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Below is a reprint of the article 500 YEARS OF INDIGENOUS RESISTANCE
| 500 YEARS OF INDIGENOUS RESISTANCE |
| HERITAGE DATABANK SERVICE |
| 718 T0M 0J0 CANADA |
| Compiled by: |
| Oh-Toh-Kin |
| 1992 |
This article is reprinted in it's entirety from
Oh-Toh-Kin Volume 1 Number 1, Winter/Spring 1992
- mainly so that it will not get lost.
Unlike our other reviews this is not really a review.
We believe it is a significant article that should be
read by everyone interested in Aboriginal history. As
the author states, it is not purported to be an academic
work - though it is certainly better than many academic
works I have seen.
Excepting some minor items (eg. location of some
tribes in 1492) it is substantially correct and is THE
THE BEST COMPREHENSIVE COVERAGE OF ABORIGINAL HISTORY
FROM THE ABORIGINAL VIEWPOINT THAT HAS BEEN PUBLISHED
We reprint it here in it's entirety as originally
LINK to OH-TOH-KIN
 A Note to the Readers
 500 Years of Resistance
 Voices of Oka
 As Long as the Rivers Flow...
 Occupation of Anicinabe Park, 1974
 The American Indian Movement
A NOTE TO THE READERS
"Oh-Toh-Kin" means "strength from our ancestry", in the Kwa'kwala
language. It's one of the very few words I know in the language of my
people, the Kwakwaka'wakw (Kwakiutl). This, despite having lived on
two reserves, Fort Rupert and Alert Bay, both in the northern region
of Vancouver Island. And despite attending potlaches and learning some
basic art forms. That's acculturation. and that means, like many other
Indian youth, I'm a mostly "acculturated Indian". But I know that
reclaiming that ancestry is more than getting a status card; it's a
long process that begins but never ends. And it's a process that has
nothing to do with the government of Canada, or that state's
Constitution, or laws.
It's no coincidence that Oh-Toh-Kin has began publishing in the year
1992, the 500 year mark of the colonization of the Americas. For
myself, 1992 is the year to begin reclaiming that ancestry that was
denied largely because my mother, a Kwakiutl, lost her "Indian status"
by marrying my father, a Euro-Canadian. Because she lost that
"status", we could no longer live on the reserves or have the
"benefits" allowed a "status Indian". So we found ourselves moving
further and further down the coast as my mother looked for some kind
of employment, after having divorced my late father. And that is only
one example of how acculturation can occur. As I said, it is a long
process to relcaim that ancestry. 1992: 500 years of genocide,
colonization, racism... 500 years of Indian resistance, we all know
this history has been rewritten or denied by the European colonizers.
European history portrays Indians as savages or imbeciles, or both.
And Indian women don't even exist in these histories. Colonization is
portrayed as "development" or a "discovery of a new world", because
that is history as viewed by the European colonizers. The sad part of
this is that many of us only know the European versions of history.
The tragic part is that we don't even know the history of 20 years
ago, never mind 500 years ago! That's why this first issue of
Oh-Toh-Kin is aimed at relearning this history, including the
struggles of the 1970s. But colonization and genocide didn't end 500,
or 200, or 20 years ago; it continues at this very moment throughout
the Americas, as does Indigenous resistance. Organizing for 500 years
of Indigenous resistance, or against the "celebrations" of the
invasion of the Americas, cannot be a substitute for the struggles
that continue today. That's why there is info on the Lubicon Cree, the
Peigan Lonefighters, and the trials resulting from the standoff at
Kanesatake. [SISIS note: we have not reprinted the "current news"
sections of Oh-Toh-Kin that are out of date, the trials resulting from
the 1990 standoff at Kanesatake and the Daishowa boycott to support
the Lubicon. We have current information on the struggles of the
Mohawk and Lubicon nations on other pages. We have not done any
other editing.] There is so much more that simply could not be
included for space limitations, and not just in Canada, but throughout
Two other important points: Oh-Toh-Kin is an independent publication
which receives no funding from the Canadian state and is therefore not
dependent on funding which can control the content or be pulled away
at any moment. As such, the paper relies on subscriptions and
As well, Oh-Toh-Kin is distributed for free because there are no
Native bookstores (besides Chief's Mask in Vancouver, at least as far
as I know) or Native distribution systems in which the paper could be
sold. Of course, Oh-Toh-Kin[Ccould be sold in some bookstores but it
would be limited to mostly Euro-Canadians and that's not who this
paper is directed towards.
OH-TOH-KIN, Volume 1 Number 1, Winter/Spring 1992
500 YEARS OF INDIGENOUS RESISTANCE
reprinted from Oh-Toh-Kin, Vol. 1 No. 1, Winter/Spring 1992
This article is intended as a basic history of the colonization of
the Americas since 1492, and the Indigenous resistance to this
colonization continuing into 1992. The author admits to not having
a full understanding of the traditions of his own people, the
Kwakiutl (Kwakwaka'wakw); as such the article lacks an analysis
based in an authentic Indigenous philosophy and is instead more of
a historical chronology.
Numbers in brackets indicate footnotes, fully documented at the end
of this article.
Throughout the year 1992, the various states which have profited from
the colonization of the Americas will be conducting lavish
celebrations of the "Discovery of the Americas". Spain has spent
billion of dollars for celebrations in conjunction with Expo `92 in
Seville. In Columbus, Ohio, a $100 million quincentennial celebration
plans on entertaining several million tourists. CELAM, the association
of South America's Catholic bishops, has organized a gathering to
celebrate the "fifth centenary of the evangelization of the Americas"
to be presided over by the Pope. As well, there is a wide selection of
museum exhibits, films, TV shows, books and many other products and
activities focusing on Columbus and the "Discovery", all presenting
one interpretation of the 500 years following 1492. The main thrust of
this interpretation being that the colonization process -- a process
of genocide -- has, with a few "bad spots", been overall a mutually
beneficial process. The "greatness" of European religions and cultures
was brought to the Indigenous peoples, who in return shared the lands
and after "accidentally" being introduced to European disease, simply
died off and whose descendants now fill the urban ghettos as
alcoholics and welfare recipients. Of course, a few "remnants" of
Indian cultures was retained, and there are even a few "professional"
Indian politicians running around.
That was no "Discovery" -- it was an American Indian Holocaust!
Until recently, commonly accepted population levels of the indigenous
peoples on the eve of 1492 were around 10-15 million. This number
continues to be accepted by individuals and groups who see 1492 as a
"discovery" in which only a few million Indians died -- and then
mostly from diseases. More recent demographic studies place the
Indigenous population at between 70 to 100 million peoples, with some
10 million in North America, 30 million in Mesoamerica, and around 50
to 70 million in South America.
Today, in spite of 500 years of a genocidal colonization, there is an
estimated 40 million Indigenous peoples in the Americas. In Guatemala,
the Mayan peoples make up 60.3 percent of the population, and in
Bolivia Indians comprise over 70 percent of the total population.
Despite this, these Indigenous peoples lack any control over their own
lands and comprise the most exploited and oppressed layers of the
population; characteristics that are found also in other Indigenous
populations in the settler states of the Americas (and throughout the
THE PRE-COLUMBIAN WORLD
Before the European colonization of the Americas, in that time of life
scholars refer to as "Pre-history" or "Pre-Columbian", the Western
hemisphere was a densely populated land. A land with its own peoples
and ways of life, as varied and diverse as any of the other lands in
In fact, it was not even called "America" by those peoples. If there
was any reference to the land as a whole it was as Turtle Island, or
Cuscatlan, or Abya-Yala.
The First People inhabited every region of the Americas, living
within the diversity of the land and developing cultural lifeways
dependent on the land. Their numbers approached 70-100 million peoples
prior to the European colonization.
Generally, the hundreds of different nations can be summarized within
the various geographical regions they lived in. The commonality of
cultures within these regions is in fact a natural development of
people building life-ways dependent on the land. As well, there was
extensive interaction and interrelation between the people in these
regions, and they all knew each other as nations.
In the Arctic region live(d) the Inuit and Aleut, whose lifeways
revolve(d) around the hunting of sea mammals (Beluga whales, walruses,
etc.) and caribou, supplemented by fishing and trading with the people
to the south.
South of the Arctic, in the Subarctic region of what is today Alaska,
the Northwest Territories, and the northern regions of the Canadian
provinces, live(d) predominantly hunting and fishing peoples. The
variations of these lands range from open tundra to forests and lakes,
rivers, and streams. The Cree, Chipewyan, Kaska, Chilcotin, Ingalik,
Beothuk, and many other nations inhabit(ed) this region, hunting bear,
goats, and deer in the west, musk oxen and caribou further north, or
buffalo further south in the prairies.
Altogether in the Arctic and Subarctic regions there lived perhaps as
many as 100,000 people.
On the Pacific Northwest coast, stretching from the coasts of Alaska
and BC down to northern California, live(d) the Tlingit, Haida,
Tsimshian, Kwa-Kwa-Ka'wakw, Nuu-chah-nulth, Nuxalk, Salish, Yurok, and
many others. These peoples developed a lifeway revolving around
fishing. The peoples of this region numbered as many as four million.
Between the Pacific coastal mountain range and the central plains in
what is today southern BC, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana,
live(d) the Sahaptin (Nez Perce), Chopunnish, Shoshone, Siksikas
(Blackfeet), and others. These peoples numbered around 200,000.
To the east were people of the plains, encompassing a vast region from
Texas up to parts of southern Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba,
eastward to North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Missouri,
and Arkansas. Here, the Lakota (Sioux), Cheyenne, Arapaho, plains
Cree, Siksikas (of the Blackfeet Confederacy, including the Blood and
Peigan), Crow, Kiowa, Shoshone, Mandan, and many others, numbered up
to one million, and the buffalo as many as 80 million before their
slaughter by the Europeans.
Further east, in the lands stretching from the Great Lakes to the
Atlantic coast, live(d) hunting, fishing, and farming peoples; the
Kanienkehake (Mohawks), Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca (these five
nations formed the Haudenosaunee -- the People of the Longhouse --
also known as the Iroquois Confederacy), Ojibway, Algonkin, Micmac,
Wendat (Huron), Potowatomi, Tuscarora, and others. In this woodland
region, stretching from Ontario, Quebec, and New York, down to the
Carolinas, lived up to two million peoples.
South of this area, from parts of the Virginias down to Florida, west
of the Gulf of Mexico including Mississippi and Louisiana, live(d) The
Muskogee-speaking Choctaw, Creek, and Chikasaw, the Cherokee, Natchez,
Tonkawa, Atakapa, and others. One of the most fertile agricultural
belts in the world, farming was well established supplemented by
hunting and fishing. These peoples numbered between two and three
East of this area, in the south-western United States, extending down
to northern Mexico and California, live(d) agrarian and nomadic
peoples; the Pueblo, Hopi, Zuni, the Yumun-speaking Hualapai, Mojave,
Yuma, and Cocopa, the Uto-Aztecan speaking Pimas and Papagos, and the
Ahapascans consisting of the Navajo (Dine) and Apache peoples. These
peoples, altogether, numbered about two million.
In the Mesoamerican region, including Mexico, Guatemala and Belize
live(d) the numerous agricultural peoples, whose primary staple was
maize; the Aztecs, Texacoco, Tlacopan, and the Mayans -- in the
Yucatan peninsula. Here, large city-states with stone and brick
buildings and pyramids, as well as extensive agrarian waterways
consisting of dams and canals were built. Written languages were
published in books, and the study of astronomy and mathematics was
well established. A calendar system more accurate than any in Europe
during the 15th century was developed. Altogether, these peoples
numbered around 30-40 million.
In the Caribbean basin, including the coastal areas of Columbia,
Venezuela, Costa Rica, Honduras, and the many small islands such as
Cuba, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico etc., live(d) hunting, fishing, and
agrarian peoples such as the Carib, Arawak, Warao, Yukpa, Paujanos,
and others. These peoples numbered around five million.
In all of South America there were as many as 40-50 million peoples.
In the Andean highlands of Peru and Chile live(d) the Inca peoples,
comprised of the Quechua and Aymara. In the south of Chile live(d) the
Mapuche, and in the lowland regions -- including the Amazon region --
live(d) the Yanomami, Gavioe, Txukahame, Kreen, Akarore, and others.
South of the Amazon region, in Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay,
live(d) the Ayoreo, Ache, Mataco, Guarani, and many others. In the
southernmost lands live(d) the Qawasgar, Selk'nam, Onu, and others.
With a few exceptions, the First Nations were classless and
communitarian societies, with strong matrilineal features. The
political sphere of Indigenous life was not dominated by men, but in
many cases the responsibility of women. Elders held a position of
importance and honour for their knowledge. There were no prisons, for
the First Nations peoples had well developed methods of resolving
community problems, and there was -- from the accounts of elders --
very little in anti-social crime. Community decisions were most
frequently made by consensus and discussions amongst the people.
But the First Nations were not perfect, being humans they had, and
still have, their inconsistencies and practises that are not positive.
Some examples can be seen as the armed conflicts between nations
throughout the Americas, and practises of slavery amongst the Pacific
Northwest coast peoples and in the Mesoamerican region. However, even
here the forms of warfare reflected similar developments throughout
the world, and in any case never approached the genocidal methods
developed, in particular, in Europe. Warfare was the practise of
explicitly warrior societies. The accounts of slavery, although there
is no way to explain it away, differed sharply from the Europeans in
that it was not based on racism, nor was it a fundamental
characteristic which formed the economic basis of these societies.
The history of the First Nations must always be analyzed critically;
those who tell us that history are rarely ever of the Indigenous
THE GENOCIDE BEGINS
"Their bodies swelled with greed, and their hunger was ravenous."
- Aztec testimonial
On October 12, 1492, sailing aboard the Santa Maria under finance from
the Spanish crown, Cristoforo Colombo stumbled upon the island of
Guanahani (believed to be San Salvador), in the Caribbean region.
Initially charting a new trade route to Asian markets, the outcome of
Colombo's voyage would quickly prove far more lucrative than the
opening of new trade routes, as far as Europe was concerned.
It was on Guanahani that Colombo first encountered Taino Arawaks, whom
he titled `Indians', believing he had in fact reached Asia. For this
initial encounter, Colombo's own log stands as testimony to his own
"No sooner had we concluded the formalities of taking possession of
the island than people began to come to the beach... They are
friendly and well-dispositioned people who bear no arms except for
They ought to make good and skilled servants... I think they can
easily be made Christians, for they seem to have no religion. If it
pleases Our Lord, I will take six of them to Your Highnesses when I
depart" (from Colombo's log, October 12, 1492)
True to his word, if little else, Colombo kidnapped about 9 Taino
during his journey through the Bahamas, and anticipated even more
kidnappings and enslavement,
"...these people are very unskilled in arms. Your Highnesses will
see this for yourselves when I bring you the seven that I have
taken. After they learn our languages I shall return them, unless
Your Highnesses order that the entire population be taken to
Castille, or held captive here. With 50 men you could subject
everyone and make them do what you wished" (Colombo's log, October
Throughout Colombo's log of this first voyage, there is constant
reference to the notion that the Taino believe the Europeans to be
descended from heaven, despite the fact that [neither] Colombo nor any
of his crew understood Arawak. Another consistency in Colombo's log is
the obsession with gold, to which there are 16 references in the first
two weeks alone, 13 in the following month, and 46 more in the next
five weeks, despite the fact that Colombo found very little gold on
either Guanahani or any of the other islands he landed on.
In a final reference to Colombo's log, one can also find the dual
mission Colombo undertook,
"Your Highnesses must resolve to make them (the Taino - Oh-Toh-Kin ed.)
Christians. I believe that if this effort commences, in a short time
a multitude of peoples will be converted to our Holy Faith, and Spain
will acquire great domains and riches and all of their villages.
Beyond doubt there is a very grea amount of gold in this country...
Also, there are precious stones and pearls, and an infinite quantity
of spices" (Colombo's log, November 11, 1492)
The duality of Colombo's mission, and the subsequent European invasion
that followed, was the Christianization of non-Europeans and the
expropriation of their lands. The two goals are not unconnected;
"Christianization" was not merely a program for European religious
indoctrination, it was an attack on non-European culture (one barrier
to colonization) and a legally and morally sanctioned form of war for
conquest. "Even his name was prophetic to the world he encountered --
Christopher Columbus translates to `Christ-bearer Colonizer'"
Still on his first voyage, Colombo meandered around the Caribbean and
eventually established the first Spanish settlement, `Natividad', on
the island of Hispaniola (today Haiti and the Dominican Republic).
Leaving about 35 men on Hispaniola, Colombo and his crew returned to
Spain to gather the materials and men needed for the coming
colonization, and to report to the crown on his journey.
In September, 1493, Colombo returned to Hispaniola with a fleet of 17
ships and 1,200 men. The detachment that had been left on Hispaniola
had been destroyed following outrages by the Spaniards against the
Taino. The resistance had already begun.
Colombo would make four voyages in all, the remaining two in 1498 and
1502. His voyages around the Caribbean brought him to what is now
Trinidad, Panama, Jamaica, Venezuela, Dominica, and several other
Islands -- capturing Native peoples for slavery and extorting gold
through a quota of a hawks bell of gold dust to be supplied by every
Native over the age of 14 every 3 months. Failure to fill the quota
often entailed cutting the `violators' hands off and leaving them to
bleed to death. Hundreds of Carib and Arawak were shipped to Spain as
slaves under Colombo's governorship, 500 alone following his second
voyage. Indeed, the absence of a "great amount of gold" in the
Caribbean had Colombo devising another method of financing the
colonization: "The savage and cannibalistic Carib should be exchanged
as slaves against livestock to be provided by merchants in Spain."
Colombo died in 1506, but following his initial voyage to the
Americas, wave upon wave of first Spanish, then Portuguese, Dutch,
French and British expeditions followed, carrying with them
conquistadors, mercenaries, merchants, and Christian missionaries.
Hispaniola served as the first beachhead, used by the Spanish as a
staging ground for armed incursions and reconnaissance missions,
justified through the `Christianization' program; one year after
Colombo's first voyage, Pope Alexander VI in his inter cetera divina
papal bull granted Spain all the world not already possessed by
Christian states, excepting the region of Brazil, which went to
While the Spanish laid the groundwork for their colonization plans,
other European nations began to send their own expeditions.
In 1497, Giovanni Caboto Motecataluna (John Cabot), financed by
England, crossed the Atlantic and charted the Atlantic coast of North
America. Under the commission of Henry VII to "conquer, occupy, and
possess" the lands of "heathens and infidels", Cabot reconnoitered the
Newfoundland coast -- kidnapping three Micmacs in the process.
At around the same time, Gaspar Corte Real, financed by Portugal,
reconnoitered the Labrador and Newfoundland coasts, kidnapping 57
Beothuks to be sold as slaves to offset the cost of the expedition.
Meanwhile, Amerigo Vespucci -- for whom the Americas were named after
-- and Alonso de Ojedo, on separate missions for Spain, reconnoitered
the west Indies and the Pacific coast of South America. Ojedo was
actively carrying out slave raids, and was killed by a warrior's
poisoned arrow for his efforts.
From the papal bull of 1493 and a subsequent Treaty of Tordesillas
(1494), Portugal had been given possession of Brazil. In 1500, the
Portuguese admiral Pedro Alvares Cabral formally claimed the land for
the Portuguese crown.
Now that the initial reconnaissance missions had been completed, the
invasion intensified and expanded. In 1513, Ponce de Leon, financed by
Spain, attempted to land in Florida, but was driven off by 80 Calusa
From 1517 to 1521, the Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortes laid waste
to the Aztec empire in Mexico, capturing the capital city of
Tenochtitlan and killing millions in a ruthless campaign for gold.
Shortly afterwards, in 1524, Pedro de Alvarado invaded the region of
El Salvador, attacking the Cuscatlan, Pipeles, and Quiche peoples. In
Guatemala Alvarado conducted eight major campaigns against the Mayans,
[69Dnd while he and his men were burning people alive, the Catholic
[63Driests accompanying him were busy destroying Mayan historical records
(that is, while they weren't busy directing massacres themselves).
Alvarado's soldiers were rewarded by being allowed to enslave the
In 1531, the Spaniard Francisco Pizarro invaded the region of the
Incas (now Peru). Taking advantage of an internal struggle between two
Inca factions led by the brothers Huascar and Atahualpa, Pizarro
succeeded in subjugating the Incas by 1533.
Ten years later, Pedro de Valdivia claimed Chile for the Spanish
crown, although fierce resistance by the Mapuche nation restricted the
Spanish to the northern and central regions. Valdivia was eventually
killed in battle by Mapuche warriors.
During this same period, Jacques Cartier, financed by France in 1534,
was reconnoitering the eastern regions of what would become Canada,
and Spaniards such as Hernando de Sotos, Marcos de Niza and others
began penetrating into North America, claiming the lands for their
respective countries, as was their custom.
EXPANSION, EXPLOITATION, AND EXTERMINATION
"I am Smallpox... I come from far away... where the great water is
and then far beyond it. I am a friend of the Big Knives who have
brought me; they are my people."
- Jamake Highwater, Anpao: an Indian Odyssey
The formulative years of the colonization process were directed
towards exploiting the lands and peoples to the fullest. To the
Europeans, the Americas was a vast, unspoiled area suitable for
economic expansion and exploitation.
The primary activity was the accumulation of gold and silver, then a
form of currency among the European nations. This accumulation was
first accomplished through the crudest forms of theft and plunder (ie.
Colombo's and Cortes' methods). Eventually, more systematic forms were
developed, including the encomiendas -- a form of taxation imposed on
Indigenous communities that had been subjugated, and the use of
Indigenous slaves to pan the rivers and streams. By the mid-1500s, the
expropriation of gold and silver involved intensive mining. Entire
cities and towns developed around the mines. Millions of Indigenous
peoples died working as slaves in the mines at Guanajuato and
Zacatecas in Mexico, and Potosi in Bolivia. By the end of the 1500s,
Potosi was one of the largest cities in the world at 350,000
inhabitants. Peru was also another area of intensive mining. From the
time of the arrival of the first European colonizers until 1650,
180-200 tons of gold -- from the Americas -- was added to the European
treasury. In today's terms, that gold would be worth $2.8 billion .
During the same period, eight million slaves died in the Potosi mines
Slavery was another major economic activity. Not only for work in the
mines, but also for export to Europe. In Nicaragua alone, the first
ten years of intensive slaving, beginning in 1525, saw an estimated
450,000 Miskitu and Sumu peoples shipped to Europe. Tens of thousands
perished in the ships that transported them. Subsequently, the slave
trade would turn to Afrika, beginning in the mid-1500s when Portuguese
colonists brought Afrikan slaves to Brazil to cut cane and clear
forest area for the construction of settlements and churches. An
[63Dstimated 15 million Afrikan peoples would be brought as slaves to the
Americas by 1800, and a further 40 million or so perished in the
transatlantic crossing in the miserable conditions of the ships holds.
In areas such as the highlands of northern Chile, Peru, Guatemala, and
Mexico, where the climate was more suitable, the Spanish were able to
grow crops such as wheat, cauliflower, cabbage, lettuce, radish, sugar
cane, and later grapes, bananas, and coffee. By the mid-1500s, using
slave labour, many of these crops -- particularly wheat and sugar cane
-- were large-scale exports for the European markets.
In other areas, sprawling herds of cattle were established. Herds
which rarely exceeded 800 or 1,000 in Spain reached as many as 8,000
in Mexico. By 1579, some ranches in northern Mexico had up to 150,000
head of cattle .
The effects of extensive land-clearing for the crops and ranches and
intensive mining culminated in increasing deforestation and damage to
the lands. More immediately for the Indigenous peoples in the region,
particularly those who lived on subsistence agriculture, was the
dismantling of destruction of agrarian ways replaced by export crops.
In order to carry out this expansion and exploitation, the subjugation
of the First Nations was a necessity, and the task of colonizing other
peoples was one in which the Europeans had had plenty of experience.
"In a sense, the first people colonized under the profit motivation
by the use of labour...were the European and English peasantry.
Ireland, Bohemia and Catalonia were colonized. The Moorish nation,
as well as the Judaic Sephardic nation, were physically deported by
the Crown of Castille from the Iberian peninsula...All the methods
for relocation, deportation and expropriation, were already
practised if not perfected" .
Prior to Colombo's 1492 voyage, the development of a capitalist mode
of production emerging from feudalism had dispossessed European
peasants of independent production and subsistence agriculture.
Subsequently, they were to enter into a relationship of forced
dependence to land-owners and manufacturers, leading to periods of
intense class struggle, particularly as the Industrial Revolution
(fueled by the expropriation of materials from the Americas and
Afrika) loomed ever larger.
Indeed, the majority of Europeans who emigrated to the Americas in the
16th, 17th, and 18th centuries were impoverished merchants,
petit-bourgeois traders, mercenaries, and Christian missionaries all
hoping to build their fortunes in the `New World' and escape the
deepening class stratification that was quickly developing. However,
the first permanent settlements were limited, their main purpose being
to facilitate and maintain areas of exploitation. During the entire
16th century, only an estimated 100,000 Europeans were permanent
emigrants to the Americas.
[24D[Their effects, however, were overwhelming; in the same 100 year
period, the populations of the Indigenous peoples declined from 70-100
million to around 12 million. The Aztec nation alone had been reduced
from around 30 million to 3 million in one 50 year period. The only
term which describes this depopulation is that of Genocide; an
American Indian holocaust.
Apologists for the Genocide attribute the majority of deaths to the
introduction of disease epidemics such as smallpox and measles by
While attempting to diminish the scale and intensity of the Genocide
(other forms of this diminishment are claiming the population of the
Americas was a much smaller portion than generally accepted
[62Dmographic numbers), such a perspective disregards the conditions in
which these diseases were introduced. Conditions such as wars,
massacres, slavery, scorched earth policies and the subsequent
destruction of subsistence agriculture and food-stocks, and the
accompanying starvation, malnutrition, and dismemberment of
These conditions were not introduced by "unknowing" Europeans; they
were parts of a calculated campaign based on exploitation in which the
extermination of Indigenous peoples was a crucial factor.
European diseases introduced into these conditions came as an
after-effect of the initial attacks. And their effects were
disastrous. Once the effects of the epidemics were realized however,
the use of biological warfare was also planned in the form of infected
blankets and other textiles supplied to Indigenous peoples.
THE PENETRATION OF NORTH AMERICA
While the Spanish were destroying the Caribbean and Mesoamerican
region, the Portuguese were carrying out similar campaigns in Brazil.
The patterns established by the Spanish would be repeated by the
Portuguese during the 16th and 17th centuries in Brazil, Uruguay, and
By the beginning of the 17th century, the Spanish and Portuguese had
penetrated virtually every region in the southern hemisphere,
establishing numerous settlements facilitated with the help of Jesuit
and Franciscan missionaries, as well as mines, ranches, and
plantations. Despite all this, there were still large areas in which
European claims to lands remained a theoretical proposition; these
areas remained outside of European control with fierce Indigenous
resistance. This was particularly so in the southern regions.
During this period, French, Dutch, and advance elements of the British
also established settlements in the Caribbean.
In 1604, the French occupied the island of Guadaloupe, followed by the
island of Martinique and various smaller islands in the West Indies.
In 1635 they occupied what is now French Guiana.
Meanwhile, the Dutch occupied a coastal region that would eventually
become Surinam (Dutch Guiana) as well as settlements established by
the Dutch West India Company in the area of Belize (which would later
become a British colony).
The Dutch, French, and British were relatively limited in their
[62Dxploits in the South Americas, and it would be in North America where
their main efforts would be directed.
As has already been noted, French expeditions had penetrated the
north-eastern regions of what would become Quebec and the Atlantic
provinces, in the 1530s. In 1562 and 1564, the French attempted to
establish settlements in South Carolina and Florida, but were driven
out by the Spanish (who had claimed Florida in 1539 during de Soto's
[17D585 the British also attempted settlements, on Roanoke Island in
North Carolina, and again in 1586. Both attempts failed when the
settlers-to-be were unable to survive.
In the period up to 1600, more reconnaissance missions were conducted;
in 1576 Martin Frobisher charted the Arctic coasts encountering Inuuk,
and in 1578 Francis Drake charted the coast of California.
Meanwhile, the Spanish were pushing into North America from their
bases in southern Mexico, encountering resistance from Pueblos and
In the beginning of the 1600s, as the horse spread throughout the
southwest and into the plains, Samuel de Champlain expanded on
Cartiers' earlier expedition, penetrating as far west as Lake Huron
and Lake Ontario. his attacks on Onondago communities, using Wendat
(Huron) warriors, would turn the Haudenosaunee against the French.
In 1606, the British finally succeeded in establishing their first
permanent settlement in North America at Jamestown, Virginia. In 1620,
Pilgrims (English Puritans) landed on the east coast also,
establishing the Plymouth colony.
Meanwhile, Beothuks in Newfoundland had retaliated against a French
attack in clashes that followed killed 37 French settlers. The French
responded by arming Micmacs -- traditional enemies of the Beothuks --
offering bounties for Beothuk scalps. This is believed to the
origin of `scalp-taking' by Native warriors; the stereo-type of Native
`savagery' was in fact introduced by the French and, later, the Dutch.
The combined attacks by the French and Micmacs led to the eventual
extermination of the Beothuk nation.
[33D1624, the Dutch established Fort Orange (later to become Albany,
New York) and claimed the area as New Netherland.
While the Atlantic coast area of North America was becoming quickly
littered with British, French and Dutch settlements, substantial
differences in the lands and resources forced the focus of
exploitation to differ from the colonization process underway in Meso-
and South America.
In the South, the large-scale expropriation of gold and silver
financed much of the invasion. As well, the dense populations of the
Indigenous peoples provided a large slave-labour force to work in the
first mines and plantations.
In contrast, the Europeans who began colonizing North America found a
lower population density and the lands, though fertile for crops and
abundant in fur-bearing animals, contained little in precious metals
accessible to 17th century European technology.
The exploitation of North America was to require long-term activities
which could not rely on Indigenous or Afrikan slavery but in fact
which required Indigenous participation. Maintaining colonies
thousands of miles away from Europe and lacking the gold which
financed the Spanish armada, the colonial forces in North America
would have to rely on the gradual accumulation of agricultural
products and the fur trade.
In this way, the initial settlements relied largely on the hospitality
afforded them by the Native peoples. Earlier attempts at European
settlements had failed for precisely this reason, as the Europeans
ound themselves almost completely ignorant of the land.
The growing European colonies quickly set about acquiring already
cleared and cultivated land, and their expansionist policies led to
fierce competition between the colonies. This bitter struggle for
domination of land and trade frequently began and ended with attacks
gainst Indigenous communities. One of the first of these `strategic
ttacks' occurred in 1622 when a force from the Plymouth colony
massacred a group of Pequots. In retaliation, Pequote warriors
attacked a settler village at Wessagusset, which was then abandoned
and subsequently absorbed into the dominion of the Plymouth colony,
had coveted the trade and land enjoyed by the Wessagusset
By 1630, the Massachusetts Bay colony had been established, and `New
England', once only a vague geographical expression came to apply in
practise to the colonies of New Plymouth, Salem, Nantucket, Rhode
sland, Connecticut, New Haven and others.
The expansionist drives of the Massachusetts colonists consisted of
massacres carried out against first the Pequot and eventually the
Narragansetts between 1634 and 1648.
It was in this period that the transition between European dependence
on Native peoples began to be reversed. Through the establishment and
expansion of European colonies, increased contact with First Nation
brought extensive trading, as well as disease epidemics and conflict.
Trade gradually served to break up Indigenous societies,
"Indian industry became less specialized and divided as it entered
into closer relations of exchange with European industry. For the
Indians, intersocietal commerce triumphed by subordinating and
[62Deliminating all crafts except those directly related to the
European-Indian trade, while intertribal trading relations survived
only insofar as they served the purposes of intersocietal trade"
Thus, trade with European industry developed a relationship of growing
dependence on the European colonists. The items traded to Natives --
etal pots, knives, and occasionally rifles -- were of European
manufacture and supply. The trade also disrupted and changed
traditional Native methods in other ways, with the introduction of
alcohol and exterminationist forms of warfare -- including torture --
under the direction of the colonialists, as well as an overall
scalation in warfare in the competition-driven fur trade and
introduction of European rifles.
While disease epidemics began to spread throughout the Atlantic
coastal area, the colonialists also relied to a large extent on
exploiting and exaggerating already existing hostilities between First
Nations, as the Spanish and Portuguese had also done in their
"The grim epics of Cortes and Pizarro, not to speak of Columbus
himself, testify to the military abilities of Spanish soldiery, but
these need to be compared as well with the great failures of
[60DNarvaez, Coronado and de Soto... (The conquistadors) did not
conquer Mexico and Peru unaided. Native allies were
indispensable... North of New Spain, invasion started later, so
Frenchmen, Dutchmen, and Englishmen found native
communities...already reduced by epidemic from base populations
that never approached the size of Mexico" .
It was at this time that the concept of treaty making began to take
hold. In keeping with the English colonists early plans of keeping
some level of peace with the Natives, as in 1606 when
"the Virginia Company of London instructed its colonists to buy a
stock of corn from the `naturals' before the English intention to
settle permanently should become evident. The Company's chiefs were
sure that `you cannot carry yourselves so towards them but they
will grow discontented with your habitation'" .
The initial English (and Dutch) settlers began the process of
purchasing land, supplemented as always with armed force against
vulnerable Indigenous nations (such as those decimated by disease or
already engaged in wars with more powerful First Nations).
[60D[It remains unclear as to what the First Nations understood of the
local purchasing process, but some points are clear; there was no
practise of private ownership of land, nor of selling land, among or
between the Peoples prior to the arrival of the colonialists; there
were however agreements and pacts between First Nations in regards to
access to hunting or fishing areas. This would indicate treaties were
most likely understood as agreements between First Nations and settler
communities over use of certain areas of land, as well as
non-aggressiveness pacts. In either case, where First Nations remained
powerful enough to deter initial settler outrages the treaties were of
little effect if they turned out to be less than honourable, and there
was enough duplicity, fraud, and theft contained in the treaties that
they could not be considered binding. Practises such as orally
translating one version of a treaty and signing another on paper were
frequent, as was taking European proposals in negotiations and
claiming that these had been agreed upon by all -- when in fact they
were being negotiated. As well, violations of treaty agreements by
settlers was commonplace, particularly as, for example, the Virginia
colony discovered the profitability of growing tobacco (introduced to
the settlers by Native peoples) and began expanding on their initial
Gradually, First Nations along the Atlantic found themselves
dispossessed of their lands and victims of settler depredations. One
of the first conflicts that seriously threatened to drive the
colonialist forces back into the sea broke out in 1622, when the
Powhatan Confederacy, led by Opechancanough, attacked the Jamestown
lony. Clashes continued until 1644, when Opechancanough was captured
By the mid-1600s, clashes between Natives and settlers began to
increase. Tensions grew as the Europeans became more obtuse and
domineering in their relationship with the First Nations. In 1655 for
example, the so-called `Peach Wars' erupted between colonialists of
New Netherlands and the Delaware Nation when a Dutchman killed a
Delaware woman for picking a peach tree on the colonies `property'.
The settler was subsequently killed and Delaware warriors attacked
veral Dutch settlements. The fighting along the Hudson River lasted
until 1664 when the Dutch forced the Delaware nation into submission
by kidnapping Delaware children as hostages.
In 1675 the Narragansetts, Nipmucs, and Wapanoags, led in part by
Metacom (also known as King Philip by the Europeans) rebelled against
the colonies of New England following the English arrest and execution
[63Dree Wapanoags for the alleged killing of a Christianized Native,
believed to be a traitor. The war ended in 1676 after the English
colonialists -- making use of Native allies and informers -- were able
to defeat the rebellion. Metacom was killed, and his family and
hundreds of others sold to slavers in the West Indies. The military
campaign carried out by the colonial forces decimated the
Narragansett, Nipmuc, and Wapanoag nations.
Meanwhile in 1680, a Pueblo uprising led in part by the Tewa Medicine
man Pope succeeded in driving out the Spanish from New Mexico. By
1689, Spanish forces were able to once again subjugate the Pueblos.
By the late 1600s, the competition between European states would
dominate the colonization process in North America.
THE EUROPEAN STRUGGLE FOR HEGEMONY
Although colonial wars had been fought in the past between France,
Spain, The Netherlands, and England, and conflicts had erupted between
ir colonies in the Americas, the late 1680s and the following 100
year period was to be a time of bitter struggle between the Europeans
for domination. This period of European wars was to be played out also
in the Americas, "To a great extent, the battle for colonies and the
wealth they produced was the ultimate battlefield for state power in
Beginning in 1689 with King William's War between the French and the
English, which evolved into Queen Anne's War (1702-13), to King
George's War (1744-48) and culminating in the so-called `French and
Indian War' (1754-63), the battles for colonial possessions in the
Americas mirrored those raging across Europe in the same period,
except that in North American and in the Caribbean, the European
struggle for hegemony in the emerging world trade market would employ
heavy concentrations of Native warriors.
While the British emerged victorious from the `Great War for Empire',
and the French defeated ceding Hudson Bay, Acadia, New France and
other territories in a series of treaties, those who were most
affected by the European struggles were the Native peoples of the
Atlantic regions. The fallout from those wars was the virtual
extermination of some Indigenous peoples, including the Apalachees in
Florida, the establishment of colonial military garrisons and
outposts, a general militarization of the region with heavier
armaments and combat veterans, and the subsequent expansion of
colonial settlements, extending their frontiers and pushing many First
Nations further west.
During the period of the colonial wars, Indigenous resistance did not
end, nor was it limited to aiding their respective `allies'.
In 1711, the Tuscaroras attacked the English in North Carolina and
fought for two years, until the English counter-insurgency campaign
left hundreds dead and some 400 sold into slavery. The Tuscaroras fled
north, settling among the Haudenosaunee and becoming the Sixth Nation
In 1715, the Yamasee nation rose up against the English in South
Carolina, but were virtually exterminated in a ruthless English
In 1720, the Chickasaw nation warred against French occupation, until
rance's capitulation to England in 1763. Similarly, Fox resistance to
French colonialism continued from 1920 to around 1735.
In 1729, the Natchez nation began attacking French settlers in
Louisiana after governor Sieur Chepart ordered their main village
cleared for his plantations. In the ensuing battles, Chepart was
killed and the French counter-insurgency campaign left the Natchez
decimated, although guerrilla struggle was to continue along the
In 1760 the Cherokee nation began their own guerrilla war against
their `allies' the English, in Virginia and Carolina. Led by
Oconostota, the Cherokee fought for two years, eventually agreeing to
a peace treaty which saw partitions of their land ceded after the
English colonial forces had razed Cherokee villages and crops.
In 1761, Aleuts in Alaska attacked Russian traders following
depredations on Aleut communities off the coast of Alaska (the Russian
colonizers eventually moved into the Pribilof and Aleutian islands in
1797, relocating Aleuts and virtually enslaving them in the seal
Against British colonization, the Ottawa leader Pontiac led an
alliance of Ottawas, Algonquins, Senecas, Mingos, and Wyandots in
1763. The offensive captured nine of twelve English garrisons and laid
siege to Detroit for six months. Unable to expand the insurgency or
draw in promised French assistance, Pontiac eventually negotiated an
end to the conflict in 1766.
Added to this period of warfare was the continuing spread of disease
epidemics. In 1746 in Nova Scotia alone, 4,000 Micmacs had died of
With the defeat of France, the British had acquired vast regions of
formerly French territory, unbeknownst to the many First Nations who
lived on those lands, and with whom the French never negotiated any
land treaties nor recognized any form of Native title.
At this time,
"...the British government seized the opportunity to consolidate
its imperial position by structuring formal, constitutional
relations with...natives. In the Proclamation of 1763, it announced
its intention of conciliating those disgruntled tribes by
recognizing their land rights, by securing to them control of
unceded land, and by entering into a nation-to-nation relationship"
The Royal Proclamation of 1763 provided for a separate `Indian
Territory' west of the Appalachians and the original Thirteen
Colonies. Within this territory there was to be no purchasing of land
other than by the crown. In the colonies now under British control,
including Newfoundland, Labrador, Quebec, Nova Scotia, as well as the
Thirteen Colonies, settlers occupying unceded Native lands were to be
removed, and private purchases of lands occupied by or reserved for
Natives was prohibited -- these lands could only be purchased by the
crown in the presence of the First Nations.
[42Ds grand as these statements were, they were routinely violated by
colonialists and rarely enforced. Indeed, one year following the
proclamation, Lord Dunmore -- the governor of the Virginia colony --
had already breached the demarcation line by granting to veterans of
the `French and Indian War' who had served under him lands which were
part of the Shawnee nation. The Shawnee retaliation was not short in
coming, but Dunmore's challenge to British control was to precipitate
in form and substance another period of conflict that would see the
colonization process expand westward. And that period of conflict
would underline the real intent of the Royal Proclamation as a
strategic document in the defense of British colonial interests in
TRAGEDY: THE UNITED STATES IS CREATED
With the dominance of British power on a world scale, the European
struggle for hegemony in the Americas was nearing its end.
Subsequently, the 18th and 19th centuries were to be a period of wars
for independence that would force the European states out of the
Americas. Foremost among these wars was the independence struggle that
would lead to the birth of the United States.
Emerging from the `Great War for Empire', Britain found itself
victorious but also heavily in debt. To defray the cost of maintaining
and defending the colonies, Britain substantially changed its colonial
[69Dolicies. Large portions of the financial costs of the colonies were
placed directly on the colonies themselves through a series of taxes.
The imposition of the taxes incited the settlers to demand taxes b
imposed only with their consent. In fact, the question of taxes was
part of a wider debate; who should control and profit from
colonialism, the colonies or the colonial centres.
By 1775, settler protests and revolts had culminated into a general
war for independence that continued until 1783, when the British
capitulated and ceded large portions of its territories along the
That the British colonial forces did not lose more territory can be
attributed much to the participation of numerous First Nations on the
side of the British; the Royal Proclamation was thus a strategy to
dampen Native resistance to British colonialism (as in the eruption of
King George's War in 1744 when Micmacs allied themselves with the
French and, following the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748, continued
fighting the British, who then concluded a treaty of "Peace and
Friendship" with the Micmacs), as well as a method of forming military
alliances with First Nations, if not at least their neutrality in
As in previous European struggles, Indigenous peoples were used as
expendable troops, and the extensive militarization further
[57Dnsolidated settler control,
"The end of the war saw thousands of Whites, United Empire
Loyalists, flock to Nova Scotia. They came in such numbers and
spread so widely over the Maritime region that it was considered
necessary to divide Nova Scotia into three provinces to ease
[60Dadministrative problems; New Brunswick, Cape Breton, Nova
Scotia...and Ile St.-Jean, soon to be renamed Prince Edward Island"
To the south, the rebellious settlers were establishing their
newly-created United States. For the First Nations in this region, the
war had been particularly destructive; the colonial rebels had carri
out scorched-earth campaigns against the Shawnee, Delaware, Cherokee,
and the Haudenosaunee (which had suffered a split with the Oneidas and
Tuscaroras allying themselves with the revolutionaries).
Here again the Royal Proclamation remained a useful tool in
re-enforcing the British colonial frontier and retaining Native
"Adherence to the principles of the...Proclamation...remained the
basis of Britain's Indian policy for more than half a century, and
explains the success of the British in maintaining the Indians as
allies in Britain's wars in North America... Even when Britain lost
much of its North American territory after 1781, and its Indian
[62Dllies lost their traditional lands as a result of their British
alliance, the Crown purchased land from the Indians living within
British territory and gave it to their allies who moved north..."
Having consolidated the Thirteen Colonies along the Atlantic seaboard,
the independent United States quickly set about expanding westward,
launching military[11Cto extend the frontiers of settlement.
One of the first of these campaigns began in 1790 under the order of
President George Washington. Consisting of about 1,100 Pennsylvania,
Virginia, and Kentucky militiamen led by Brigadier General Josiah
Harmar, the force was quickly defeated by a confederacy of Miami,
Shawnee, Ojibway, Delaware, Potawatomi, and Ottawa warriors led by the
Miami chief Michikinikwa (Little Turtle). A second force was
dispatched and defeated in November, 1791. Finally, in 1794, a large
force led by General Anthony Wayne defeated the confederacy, now le
by Turkey Foot, near the shores of Lake Erie. Warriors who survived
made their way to the British Fort Miami garrison. But the British --
former allies of many of the First Nations in the confederacy during
the revolutionary war -- refused them shelter, and hundreds were
slaughtered at the gates by Wayne's soldiers. Although the confederacy
was essentially broken, the Miami would continue armed resistance up
The `Indian Wars' launched by the US continued for the next 100 years
following an exterminationist policy that was aimed at destroying
Native nations and securing those remnants who survived in (what was
then believed) barren and desolate reserves. Once the People were
contained in these Bantustans, the next step was the destruction of
Native culture under the auspices of then-emerging governmental
As the US moved to a higher level of war against First Nations, it
also began moving against competing European powers still present in
In 1812, using the pretext of Native raids along its northern frontier
from British territories, US forces attempted to invade British North
America. Here again, Britain's colonial policies proved effective; an
alliance of Native nations (who had their own interests in full
implementation of the 1763 Proclamation) and European settlers
succeeded in repulsing the US expansion. Among those who fought
against the US invasion were the Native leaders Tecumseh -- a Shawnee
chief who worked to form a Native confederacy against the Europeans
(and who argued that no one individual or grouping could sell the
lands, as it belonged to all the Native peoples); Black Hawk -- a
leader of the Sauk who would also lead future Native insurgencies; and
Joseph Brant -- a leader in the Haudenosaunee who was rewarded with a
large territory by the British and promptly began selling off
partitions to European settlers (in history, he is regarded as a
"hero" by Euro-Americans but a traitor by his people). Tecumseh was
killed in battle in the Battle of Moraviantown in Ontario in 1813.
In 1815, hostilities between Britain and the US were formally ended in
Treaty of Ghent, though neither the US war on Natives, or Native
REVOLUTIONS IN THE 'NEW WORLD'
Following the American Revolution, movements for independence began
breaking out in South and Central America.
Despite the seemingly monolithic appearance of Spanish or Portuguese
olonialism in the first three centuries following the European
invasion, and despite the genocidal policies of the conquistadors,
Native resistance continued. Particularly in, for example, the
interior region of the Yucatan Peninsula, the lowland forests of Peru,
the Amazon region, and even in the Andean highlands -- which had
suffered such a severe depopulation; between 1532 and 1625, the
[62Dopulation of the Andean peoples is estimated to have declined from 9
million to 700,000. In these regions, colonial domination was
continually challenged and formed the base for resistance movements
that began even in the 1500s.
Among the first of these revolts was the Vilacabamba rebellion of 1536
led by Manqu Inka. Although the insurgency was unable to expand and
failed to drive the Spanish out, the rebels were able to establish a
"liberated zone" in the Vilacabamba region of present-day Bolivia for
the next three decades . The ending of the initial revolt is
recognized as the execution of another leader, Tupac Amaru I in 1572.
Other major insurgencies also broke out in Ecuador in 1578, 1599, and
1615. The Itza of Tayasal in the Yucatan Peninsula remained
unsubjugated until 1697.
"Europeans found it particularly difficult to establish effective
transportation and communication facilities in the forest lowlands
of the Maya area... Though the Spaniards achieved formal
sovereignty over Yucatan with relative ease, many local Maya groups
successfully resisted effective domination...for centuries" .
Keeping pace with colonial developments in North America, the Spanish
introduced a series of laws in the 17th century known as the Leyes de
Indias. Similar to the later 1763 Proclamation introduced in British
North America, the laws partitioned the Andean region into a `Republic
of Spain' and a `Republic of Indians' -- each with its own separate
courts, laws and rights. The Leyes de Indias were, "from the point of
view of the colonial stat...a pragmatic measure to prevent the
extermination of the (Indigenous) labour force..." .
Despite its seeming "liberalism", forced labour accompanied by tax
laws remained in place, and the regulation was never fully enforced.
In 1742, Juan Santos Atahualpa led an Indigenous resistance movement
in Peru comprised largely of Yanesha (Amuesha) and Ashaninka (Campa)
peoples that fought off Spanish colonization for more than a century.
[In the 18th century, Indigenous resistance broke out in a major revolt
in the colony of Upper Peru (now Bolivia), led by Jose Gabriel Tupac
"Much has been written about the 1780 Indian rebellion led by Jose
Gabriel Tupaq Amaru and his successors; less is known about the
Chayanta and Sikasika revolts which occurred at the same time, the
latter led by Julian Apasa Tupaq Katari. For more than half a
century, colonial tax laws had provoked a groundswell of protest...
In mid-1780, an apparently spontaneous revolt broke out in Macha,
in the province of Chayanta, to free an Indian cacique, Tomas
Katari, jailed after a dispute with local mestizo authorities...
Then in November 1780, Jose Gabriel Tupaq Amaru led a
well-organized rebellion in Tungasuca, near Cuzco. Julian Apasa
Tupaq Katari, an Indian commoner from Sullkaw (Sikasika) rose up
and laid siege to La Paz from March to October 1781 during which
one fourth of the city's population died. After the defeat in April
1781 of Tupaq Amaru in Cuzco, the rebellion shifted to Azangaro,
where his relatives Andres and Diego Cristobal led the struggle.
Andres successfully laid siege to Sorata in August of that year,
but by November he and Diego Cristobal were forced to surrender to
the Spanish authorities. The rebellion was crushed by the beginning
of 1782" .
The leaders, perceived or real, were captured and executed; they were
quartered, decapitated, or burned alive.
[38D[While Indigenous resistance continued and frequently sent shock-waves
throughout the ranks of the colonialists -- including Spaniards and
Creoles (descendants of Spanish settlers in the Americas) -- the
colonies themselves began to experience movements for independence
comprised of Creoles and Mestizos.
[32D[The backgrounds to the movements for independence -- like in the US --
are found in the oppressive taxation and monopolistic trade laws
imposed by the colonial centers, both of which constrained the
economic growth of the colonies. As well, Creoles were generally
by-passed for colonial positions which went to agents born in Spain.
[The first major settler revolt was in 1809 in the colony of Upper Peru
(Bolivia), which succeeded in temporarily overthrowing Spanish
authorities. In 1810 Colombia declared its independence, followed one
year later by Venezuela. In 1816, Argentina declared its independence,
and the next year General Jose de San Martin led troops across the
Andes to "liberate Chile and Peru from the Royalist forces". Wars for
independence spread quickly, and Spanish royalist forces lost one
colony after another in decisive conflicts, culminating in the Battle
of Ayacucho in 1824 in Peru, which effectively diminished Spain's
domination in the Americas (which was already dampened by Napoleon's
invasion of Spain in the same period).
Although the independence movements succeeded in overthrowing Spanish
and Portuguese forces, they were led by, and in the interests of,
Creole elites -- with the assistance of land-owners and merchants,
"...the revolutions for independent state formation in the Americas
in the late 18th and early 19th centuries must be seen as being in
the mode of European nation-state formation for the purpose of
capitalist development. Although they were anti-`mother country',
they were not anti-colonial (just as the formation of Rhodesia and
South Africa as states were not anti-colonial events)" .
The present-day Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador
(CONAIE) describes the independence of Ecuador, for example, as
"not mean(ing) any change in our living conditions; it was nothing
more than the passage of power from the hands of the Spaniards to
the hands of the Creoles" .
As in the US example, the newly-independent states quickly set about
consolidating their positions politically and militarily and pursuing
The result was an eruption of wars between the independent states over
borders, trade, and ultimately for resources. In 1884 the War of the
Pacific began, involving Bolivia, Chile, and Peru in a dispute over
access to nitrate resource. From 1865-70, Argentina, Brazil, and
Uruguay allied themselves against Paraguay in the bloody War of the
Triple Alliance -- a war in which Paraguay lost a large amount of its
male population -- primarily Guarani.
[35D[As in North America, these and other conflicts most adversely affected
the First Nations peoples. The majority of those who died in the Wa
of the Triple Alliance were Native. As well, the militarization that
occurred created large reserves of well-equipped, combat-experienced
troops. In Argentina and Chile, these military reserves were directed
against invading then unsubjugated regions where Mapuche resistance
had persisted for centuries. Between 1865 and 1885, a militarized
frontier existed from which attacks against the Mapuche were
conducted. Tens of thousands of Mapuche were killed, the survivors
dispersed to reservation areas.
In the 1870s, the development of vulcanization in Europe led to an
invasion of the Upper Amazon regions of Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador,
Peru, and Bolivia -- where rubber trees would eventually supply the
world market. In the Putumayo river region of northern Peru and
Colombia alone, 40,000 Natives were killed between 1886 and 1919 (by
1920, it's estimated that the depopulation of the rubber areas had
reached 95% in some areas) .
It was in this post-independence period that -- arising from the
complete transition from Feudalism to capitalism in Europe -- new
forms of European domination were being introduced. Briefly, this
consisted of the introduction of bank loans directed primarily at
developing infrastructures for the export of raw and manufactured
materials: roads, railways, and ports, particularly in the mining an
ricultural industries. In the 1820s, English banks loaned over 21
million pounds to former Spanish colonies. Through the debts, and the
subsequent import of European technology and machinery necessary for
large-scale mining and agribusiness -- necessary to begin repayment of
the loans -- dependence was gradually established (and continues today
in the form of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank,
controlled by the G-7 ).
During the same period, the US was also setting footholds in the
region. In 1853, five years after gold was discovered in previously
unknown areas in Central America, US marines invaded Nicaragua. In
898, following the Spanish-American War, Puerto Rico and Cuba were
annexed to the US (Puerto Rico remains today as the last US colonial
nation). As well, US forces occupied the Philippines -- carrying out
massacres of men, women, and children -- and Hawaii came under US
[63Dntrol in 1893. With these actions the US established itself as an
emerging capitalist power, and the eventual extent of US imperialism
was beginning to take shape.
On a global scale, the development of imperialism had now establishe
itself internationally; the full division of the world between
predominantly European powers and the US was complete (and would
[59Dly lead to two world wars).
MANIFEST DESTINY AND THE US `INDIAN WARS'
While the US was in the process of establishing itself as an
imperialist world power, it was still struggling to consolidate itself
as a continental base and countering armed resistance by First
Prior to the US-British War of 1812, Louisiana was purchased from
France, in 1803, and Spain had ceded Florida in 1819. By 1824, the
Bureau of Indian Affairs was organized as part of the War Department.
Military campaigns were launched against First Nations, from the
Shawnee of the Mississippi Valley to the Seminole in Florida. At the
same time, the legalistic instruments for occupation were being
introduced. In 1830 the Indian Removal Act was implemented, and in
1834 Congress reorganized the various departments dealing with Indian
repression by creating the US Department of Indian Affairs, and the
Indian Trade and Intercourse Act which redefined the `Indian
Territory' and `Permanent Indian Frontier'. The `Indian Territory' had
been previously defined in 1825 as lands west of the Mississippi.
Following the formation of the territories of Wisconsin and Iowa, the
frontier was extended from the Mississippi to the 95th meridian.
The Indian Removal Act was directed at forced relocation of Natives
east of the 95th meridian to the west of it. In 1838, US troops forced
thousands of Cherokee into concentration camps, from which they were
forced westward on the Trail of Tears. In the midst of winter, one out
of every four Cherokees died from cold, hunger, or diseases. Many
other nations were forcibly relocated: the Choctaws, Chickasaws,
Creeks, Shawnees, Miamis, Ottawas, Wendats and Delawares. The
`Permanent Indian Frontier' was a militarized line of US garrisons,
similar to that in Argentina and Chile during the same period.
But the `Indian Frontier' was not to hold. Like the British Royal
Proclamation of 1763, the restrictions on Europeans settling or
trading in these regions were routinely ignored. With the US
annexation of northern Mexico in 1848, the US acquired the territories
of Texas, California, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado. The same
year, gold was discovered in California. With these two events, the
large-scale invasion of the `Indian Territory' was underway. Under the
ideology of Manifest Destiny, the US was to launch a renewed period of
genocidal war against those regions and First Nations which remained
unsubjugated. The theatre of war extended from the Great Lakes region
around Minnesota, south of the Rio Grande, and west to California,
xtending north to Washington state. It was a period of war which
involved many First Nations: the Lakota, Cheyenne, Commanche, Kiowa,
Yakima, Nez Perce, Walla Walla, Cayuse, Arapaho, Apache, Navajo,
Shoshone, Kickapoos, and many others. It was also a war from which
many Native leaders would leave a legacy of struggle that, like those
struggles in South and Mesoamerica, would remain as symbols of
resistance to the European colonization: Crazy Horse, Tatanka Yotanka
(Sitting Bull), Ten Bears, Victorio, Geronimo, Quanah Parker, Wovoka,
Black Kettle, Red Cloud, Chief Joseph, and so many others.
Although the `Indian Wars' of this period were by no means one-sided
-- the US forces suffered many defeats -- the US colonial forces
succeeded in gradually and ruthlessly gaining dominance. Various
factors contributed to this, following the patterns of previous
campaigns against Native peoples: the continuing spread of diseases
such as measles, smallpox, and cholera (between 1837-70, at least four
major smallpox epidemics swept through the western plains, and between
1850-60 a cholera epidemic hit the Great Basin and southern plains);
the use of informers and traitors; and the overwhelming strength of US
forces in both weaponry and numbers of soldiers. Combined with
outright treachery and policies of extermination, these factors
continued to erode the strength of once-powerful First Nations.
One of the major turning points in this period can be seen as the US
AFRIKAN SLAVERY, AFRIKAN REBELLION, AND THE US CIVIL WAR
Ostensibly a moral crusade to "abolish slavery", the US Civil War of
1861-65 was in reality a conflict between the commercial and
industrial development of the North against the agrarian stagnation
based on Afrikan peoples' slave-labour of the South.
By the 19th century, 10 to 15 million Afrikan peoples had been
relocated to the Americas by first Portuguese, then English, Spanish,
and US colonialists. These peoples came from all regions of Afrika:
Senegal, the Ivory Coast, Angola, Mozambique, etc. -- and from many
Afrikan Nations: the Yoruba, Kissi, Senefu, Foulah, Fons, Adjas, and
Enslaved, these peoples were forced to labour in the mines, textile
mills, factories, and plantations that served first the European
markets and, after the wars for independence, the newly-created
nation-states of the Americas.
The slave-trade in both American and Afrikan Indigenous peoples was
absolutely necessary for the European colonization of the Americas.
The forced relocation of millions of Afrikan peoples also introduced
new dynamics into the colonization process; not only in the economics
of European occupation, but also in the development of Afrikan
As early as 1526, Afrikan slaves had rebelled in a short-lived Spanish
colony in South Carolina, and after their escape took refuge amongst
First Nations peoples. In the Caribbean and South America, where
Afrikan slavery was first centered, large revolts frequently broke out
and escaped Afrikan slaves took refuge amongst Caribs and Arawaks. In
Northeast Brazil, an Afrikan rebellion succeeded in organizing the
territory of Palmares -- which grew to one-third the size of Portugal.
Probably one of the most famous Afrikan and Native alliances was the
example of the escaped Afrikan slaves and the Seminole in Florida. The
escaped Afrikans had "formed liberated Afrikan communities as a
semi-autonomous part of the sheltering Seminole Nation" .
Together, these two peoples would carry out one of the strongest
resistance struggles against the US. The so-called Seminole Wars began
in 1812 when Georgia vigilantes attempted to recapture Afrikans for
enslavement, and continued for thirty years under the US campaign of
relocations. The Seminole Wars, under the fanatical direction of
President Jackson, were the most costly of the US `Indian Wars'; over
1,600 US soldiers were killed and thousands wounded at the cost of
some $30 million. Even after this, the Seminole-Afrikan guerrillas
remained unsubjugated. The solidarity between the Afrikans and the
Seminoles is most clear in the second Seminole War of 1835. The
Seminoles, under Osceola, refused to accept relocation to Oklahoma --
one of the key disagreements also being the US insistence on
separation of the Afrikans from their Seminole brothers and sisters.
The US forces relaunched their war, and were never able to achieve a
By the mid-1800s, slavery was viewed by some parts of the US ruling
class as an obstacle to economic growth and expansion. The
anti-slavery campaign, led by the North, was a practical effort to
free land and labour from the limitations of the closed system of
plantation agriculture based on slave labour;
"Slavery had become an obstacle to both the continued growth of
settler society and the interests of the Euro-Amerikan bourgeoisie.
It was not that slavery was unprofitable itself. It was, worker for
worker, much more profitable than white wage-labour. Afrikan slaves
in industry cost the capitalists less than one-third the wages of
white workingmen... But the American capitalists needed to greatly
expand their labour force. While the planters believed that
importing new millions of Afrikan slaves would most profitably meet
this need, it was clear that this would only add fuel to the fires
of the already insurrectionary Afrikan colony. Profit had to be
seen not only in the squeezing of a few more dollars on a
short-term, individual basis, but in terms of the needs of an
entire Empire and its future. And it was not just the demand for
labour alone that outmoded the slave system. Capitalism needed
giant armies of settlers, waves and waves of new European
shock-troops to help conquer and hold new territory, to develop it
for the bourgeoisie and garrison it against the oppressed" .
The "insurrectionary fires" had already dealt the occupation forces a
shocking blow in 1791 in the Haitian Revolution. Afrikan slaves, led
in part by Toussaint L'Ouverture, rebelled and defeated Spanish,
English, and French forces, establishing the Haitian Republic that
offered citizenship to any Native or Afrikan peoples who wanted it.
[There were also increasing revolts within the US, including the 1800
revolt in Virginia led by Gabriel Prosser, and Nat Turner's revolt in
1831 which killed sixty settlers.
"The situation became more acute as the developing capitalist
economy created trends of urbanization and industrialization. In
the early 1800s the Afrikan population of many cities was rising
faster than that of Euro-Americans" .
[41D[The revolts led by Gabriel and Turner had caused discussions in the
Virginia legislature on ending slavery, and public rallies had been
held in Western Virginia demanding an all-white Virginia.
[56D[Combined, these factors led the North to agitate for an end to slavery
as one specific form of exploitation. In turn, the Southern states,
led by plantation owners and slavers, threatened to secede from the
Union. The Civil War began.
BLACK RECONSTRUCTION AND DECONSTRUCTION
[35D beginning of the US Civil War in 1861 posed various problems for
the northern Union ruling class. Not only was the war for the
preservation of an expanding continental empire, but it also opened up
a second front: that of a liberation struggle by enslaved Afrikan
peoples. With a population of four million, the rising of these
Afrikans in the South proved crucial in the defeat of the Confederacy.
By the tens of thousands, Afrikan slaves escaped from the slavers and
enlisted in the Union forces. This massive withdrawal of slave-labour
hit the Southern economy hard, and the Northern forces were bolstered
by the thousands.
Towards the end of the War in 1865, those Afrikans who did not escape
began a large-scale strike following the defeat of the Confederacy.
They claimed the lands that they had laboured on, and began arming
themselves -- not only against the Southern planters but also against
the Union army. Widespread concerns about this `dangerous position' of
Afrikans in the South led to `Black Reconstruction'; Afrikans were
promised "democracy, human rights, self-government and popular
ownership of the land".
In reality, it was a strategy for returning Euro-American dominance
"1. The military repression of the most organized and militant
2. Pacifying the Afrikan peoples by neo-colonialism, using elements
of the Afrikan petit-bourgeoisie to led their people into embracing
US citizenship as the answer to all problems. Instead of nationhood
and liberation, the neo-colonial agents told the masses that their
democratic demands could be met by following the Northern settler
Following this strategy, Union army forces attacked Afrikan
communities who were occupying land, forcing tens of thousands off
collectively held land and arresting the "leaders". Afrikan troops who
had fought in the Union army were quickly disarmed and dispersed, or
sent to fight as colonial troops in the ongoing "Indian Wars". White
supremacist terrorist organizations formed, one of the most infamous
-- but not the only -- being the Ku Klux Klan.
Under the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, Afrikans became US
citizens, including the right to vote. Through the neo-colonialist
strategy of Reconstruction, Afrikans were able to push through reforms
including integrated juries, protective labour reforms, divorce and
property rights for women, and an involvement in local government.
[However, even these small reforms were too much for Southern Whites.
Reconstruction was vigorously resisted -- not only by former slaves
and planters but also by poor Whites who flocked to organizations such
as the KKK, White Caps, White Cross, and the White League. Thousands
of Afrikans were killed during state elections as the White
supremacist groups conducted terrorist campaigns aimed at countering
the gains of Reconstruction and preserving White supremacy.
"In 1876-77, the final accommodation between Northern capital and
the Southern planters was reached in the `Hayes-Tilden deal'. The
South promised to accept the dominance of the Northern bourgeoisi
over the entire Empire, and to permit the Republican candidate
Rutherford B. Hayes to succeed Grant in the US Presidency. In
return, the Northern bourgeoisie agreed to let the planters have
regional hegemony over the South, and to withdraw the last of the
occupying Union troops so that the Klan could take care of the
Afrikans as they wished. While the guarded remnants of
Reconstruction held out here and there for some years (Afrikan
Congressmen were elected from the South until 1895), the critical
year of 1877 marked their conclusive defeat" .
Not insignificantly during this same period, Northern working clas
Whites were engaged in a vicious class struggle for an 8 hour work
day, even as Afrikans were under attack by the KKK and other racist
rganizations. And, at the same time, little notice was made of the
military extermination campaigns being carried out against Native
During the War, many First Nations attempted to remain "neutral" in
the South, although some promises by the Confederacy for land
stimulated some First Nations to side with the South. But "neutrality"
is not the same as passive; Native peoples continued their own
resistance to colonization. From 1861-63 the Apaches led by Cochise
and Mangas Colorado fought occupation forces, a resistance that would
continue until 1886 when Geronimo was captured. The Santee also
engaged the US military from 1862-63 led by Little Crow. In 1863-64,
this war would shift to North Dakota under the Teton. In 1863, the
Western Shoshone fought settlers and attacked military patrols and
supply routes in Utah and Idaho. That same year, the Navajo rebelled
in New Mexico and Arizona.
With the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869,
settlement of the West increased rapidly. The militarization from the
Civil War, and the ability to supply and facilitate large-scale
military operations, opened up the final period in the "Indian Wars".
In the post-Civil War period, the genocidal process of colonization
was to enter a new phase, even at the price of thousands of US troops
dead and wounded, and each dead Indian coming at the price of $1
million. By 1885, the last great herd of buffalo would be slaughtered
by Euro-American hunters -- this also forming a part of the
counter-insurgency strategy of depriving the Plains Indians of their
primary food source. Five years later, 350 Lakotas would be massacred
at Chankpe Opi Wakpala, the creek called Wounded Knee.
THE COLONIZATION OF CANADA
In contrast to the US campaign of extermination, the colonization
process in Canada lacked the large-scale military conflicts that
characterized the US "Indian Wars". Although many Euro-Canadians 
would like to believe that these differences in colonization lie in
fundamentally different values, cultures, etc., they are no more than
the result of differences in colonial practises rooted in basic
economic needs and strategies. As can be seen in the aftermath of
US War for Independence, there followed a period of rapid expansion
and settlement. Following the consolidation of the "13 British
colonies along the North Atlantic, and armed with a pre-imperialist
thrust (the Monroe Doctrine and the ideology of `manifest destiny'),
the entrepreneurs controlling the new state machinery dispatched their
itary forces rapidly across North America" .
Canada, on the other hand, did not fight a war for independence and
remained firmly a part of the British Empire.
As previously discussed, the first major colonization of what would
become eastern "Canada" was carried out by France. Between 1608 and
1756, some 10,000 French settlers had arrived in Canada. The "French
and Indian Wars" of the 18th century resulted in the defeat of the
French forces; the subsequent Treaty of 1763 established British rule
over New France (now Quebec). With the Quebec Act of 1774, the
province of Quebec was expanded, British criminal law established, and
the feudal administration implemented by France remained largely
unchanged. Conflicts related to civil matters and property remained
regulated under French civil law. The seigneurial system, a feudal
system in which the land of the province was given in grant from the
King to seigneurs (usually lower nobility and from the Church), who,
in turn, rented the land to peasants in return for an annual rent
(called tithes, payable in goods of products raised on the land), was
continued. As with the 1763 Royal Proclamation, the Quebec act secured
the loyalty of the French clergy and aristocracy in the US War for
As a result of the wars of the 18th century, French settlement had
grown to 60,000 as soldiers employed by France swelled the French
population. The expansion of the province under the Quebec Act had
seized a large portion of the "Indian territory" and placed it under
Crown jurisdiction. Following the US War for Independence, some 40,000
loyalists fled the former British colonies and settled in Canada,
occupying more Native lands -- particularly that of the Haudenosaunee.
British colonial authorities went to some lengths to acquire land
while placating the still geo-militarily important Indians .
While the colonialists were busy consolidating the administration of
"British North America", the Pacific Northwest was coming under
Beginning in 1774, the first recorded colonizers into the area of
British Columbia came aboard the Spanish ship Santiago. Four years
later, an expedition led by James Cook descended upon the area,
leading to the establishment of a large and profitable fur trade. The
dominance of the fur trade would last until around 1854 when European
settlement began to increase rapidly along with the mining and logging
industries. As a result[8Cearly dominance of the fur trade, which
relied on Native collaboration, British colonizers curtailed their
military operations. Nevertheless, conflicts did erupt, primarily
against British depredations. As more ships frequented the area,
clashes spread with attacks on colonial vessels and the shelling of
Even before European settlement in BC, the impact of the traders was
disastrous. For example, from 1835 when the first census was taken of
the Kwakwaka-wakw nation, to 1885, there was between a 70 to 90
percent reduction in population (from around 10,700 to 3,000) . In
an all too familiar pattern, the intrusion of European traders had set
to motion disease epidemics, even as early as the 1780s and `90s. In
1836, a smallpox epidemic hit the northern coast, and the fur trade
was "depressed all that winter and the following spring" .
Following an invasion of gold hunters into the region in 1858, one of
the most devastating epidemics struck in 1862, killing at least 20,000
Meanwhile, in British North America, the geo-military importance of
the First Nations was quickly being eroded. With the influx of
loyalists after the US War for Independence, the European population
had grown and was strategically garrisoned in key military areas --
conflicts with the US were predicted. As well as further increasing
the European population in the region, the War of 1812 and US policies
of moving Natives from the northern frontier had broken up
confederacies and greatly diminished the power of the First Nations in
the area. After this, British colonial policies changed from
essentially forming military alliances to a higher level of
colonization through policies of breaking down the collective power of
First Nations. Christianiz[6Cand an overall Europeanization of
Native peoples was developed as official policy. By the 1850s, an
strument had been created to this end: "The Gradual Civilization Act
"The Act was based upon the assumption that the full civilization
of the tribes could be achieved only when Indians were brought into
contact with individualized property... Any Indian...adjudged by a
special board of examiners to be educated, free from debt, and of
good moral character could on application be awarded twenty
hectares of land..." .
Here, the "civilization of the tribes" should be read as the
elimination of the basis of Native cultures and de facto[Cthe First
Nations as nations. The twenty hectares of land was to be taken from
the reserve land base, subsequently breaking up the collective and
mmunitarian land practises of Native peoples and replacing these
with individual parcels of land; all the easier, from the viewpoint of
the colonizer, to achieve the long-term goal of completely eliminating
First Nations as nations and leaving nothing but dispersed,
acculturated, peoples to be assimilated into European society. The
patriarchal dimensions of forced-assimilation were also clear: only
males could be so enfranchised . A Commission of Inquiry had
further recommended that reserve lands be restricted to a maximum of
25 acres per family, and that Native organization be gradually
replaced with a municipal form of government.
At the same time, new methods in acquiring land were developed.
Beginning on 1850 and continuing into the 20th century, a series
treaties were "negotiated" in which Native nations ceded immense
tracts of land in return for reserve land, hunting and fishing rights,
education, medical care, and the payment of annuities. The first such
treaties were the Robinson treaties, which would be renegotiated in
1871 as Treaties No. 1 and No. 2.
"The relationship between the immediate requirements of the
internal imperialist expansion and the treaties is remarkable. The
first of these treaties was sought, according to a 19th century
historian's first-hand report, `in consequence of the discovery of
minerals on the shores of Lake Huron and Superior'... The prairie
treaties were obtained immediately in advance of agricultural
settlement, and the treaty which includes parts of the Northwest
Territories was negotiated immediately upon the discovery of oil in
the Mackenzie Valley" .
While the colonizers knew what they wanted in proposing the treaties,
Native peoples were unprepared for the duplicity and dishonour of the
treaty-seekers. When a commission journeyed to the Northwest
Territories to investigate unfulfilled provisions of Treaties 8 and
11, they found that
"At a number of meetings, Indians who claimed to have been present
at the time when the Treaties were signed stated that they
definitely did not recall hearing about the land entitlement in the
Treaties. They explained that poor interpreters were used and their
chiefs and head men had signed even though they did not know what
the Treaties contained" .
[29D[The treaties were important aspects of the plan for the expansion
Canada westward and economic development based on resource extraction
and agriculture. Indeed, the Confederation of Canada in the British
North America Act of 1867 was aimed primarily at consolidating the
then-existing eastern provinces and facilitating in this westward
expansion; the primary instruments seen as a trans-Canada railway,
telegraph lines, and roads. Expansion as seen not only as economically
necessary but also politically urgent as the US was expanding westward
at the same time.
The invasion of the prairie regions was not without conflict. The most
significant resistance in this period was that of the Metis peoples --
descendants of primarily French and Scottish settlers and Cree -- in
what would become Manitoba. The Red River Rebellion, also known as the
First Riel rebellion after Louis Riel, a Metis leader, erupted
following an influx of Euro-Canadian settlers and the purchase of
territory from the controlling Hudsons Bay Company, by the government
of Canada. The rebellion was directed against the annexation of the
territory over the Metis -- who numbered some 10,000 in the region. A
force of 400 armed Metis seized a small garrison and demanded
democratic rights for the Metis in the Confederation. The following
year the Manitoba Act made the territory a province. However, fiftee
years later in 1885 the Metis along with hundreds of Cree warriors
under the chiefs Big Bear and Opetecahanawaywin (Poundmaker) were
again engaged in widespread armed resistance against colonization. For
almost four months the resistance continued against thousands of
government troops which, unlike in 1870, were no transported quickly
and en masse on the new Canadian Pacific railway. After several
clashes the Metis and Cree warriors were eventually defeated; the Cree
and Metis guerrillas imprisoned, killed in battles or executed.
Another Metis leader, Gabriel Dumont, escaped to the US.
The Metis and Cree resistance of 1885 was the final chapter of armed
resistance in the 19th century. However, the use of military force in
controlling Native peoples was already being bypassed by the Indian
Act of 1876, itself a reaffirmation and expansion on previous
legislation concerning Native peoples. This Act, with subsequent
additions and changes, remains the basis of Native legislation in
Under the Indian Act, the federal government through its Department of
Indian Affairs is given complete control over the economic, social,
and political affairs of Native communities. More than just a
legislative instrument to administer "Indian affairs", the Indian Act
was and is an attack on the very foundations of the First Nations as
nations. Besides restricting hunting and fishing, criminalizing
independent economic livelihood (ie. in 1881 the Act made it illegal
for Natives to "sell, barter or traffic fish"), the Act also declared
who was and who was not an Indian, it removed "Indian status" from
Native women who married a non-Native, and criminalized vital aspects
of Native organization and culture such as the potlatch, the
sun-dance, and pow-wow. Everything that formed the political, social,
and economic bases of Native societies was restricted; the culture was
attacked because it stood as the final barrier of resistance to
European colonization. In the area of political organization,
"The Indian Act (of 1880) created a new branch of the civil service
that was to be called the Department of Indian Affairs. It once
again empowered the superintendent general to impose the elective
system of band government... In addition, this new legislation
allowed the superintended general to deprive the traditional
leaders of recognition by stating that the only spokesmen of the
band were those men elected according to...the Indian Act" .
In 1894, amendments to the Act authorized the forced relocation of
Native children to residential boarding schools, which were seen as
superior to schools on the reserves because it removed the children
rom the influence of the Native community. Isolated children in the
total control of Europeans were easier to break; Native languages were
forbidden and all customs, values, religious traditions and even
clothing were to be replaced by European forms. Sexual and physical
abuse were common characteristics of these schools, and their effects
have been devastatingly effective in partially acculturating
generations of Native peoples.
The Indian Act followed earlier legislation in that the long-term
objective was the assimilation of Christianized Natives, gradually
removing any "special status" for Native peoples and eliminating
reserves and treaty rights; all of which would make the complete
exploitation of the land a simple task. As part of this strategy of
containing and repressing Native peoples who did not assimilate, and
who were thus an obstacle to the full expansion of Canada, the Indian
Act also denied the right to vote to Native peoples and implemented a
pass system similar if not the forerunner to the Pass Laws in the
Bantustans of South Africa (it should also be noted that Asian peoples
were denied the right to vote as well and were subjected to viciously
racist campaigns in BC by both the government and the labour movement;
only in 1950 were Native and Asian peoples given this "illustrious"
EXTERMINATION - ASSIMILATION: TWO METHODS, ONE GOAL
In the early 1900s, the population of Native peoples in North America
had reached their lowest point. In the US alone this population had
declined to some 250,000. As in Canada, Native peoples had been
consigned to largely desolate land areas and the process of
assimilation began through government agencies such as the Bureau of
Indian Affairs. Here too, residential schools, criminalization of
Native cultures, and control of political and economic systems were
the instruments used. Native peoples, like those in Canada, were
viewed as obstacles to be crushed in the drive for profits.
In both countries, resistance to this assimilation continued in
various forms: potlatches and sun-dances were continued in
clandestinity and the elected band councils opposed. As well, Native
peoples began forming organizations to work against government
polices. In 1912, the Alaska Native Brotherhood was formed by the
Tlingit and Tsimshian at Sikta. That same year, the Nishga Land Claims
Petition was presented to the Canadian government concerning the
recognition of aboriginal title; no treaties had or have been signed
with First Nations in BC -- with the exception of a north-eastern
corner of BC included in Treaty No. 8 and some minor treaties on
Vancouver Island. Yet Natives in BC had found themselves dispossessed
of their territory and subjected to the Indian Act. In 1916 the Nishga
joined with the interior Salish and formed another inter-tribal
organization, the Allied Tribes of BC. Funds were raised, meetings
held, and petitions sent to Ottawa. In 1927, a special Joint Committee
of the Senate and House of Commons found that Natives had "not
established any claim to the lands of BC based on aboriginal or other
itle" . That same year Section 141 was added to the Indian Act
prohibiting "raising money and prosecuting claims to land or retaining
While the European nations would lead the world into two great wars
for hegemony, political instability and economic depredations formed
the general pattern in South and Central America. Military regimes
backed by US and British imperialism carried out genocidal policies
and severe repression against Indigenous peoples. As in North America,
Indigenous peoples were consigned to desolate reserve lands where the
state or missionaries retained control over political, economic,
social and cultural systems. However, in contrast to the colonization
of North America, where Native peoples were viewed as irrelevant to
economic expansion, the Indians of South and Central America remain
as substantial sources of exploited labour. With the large-scale
investments from the imperialist centres in the form of loans, the
export of primary resources took priority. The "rubber boom" was one
example, where tens of thousands of Indians died in forced labour,
relocations, and massacres carried out by large "land owners",
companies, and hired death squads.
"In the wake of the rubber boom, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru became
battlegrounds for a war between oil companies. Subsidiaries of
Shell and Exxon fought for exploration rights in the Amazon, even
to the extent of becoming involved in a border war between Ecuador
and Peru in 1941... In Brazil...87 Indian groups were wiped out in
the first half of the 20th century from contact with expanding
colonial frontiers -- especially rubber and mining in the
northwest, cattle in the northeast, agriculture in the south and
east, and from road building throughout all regions" .
While policies of forced assimilation were occasionally articulated,
military and paramilitary forces were to remain an essential part of
controlling Native communities and opening up territories to
exploitation. The most violent manifestation of this repression came
El Salvador in 1932, where as many as 30,000 people, primarily
Indian peasants, were massacred following an uprising against the
military dictatorship that took power the year prior. While the
massacres were carried out under the guise of "anti-communism", US and
Canadian naval vessels stood offshore, and US Marines in Nicaragua
were put on alert. However, "It was found unnecessary for the US...and
British forces to land" the US Chief of Naval Operations would testify
before Congress, "as the Salvadoran government had the situation in
hand" . During the same period in Colombia, the Indian leader
Quintin Lame helped initiate struggles for land and developed an
Indigenous philosophy of resistance; in the early 1980s, his legacy
would live on in the Indian guerrilla group "Commando Quintin Lame".
Gonzalo Sanchez was another leader who helped organize the Supreme
Council of Indians in Natagaima, Colombia, in 1920.
After World War 2, significant changes in the world capitalist economy
would see increased penetration of the Amazon and other lowland forest
regions in South America. In the post-War period, the US emerged in a
dominant position in the world economy and would subsequently move to
open up markets for economic expansion. In Western Europe and Japan,
as part of the Marshall Plan, some $30 billion in loans and aid was
pumped into the economies to rebuild these countries as US markets
and, not insignificantly, as a base of containment against the USSR
(military alliances were also created through NATO and SEATO,
positioned against the East Bloc).
South and Central America were to be brought firmly under US control,
a process begun during the early 1900s as the US moved to replace
Britain as the dominant imperialist nation in the region, even paying
off debts owned to Britain. As part of the US post-War plans, South
and Central America would also receive billions of dollars in direct
financial aid from the US and from private transnational banks. This
aid allowed the "underdeveloped" countries to industrialize by
importing modern technology from the US (in fact, as part of US
financial aid, the loans had to be spent in the US). The enormous
debts incurred in this process guaranteed dependence and opened up
these countries to multinational corporations. As well, international
organizations such as the World Bank, International Bank for
Reconstruction and Development, and the Agency for International
Development (AID) were formed to provide multilateral funding aimed
largely at the agro-export sectors, resource extraction,
hydro-electric projects and infrastructure (roads, communications,
etc.) necessary for the development of those industries. Linked to
this "aid" scheme is the International Monetary Fund, which doesn't
fund specific projects but instead steps in with balance of payments
support when a country is unable to pay its debts.
These projects and the overall industrialization opened up areas for
further exploitation; penetration of areas such as the Amazon and
large-scale expropriations accelerated in the 1960s, further
devastating Indigenous peoples and leading to renewed campaigns of
Of course, all this economic restructuring did not occur without
growing resistance. With growing movements against imperialism,
including peasant unions, students, workers, guerrillas and Indians, a
substantial part of the "aid" included military training, weapons, and
equipment. US Special Forces troopers were not only in Southeast Asia,
they were also quite busy in Central America, training death squads
and directing massacres. As part of an overall counter-insurgency
campaign, the militarization alone precipitated an upward spiral of
violence. In Guatemala alone, between 1966-68, some 8,000 people were
slaughtered by Guatemalan soldiers under the direction of US Green
Beret advisors; US pilots flew US planes on bombing missions.
Paramilitary groups/death squads hunted down "subversives" in
collaboration with the government, military, multinationals, and
land-owners . The main targets of this campaign, dubbed "Operation
Guatemala", were the Mayan peoples.
Another aspect of the counter-insurgency plans was that of population
control. Primarily the focus of US state-funding, the Agency for
International Development (AID) was established in 1961. Using the
false pretext of an "over-population problem" being the cause of mass
poverty and starvation -- instead of imperialism -- population control
came to be championed as the most important dilemma facing the "modern
world". Under the guise of "family planning", AID began funding for a
wide-range of public and private organizations, foundations, and
churches who provided training, equipment, and clinics for birth
control programs. Between 1968 and 1972, "funds earmarked for
population programs through legislation and obligated by AID amounted
to more than $250 million" . South America received the largest
percentage of this funding. Besides educational material, birth
control pills, IUDs, and other pharmaceuticals developed by a
profitable gene and biotechnology industry in the imperialist centres,
the main thrust of population control remains sterilization. Between
1965-71, an estimated 1 million women in Brazil had been sterilized
. In Puerto Rico, 34% of all women of child-bearing age had been
sterilized by 1965 . Between 1963-65, more than 40,000 women in
Colombia had been sterilized . In contrast to these programs in
the "Third World", the imperialist centres see restrictions on
abortion and struggles for women's reproductive choice. But even here
there is a double standard for non-European women:
"Lee Brightman, United Native Americans President, estimates that
of the Native population of 800,000 (in the US), as many as 42% of
the women of childbearing age and 10% of the men...have been
sterilized... The first official inquiry into the sterilization of
Native women...by Dr. Connie Uri...reported that 25,000 Indian
women had been permanently sterilized within Indian Health Services
facilities alone through 1975...
"According to a 1970 fertilization study, 20% of married Black
women had been sterilized, almost three times the percentage of
white married women. There was a 180% rise in the number of
sterilizations performed during 1972-73 in New York City municipal
hospitals which serve predominantly Puerto Rican neighbourhoods"
Similar results were found in Inuit communities in the Northwest
Territories. Clearly, "overpopulation" is not an issue in North
America, nor is it in South or Central America. Rather, it is a method
for reducing specific portions of the population who would organize
against their oppression and who have no place in the schemes of
capital. In other words, "It is more effective to kill guerrillas in
[Of all the South American countries that underwent massive
industrialization after World War 2, Brazil is probably the most well
known. Following a 1964 coup backed by the US, IMF and multinationals,
foreign investment rose steadily. Between 1964-71, over $4 billion had
been pumped into Brazil through the World Bank, AID, IDB, and others
.[Between 1900-57, the Indigenous population of Brazil had declined from
over 1 million to less than 200,000 , through the rubber boom,
ranching, and mining industries. Following the 1964 coup and the rise
in foreign investment, the penetration of the Amazon region in
particular was increased. As these industries invaded even more Indian
lands, a renewed campaign of extermination accompanied them. Indians
were hunted down by death squads, their communities bombed and
massacred, and disease epidemics purposely spread through injections
and infected blankets. In the 1960s alone,
"Of the 19,000 Monducurus believed to have existed in the 30s, only
1200 were left. The strength of the Guaranis had been reduced from
5,000 to 300. There were 400 Carajas left out of 4,000. Of the
Cintas Largas, who had been attacked from the air and driven into
the mountains, possibly 500 had survived out of 10,000... Some like
the Tapaiunas -- in this case from a gift of sugar laced with
arsenic -- had disappeared altogether" .
All these atrocities were part of a "pacification" campaign aimed at
eliminating the Indians, who here too were seen as obstacles to
"development". The government agencies responsible for "Indian
affairs" were some of the worst agents in this campaign, so much so
that the poorly-named Indian Protection Service had to be disbanded
and replaced by the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI). Not
surprisingly, the only real changes were in the names. By 1970, plans
for building an extensive road system for all the industries that had
recently invaded the Amazon were announced. The following year, the
president of FUNAI signed a decree which read "Assistance to the
Indian will be as complete as possible, but cannot obstruct national
development nor block the various axes of penetration into the Amazon
region" . The Trans-Amazonic road system resulted in the forced
relocation of some 25 Indian nations and thousands of deaths. The
struggle against the roads continues today.
[42D[Brazil is only one example; similar developments resulted in other
South American countries.
[23D[Seemingly in contrast to these extermination campaigns, Canada
appeared to be moving towards a much more "liberal" epoch; why,
Natives had even been given the "right" to vote, the pass laws had
been scrapped, and potlatches were once again permitted! In fact, the
Indian Act itself was being viewed by some as an impediment to the
assimilation of Native peoples. The combined effects of the Indian
Act, the residential schools, etc. had so debilitated Native peoples
that they were almost no longer needed; once powerful cultural bases,
such as the potlatch, were reduced to near spectacles for the
enjoyment of Euro-Canadians similar to rodeo shows. By 1969, the
government went so far as to articulate its goals in the aptly-named
"White Paper"; the intent was to end the special legal and
constitutional status of Natives, and to deny the relevancy of treaty
ights. Ostensibly a policy to "help" the Indian, the paper even
suggested a total revision of the Indian Act and a gradual phasing out
of the Department of Indian Affairs over a five year period. In the
denial of treaty rights and land claims, the paper stated,
"These aboriginal claims to land are so general and undefined that
it is not realistic to think of them as specific claims capable of
remedy except through a policy and program that will end injustice
to Indians as members of the Canadian community" .
During the same period, Canada was moving towards increased resource
extraction. This had begun in the 1950s especially in the mining of
uranium for nuclear energy and as export for the US nuclear energy and
weapons industry. Uranium mining was centred primarily in Saskatchewan
and in the US southwest. As well, there was increased oil and gas
exploration in the North and the development of hydro-electric
projects. What better way to push through these dangerous and damaging
projects than by accelerating the government's long-term assimilation
policy and denying Native land title? Clearly, extermination campaigns
in Brazil and assimilation policies in Canada are two sides of the
same coin: destroying Native nations and opening up the lands to
further exploration. What these governments didn't count on was the
continued resistance of Native peoples.
THE PEOPLE AIM FOR FREEDOM
Along with an explosion of international struggles in the 1960s,
including national liberation movements in Afrika, Asia, and in the
Americas, there was an upsurge in Native people's resistance. This
upsurge found its background in the continued struggles of Native
peoples and the development of the struggle against continued resource
[60D throughout the Americas.
In South and Central America Native resistance grew alongside the
student, worker, women's and guerrilla movements, which were comprised
largely of Mestizos in the urban centres.
In Ecuador, the Shuar nation had formed a federation based on regional
associations of Shuar communities in 1964, and was influential in the
development of other Indigenous organizations; it would also be the
focus of government repression as in 1969 when its main offices were
burnt down and its leaders attacked and imprisoned. In 1971, the
Indigenous Regional Council of Cauca (CRIC) was formed in Colombia by
2,000 Indians from 10 communities. CRIC quickly initiated a campaign
for recuperating stolen reserve lands. In Bolivia, two Aymaran
organizations were formed: the Mink'a and the Movimiento Tupac Katari.
National and international conferences were held in various countries,
and by 1974 a conference in Paraguay drew delegates from every country
in South and Central America from a large number of Indian nations.
A primary focus of these Indigenous movements was recuperating stolen
lands, and widespread occupations, protests, and road blockades were
organized. In Chile, Mapuches began "fence-running" -- moving fences
which separated reserve lands from farm lands and extending the
reserve territory. In Mexico, Indigenous peasants carried out
[56D-scale occupations: by 1975 there were 76 occupations in Sinaloa
alone, and some 25,000 acres of land occupied in Sinaloa and Sonora.
By December of 1976, tens of thousands occupied land in Sonora,
Sinaloa, Durango, and Coahuila . Of course, these and many other
occupations and protests did not occur without severe repression.
Assassinations, massacres, destruction of communities, and scorched
earth policies were directed against the Indigenous movements.
Similarly, the reclaiming of traditional Indian lands was also a
primary focus of struggle in North America. One of the first of these
ccupations in this period was the seizing of the Seaway International
Bridge in Ontario by Mohawks, in December 1968. The action was to
protest the Canadian state's decision to levy customs duties on goods
carried across the international border by Mohawks, despite a treaty
which stipulated this right and the fact that the border area was on
Mohawk land. The occupation ended when RCMP and Ontario Provincial
Police stormed the bridge and arrested 48 Mohawks. However, the
struggle of the Mohawks was was to precipitate occupations which were
to follow as a "Red Nationalism/Red Power" movement swept across both
Canada and the US, alongside Black, Chicano, and Puerto Rican
In 1968, the American Indian Movement (AIM) was formed in
Minneapolis-St. Paul. At first an organization modelled after
Euro-American Left groups and inspired in part by the Civil Rights
struggles of the 1950s and 60s, as well as the Black Panthers, AIM
organized against police violence, racism, and poverty. Initially
urban-based and predominantly centred in the Dakotas and Nebraska, AIM
quickly spread to a widespread movement represented in both urban
ghettos and rural reserve areas.
Although AIM members would be involved in many of the struggles that
would develop -- partly because AIM was an international movement and
not regional -- AIM itself was only one part of the "Red Nationalist"
movement. In 1968, the National Alliance for Red Power had formed
the West Coast, and the following year Indians occupied Alcatraz
Island in San Francisco harbour, claiming they had "discovered" it;
the occupation would last 19 months and would become known as the
first major event in the struggle for "Red Power". Another aspect of
this period was the continuing local and regional daily struggles,
independent though not totally unrelated from the emerging Native
liberation movement, in communities fighting theft of land, poverty,
pollution, etc. In 1970, for example, 200 Metis and Indians occupied
the Alberta New Start Centre at Lac La Biche, protesting against the
federal government's cancellation of the program.
That same year, AIM participated in the occupation of Plymouth Rock
and the Mayflower ship replica on "Thanksgiving Day", as well as
organizing protests and actions against the BIA [Bureau of Indi
Affairs - SISIS ed.]. In South Dakota, a protest at the Custer
Courthouse was attacked by police, leading to a riot in which the
court and several buildings were burned down. In 1972, AIM organized
the "Trail of Broken Treaties Caravan", and prepared a 20 point
position paper concerning the general conditions of Native peoples in
the US. The Trail ended in Washington, DC, where demonstrators
occupied and destroyed the offices of the BIA.
The following year, traditionalists in the Pine Ridge reservation in
South Dakota requested AIM support after a campaign of terror led by
Tribal President Dick Wilson and BIA thugs. On February 27, a caravan
of people went to Wounded Knee for a council -- the site of the 1890
massacre. The area was almost immediately surrounded by police, and a
one day meeting turned into a 71 day armed occupation in which 300
people resisted a large military and paramilitary force consisting of
FBI agents, BIA police, local and state police, and military
personnel. Two Natives were shot dead, two wounded, and one Federal
Agent wounded. Three weeks into the liberation of Wounded Knee, the
Independent Oglala Nation was established.
"The Independent Oglala Nation was more than just a brave gesture
by a band of besieged Indians. It represented the gravest threat in
more than a century to the plans of the US government to subdue the
Native people of the US and to deprive them of their lands for the
exploitation and profit of white interests" .
As supplied dwindled and the military prepared for a final assault,
the defenders decided to withdraw. On May 7, about half the people
filtered through the enemy lines, and the following day about 150 who
remained laid down their arms. In the period following, the FBI, BIA,
and Wilson's regime conducted a campaign of terror; by 1976 as many as
250 people in and around Pine Ridge were dead, including 50 members of
AIM. Shootings, firebombings, assaults, and assassinations were
carried out by Wilson's goons and in conjunction with the FBI's
Counter-Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO). On June 26, 1975, an FBI
raid on an AIM encampment resulted in a fire-fight in which two FBI
agents and an Oglala, Joseph Stuntz, were shot dead. Although Stuntz'
death was never investigated, nor were the many other killings of
Oglala traditionalists and AIM members during this period, the FBI
launched a campaign to imprison AIM members for the two dead agents.
Eventually Leonard Peltier would be convicted of the killings in a
trial that showed nothing more than that the FBI had fabricated
evidence and testimony.
In the same year as the liberation of Wounded Knee, AIM was also
established in Canada following the Cache Creek highway blockade in
BC. The blockade was against poor housing conditions on a nearby
Native reserve. In November of that year, the Indian Affairs office in
Kenora, Ontario was occupied for one day by Ojibways. The following
year, members of the Ojibway Warrior's Society and AIM initiated an
rmed occupation of Anicinabe Park, near Kenora, from July 22 to
August 8. Two months earlier, Mohawks from Akwesasne and Kahnawake had
occupied Moss Lake in upper state New York, reclaiming and renaming
the area Ganienkeh -- Land of the Flint, the traditional name for the
Kanienkehake, People of the Flint. After a shooting incident between
White vigilantes and Mohawks, police insisted on entering Ganienkeh to
investigate but were refused entry. As the threat of a police raid
increased, Natives, including some veterans from Wounded Knee, rushed
to Ganienkeh. Bunkers were built and defensive lines established. In
the end, police withdrew (in 1977, the Mohawks agreed to leave Moss
Lake in exchange for land in Clinton County, which is closer to
Kahnawake and Akwesasne).
On September 14, 1974, the "Native People's Caravan" left Vancouver,
initiated by Natives who had participated in the Anicinabe Park
occupation. Similar to the Trail of Broken Treaties, the Caravan
demanded recognition and respect for treaty and aboriginal rights,
settlement of Native land claims, an end to the Indian Act, and an
investigation of the DIA by Natives aimed at dissolving it. By
September 30th, the Caravan had brought around 800-900 Natives to
Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Instead of a meeting with parliament, the
protest faced riot police and barricades. As police attacked the
demonstration, clashes broke out, leaving dozens of Natives and nine
In 1976, the "Trail of Self-Determination" left the west coast of the
US as one of many anti-Bicentennial protests organized by Native
peoples. Its purpose was to get the government's answer to the points
raised by the 1972 caravan. As in that protest, government officials
refused to meet with the people and 47 demonstrators were arrested at
the BIA offices in Washington, DC.
It was also during this period that Native peoples began organizing
around international bodies. In the US, members of AIM and numerous
traditional leaders and elders formed the International Indian Treaty
Conference, in 1974.
"The thrust of the Treaty Conference is for recognition of treaties
by the US as a means of restoring sovereign relations between the
native nations and that country. Then, there will be moves to
control exploitation, return control of native lands to...the
native nation, and a return of forms of government appropriate to
each nation" .
The IITC was the first Indian organization to apply for and receive UN
Non-Governmental status. Delegates from the IITC, CRIC, and other
South and Central American Indigenous organizations formed the basis
for developing legalistic frameworks based on international laws aimed
at restoring sovereign nation status for First Nations. Conferences
such as the 1977 UN-sponsored NGO meeting on "problems of Western
Hemisphere Indigenous Peoples" or the Fourth International Russell
Tribunal in 1980 were organized to examine and document the
continuation of genocidal practises, and to develop policies
concerning these issues/ The end result of these conferences appears
o be a forum for documenting genocide, and, at best, exerting some
level of international pressure on particular countries. As AIM member
Russell Means has stated, "It appears useless to appeal to the US or
its legal system to restore its honor by honoring its treaties" .
In light of the recent UN role in the US-led Gulf War, and its recent
repeal of the condemnation of Zionism as racism, the UN itself seems
THE STRUGGLE FOR LAND
As previously discussed, the world economic system underwent profound
changes following and as a result of the Second World War. In the
post-War economic boom, plans for new energy policies began to be
mulated in the US and Canada. As already noted, one aspect of these
plans was based on uranium mining and its application in nuclear
energy and weapons systems. As well, plans for diverting water and/or
hydro-electric power from Canada to the US were also formulated in
1964 through the North American Water and Power Alliance (NAWAPA).
Following the 1973 "Oil Crisis", plans for developing "internal"
energy sources were intensified. In the US, this energy policy was
dubbed "Project Independence".
"It seems clear that the US government has anticipated that
American natives -- like those of other colonized areas of the
world who have tried to resist the theft of their natural resources
-- might put up a fight... [T]his seems the most logical conclusion
to draw from Senate Bill 826, an expansion of the Federal Energy
Act of 1974 into a US centred `comprehensive energy policy'.
Section 616 of this Bill proposes that the Energy Administrator `is
authorized to provide for participation of military personnel in
the performance of his functions' and that armed forces personnel
so assigned will be, in effect, an independent `energy-army', under
the direct control of the Department of Energy" .
As well, in 1971 a group of electrical power generation companies and
government resources bureaucrats issued the North Central Power Study,
"which proposed the development of coal strip mining in Montana,
Wyoming, and the Dakotas..." .
In Canada, these plans can be seen in the hydro-electric projects
built in Manitoba and in James Bay, northern Quebec. There was also
the penetration of the Canadian north with oil and gas exploration,
the Mackenzie Valley pipeline, uranium mining in Saskatchewan, etc. In
the US, the new energy policies precipitated various attacks on Native
In 1974, Public Law 93-531 was passed authorizing the partition of
joint Hopi and Navajo lands in northern Arizona and the forced
relocation of some 13,000 people. The purpose of the relocation was
ostensibly to resolve a false "Hopi-Navajo land dispute". In fact,
there is some 19 billion tons of coal in this land. Another example is
that of Wounded Knee. During World War 2, a north-western portion of
the Pine Ridge reservation was "borrowed" by the federal government
for use as an aerial gunnery range. It was to be returned when the war
"Well, the war ended in 1945 and along about 1970, some of the
traditional people one the reserve started asking `Where is our
[63Dland? We want it back'. What had happened was that a certain
agency...NASA, had circled a satellite and that satellite was
circled in co-operation with...the National Uranium Research and
Evaluations Institute... What they discovered was that there was a
particularly rich uranium deposit within...the gunnery range" .
Dick Wilson was put in place as Tribal Council President, financed,
supplied and backed by the government, with the purpose of having him
sign over the gunnery range lands to the US government. On June 26,
1975, Dick Wilson signed this 10 per cent of the Pine Ridge reserve
land to the federal government; the same day that the FBI raided the
"In a period barely exceeding 200 years, the 100% of the territory
which was in Indigenous hands in 1600, was reduced to 10% and over
the next 100 years to 3%. We retain nominal rights to about 3% of
our original territory within the USA today. Native peoples were
consigned to what was thought to be the most useless possible
land... Ironically, from the perspective of the Predator, this
urned out to be the land which contained about 2/3 of what the US
considers to be its domestic uranium reserve. Perhaps 25% of the
readily accessible low-sulphur coal. Perhaps 1/5 of the oil and
[63Dnatural gas. Virtually all of the copper and bauxite... There is
gold. There are renewable resources and water rights in the arid
Similar comparisons can be found in Canada and the countries of South
and Central America. With massive changes in industrialization and in
energy demands, along with new technologies in locating and extracting
resources, the colonization process has, since the Second World War,
entered a new phase. Along with these flashpoints arising from the
"Last Indian War: For Energy", there is the daily demands of capital
in other industries such as forestry, fishing, rubber, agriculture,
ranching, etc. and in land for military weapons testing, training,
Taking these developments since World War 2, and the colonization
process prior t this, an understanding of the history of Indigenous
resistance becomes clearer. Most importantly, however, is
understanding that this resistance continues today.
IN TOTAL RESISTANCE
"Now that war is being forced upon us, we will turn our hearts and
minds to war and it too we will wage with all our might... Our
[62DSpirits are strong. We are together at last with ourselves and the
world of our ancestors; we are proud before our children and our
generations unborn... We are free. No yoke of white government
oppression can contain us. We are free" - Mohawk Nation Office,
August 27, 1990.
In March 1990, the Mohawks of Kanesatake occupied the Pines --
traditional lands which also contain the peoples cemetery and a
lacrosse field -- against the Municipality of Oka's plans to expand an
adjacent golf course over the Pines. The golf course expansion was
part of Oka's plans to expand a lucrative tourist industry. On July
11, over 100 members of the Quebec Provincial Police (SQ) attacked the
barricades, opening fire on mostly women and children and firing
tear-gas and concussion grenades. Members of the Kahnawake Warrior's
Society and warriors from Kanesatake returned fire. In the exchange of
fire, one SQ officer was killed. Following the fire-fight in the Pines
and the retreat of the police, Warriors from Kahnawake seized the
Mercier Bridge -- a major commuter bridge into Montreal -- to deter a
second SQ attack. More barricades were erected on roads and highways
around both Kanesatake and Kahnawake by hundreds of Mohawk women and
men -- setting into motion one of the longest armed stand-offs in
North America in recent history. The stand-off, which saw hundreds of
police and over 4,000 troops from the Canadian Armed Forces deployed,
initiated widespread solidarity from Native peoples across Canada;
road and railway blockades were erected, Indian Affairs offices
occupied, demonstrations held, and sabotage carried out against
railway bridges and electrical power lines. The vulnerability of such
infrastructure was well know, and in fact this possibility of an
escalation of Native resistance was a main part of why there was no
massacre carried out against the Natives and supporters who held out
in the Treatment Centre. On September 26, the last remaining defenders
made the collective decision to disengage -- not surrender -- and
[69Degan to move out of the area. They were, in theory, walking home,
refusing to surrender for they had committed no "crimes" in defending
sovereign Mohawk land. Needless to say, the colonialist occupation
[69Dorces disagreed and captured the defenders, subjecting some of the
Warriors to torture including beatings and mock executions.
At the same time, members of the Peigan Lonefighter's Society had
diverted the sacred Oldman River away from a dam system in Alberta and
confronted the RCMP. Milton Born With A Tooth would subsequently be
arrested for firing two warning shots into the air. He has since been
sentenced to 18 months.
As well, the Lil'wat nation in BC erected road blockades on their
traditional land in an assertion of their sovereignty as well as part
of the solidarity campaign with the Mohawks. Four months later the
RCMP would raid the blockade and arrest some 50 Lil'wat and
supporters, on November 6. On November 24, a logging operation on
Lubicon Cree land in northern Alberta was attacked and some $20,000
damage inflicted on vehicles and equipment. Thirteen Lubicon Cree
including Chief Bernard Ominayak were subsequently charged with the
action but have yet to be put on trial; a trial they have refused to
cognize as having any jurisdiction on Lubicon Cree land.
During the same period, Indigenous peoples in South America were
carrying forward their struggles.
In Bolivia in October , 1990, some 800 Indians from the Amazon region
-- Moxenos, Yuracares, Chimanes and Guaranies -- walked 330 miles from
the northern city of Trinidad to La Paz in a month-long "March for
Land and Dignity". When the march reached the mountain pass that
parates the highlands from the Amazon plains, thousands of Aymaras,
Quechuas and Urus from across the Bolivian highlands were there to
greet them. Like their sisters and brothers in North America, this
march was against logging operations as well as cattle ranching on
In Ecuador, from June 4th to 8th, 1990, a widespread Indigenous
uprising paralyzed the country. Nearly all major roads and highways
were blocked, demonstration[6Cfestivals of up to 50,000 spread
throughout the country, despite massive police and military
repression. Demonstrations were attacked, protesters beaten,
tear-gassed and shot. Through the coordination of CONAIE
(Confederacion de Nacionalidades del Ecuador) -- a national Indian
organization formed in 1986 -- a 16 point "Mandate for the Defense,
Life, and Rights of the Indigenous Nationalities" was released. The
demands included control of Indian lands, constitutional and tax
reforms, and the dissolution of various government-controlled
pseudo-Indian organizations. The government agreed to negotiations on
demands; the uprising had restricted food supplies to the urban
areas, disrupted water and electricity supply, closed down schools,
and occupied oil wells, airports, and radio stations. The Indigenous
uprising had effectively shut down the country.
In the 500 years since the Genocide first landed in the Caribbean,
it's clear that the colonization process continues; the killings,
thefts, and destruction of natural life continues. The original
conquistadors have been replaced by military forces and death squads
in the South, and by military and police forces in the North. European
disease epidemics continue, now joined by deadly pesticides and
industrial pollutants. Slavery is gone, so we are told, but in any
case Indigenous peoples, Blacks, and poor Mestizos fill the prisons in
disproportionate numbers. And some things haven't really changed at
all: the original peoples still exist in conditions of poverty,
suicides, and the despair of alcoholism -- conditions introduced 500
years ago. But something else has also remained: the spirit of
resistance and the struggle against the colonizers. The resistance
against this genocide has been continuous and shows that the people
have neither been defeated nor conquered.
In this way, the Campaign for 500 Years of Indigenous Resistance in
1992 forms an important point in this history: "In our continent,
history can be divided into 3 phases; before the arrival of the
invaders; these five hundred years; and that period, beginning today,
which we must define and build" (Campaign 500 Years of Resistance and
Sources for the population of Indigenous peoples prior to 1492
Henry F. Dobyns, Native American Historical Demography: A Critical
Bibliography, University of Indiana Press 1976; "Estimating
Aboriginal Population: An Appraisal of Techniques with a New
Hemispheric Estimate", Current Anthropology, no. 7, 1966.
Pierre Chanu, Conquete et Exploitation de Nouveaux Mondes (XVIe
Siecle), Paris 1969 (estimates population at 80-100 million).
William R. Jacobs, "The Tip of an Iceberg; Revisionism", in William
and Mary Quarterly, No. 31, 1974 (estimates population at 50-100
Woodrow Wilson Borah, "America as Model: The Demographic Impact of
European Expansion Upon the Non-European World", in Actas y
Memorias XXXV Congreso Internacional de Americanistas, Mexico 1962
(estimates population at 100 million). Source: Roxanne Dunbar
Ortiz, Indians of the Americas.
1. Robert H. Fuson, The Log of Christopher Colombus, International
Marine Publishing Co., Maine 1987, pg. 76.
2. Ibid, pg. 80. Colombo was inconsistent on the actual number of
Taino he kidnapped.
3. Ibid, pg. 107.
4. Akwesasne Notes, Vol. 9, No. 4.
5. Jack Weatherford, Indian Givers, Ballantine Books, New York, 1988.
6. Alfred W. Crosby, "The Biological Consequences of 1492", Report on
the Americas, Vol. XXV No. 2, pg. 11. 7. Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz, Indians
of the Americas, Praeger Publishers, New York 1984.
8. Francis Jennings, The Invasion of America: Indians, Colonialism,
and the Cant of Conquest, University of North Carolina Press. Jennings
documents the activities of these first colonies, frequently relying
on period manuscripts.
9. Ibid, pg. 85.
10. Ibid, pg. 33.
11. Ibid, pg. 76.
12. Ortiz, op. cit.
13. John S. Milloy, "The Early Indian Acts: Developmental Strategy and
Constitutional Change", As Long As The Sun Shines and Water Flows,
University of BC Press, 1983, pg. 56.
14. George F. G. Stanley, "As Long as the Sun Shines and the Water
Flows: An Historical Comment", ibid. pg. 5-6.
15. John L. Tobias, "Protection, Civilization, Assimilation: An
Outline History of Canada's Indian Policy", ibid. pg. 40.
16. Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui, "Aymara Past, Aymara Future", Report on
the Americas, Vol. XXV No. 3, pg. 20.
17. John S. Henderson, The World of the Ancient Maya, Cornell University
Press, 1981, pg. 32.
18. Sylvia Rivera Cusicanqui, op. cit.
19. pg. 21
20. Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz, op. cit.
21. Quoted in Les Field, "Ecuador's Pan-Indian Uprising", Report on
the Americas, Vol. XXV No. 3, pg. 41.
22. Andrew Gray, The Amerindians of South America, Minority Rights
Group Report No. 15, London 1987, pg. 8.
23. G-7: the grouping of the seven most advanced industrialized
countries consisting of Britain, Canada, France, Italy, Germany,
Japan, and the USA. The G-7 meet annually to determine world economic
policies; together they hold dominant positions in the world economic
24. J. Sakai, Settlers: The Myth of the White Proletariat, Morningstar
Press, 1989, pg. 27.
25. Ibid, pg. 25.
26. Ibid, pg. 31.
27. Ibid, pg. 39.
28. Ibid, pg. 41.
29. Euro-Canadian: a term used to distinguish between descendants of
Europeans in the US and those in Canada
30. Ortiz, op. cit.
31. Negotiations with the Mississaugas of southern Ontario were
conducted as early as 1781, providing land for communities from the
Haudenosaunee, whose lands were supplied to British loyalists in a
strategic defensive line along the US border. Between 1781 and 1836,
33 such land cessions were conducted. Not treaties but instead "simple
real estate deals" in which the British paid with goods and later
money. In 1818 the practise was adopted of paying annuities. By 1830
these annual payments were directed at building houses and purchasing
farm equipment -- in line with changing colonial practises. "This was
then followed by the establishment of the band fund system", see As
Long as the Sun Shines, op. cit., pg. 9.
32. Dara Culhane Speck, An Error in Judgement, Talonbooks, Vancouver
1987, pg. 72.
33. Wilson Duff, The Indian History of BC, Vol. 1: The Impact of the
White Man, Anthropology in BC, Memoir No. 5, 1964. BC Provincial
Museum, Victoria 1965 (First Edition), pg. 42.
34. Ibid, pg. 42.43.
35. John S. Milloy, op. cit., pg. 58.
36. Kathleen Jamieson, Indian Women and the Law in Canada: Citizens
Minus, Advisory Council on the Status of Women, Indian Rights for
Indian Women, Canada 1978, pg. 27-28.
37. Donald R. Colborne, Norman Ziotkin, "Internal Canadian Imperialism
and the Native People", Imperialism, Nationalism, and Canada, Marxist
Institute of Toronto, Between the Lines and New Hogtown Press 1987,
38. Ibid, pg. 167. Quote from Report of the Commission appointed to
investigate the unfulfilled provisions of Treaties 8 and 11 as they
apply to the Indians of the Mackenzie District, 1959, pgs. 3-4.
39. John L. Tobias, op. cit., pg. 46.
40. Quoted in Wilson Duff, op. cit., p. 69.
41. Andrew Gray, op. cit., pg. 8.
42. Quoted in Noam Chomsky, Turning the Tide: The US and Latin
America, Black Rose Books, Montreal 1987, pg. 44.
43. Tom Barry, Deb Preusch, and Beth Wood, Dollars and Dictators,
Grove Press Inc., New York 1983, pg. 122.
44. Bonnie Mass, The Political Economy of Population Control in Latin
America, Editions Latin America, Montreal 1972, pg. 8.
45. Ibid, pg. 19.
46. Ibid, pg. 41.
47. "Growing Fight Against Sterilization of Native Women", Akwesasne
Notes, Vol. 11 No. 1, Winter 1979, pg. 29.
48. Ibid, pg. 29.
49. Supysaua: A Documentary Report on the Conditions of Indian Peoples
in Brazil, Indigena Inc. and American Friends of Brazil, Nov. 1974,
50. Ibid, pg. 6.
51. Norman Lewis, "Genocide", Supysaua, op. cit., pg. 9.
52. "The Politics of Genocide Against the Indians of Brazil",
Supysaua, op. cit., pg. 35.
53. Government of Canada, statement of the Government of Canada on
Indian Policy, 1969, pg. 11.
54. Jane Adams, "Mexico -- The Struggle for the Land", Indigena, Vol.
3 No. 1, Summer 1977, pg. 28, 30.
55. "On the Road to Wounded Knee", Indian Nation, Vol. 3, No. 1, April
1976, pg. 15.
56. "North American Sovereign Nations", Akwesasne Notes, Vol. 8 No. 4,
57. Akwesasne Notes, Vol. 8 No. 6.
58. Paula Giese, "The Last Indian War: For Energy", Report on the
Third International Indian Treaty Conference, June 15-19 1977.
60. Ward Churchill, "Leonard Peltier, Political Prisoner: A Case
History of the Land Rip-Offs", Red Road, No. 2, June 1991, pg. 6.
61. Ibid, pg. 6.
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