But if they were not — and native communities are doing just about everything they can to hold back the progress of scientific investigation into this — then they are just another migratory race.

Let's move on to the treatment of native Indians by white settlers and their armies. The Indians of North America are conquered peoples. They are not alone. In the blood of each and every one of us flows the blood of some conquered race or other. Warfare, even in these relatively enlightened times is annoyingly hard to stamp out. But righting the wrongs of the past is impossible. We have no more bloody and tragic an example than the catastrophe of recent South African history to prove to us what happens to a culture when "truth and reconciliation" are allowed to run riot. And no less an observer and Indian sympathizer, Theodore Roosevelt stated, "Undoubtedly the Indian has often suffered terrible injustice at our hands. A number of instances. are indelible blots on our fair fame; and yet, in describing our dealings with the red men as a whole, historians do us much less than justice. It was wholly impossible to avoid conflicts with the weaker race, unless we were willing to see the American continent fall into the hands of some other strong power; and even had we adopted such a ludicrous policy, the Indians themselves would have made war upon us. It cannot be too often insisted that they did not own the land; or, at least, that their ownership was merely such as that claimed often by our own white hunters. To recognize the Indian ownership of the limitless prairies and forests of this continent — that is to consider the dozen ... who hunted at long intervals over a territory of a thousand square miles as owning it outright — necessarily implies a similar recognition of the claims of every white hunter, squatter, horse-thief, or wandering cattle-man."

In his dotage, my father used to sit with a native woman so that my mother could run errands. Apparently, he used to assure her (with enormous passion), that he too had native blood in his family. This puzzled and amused us till we remembered his aunt had, in fact, married an Olympic runner who was half-Indian. At the time, this marriage caused a rift in the family. An additional rift I should say, because WASP families, contrary to racist, classist prejudice, can out-Soprano the best of mobster families with their passions. (Honestly, where do you think Jacobean tragedy came from?) When my brothers and I were kids, my father used to bark that mixing native and white blood made the offspring idiots. By which I suppose he meant his cousins, whom he adored. We used to tell him he was nuts, and the shouting would go on for weeks. In the '60s, we '60s kids were on the natives' side and now just about everyone sane acknowledges no inherent defect in any race. Whitey has come a long long, long way. We need natives in every profession, neighbourhood, school and church so it is time for the native community to knock those old (but not first-growth) trees off their collective shoulder and come on down the road to meet us as equals, not wards of the state. And Premier Gordon Campbell and the citizens of British Columbia might remember in the year ahead that history does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid.

Copyright © 2001 National Post Online

Rob's reply
Wow. The stupidities in this column are almost overwhelming. Let's go through them paragraph by paragraph and relieve Nickson of her palpable ignorance.

First, her fabrication of what Native people believe and claim about themselves:

So much for Nickson's stupid first paragraph.

Natives "forced" to be "infantile"
In her second paragraph Nickson claims Native people are "forced by the irresponsible among them to stay in catastrophic isolation." Presumably she's referring to the century-old system of Indian reservations set up and acknowledged as sovereign nations. Actually, though Native people wouldn't have chosen this system originally, they've fought tooth-and-nail to keep it. They've fought tooth-and-nail against the alternative—terminating the reservations and assimilating into mainstream society—although they could've chosen this alternative at any time.

When Nickson claims "irresponsible" Natives are perpetuating the reservation system, she implies responsible Native would choose a different system if they could. Another flat-out lie. Native people generally value their bond to their land and communities above all else. Dismantling their reservations would mean dismantling their cultures, so every responsible Native opposes such a move.

Nickson is the only one imputing infantilism to Natives when she implies they can't think for themselves. They are thinking for themselves when they choose the present system as the best of a bad lot. Many have tried assimilation—either voluntarily or, in the case of boarding school children—through government force—and they usually return to the rez or maintain their reservation ties.

In her third paragraph Nickson cites Comanche columnist David Yeagley, a reactionary NRA type who touts guns as the cure for what ails Indians. I've disputed his opinions at length at Some Arguments for Gun Control. Citing him as a source is about like citing Clarence Thomas on civil rights or affirmative action.

Nickson continues the fabrications in her fourth paragraph when she claims the First Peoples may have been Europeans. The fact she's misstating is that some 3% of Native people may have European (Caucasian) genetic markers in their DNA. The other 97% presumably don't.

But even if every Native American group originally came from Europe...so what? How would coming from Europe lessen their claims compared to coming from Asia or an underground Third World (in Hopi tradition)? Wherever they came from, they occupied the continent for 15,000 or 30,000 years before modern Europeans arrived.

That gives them the moral right of ownership. Treaties and laws gave them the legal right of ownership. The question isn't who owned the land, but why Nickson is apologizing for her people's mockery of justice...and perpetuating it.

Forget where Native Americans came from. Today's Asian people haven't made claims on the Americas because their ancestors migrated here. Today's European people have no more right to make such claims. Nickson's point is worse than irrelevant, it's a smokescreen designed to deceive readers.

Who's covering up the truth?
Nickson further falsifies the record by claiming Native people are doing everything to "hold back the progress of scientific investigation." That's hysterical considering I found her column in eScribe's Native News archive, which routinely posts diatribes like hers along with claims that Natives are descended from Polynesians or the Jomon of Japan. Clearly, she's confused protecting the remains of ancestors such as Kennewick Man with thwarting scientific investigations, two different but occasionally overlapping areas.

In her fifth paragraph Nickson makes the incredible claim that "righting the wrongs of the past is impossible." No doubt that would be news to the Jews who are successfully suing Germany and its institutions for reparations. And the Japanese Americans who are already receiving compensation for the property stolen from them in WW II.

Native Americans have righted past wrongs by getting the return of sacred sites such as Taos's Blue Lake. By getting American museums to return the artifacts and remains they swiped or bought. By getting geographic place names and sports team names changed to less offensive terms. Not only is righting past wrongs possible, it happens constantly, every day.

In a column filled with whoppers, calling Teddy Roosevelt an "Indian sympathizer" has to rank among the best (worst). Roosevelt, who labeled Indians "the weaker race," compared their claims to those of squatters and horse thieves, and said the genocidal wars of conquest were inevitable, doesn't sound like a sympathizer to me. In an 1886 speech he said of Indians: "Reckless, revengeful, fiendishly cruel, they rob and murder, not the cowboys, who can take care of themselves, but the defenseless, lone settlers on the plains." If that's sympathy I'd hate to see scorn.

But wait, it gets better (worse). Nickson buried an ellipsis deep in her Roosevelt quote. Want to know what the missing words were? Teddy didn't say "a dozen...who hunted," he said "a dozen squalid savages who hunted."

So much for Roosevelt's unbiased opinion on Indian land ownership. And so much for the question of who's covering up the truth. By omitting Roosevelt's racist words to make him seem a "sympathizer," Nickson is plainly doctoring the facts. Her fabrications (e.g., citing Yeagley as if he speaks for most Indians) suggest her entire column isn't worth the toilet paper it was written on.

In her final paragraph Nickson admits coming from a family of racists, which may explain her morally-challenged screed. She feebly tries to balance the lies and insults by saying "we '60s kids were on the natives' side and now about everyone sane acknowledges no inherent defect in any race." Uh-huh, sure they do.

If Native people have no inherent defect, why are they choosing to be "infantile, dependent, in a constant miasma of self-pity and resentment"? Is that a learned defect, or some other kind of defect? Does it matter? Regardless of where the defect came from, the implications of saying a race is defective are clear.

Nickson didn't suggest these infantile traits apply to a few Native people, she suggested they apply to all Native people. Assigning negative traits to one race is the textbook definition of racism. If the shoe fits, this Anglo-American princess can wear it.

More of Nickson in the Stereotype of the Month contest
Natives don't educate selves, get jobs, or pay for things

Related links
Indians as welfare recipients
Outside the so-called ethnic box
Highlights of the US report to the UN on racism

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