News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to MinneKota@gmail.com

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Giving back the Black Hills

One of the inane rituals currently popular in the nation is demanding and giving apologies. A multiple-murderer is expected to face the family of his/her victims and say, "I'm sorry." Perhaps, a display of remorse will lessen the sentence from death to life in prison without parole. But what do these coerced words really accomplish?

They give a display of language at its most meaningless and pointless. Cheap language subverts moral intelligence, and that is what is accomplished.

There are now resolutions in Congress to offer apologies to African-Americans for slavery and to the American Indians for breaking treaties, taking their lands, and trying to exterminate them.

Dayamn. How dementedly stupid can human beings get? Please, don't show me. I have great faith in humanity's infinite capacity for ignorance and stupidity. I see it every time I look at blogs.

Slavery has given America a legacy that underlies the mentality that drives gangsters and the strife, hopelessness, and nihilism that pervades African-American communities, and is at the racial roots that foster bigotry and hatred in white communities. Ben Franklin laid out a program to prevent those predictable outcomes in a speech for abolition in 1789:

To instruct, to advise, to qualify those who have been restored to freedom, for the exercise and enjoyment of civil liberty; to promote in them habits of industry; to furnish them with employments suited to their age, sex, talents, and other circumstances; and to procure their children an education calculated for their future situation in life, these are the great outlines of the annexed plan, which we have adopted and which we conceive will essentially promote the public good, and the happiness of these our hitherto too much neglected fellow-creatures.

A plan so extensive cannot be carried into execution without considerable pecuniary resources, beyond the present ordinary funds of the Society.

He was talking reparation. Of course, the plan was never carried out, although faltering attempts have been made to address parts of it. He saw 218 years ago that apologies would accomplish nothing. Reparation by restoring the full battery of freedom, opportunity, and education was the way to keep the huge damage done to a race of people from becoming permanent.

We are still making inanely stupid verbal gestures under the fatuous hope that they will do something in the way of fooling a brutalized people into thinking they are somehow getting back their status as full-fledged human beings. Equality is not something the dominant people really want. So they offer empty words which only further degrade the language.

And then, there is the matter of offering apologies to the American Indians. As if they have not learned from the breaking of multiple treaties that words in the mouths of white men have the same value as flatulence in church. They make empty noises but pollute the environment. How can anyone take any words of conciliation from the white race as more than patronizing foolery and an expression of total denigration?

No place is the insulting fatuity of apologies more evident than in South Dakota. We are still struggling over the treaty of 1868 which promised that most of the state would remain as the sovereign territory of the Lakota people. Before the signatures on the treaty were dry, white America set about to break it, take the land, and kill the American Indian people. As a community, Aberdeen is a monument to the great American tradition of perfidy and genocide. It is where L. Frank Baum, the author of childrens books, including The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, wrote two newspaper editorials calling for the extermination of the Sioux.

Although a man of imaginative talents, the sombitch was a malevolent racist who advocated genocide. Efforts at apologetics for him and to deny the racist, genocidal import of what he wrote has perpetuated the dismissal and distrust of the language and profound insult to a people who believed in the sanctity of the word above all else.


The Lakota people have challenged the violations of the treaty of 1868 and have won some points in American courts. The white solution is to offer them money for the Black Hills lost through the many dishonorings of that treaty. They have refused it. They want the Hills, a fact which intensifies the racist rage over in Honkeyville.

There is a popular argument in Honkeyville that the Sioux took the land from other nations, so who really owns the Black Hills? Of course, the American Indian nations did not have the same concept of land ownership that whites do. While the Lakota occupied the land, they also maintained its sacred sites for those other nations for which they have special significance in historical and spiritual terms. (To get a quick reading on this, read Larry McMurtry's biography Crazy Horse.) The succession of nations that occupied the land is specious and irrelevant to the fact of dishonor, deceit, and genocide that put the land into the possession of perfidious whites.

Saying you're sorry just isn't going to accomplish anything. African and Native Americans are not so stupid as to trust or take seriously anything that white America says to them.

The only thing that has a chance of counting is honest reparation. Those reparations mean giving African Americans educations and opportunities that restore them to full status of equality, freedom, opportunity, and justice for all. And it may mean returning stolen lands to American Indian nations.

The essential act required is to restore the integrity of the language so that it can be trusted again and used to conciliate human differences. That means we have to take actions that restore the meaning of the Declaration of Independence and the Treaty of 1868 and that demonstrate some sincerity and integrity.

The folks in Honkeyville cannot tolerate that to happen. And so they will lose their nation to the corrosive malignancy of a meaningless language. We have reached a state where we cannot trust our own words. The war on Iraq is a case study in that.

We have even made saying you are sorry a demented ritual that has no purpose and no effect. And we are paying the price.

4 comments:

Douglas said...

You sure mixed a lot of apples and oranges with your meaningful words.

I did hear a Black on a news program or opinion program say that although slavery was terrible for his ancestors, he was lucky to be in the US as a consequence. He noted that looking at what was happening in Africa today should be enough to make Blacks who are in the US because their ancestors were enslaved feel very lucky to be here instead of there.

I don't have any idea what most Native Americans think about this. If they appreciate modern medicine and housing, they might not agree with the professionals of ethnic superiority who think stone age culture is something that should be imposed on South Dakota because they invaded the state previous to the "Honkeyville" invaders.

In any case, there are a lot of people in South Dakota and in the US whose ancestors arrived long after slavery ended and long after Indian treaties were made or broken. Making us responsible for the sins of others seems more than passing strange. And as you probably indicated unintentionally make any apologies from us meaningless. We really have nothing to apologize for just as modern Native Americans don't need to apologize for their ancestors who slaughtered the Arikara or cut the throats and scalped white children.

Time to get over it. The "Reconciliation idea" is another variation of the meaningless "I'm sorry" for something I did not do idea.

Your indiscriminate attacks on blogs also does not help your credibility as a blogger yourself.

If there are blogs that are egregiously terrible as you imply, make a list of those you have read.

Keep thinking. Every now and then you are so dead on with original ideas you make me envy your thinking ability.

David Newquist said...

Douglas:

I agree with you that those of us whose families came to the U.S. after slavery and the imposition of Manifest Destiny on the Indian nations cannot be held responsible for actions we had no part in.

However, we have to live with the effects of those actions which shaped our cultural policies and the attitudes within the minority cultures that cause so much strife and waste of life in our time. I emphasize how with the Native American nations we made the language something to be feared and despised because it was used in the past with such total perfidy. (For a definitive portrayal of this, I refer readers to a great short story by Leslie Marmon Silko, "Lullaby.") We can do something about restoring it by refusing to use it in cheap ways. For our own well-being and that of future generations, we simply cannot allow the festering sores from the past to shape our futures. We didn't make those sores, but we are left to deal with them. And they will not heal simply by saying, "Get over it." More words without meaning.

Reparation does not necessarily mean massive social programs that entail bureacracies and social engineers. It means repairing the damage that has been done. And at this point I suspect the damage is not reparable.

As for my disparagement of blogs, I know you find that I do not distinguish between blogs of merit and those of demerit. Many, such as yours, present a partisan perspective but do so with benignity and grace. Some don't. They are the ones that attribute the opposition's viewpoints to grave defects of character, intellect, and purpose. I avoid naming them because I have done so in the past and found their obsessive retaliations misdirect attention away from what is good and valuable about blogs. The reprehensible blogs can be identified by their constant violations of what comprises valid rhetoric.

Our country is unique for the progress it has made in realizing equality and justice among all people. But there are dangerous malignancies festering and threatening to undo the progess that has been done. Who is to attend to those matters, if not us?

blair said...

Europeans explored the Black Hills and Dakotas before the Lakota (Sioux), but the Lakota beat permanent white settlements to the area by about 40 years. The Lakota began migrating out of the Great Lakes area just before the American Revolution and first reached the Black Hills of South Dakota in 1775 or 1776. They were drawn westward by the evolution of the horse culture on the Great Plains. The Cheyenne, who say that the Lakota followed them onto the plains, claim the Lakota had no horses, but dragged their possession behind them on dog travois, so the Cheyenne took pity on them and gave them horses.

As they migrated west toward the Black Hills, the Lakota pushed other tribes out of the way. Along the way, the Lakota attacked the fortified villages of the Arikaras, Mandans and Hidatsas, leaving 400 scalped and mutilated men, women and children at one site and 75 at a second site. (By comparison, 150 to 180 Cheyenne and Arapahoes died during the infamous Sand Creek Massacre, the most famous of white atrocities against Native Americans.) The first white settlement in the region was an American fur trading post set up at present-day Fort Pierre.

blair said...

Europeans explored the Black Hills and Dakotas before the Lakota, but the Lakota beat permanent white settlements to the area by about 40 years. The Lakota began migrating out of the Great Lakes area just before the American Revolution and first reached the Black Hills of South Dakota in 1775 or 1776. They were drawn westward by the evolution of the horse culture on the Great Plains. The Cheyenne, who say that the Lakota followed them onto the plains, claim the Lakota had no horses, but dragged their possession behind them on dog travois, so the Cheyenne took pity on them and gave them horses.

As they migrated west toward the Black Hills, the Lakota pushed other tribes out of the way. Along the way, the Lakota attacked the fortified villages of the Arikaras, Mandans and Hidatsas, leaving 400 scalped and mutilated men, women and children at one site and 75 at a second site. (By comparison, 150 to 180 Cheyenne and Arapahoes died during the infamous Sand Creek Massacre, the most famous of white atrocities against Native Americans.) The first white settlement in the region was an American fur trading post set up at present-day Fort Pierre.

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