Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

June 26, 2021

The Genocidal Canadian residential schools

Filed under: Canada,indigenous — louisproyect @ 4:48 pm

On May 18, 2021, With help from investigators using ground-penetrating radar, the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation discovered the remains of 215 Indigenous children on the grounds of a former residential school near the town of Kamloops in the interior of southern British Columbia.

As horrifying as this was, it almost dwarfed a new discovery a month later. Investigators working with the Cowessess First Nation using the same kind of radar came across another 751 unmarked graves at the former Marieval Indian Residential School residential school run by the Catholic Church.

Twenty years ago, I was deeply involved with research about these genocidal crimes and working to get the word out about indigenous people’s efforts to achieve justice. About five percent of Canadian citizens are indigenous so they have more social weight to challenge the racist establishment.

Around that time I reviewed Roland Chrisjohn’s “The Circle Game: Shadows and Substance in the Indian Residential School Experience in Canada”, a ground-breaking book written by a Haudenausaunee (Mohawk) Indian. Keep in mind that the Haudenausaunee were driven into Canada by General John Sullivan for siding with the British. That John Sullivan was the same man my Borscht Belt county upstate was named after, an irony considering that the county’s large Jewish population including many Holocaust survivors.

Just 20 years ago, I attended a tribunal on residential schools at the Blackfoot reservation in Calgary. Beneath you can read the report I wrote for my Columbia University website at the time. This was long before blogs had been developed. It will give you an idea of the fighting spirit other First Nations will deploy when they go up against the Canadian ruling class.


Blackfoot Tribunal

The Blackfoot tribunal on genocide–focusing on residential school abuses in Canada–was held at the home of Sikapii (White Horse) and his wife, Yellow Dust Woman, over July 2-4, 2001. They live a few miles from Brocket, Alberta, which is on a native reserve encompassing some of the most beautiful and resource-rich land in Canada, just as is the case for their US based brothers and sisters in Browning, Montana just across the border. Before the white capitalist conquest of the Blackfoot people, their territory included much of Alberta and Montana. As a fierce and proud bison-hunting people, they viewed their territory as sacrosanct. When Lewis and Clark tried to exchange trinkets with them, the two explorers were sent unceremoniously packing.

While the United States and Canada have no qualms about deploying their full military prowess on behalf of “nation-building” in Korea in the 50s, the thought of Blackfoot people trying to re-create their historic homeland across the Canadian and US border sends the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the FBI into a panic.

Sikapii, born George Yellow Horn, is the grandson of Red Crow who was forced to sign Treaty Seven in Canada in 1877 in much the same way that all such treaties were signed–at the point of a gun. When I spoke to the Blackfoot people assembled at Sikapii’s home, you felt as if this treaty was signed last week since the pain was so palpable. They spoke uniformly about the cannons lined up near the fort where the treaty was signed, which fired off volleys each morning to remind them of who was boss.

In 1990, Alberta Indian “leaders” presented Queen Elizabeth with a petition complaining that the federal government was not living up to the intent of Treaty 7, signed in 1877 in the name of Queen Victoria. Meanwhile, only the Blackfoot refused to participate in the meeting because they said doing so would make them look like “Hollywood Indians or tokens,” according to the June 30, 1990 Toronto Star.

Sikapii’s life story encapsulates many of the themes common to the members of this First Nation. Born in 1938, he was sent to a residential school with the understanding that refusal would lead to the arrest of his father. In testimony to the tribunal, he described how native children were lined up day after day in military fashion by the priests. Individual children were then ordered to step forward to be beaten with a cane. He tried to escape from the school on five different occasions.

After leaving school, Sikapii took one back-breaking job after another, both on and off the reserve. In the 1950s he worked as a lumberjack for a white-owned company that was–like many others–systematically denuding the reserve of valuable timber, thus combining ecological with economic super-exploitation. Sikapii showed us cancelled checks from the period in which native wages ranged from $5 to $8 per week, while a typical white worker’s wage was $45. He also had receipts from the local company store whose weekly totals equaled or surpassed Indian wages. This pattern of combined class and national oppression was virtually identical to that suffered by Chiapas lumberjacks before 1910 as dramatized in B. Traven’s “Jungle” novels.

It was during this time that Sikapii spent six months in jail for drunkenness and disorderly conduct. He and a fellow Indian had stopped at a bar in nearby Fort McCloud to slake their thirst after a day cutting logs. After the hulking bartender treated them with disrespect, words were exchanged. Sikapii, who had been an amateur boxer, decked the bartender with one punch, breaking his nose.

This incident was fairly typical of the kind of hardscrabble existence he led for the next twenty five years or so. He picked fruit in California. He rode the rails looking for one job after another until coming back to the reserve. He was stabbed in the gut after another fight. He had also become an alcoholic.

Things began to change in the 1980s, when the patterns of economic and racial discrimination reached such a level of intensity that he was forced to come to grips with them. Like Malcolm X, he put his rowdy past behind him. An important factor in his development was the Wounded Knee occupation of the 1970s that he joined in an act of solidarity. As soon as he discovered that it was taking place, he and a group of other Blackfoot men jumped in their car and took off to Pine Ridge.

It was also in this period that Sikapii became a rancher, which is generally the occupation Blackfoot men gravitate to. He had a herd of 55 steers that had grown rapidly on account of loans that a local bank had pressured him to take out when cattle prices were rising. In 1996, when prices took a sharp nosedive, the bank demanded immediate payment of his debt. When he pleaded for an extension of the deadline, in hope that prices would rise, they sent out a convoy of cattle trucks guarded by the RCMP and seized his herd. Now he subsists on welfare.

Blackfoot men all have bitter tales to tell about how they are cheated by white businesses in league with the sell-out tribal council. Wallace Yellow Face told the tribunal about cattle being rustled by tribal council henchmen, and not being paid for logs he had chopped. The excuse was that he lacked the proper “permit” which is awarded arbitrarily by the tribal council to their lackeys. John Chief Moon, one of the most respected elders, had all his horses impounded because he supposedly was guilty of abusing them. If you spend one minute with this dignified and spiritually-endowed man, you could not take the accusation seriously. Horses were key to Blackfoot culture and economic survival. The notion that a Blackfoot traditionalist would neglect them defies logic.

One of the high points of my visit was listening to John Chief Moon and Yellow Dust Woman conversing in the Blackfoot language. This beautiful language, like all other native languages, is endangered. Despite all attempts by the residential schools to obliterate the language, many younger Blackfoot–including economics professor and activist James Michael Craven–are studying it now. A 3 part series on “endangered tongues” in the Los Angeles Times in January, 2000 described the challenge:

California once had the densest concentration of indigenous languages in North America. Today, almost every one of its 50 or so surviving native languages is on its deathbed. Indeed, the last fluent speaker of Chumash, a family of six languages once heard throughout Southern California and the West, is a professional linguist at UC Santa Barbara.

More people in California speak Mongolian at home than speak any of the state’s most endangered indigenous languages.

“Not one of them is spoken by children at home,” said UC Berkeley linguist Leanne Hinton.

None of this happened by accident.

All Native American languages, as well as Hawaiian, were for a century the target of government policies designed to eradicate them in public and in private, to ensure that they were not passed from parent to child.

Until 1987, it was illegal to teach Hawaiian in the islands’ public schools except as a foreign language. The language that once claimed the highest literacy rate in the world was banned even from the islands’ private schools.

Indeed, there may be no more powerful testimony to the visceral importance of language than the government’s systematic efforts to destroy all the indigenous languages in the United States and replace them with English.

No language in memory, except Spanish, has sought so forcefully to colonize the mind. Of an estimated 300 languages spoken in the territorial United States when Columbus made landfall in 1492, only 175 are still spoken. Of those, only 20 are being passed on to children.

In 1868, a federal commission on Indian affairs concluded: “In the difference of language today lies two-thirds of our trouble. . . . Their barbarous dialect should be blotted out and the English language substituted.” The commission reasoned that “through sameness of language is produced sameness of sentiment, and thought. . . . In process of time the differences producing trouble would have been gradually obliterated.”

The drive to wipe out a language goes hand in hand with the drive to wipe out a people, something that activists like John Chief Moon, Sikapii and Yellow Dust Woman are determined to resist.

These questions are not abstract to Sikapii. Seven close relations have committed suicide, including his son who hung himself in prison, as well as Andrew Small Legs, whose grave I happened across at the top of a hill across the road from Sikapii’s home. In 1970 Andrew shot himself to death after reaching the same state of economic destitution suffered by many Blackfoot people. He left behind a suicide note calling attention to his own plight and that of his kinsmen. When I reached the top of the hill, I saw the grave which was only distinguished by a small metal marker.

A short walk beyond the grave I came across a dream-like scene. About 20 horses and their colts were grazing peacefully in a pasture. For that moment, all sounds seemed to stop including the chattering of the birds and the rustling of the leaves. The horses, a symbol of traditional Blackfoot culture and self-reliance, seemed completely at peace in their beautiful surroundings. I then walked downhill filled with the hope that the traditional ways of the Blackfoot people can be restored. If it takes destruction of the system that is destroying them, so be it.

June 16, 2021

Was American Indian Overhunting Responsible for the Near-Extinction of the Buffalo?

Filed under: Counterpunch,indigenous — louisproyect @ 4:11 pm

COUNTERPUNCH, JUNE 16, 2021

In the 1990s, there were repeated attempts to debunk the idea of an ecological Indian. Scholars and activists with seemingly little in common all sought to portray the Indian as wasteful of natural resources, if not even worse than the European settlers who have left the USA resembling a toxic dump as the 21st century stumbles forward.

My first encounter with this trend was with Frank Furedi’s sect in the early 90s that published a magazine called Living Marxism, better known as LM. (They still exist as Spiked today, long after dispensing with the idea that they are Marxist.) When I saw an LM article around that time denouncing Survival International as a group that sought to keep the Brazilian indigenous peoples “preserved in amber” like in the Museum of Natural History, I could not believe my eyes. The Yanomami were in danger of extinction as a result of mining and ranching excursions into their territory and these self-described Marxists were attacking the main group trying to protect them.

Furedi’s group in England was called the Revolutionary Communist Party that shared a name with Bob Avakian’s cult in the USA but little else politically except their belief that the left should not believe in the “noble savage”. In a debate with leaders of the American Indian Movement in 1980, Avakian’s spokesman referred to the “second harvest”, a practice from around 7,000 years ago when some indigenous peoples stored dried feces so that in the event of a famine, they could extract undigested seeds and other products for food. In other words, Indians ate shit.

The academic left wasn’t much better. In David Harvey’s 1996 “Justice, Nature & the Geography of Difference”, he wrote that stone-age hunters had no way of determining whether they were overexploiting prey. This was the result of their inability to make connections between current and future animal populations. This would account for the disappearance of the Woolly Mammoth, for instance. He also fretted over Indian claims for land that was stolen from them in the 1800s. He feared that such “militant particularism” could  can foster “nationalistic, exclusionary, and some cases violently fascistic” elements.

Harvey’s book attracted little support and he even disavowed it a few years after its publication. But one book stood out for its impact on American Indian scholars, the broader academy, as well as on Jonah Goldberg, the founding editor of National Review Online. That was Shepard Krech’s 2000 “The Ecological Indian: Myth and History” that should have been properly titled “The anti-Ecological Indian”. It was an assemblage of all the charges ever levelled against the Indian, including the business about killing off the Woolly Mammoth.

Continue reading

March 1, 2021

The New History of Capitalism, its detractors, and the American Indian

Filed under: indigenous,slavery,transition debate — louisproyect @ 10:57 pm
Is this our destiny?

For most people, Project 1619 is controversial because Nikole Hannah-Jones dissed Abe Lincoln, having the temerity to write that Lincoln regarded free black people as a “troublesome presence” incompatible with a democracy intended only for white people.

None of the other articles raised Sean Wilentz’s dander as much as this but there was another controversy that probably passed beneath the radar of the average NY Times reader, namely the project’s support for the New History of Capitalism (NHC) spearheaded by Sven Beckert, Edward Baptist and Walter Johnson. One of articles assembled under the Project, written by Matthew Desmond, was titled “In order to understand the brutality of American capitalism, you have to start on the plantation”. It cited Sven Beckert and fellow NHC’er Seth Rockman: “American slavery is necessarily imprinted on the DNA of American capitalism” and defended the proposition that slavery was essential to the birth of American capitalism. Clearly, this argument was not one that traditional historians, even those on the left, would accept.

John Oakes, who co-signed the letter with Sean Wilentz demanding that the Times “correct” Project 1619, weighed in on NHC in an interview with the sect-cult WSWS.org newspaper:

Desmond, following the lead of the scholars he’s citing, basically relies on the same analogy. They’re saying, “look at the ways capitalism is just like slavery, and that’s because capitalism came from slavery.” But there’s no actual critique of capitalism in any of it. They’re saying, “Oh my God! Slavery looks just like capitalism. They had highly developed management techniques just like we do!” Slaveholders were greedy, just like capitalists. Slavery was violent, just like our society is. So there’s a critique of violence and a critique of greed. But greed and violence are everywhere in human history, not just in capitalist societies. So there’s no actual critique of capitalism as such, at least as I read it.

This is what they call a straw man, isn’t it?

Oakes also wrote a longer and more ostensibly scholarly attack on NHC for the Economic Historian blog that sought to discredit their work. Naturally, Oakes found himself on the same side as James Clegg and Charles Post who have also written attacks on the NHC:

Charles Post and John Clegg are both sociologists. Like myself, they are not economic historians. But although we arrive at different conclusions, we all start from Robert Brenner’s definition of capitalism as systemic market dependency. This definition is similar to the one that emerged separately some decades ago among historians who debated the transition to capitalism in the northern states in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Post is probably familiar to most of my readers since his articles have appeared frequently in Jacobin and other magazines of the Marxist left. Clegg is less well-known outside of the ranks of the professional historians and because of his preference for writing in JSTOR type journals. Both reject the idea that slavery was implanted in America’s DNA but disagree on whether slave plantations were capitalist. Post describes them as “pre-capitalist” while Clegg sees them as capitalist. It is hard to pin Post down on what “pre-capitalist” means since that would include 8th century Rome as well as the cotton plantation but let’s leave that aside for now. The important matter for both these muscular defenders of Marxist orthodoxy is that slavery was a fetter on the more authentic capitalism in the north that was ready to crush the south to make free wage labor inviolate. Without free wage labor, you can’t have Grade A capitalism, after all. That’s what Marx believed supposedly, even though on an off day he might mistakenly say something like “Without slavery, North America, the most progressive nation, would he transformed into a patriarchal country. Only wipe North America off the map and you will get anarchy, the complete decay of trade and modern civilisation. But to do away with slavery would be to wipe America off the map.”

Clegg wrote an article titled “Capitalism and Slavery” for the September 2015 Critical Historical Studies that is available online. His broadside against NHC had two main complaints. One was that it failed to provide a theoretical definition of the capitalist system. The other was that it overstated the roe of violence in expanding cotton production, the cornerstone of Edward Baptist’s “The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism”. Clegg was more inclined to accept the findings of econometricians Alan L. Olmstead and Paul W. Rhode’s October 2016 article “Cotton, Slavery, and the New History of Capitalism” that, like Oakes, was aimed at total annihilation of the NHC. They argue, “However, to agree that slavery was important and evil does not mean that it was economically essential for the Industrial Revolution, for American prosperity, or even for the production of cotton in the United States. The new literature makes spectacular but unsupported claims, relies on faulty reasoning, and introduces many factual inaccuracies.”

It is almost impossible to verify Olmstead and Rhode’s article since it relies on sources that are impossible to track down, even for people like me who have access to Columbia University’s online resources. For example, on page 18 they refer to a graph that lists American exports by value. Supposedly, cotton is unimportant:

Figure 2 graphs the values of cotton exports as a share the value of U.S. merchandise exports, and then both U.S. cotton and merchandise export values as shares of GDP.30 As the bottom line makes clear, cotton exports were a very small share of national product—less than 5 percent over much of the of the antebellum period (Engerman and Gallman 1983, p. 28).

Footnote 30 states, “The data are based on Series Ee571 (Value of Cotton Exports). Series Ee366 (Value of U.S. Merchandise Exports), Ca10 (Nominal GDP, as interpolated with Ca9 and Ca13 for 1821-29 and 1831-39) from Millennial Historical Statistics (Carter, et al. 2006).

The problem for me is that GDP was not collected in the 19th century so where do their numbers come from? In 1934, Simon Kuznets developed the modern concept of GDP to use in a report to Congress in 1934. I suppose I could have gotten my hands on Carter’s Millennial Historical Statistics but the Columbia Library was shut down during the pandemic. What about people without such access? How could they verify this claim about cotton’s lesser role? They wouldn’t know where to begin. As for the Engerman and Gallman article, it is not in JSTOR and hence unavailable—at least until the pandemic is over.

Some scholars almost consider it an exercise in futility trying to extract national income figures before Kuznets. Angus Maddison was considered one of the leading experts on measuring national income. In his authoritative “Development Centre Studies : The World Economy: Historical Statistics” he writes that between 1800 and the First World War, there was a proliferation of national income estimates, but little improvement in their quality or comparability. They provided little help for serious analysis of economic growth, and there were significant differences in their coverage and methodology.

It is also worth noting that sometimes a close reading of the Olmstead-Rhode article can turn up anomalies that undermine their thesis. For example, on page five they make the case that Sven Beckert exaggerated the importance of cotton being picked by slaves in the Louisiana Purchase, claiming that farming was mostly done by yeomen who raised cattle and grain. The footnote to support this argument cites Columbia University economist Stuart Bruchey’s “Cotton and the Growth of the American Economy, 1790-1860.” Surely, they should have known that Bruchey’s view on cotton production was much closer to the NHC’ers than theirs. He saw the concentration of southern resources on exports, particularly cotton, as a dominant growth factor in pre-Civil War America since it stimulated the development of northern manufacturing and western agriculture. Export earnings enabled the South to purchase the manufactured goods and commercial services of the North and the food supplies and livestock of the West.

As for Post, he is just as convinced as Clegg that Olmstead and Rhode have the final word:

Baptist takes as his point of departure the striking finding of Alan J. Olmstead and Paul W. Rhode, in their pathbreaking studies on biological innovation and productivity growth in the antebellum cotton South,11 that during the first sixty years of so of the nineteenth century “cotton picked per slave quadrupled, with picking efficiency increasing at 2.3 percent per annum, substantially faster than the advance of labor productivity in the overall economy.”

Whether either one has had the motivation to critically examine Olmstead and Rhode is open to question. As often happens in these debates, you pick a side and then cherry-pick your scholarly resources to beat the other side into a bloody pulp.

It should hardly come as a surprise that there is a racial divide on the question of slavery’s contribution to capitalism. Foundational African-American figures such as W.E.B. DuBois and Eric Williams make the case that it was substantial while those minimizing its role tend to be white. There is one exception to this divide, of course. Black professor emeritus Adolph Reed Jr. is adamantly opposed to the idea that slavery was a midwife to capitalism, telling the sectarians at WSWS.org, who have crusaded against Project 1619:

What are the stakes that people imagine to be bound up with demonstrating that capitalism in this country emerged from slavery and racism, which are treated as two different labels for the same pathology? Ultimately, it’s a race reductionist argument.

Like other controversies I’ve engaged with, numbers not only play a major role but can often be wildly discrepant according to the side you identify with. Just one example. For those who have an unaccountably nostalgic affection for Stalin’s USSR, the numbers of Ukrainians who died during the forced collectivization tend to be close to the floor while Ukrainian scholars, especially nationalists, place them close to the ceiling. Additionally, they have different interpretations of what the numbers mean. For the Stalinophiles, they absolve the bureaucracy from the charge of genocide, arguing that the deaths were caused by a famine or by the wealthy peasants acting self-destructively in the face of a necessary social transformation. For Ukrainians, the numbers reflect Stalin’s genocidal commitment to breaking the back of Ukrainian national aspirations.

I would be loath to reduce the animosity Oakes, Post, Clegg, et al have toward the work of the NHC’ers (and implicitly, DuBois and those who follow in his footsteps) to racial insensitivity. However, it must be said that the political stakes over the relationship of slavery to the hegemonic growth of American capitalism are considerable. They relate to the question of whether reparations are in order. I wouldn’t read too much into both Post and Clegg having attacked the NHC’ers in Jacobin, a magazine whose publisher opposes reparations. However, I have seen the Black chairman of an African-American Studies department, who shall remain unnamed, use language against Jacobin on these matters that would make the face of a drunken sailor turn red.

In pouring through articles that touch upon the slavery and capitalism nexus, I took a look at James Parisot’s “The Two Hundred and Fifty Year Transition: How the American Empire Became Capitalist: How the American Empire Became Capitalist”. Parisot is also the author of “How America Became Capitalist: Imperial Expansion and The Conquest Of The West”, a book that shares the perspective of the NHC but is much more engaged with Marxist theory.

In 2019, Parisot gave a presentation on his book at a Historical Materialism conference in New York, with Post and Clegg as discussants. I came away with a very favorable impression of his approach and hope to find the time before long to read his book. In the meantime, I was anxious to read the article, which Parisot told me was a capsule version of the arguments in his book. Since the word “Empire” is in the article’s title, it made me sit up and take notice. Wasn’t it entirely possible that the axis of discussion had to be expanded to take into account the total ensemble of territorial grabs that made capitalism possible? When Thomas Jefferson spoke about an “Empire of Liberty,” he used the word Empire advisedly. It anticipated the Monroe Doctrine, Manifest Destiny and every other murderous scheme that would allow the USA to replace Britain as the world’s hegemonic power.

The abstract for Parisot’s article reads:

This paper aims to rethink United States history from the colonial era through the Civil War and Reconstruction by examining how capitalism and empire joined together as the logic of expansion increasingly became driven by the logic of capital over approximately two hundred and fifty years. Specifically, it argues that (what became) the United States originated as a ‘society with capitalism’ and became a ‘capitalist society’. This transition was a highly complex and uneven process as a variety of social forms developed and interacted, and in which there was not one road to capitalism, but a variety, depending on the historical circumstance.

In my view, there is an element of combined and uneven development that is hinted at in his formulation “This transition was a highly complex and uneven process as a variety of social forms developed and interacted, and in which there was not one road to capitalism.” Essentially, Parisot sees forced labor and “free labor” as existing on a continuum rather than as mutually exclusive. This formulation bears this out: “While Marx’s overall analysis of the capitalist mode of production centered on wage labor, his methodology permits an analysis of capital’s exploitation of a variety of labor forms into an analysis of capitalism’s systemic dynamics. In this way, for example, while not all slavery throughout world history was necessarily capitalist, plantation slavery was capitalist due to the structuration of the social relations of production and the ways in which surplus value was generated through forced labor.”

Working my way through his 30-page article, I came across a passage that finally resolved some misgivings I had about the slavery and capitalism connection, even though it was unintended by the author. In fact, it was my somewhat negative reaction to the passage that led to some insights about what has been missing from the debate.

On page 599 of Parisot’s article, he discusses Livingston Manor, a huge (250 square miles) feudal-like parcel of land the Crown had bestowed on Robert Livingston in the 18th century. Even though tenant farming prevailed, it was combined with capitalist profit-making. Parisot writes:

New York manors operating for profit by using tenant farmers blurs the categories between a non-capitalist and capitalist mode of production. Tenancy forced farmers to produce commodities to sell on markets to obtain some goods. Additionally, the results of their la- bor (for example, one tenth of their wheat in the case of the Livingston manor) went to the head of the manor, who then sold it for a profit. Overall, this seems to be a case of household production sub- ordinated to the law of value in a capitalistic way. It is something much more complex and closer to capitalism than ‘quasi’ feudalism.

While Lord Livingston’s manor was enormous, there was another entity called Livingston Manor that, despite the name, ended up as a tiny village in Sullivan County about 15 miles from where I grew up. Both the big Livingston Manor and the tiny one were tied to the same family. My high school used to play and beat their basketball team on a regular basis.

While I completely understand why Parisot would dwell on this example, it stirred up a different train of thought for me. As many of you know from my past posts, Sullivan County was home to the Munsee Indians for hundreds of years before the arrival of white men like Robert Livingston. A subgroup of the Lenape (also known as the Delaware) Indians lived along the Hudson River Valley that includes the foothills of the Catskills where I grew up. Like the Pumas that gave the mountains its name (Kaaterskill is Dutch for cat+river, with kill meaning the Hudson, not the claws of the Puma.) They were driven out of Sullivan County in the 1700s, just as Indians were ethnically cleansed throughout the state around the same time. As for the name of the county, that dubious distinction belongs to General Sullivan who conducted a genocidal war against the Iroquois tribes that backed the British against the colonists.

Without the ethnic cleansing of the American Indians in New York and Massachusetts, could capitalism have “taken off”? The problem with equating the origins of capitalism in the USA with either slavery (per the NHC’ers) or Post’s plucky yeoman farmers and manufacturers of the north who became Radical Republicans is that it effaces the native peoples who stood in the way of both cotton plantations and textile mills.

Primitive accumulation, the sine qua non for capitalism, begins with both slavery and removal of indigenous peoples. Trying to make slavery the starting point for the origins of capitalism is problematic. Don’t ever forget what Marx wrote in chapter 31 of V. 1 of Capital, the aptly titled “Genesis of the Industrial Capitalist”:

The treatment of the aborigines was, naturally, most frightful in plantation-colonies destined for export trade only, such as the West Indies, and in rich and well-populated countries, such as Mexico and India, that were given over to plunder. But even in the colonies properly so called, the Christian character of primitive accumulation did not belie itself. Those sober virtuosi of Protestantism, the Puritans of New England, in 1703, by decrees of their assembly set a premium of £40 on every Indian scalp and every captured red-skin: in 1720 a premium of £100 on every scalp; in 1744, after Massachusetts-Bay had proclaimed a certain tribe as rebels, the following prices: for a male scalp of 12 years and upwards £100 (new currency), for a male prisoner £105, for women and children prisoners £50, for scalps of women and children £50. Some decades later, the colonial system took its revenge on the descendants of the pious pilgrim fathers, who had grown seditious in the meantime. At English instigation and for English pay they were tomahawked by red-skins. The British Parliament proclaimed bloodhounds and scalping as “means that God and Nature had given into its hand.”

Without this kind of “treatment”, New York, Massachusetts, and Mississippi never would have become the ideal seed bed for capitalism. Remember that scene at the end of Tobe Hooper’s “Poltergeist”, when the family’s travails come from having built (as well as sold) a house over an American Indian burial ground? While the descendants of those who drove them off their land (Robert Livingston was an ancestor of the Bush family) deserve punishment like in “Poltergeist”, we’d be much better off carrying out a socialist revolution that would put the ecological values of the Munsee and all the other indigenous peoples into practice once again.

February 21, 2021

Sacred Cow; Tribes on the Edge

Filed under: Ecology,Film,indigenous — louisproyect @ 9:09 pm

One of the vexing questions facing ecosocialists is how to create a sustainable society that breaks with meat consumption. There are contradictory tendencies at work, with the vegan left taking an abolitionist stance as well as ecomodernist support for meat-like products such as Beyond Meat. Meanwhile, Bill Gates has come out in favor of synthetic meats, arguing in MIT’s Technology Review as part of his book tour on “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster” that rich nations should only eat synthetics. (It should be mentioned that is a Beyond Meat investor.)

Long before I began blogging, I wrote a series of posts on beef that were collected together on my Columbia website under the title “Cattle and Capitalism”. It included an excerpt from an Alexander Cockburn “Beat the Devil” column in the April 22, 1996 Nation Magazine:

Unsustainable grazing and ranching sacrifice drylands, forests and wild species. For example, semi-deciduous forests in Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay are cut down to make way for soybeans, which are fed to cows as high-protein soycake. Humans are essentially vegetarian as a species and insatiate meat-eating bring its familiar toll of heart disease, stroke and cancer. The enthusiasm for meat also produces its paradox: hunger. A people living on cereals and legumes for protein need to grow far less grain than a people eating creatures that have been fed by cereals. For years Western journalists described in mournful tones the scrawny and costly pieces of meat available in Moscow’s shops, associating the lack of meat with backwardness and the failure of Communism. But after 1950, meat consumption in the Soviet Union tripled. By 1964 grain for livestock feed outstripped grain for bread, and by the time the Soviet Union collapsed, livestock were eating three times as much grain as humans. All this required greater and greater imports of grain until precious foreign exchange made the Soviet Union the world’s second-largest grain importer, while a dietary “pattern” based on excellent bread was vanishing.

While I was sympathetic to the idea that eating beef had to come to an end, I must confess that I used to stop at the bistro across the street from my high-rise and had a cheeseburger with fries two or three times a month. I also have to wonder if Cockburn ate meat himself. I bet Jeffrey St. Clair can fill me in.

Yet, at the back of mind I always wondered how you can reconcile an anti-meat agenda with Karl Marx’s analysis of the metabolic rift. At a Socialist Scholars Conference around 20 years ago, John Bellamy Foster gave what was probably his first talk on the crisis of soil fertility in the 19th century that Justin Von Liebig devoted himself to diagnosing and solving. Basically, Liebig’s research provided a context for Marx’s examination of the agrarian question. Like climate change today, the general crisis of soil fertility in the period from 1830 to 1870 not only provoked scientific research but wars over control over natural fertilizers like guano.

The depletion of soil nutrients was being felt everywhere, as capitalist agriculture broke down the old organic interaction that took place on small, family farms. When a peasant plowed a field with ox or horse-drawn plows, used an outhouse, accumulated compost piles, etc., the soil’s nutrients were replenished naturally. As capitalist agriculture turned the peasant into an urban proletariat, segregated livestock production from grain and food production, the organic cycle was broken and the soil gradually lost its fertility.

This being the case, wouldn’t the disappearance of livestock from agriculture simply perpetuate the need for chemical fertilizers and every ill associated with it? Since modern farming relies heavily on mechanization, ox-drawn plows would not suffice. Wouldn’t the integration of cattle, poultry and lambs as livestock into farming resolve the metabolic rift in the most effective manner?

Unless you are committed to the idea that slaughtering animals is evil, that possibility must be considered. Additionally, for homo sapiens, the most effective source of protein comes from animals, not plants. Leaving aside the animal rights question, an argument can be made for exactly that. You can find it made in a powerful new documentary available in the usual VOD venues, including Amazon, titled “Sacred Cow” that was directed by Diana Rodgers and based on a book of the same title she co-wrote with Robb Wolf.

On the film’s website, Rodgers writes, “As we’ve become more globalized, the entire world is now pushing towards the ‘heart healthy’ (and highly processed) Western diet. In the process, we’re destroying entire ecosystems and human health through industrial, ultra-processed food.”

Drawing upon a wide range of academic researchers in favor of the consumption of meat products and the regenerative farmers who produce them, the film effectively makes the case for solving the metabolic rift in the way that Karl Marx proposed but without mentioning his name or the theory once.

There are two important considerations that the film takes up. To start with, it calls for abolition of the current method of raising livestock in factory-like conditions since they are far removed from the crops that need organic fertilizer and because they are so cruel to the animals. Instead, the farmers interviewed throughout the film show exactly how they must be deployed in and around the fields where crops are being grown rather than cooped up in monstrous conditions. In a very short time, the re-introduction of cattle and lambs can return topsoil to the conditions that existed before Alexander Cockburn decried for its inevitable role in desertification.

If your first impulse is to question whether an old-fashioned method of raising livestock can supply a hungry world, the film points out that ruminants such as cows and sheep can feed themselves from the grasses that grow along hillsides that are not suitable for raising crops. In one of the more eye-opening scenes, we meet a Mexican regenerative farmer named Alejandro Carrillo who has begun to reintroduce cattle into a seemingly barren part of the state of Chihuahua. The animals have not only begun to enrich the soil and make it suitable for farming but transform the ecosphere so that birds now flock to it for their own well-being.

Finally, on the ethical questions. These farmers and their supporters in the academy are not opposed to ending an animal’s life in the greater pursuit of keeping humanity and the natural world in balance. The film shows a new slaughterhouse based on the principles of Temple Grandin who compassion for all creatures large and small is suffused with humanitarianism.

Another new film available as VOD, including Amazon, takes up the question of humanity and the natural world’s survival even though the people who are its subject matter could not be more vulnerable to the ecological crisis. Directed by Céline Cousteau, the granddaughter of Jacques Cousteau, “Tribes on the Edge” is an impassioned plea for the survival of around 7,000 indigenous Brazilians who call Vale do Javari their home. Constituting an area about the size of Portugal and on the border with Peru, the natives are facing extinction as a result of epidemic cases of hepatitis and malaria.

Although the documentary does not connect their plight to the years of Workers Party rule, it implicitly blames both Lula and Dilma Rousseff for allowing the support network for indigenous people to wither and die. It seems obvious that FUNAI, the National Indian Foundation, has been a victim of neglect under their two administrations. Even worse, Bolsonaro seems intent on doing to it what Donald Trump did to agencies supposedly dedicated to protecting natural resources—namely, throttling them.

The film does not attempt to pinpoint the cause of the epidemics except to say that the border between Peru and Brazil being porous. When indigenous peoples cross the border into Javari, there are no border guards. They bring their illnesses with them, especially hepatitis that is very contagious. This is not to speak of the ranchers, miners, farmers and oil companies that are beginning to encroach on Javari in spite of legal protections afforded by the state.

At the end of the film, we are told that only 4 percent of the world’s population are indigenous, but they nurture 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity on their land. Although written four hundred years ago, John Donne’s poem could not be more timely:

No Man is an Island

No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

July 2, 2020

The World Socialist Web Site and the toppled Washington and Jefferson statues

Filed under: indigenous,slavery — louisproyect @ 8:46 pm

There was a time when I kept closer track of the World Socialist Web Site, when Syria and Ukraine were on the front burner politically. As apologists for Assad and Putin’s genocidal-like war in Syria, their talking points filtered out into the “anti-imperialist” left.

As for Ukraine, I got into a series of exchanges with their cult leader Joseph North back in 2015 when WSWS began running hysterical articles about nuclear war about to break out over Ukraine. I had written an article titled “Is the U.S. contemplating a nuclear attack on Russia?” that questioned their reliability as journalists and, more importantly, their grasp of geopolitics. Like many who make a hodge-podge of conspiracy-mongering and Marxism, they always see world events in apocalyptic terms, mostly as a way of generating website traffic.

According to Alexa, wsws.org is rated 13,097 in global internet engagement, which is extraordinarily high. For comparison’s sake CounterPunch is rated 47,413. The interesting thing is the Socialist Equality Party’s inability to turn those page reads into raising its profile on the left. Because of its cultish demeanor and its chicken-little hysterics, there’s little chance that a 21-year old young radical is going to join.

It’s only gain lately has been to line up a group of septuagenarian history professors in their crusade against Project 1619 that began as a special issue of the Sunday New York Times Magazine. It included an article by chief editor Nikole Hannah-Jones that charged Lincoln with viewing free black people as a “troublesome presence” incompatible with a democracy intended only for white people. This got under the skin of both WSWS and the historians who saw the USA as a model of revolutionary democracy, unlike, for example, Gerald Horne who argued that 1776 was an attempt to preserve slavery.

I weighed in on the Project 1619 debates in February but had little to say until now. Only recently has WSWS shown up on my radar screen when someone on the Facebook Leftist Trainspotters group posted a link to an article that was positively livid over the threats to Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Grant monuments arising during the George Floyd protests. I would have advised young activists to leave Lincoln and Grant alone (not that they would pay me much attention) but I’d be happy to take a sledge hammer to Washington and Jefferson myself.

The article’s treatment of Washington sounds like something that would have shown up in my social studies textbook in 1959:

George Washington was the commander of the Continental Army in the American Revolution (1775-1783), in which the 13 colonies asserted their independence from their British colonial masters. Washington, in a decision that electrified the world, left behind his military post and returned to private life, helping to institute in practice the separation of the civilian from military power in the republic.

Are these people for real? George Washington owned more than 100 slaves and signed the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793, which authorized the capture of runaways in free states and criminalized coming to their aid. When one of his slaves, a woman named Ona Maria Judge, escaped, he made every effort to re-enslave her, even if he had to break the law.

This is not to speak of Washington’s genocidal assault on the Mohawks who had fought with the British in 1776, mostly because the colonists were aggressively seizing Indian land with Washington’s approval. Washington gave the marching orders to his underling General John Sullivan, who was in charge of Indian removal: “The immediate objectives are the total destruction and devastation of their settlements and the capture of as many prisoners of every age and sex as possible. It will be essential to ruin their crops in the ground and prevent their planting more.”

Their encomium to Thomas Jefferson is even more bizarre:

Thomas Jefferson was the author of what is arguably the most famous revolutionary sentence in world history: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” That declaration has been inscribed on the banner of every fight for equality ever since 1776. When Jefferson formulated it, he was crystalizing a new way of thinking based on the principle of natural human equality. The rest of the preamble to the Declaration of Independence spells out in searing language the natural right of people to revolution.

This is a throwback to the turn the CP took under Earl Browder, who once said, “Communism is 20th Century Americanism”. Under his leadership, the party created the Jefferson School in New York to train cadres. One can understand why the muddleheaded Stalinists would take this approach but what does this have to do with a group that claims to have inherited the mantle of Leon Trotsky?

Compared to Jefferson, Washington was mere piker with his 100 slaves. Jefferson had six times as many on his Monticello plantation. One of them was Sally Hemings, a slave that bore six children to Jefferson. When he was a 44-year old widower, he began screwing her (maybe even raping) during his post as minister to France. She was 14 at the time. Nice.

Like Washington, Jefferson was just as vicious toward native peoples. As president, Jefferson believed that land in the west had to come under white ownership. In 1776, he was growing frustrated with the inability of the colonists to bring the Cherokees under control. He wrote, “Nothing will reduce those wretches so soon as pushing the war into the heart of their country. But I would not stop there. I would never cease pursuing them while one of them remained on this side of the Mississippi.”

As the newly formed United States began to expand westward, they ran into resistance from the Shawnee and other tribes in the Great Lakes region. He invited their leaders to Washington in 1809 and warned that “the tribe which shall begin an unprovoked war against us, we will extirpate from the earth or drive to such a distance as they shall never again be able to strike us.” Showing the kind of racist arrogance that typifies treatment of native peoples, he added, “In time you will be as we are. You will become one people with us; your blood will mix with ours, and will spread with ours over this great land.” The blood was not mixed with the whites, however. It was scattered on the soil as the genocide began.

If war on the Indians marked the beginning of internal colonizing, it was manifest destiny that served as the foundation for the USA becoming one of the world’s greatest imperial powers. In a letter to James Monroe, Jefferson wrote about how this glorious new democratic republic could transform the entire western hemisphere, “it is impossible not to look forward to distant times when our rapid multiplication will expand itself beyond those limits, and cover the whole northern, if not the southern continent.” Yes, that southern continent. From the seizure of Texas and other Mexican land in 1845, US domination proceeded across the entire southern continent.

WSWS also credits Jefferson with inspiring the Haitian revolution, as if this was some kind of proof that he had no imperial designs on the southern continent. “The American Revolution delivered a powerful impulse in that direction that led to the French Revolution of 1789 and the greatest slave revolt in history, the Haitian Revolution of 1791, in which slaves liberated themselves and threw off French colonial domination.”

The facts on Haiti and Jefferson are not quite what you get from these great American patriots at WSWS. As president, Jefferson encouraged Haitian independence from France, but refused to recognize the new black republic and even embargoed trade with it. Jefferson’s attitude toward Haiti was a variation on Henry Kissinger’s realpolitik. If Haiti threw out the French, that was good for American interests as well as British. On the other hand, Haiti’s independence as an emancipated new society might pose a threat to southern slaveowners so you could not go overboard with that democracy stuff. In a meeting with the British, Jefferson thought it was a good idea to prevent the freed slaves from having “any Kind of Navigation whatsoever or to furnish them with any Species of Arms or Ammunition.”

The Haitian revolution scared the hell out of the plantation-owners. While Jefferson had given lip-service to abolitionism, he shared their worries about armed black people who might be able to topple slavery in other places like Brazil or Cuba. This was a real fear over an 19th century domino effect.

In Tim Matthewson’s article “Jefferson and the Nonrecognition of Haiti” that appeared in the March 1996 Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, he describes Jefferson’s realignment with the slavocracy:

During the debates over the Haitian trade, Jefferson acknowledged a significant shift in his attitude toward slavery. He abandoned optimism about emancipation. “I have long time given up the expectation of an early provision for the extinguishment of slavery among us,” he wrote to William Burwell. Never abandoning the general goal of emancipation, his letter marked an increasingly pessimistic trend in his thoughts on slavery. In a man of such sanguine temperament, this shift suggested the transmutation of the post-Revolutionary South associated with the expansion of slavery and the southern reaction to the Dominguan revolution. Since the 1780s, he had publicly favored the exclusion of slavery from the West, but in 1804 he had expressed no objection to the extension of slavery into Louisiana and the southwest. His shift acknowledged that the die had been cast and the future had been sealed, perhaps for generations, and it also suggested that his commitment to emancipation had been reduced to a theoretical concern.

My only question is whether the geniuses at WSWS knew this and still decided to write a puff-piece about Jefferson or perhaps they were just ignorant. In either case, they don’t seem equipped to lead Americans to socialism or even lecture young activists about which statues they shouldn’t take down.

June 30, 2020

Eating Up Easter

Filed under: Ecology,Film,indigenous — louisproyect @ 6:20 pm

Available today on Music Box Virtual Cinema, “Eating Up Easter” documents the difficult balancing act that the Rapanui people have to carry out on Easter Island. They live 2,500 miles from Chile and walk a tightrope with their culture on one side and global capitalism on the other. Capitalism makes the tourist industry possible, allowing them to enjoy a higher standard of living than other Chileans (Chile annexed the island in 1877), but that also poses real threats to their culture, both through the trash that tourists leave on the island and the rampant consumerism new-found wealth brings. For those who have been following Cuba’s opening up to the tourist industry ever since the “special period”, the mixed blessings will be obvious.

Directed by the Rapanui husband-and-wife team of Sergio and Elena Rapu, the film features native peoples who are highly representative of the island’s trajectory. His father Sergio senior was a college-educated archaeologist and Rapanui’s first native governor. He decided to push strongly for integration with Chile and making the island “successful” economically. Part of that meant his abandoning archaeology and becoming a real estate developer. We see him supervising the construction of the first shopping mall on the island

We also meet Enrique Icke and Mahani Teave, a young husband and wife who see music as a way of preserving their culture. Enrique is also a trained engineer and anxious to solve the island’s environmental challenges, part of which entails building a music school with recycled material like beer bottles and automobile tires.

Finally, the most compelling character is a septuagenarian native woman called Mama Piru who is fiercely committed to Green values. Like Honduras’s Berta Cáceres, she won’t take no for an answer when it comes to ecological sustainability. Unlike the martyred Cáceres, the threat she faces is not assassination but being overwhelmed by capital’s power to transform “all fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions.” That was how Marx put it in “The Communist Manifesto”. Unfortunately, some Marxists today view that as progressive per se when in fact a return to “ancient and venerable” practices carried out by precapitalist societies must be considered especially when it comes to respect for Mother Nature.

In 1993, the Rapanui people became integrated into capitalist property relations in the most unexpected manner. Kevin Costner came to Easter Island with a massive production crew to make “Rapa-Nui”, a film that required practically every islander to be used as an extra. At $40 a day, they hit the jackpot.

The film depicts the islanders as victims of their own anti-environmentalist practices, with deforestation resulting from the building of the huge statues called moai. The only criticism I have of the film is the directors’ failure to counter this oft-cited explanation of how Easter Island became a case study in not respecting Mother Nature.

In Jared Diamond’s Collapse, you get the same version of the island’s decline as in Costner’s idiotic film but without the soundtrack and cinematic panache.

One of the more impressive record-correcting exercises of the mainstream account of Easter Island is Terry L. Hunt and Carl P. Lipo’s Ecological Catastrophe, Collapse, and the Myth of “Ecocide”. In Collapse, Diamond judged Easter Island as one of the more egregious examples of “ecocide” in human history, a product of the folly of the island’s rulers whose decision to construct huge statues led to deforestation and collapse. By chopping down huge palm trees that were used to transport the stones used in statue construction, the islanders were effectively sealing their doom. Not only did the settlers chop down trees, they hunted the native fauna to extinction. The net result was a loss of habitat that led to a steep population decline.

Diamond was not the first observer to call attention to deforestation on Easter Island. In 1786, a French explorer named La Pérouse also attributed the loss of habitat to the “imprudence of their ancestors for their present unfortunate situation.”

Referring to research about Easter Island by scientists equipped with the latest technologies, the authors maintain that the deforestation had nothing to do with transporting statues. Instead, it was an accident of nature related to the arrival of rats in the canoes of the earliest settlers. Given the lack of native predators, the rats had a field day and consumed the palm nuts until the trees were no longer reproducing themselves at a sustainable rate. The settlers also chopped down trees to make a space for agriculture, but the idea that giant statues had anything to do with the island’s collapse is a fiction in keeping with Costner’s film.

Unfortunately, Diamond is much more interested in ecocide than genocide. If people interested him half as much as palm trees, he might have said a word or two about the precipitous decline in population that occurred after the island was discovered by Europeans in 1722. Indeed, despite deforestation there is evidence that the island’s population grew between 1250 and 1650, the period when deforestation was taking place — leaving aside the question of its cause. As was the case when Europeans arrived in the New World, a native population was unable to resist diseases such as smallpox and died in massive numbers. Of course, Diamond would approach such a disaster with his customary Olympian detachment and write it off as an accident of history.

“Eating Up Easter” is a beautiful and thought-provoking film. The islanders are wrestling with the same contradictions as the rest of the planet. At one point, Enrique Icke has a conversation with an environmental consultant who scoffs at the idea that the Green renewal projects on Rapanui are of much use to countries with five million people. (Rapanui has 7,750 citizens.) Enrique defends the tiny islands role as an example of what can be done once the entire society is behind a Green transformation. Seen as a laboratory for the projects this planet much undertake for its survival, the example set by the people of “Eating Up Easter” is a good place to start.

May 8, 2019

Thomas Cole, William Cullen Bryant, and the American Indian

Filed under: art,indigenous,literature — louisproyect @ 6:41 pm

In the past couple of months, I have begun to work intensively on a film titled “Utopia in the Catskills” that is inspired by an article in the leftist PM newspaper from 1947 with the same title. It celebrated Woodridge, NY, my hometown that had a thriving co-op movement inspired by the Rochdale principles and a Communist Party cadre that was based in the poultry farms in the next village.

Originally, I had intended only to focus on the southern Catskills that was the home of Woodridge and the mostly Jewish resort industry. I decided to include some material on the northern Catskills in order to put Woodridge into context but soon figured out that the Utopia theme was just as appropriate to the northern Catskills, where the mountains can actually be found. By the time you get to Woodridge, the only mountains to be seen are those of the Shawangunk Ridge that is connected to a range in Pennsylvania.

The segment on the northern Catskills will deal with the mountain lions and their extinction since the question of species extinction looms so large today. It was the mountain lion that the Catskills are named for, after all. The word for cats in Dutch is Kaaters and for river is Kill. When Henry Hudson’s crew explored the mountains when the Half Moon was docked near Bard College, my alma mater, they saw mountain lions in profusion. By 1900, they had been hunted to extinction. It will also deal with the ethnic cleansing of the Lenape Indians who made the Catskills their home—the Mohicans and the Munsees.

I also decided to include something about the Hudson River School artists since I had fond memories of Olana, the castle at the top of the mountain overlooking the Rip Van Winkle Bridge that I visited in 1962 with a classmate. About 5 minutes after walking around, we were approached by a caretaker who asked us politely to leave since uninvited visitors upset Mrs. Church. This was Frederick Church’s daughter-in-law who still lived in Olana and was in her 90s by then.

Somewhere along the line, I discovered that Thomas Cole, the founder of the Hudson River School, was a better match to the theme of Utopia since he was an early 19th century Romantic who believed that wilderness was the salvation of the world. Now that de-growth has become a major issue dividing the left, it made sense to see Cole in the same terms as re-wilding the Catskills, a project that would re-introduce the mountain lion.

In the course of researching Cole, I discovered that his best friend was William Cullen Bryant, a poet, journalist and a key figure in the Democratic Party that first came to power with the Andrew Jackson presidency between 1829-1837. Both Bryant and Cole were preoccupied by the major changes in American society under Jackson. They were ambivalent about the growing commercialization of the country that threatened the wilderness depicted in Cole’s paintings. To give you an idea of his work, compare his painting of Kaaterskill Falls with the drone video immediately beneath it.

Born in Lancashire, England, Cole developed a great animus toward the industrial revolution for what it was doing to traditional life and to nature. He read poetry in great depth and identified with Oliver Goldsmith whose “The Deserted Village” that contained the lines “But a bold peasantry, their country’s pride, When once destroyed, can never be supplied.” He also loved Wordsworth who had the same love of nature and hostility toward a “progress” that was turning England into a collection of “satanic mills”, to use William  Blake’s immortal words.

In his “Essay on American Scenery”, Cole expressed his unease with the direction the USA had taken:

It was my intention to attempt a description of several districts remarkable for their picturesqueness and truly American character; but I fear to trespass longer on your time and patience. Yet I cannot but express my sorrow that the beauty of such landscapes are quickly passing away–the ravages of the axe are daily increasing–the most noble scenes are made desolate, and oftentimes with a wantonness and barbarism scarcely credible in a civilized nation. The wayside is becoming shadeless, and another generation will behold spots, now rife with beauty, desecrated by what is called improvement; which, as yet, generally destroys Nature’s beauty without substituting that of Art. This is a regret rather than a complaint; such is the road society has to travel; it may lead to refinement in the end, but the traveller who sees the place of rest close at hand, dislikes the road that has so many unnecessary windings.

In the same essay, Cole celebrates “primitive” nature but shows a certain wariness about the primitive peoples who called it home:

A very few generations have passed away since this vast tract of the American continent, now the United States, rested in the shadow of primeval forests, whose gloom was peopled by savage beasts, and scarcely less savage men; or lay in those wide grassy plains called prairies.

At the time, there was widespread support for imposing “civilization” on the wilderness. As a leading Democrat, William Cullen Bryant gave his support for Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal policy that forced the Cherokees to embark on a “Trail of Tears”. Despite both Bryant and Cole’s adaptation to the colonizing system, they still admired the American Indian to a large extent because their Romantic aesthetic and ethical values made them partial to the “Noble Savage” mythology that can be found in the novels of James Fenimore Cooper who loved the Catskills as much as them.

Cole was an admirer of Cooper’s novels, so much so that he drew upon “Last of the Mohicans” for several of his paintings. Below is “Landscape Scene From the Last of the Mohicans; The Death of Cora”:

In keeping with the sense of inexorability of Indian decline that prevailed under Jackson’s exterminationist presidency, “Last of the Mohicans” ends with these words:

Chingachgook grasped the hand that, in the warmth of feeling, the scout had stretched across the fresh earth, and in an attitude of friendship these two sturdy and intrepid woodsmen bowed their heads together, while scalding tears fell to their feet, watering the grave of Uncas like drops of falling rain.

In the midst of the awful stillness with which such a burst of feeling, coming as it did, from the two most renowned warriors of that region, was received, Tamenund lifted his voice to disperse the multitude.

“It is enough,” he said. “Go, children of the Lenape, the anger of the Manitou is not done. Why should Tamenund stay? The pale faces are masters of the earth, and the time of the red men has not yet come again. My day has been too long. In the morning I saw the sons of Unamis happy and strong; and yet, before the night has come, have I lived to see the last warrior of the wise race of the Mohicans.”

You get the same sense of the inevitability of Indian removal in William Cullen Bryant’s “The Prairies”, written in 1832:

The red man came—
The roaming hunter tribes, warlike and fierce,
And the mound-builders vanished from the earth.
The solitude of centuries untold
Has settled where they dwelt.

A decade later, Bryant wrote “The Fountain” that seems to approve Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act even though it contains lines that are consistent with the “Noble Savage” stereotype found in Cooper as well as many other 19th century authors:

I look again–a hunter’s lodge is built,
With poles and boughs, beside thy crystal well,
While the meek autumn stains the woods with gold,
And sheds his golden sunshine. To the door
The red man slowly drags the enormous bear
Slain in the chestnut thicket, or flings down
The deer from his strong shoulders. Shaggy fells
Of wolf and cougar hang upon the walls,
And loud the black-eyed Indian maidens laugh,
That gather, from the rustling heaps of leaves,
The hickory’s white nuts, and the dark fruit
That falls from the gray butternut’s long boughs.

But this hunting and gathering society is soon leapfrogged by the more productive farmers that conquered the Catskills and the prairies:

So centuries passed by, and still the woods
Blossomed in spring, and reddened when the year
Grew chill, and glistened in the frozen rains
Of winter, till the white man swung the axe
Beside thee–signal of a mighty change.
Then all around was heard the crash of trees,
Trembling awhile and rushing to the ground,
The low of ox, and shouts of men who fired
The brushwood, or who tore the earth with ploughs.
The grain sprang thick and tall, and hid in green
The blackened hill-side; ranks of spiky maize
Rose like a host embattled; the buckwheat
Whitened broad acres, sweetening with its flowers
The August wind. White cottages were seen
With rose-trees at the windows; barns from which
Came loud and shrill the crowing of the cock;
Pastures where rolled and neighed the lordly horse,
And white flocks browsed and bleated. A rich turf
Of grasses brought from far o’ercrept thy bank,
Spotted with the white clover. Blue-eyed girls
Brought pails, and dipped them in thy crystal pool;
And children, ruddy-cheeked and flaxen-haired,
Gathered the glistening cowslip from thy edge.

However, this is not the final verdict of history. Growing alienated from the mammon-worshipping Jacksonian presidency that had cost the lives of countless Cherokees and encouraged the expansion of slavery that would convince Bryant to join Lincoln’s party, he ends “The Fountain” with a rueful note:

Is there no other change for thee, that lurks
Among the future ages? Will not man
Seek out strange arts to wither and deform
The pleasant landscape which thou makest green?
Or shall the veins that feed thy constant stream
Be choked in middle earth, and flow no more
For ever, that the water-plants along
Thy channel perish, and the bird in vain
Alight to drink? Haply shall these green hills
Sink, with the lapse of years, into the gulf
Of ocean waters, and thy source be lost
Amidst the bitter brine? Or shall they rise,
Upheaved in broken cliffs and airy peaks,
Haunts of the eagle and the snake, and thou
Gush midway from the bare and barren steep?

Will not man seek out strange arts to wither and deform the pleasant landscape which thou makest green? That’s a question his best friend answered in the affirmative when he painted “River in the Catskills” a year after “The Fountain” was written.

 

It is the first landscape that depicts a railroad train. If  you look carefully,  you will spot it just above the man in the red coat. While not exactly agitprop, the painting was a commentary on the threat to the Catskills posed by capitalist development, especially the tanning and lumber industries that were the counterpart of Bolsonaro’s declaration of an open season on the Amazon rainforest for ranchers and miners.

As editor of the New York Evening Post, the newspaper founded by Alexander Hamilton and now a propaganda outlet for Rupert Murdoch, Bryant defended the values that most of us associate with the American Revolution until we had a chance to read Howard Zinn. Growing increasingly disgusted with the direction the country had taken, Bryant wrote an essay in 1837 that warned against the annexation of Texas—and implicitly slavery:

The question how long an empire so widely extended as ours  can be kept together by means of our form of government is  yet to be decided. That this form of government is admirably  calculated for a large territory and a numerous population we  have no doubt, but there is a probable limit to this advantage.  Extended beyond a certain distance, and a certain number of  states it would become inconvenient and undesirable, and a  tendency would be felt to break up into smaller nations. If the  Union of these states is destined to be broken by such a  cause, the annexation of Texas to the Union would precipitate  the event, perhaps, by a whole century. It is better to carry out  the experiment with the territory we now possess.

We don’t know exactly what Thomas Cole thought of Bryant’s poem but it moved him sufficiently to make a sketch that would be part of a series of paintings based on “The Fountain”. I tend to agree with the blurb that the Metropolitan Museum attached to a page on the sketch:

The poem evokes several eras of American civilization through incidents that occur at a forest stream. In this scene, a wounded brave (modeled after the Hellenistic sculpture known as the “Dying Gaul,” which Cole had seen in Rome) symbolizes the plight of many American Indians in an era of forced relocation.

 

April 27, 2019

Joseph Brant: the Mohawk who fought with the British against George Washington

Filed under: Film,indigenous — louisproyect @ 9:00 pm

I was astounded to learn in Allen Young’s memoir that Sullivan County, which was the heart of the Borscht Belt where we both grew up, was named after General John Sullivan who was directed by George Washington to annihilate Mohawk villages for supporting the British. The Mohawk were led by Joseph Brant, whose birthname was Thayendanegea.

The Mohawk were part of the Iroquois confederation that included the Onondaga, the Seneca, the Tuscarora, the Oneida and Cayuga. The failure of the six nations to reach an agreement about supporting the British led to strife and the eventual collapse of a confederation that Benjamin Franklin lauded as a model that the colonists could emulate after becoming independent. Despite the use of the term “Ignorant Savages” that was meant more as a dig at his colleagues, it was clear that Franklin considered the Iroquois to have achieved a model state, even if on a small scale:

It would be a very strange Thing, if six Nations of Ignorant Savages should be capable of forming a Scheme for such an Union, and be able to execute it in such a Manner, as that it has subsisted Ages, and appears indissoluble; and yet that a like Union should be impracticable for ten or a Dozen English Colonies, to whom it is more necessary, and must be more advantageous; and who cannot be supposed to want an equal Understanding of their Interests.

Lewis Henry Morgan wrote a book in 1877 titled “Ancient Society” that also viewed the Iroquois confederation positively. His work had a major influence on Frederick Engels who cited it at length in “Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State”. Although he did not use the term, he was describing what is commonly known as “primitive communism” and taken as proof by Marxists that humanity can live in a classless society:

No soldiers, no gendarmes or police, no nobles, kings, regents, prefects, or judges, no prisons, no lawsuits – and everything takes its orderly course. All quarrels and disputes are settled by the whole of the community affected, by the gens or the tribe, or by the gentes among themselves; only as an extreme and exceptional measure is blood revenge threatened-and our capital punishment is nothing but blood revenge in a civilized form, with all the advantages and drawbacks of civilization. Although there were many more matters to be settled in common than today – the household is maintained by a number of families in common, and is communistic, the land belongs to the tribe, only the small gardens are allotted provisionally to the households – yet there is no need for even a trace of our complicated administrative apparatus with all its ramifications. The decisions are taken by those concerned, and in most cases everything has been already settled by the custom of centuries. There cannot be any poor or needy – the communal household and the gens know their responsibilities towards the old, the sick, and those disabled in war. All are equal and free – the women included.

My interest in the indigenous peoples of New York State was kindled initially by learning that the Munsee Indians were dominant all through the Catskills. Since I have begun a film titled “Utopia in the Catskills”, I was committed to telling their story. After I learned that my home county was named after a military officer who ethnically cleansed the state of Mohawks, I decided to look more deeply into their story as well, even if technically speaking they were to the north of the Catskills.

Since my film is both a series of interviews and a collage of pre-existing films, including “Last of the Mohicans” that did feature a tribe native to the Catskills, I decided to track down any films about Joseph Brant. I was able to discover the two above and was not surprised to discover that both are deeply flawed but worth watching.

“Divided Loyalties” is by far more grounded in Joseph Brant’s real history and the internecine divisions within the Indians, the British and the colonists. Essentially, Brant threw in his lot with the British because the colonists were far more of an immediate threat to Mohawk interests. As occurred throughout the New World, settlers impinged on native lands, even when a treaty should have protected their claims. In 1768, the Iroquois and the British signed a treaty at Fort Stanwix that would protect the Six Nations territory. Sir William Johnson, an Irish official of the Crown assigned to Indian affairs, was instrumental in drafting the treaty that met the expectations of the Indians—at least based on the wording. Johnson was the common-law husband of Joseph Brant’s sister Molly and sympathetic to Iroquois interests, even to the point of learning the Mohawk language and customs. In both films, he is a major character and the relationship between Brant and Johnson drives the narrative forward.

The British exploitation of the Mohawks as a military asset is reminiscent of Lord Dunmore and the Ethiopian Regiment. Dunmore promised to free any slave who fought for the Crown. In a 2013 post, I cited Gary B. Nash, a “revisionist” whose take on the American war of independence is decidedly devoid of the patriotic junk we all learned in high school and that the Communist Party sadly dispensed when Earl Browder was the CPUSA’s chairman and infamous for declaring that Communism was 20th century Americanism:

Within several months, between eight hundred and one thousand slaves had flocked to Dunmore, and many hundreds more were captured while trying. Many of them, perhaps one-third, were women and children. Mustered into what Dunmore named the Ethiopian Regiment, some of the men were uniformed with sashes bearing the inscription LIBERTY TO SLAVES. The slaves of many of Virginia’s leading white revolutionary figures now became black revolutionary Virginians themselves. They soon formed the majority of Dunmore’s Loyalist troops. Commanding the Ethiopian Regiment was the British officer Thomas Byrd, the son of patriot William Byrd III, one of Virginia’s wealthiest land and slave owners.

It is clear from both films that the British were unreliable allies. They did little to protect the Six Nations from settler encroachment and likely would have allowed it to continue if they had defeated George Washington. That being said, the Mohawk had every reason to ally with the British who never were as open about killing indigenous people as the Founding Fathers.

Don’t ever forget what Thomas Jefferson, whose name adorned the CPUSA’s school for many years in New York, said: “This unfortunate race, whom we had been taking so much pains to save and to civilize, have by their unexpected desertion and ferocious barbarities justified extermination and now await our decision on their fate.”

Meanwhile, George Washington’s orders to General Sullivan included this: “The immediate objectives are the total destruction and devastation of their settlements and the capture of as many prisoners of every age and sex as possible. It will be essential to ruin their crops in the ground and prevent their planting more.”

And even Ben Franklin, who extolled the democratic character of the Iroquois confederacy, came up with this in his autobiography: “If it be the design of Providence to extirpate these Savages in order to make room for cultivators of the Earth, it seems not improbable that rum may be the appointed means.”

April 24, 2019

The Blackfoot and the Barbarians

Filed under: indigenous — louisproyect @ 12:12 am

(Liberated from behind a JSTOR paywall.)

Bear Bull, a Blackfoot Indian

Organization & Environment; Mar 1999
The Blackfoot and the Barbarians
By Louis Proyect

Five books discussing the Blackfoot Indian people are reviewed.

  • Chrisjohn Roland and Sherri Lynn Young. The Circle Game: Shadows and Substance in the Indian Residence School Experience in Canada. Penticon, British Columbia, Canada: Theytus, 1995, 327 pp.
  • Timothy Egan. Lasso the Wind: Away to the New West. New York: Knopf, 1998, 266 pp.
  • Margaret A. Kennedy. The Whiskey Trade of the Northwestern Plains. New York: Peter Lang, 1997, 181 pp.
  • R. Miller. Shingwauk’s Vision. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto, 1996, 582 pp.
  • Donald Worster. An Unsettled Country: Changing Landscapes of the American West. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico, 1994, 151 pp.

Reporter (to Mahatma Gandhi): “Mr. Gandhi, what do you think of Western civilization?”

Gandhi: “I think it would be a good idea.”

Beginning in the mid-1800s and coming to a climax in the post-Civil War period, rapacious gold prospectors, fur trading companies, and ranchers invaded Blackfoot territory. They came in the same fashion that profit-oriented barbarians have come to the Amazon rainforest in recent decades, with plunder in their hearts and a willingness to exterminate anybody who got in the way.

It should come as no surprise that the U.S. Army defended the invaders on the basis of protecting private property and “civilization.” In the summer of 1865, the Pikuni (Southern Blackfoot) signed a treaty in Fort Benton, Montana, that pushed their southern boundary north to the Teton River. They received annuities of $50,000 a year for a period of 20 years. If the United States did not have the benefit of a superior armed force, the Blackfoot never would have signed such a treaty because it amounted to theft. As Woodie Guthrie once said, some men will steal your valuables with a gun while some will do it with a fountain pen. The United States used both gun and fountain pen.

Clashes with gold prospectors continued because they refused to respect Blackfoot rights within the newly redefined territory. When some prospectors under the leadership of the racist thug John Morgan killed four Pikuni men just for sport, Chief Bull’s Head organized a large revenge party and the prospectors got their comeuppance.

In 1868, when a Pikuni elder and a small boy were in Fort Benton on an errand, White racists shot them down in the street. Alfred Sully, who had responsibility for upholding the law in the tense area, said that because of tensions between the two groups he could not convict the killers in any court. This gave other White settlers a license to continue killing. When the Pikuni resorted to self-defense, the authorities decided that some kind of state of emergency existed and called in outside help.

Having decided that the Indians rather than the rapacious invaders were at fault, the army ordered Colonel E. M. Baker to put down a rebellion led by Mountain Chief. “Strike them hard” were his instructions. He pulled together four companies of cavalry, augmented by 55 mounted infantrymen and a company of infantry, and marched on the Indians. On daybreak of January 23, 1870, the U.S. army under Baker’s command attacked a village on the Marias river. They killed 173 Indians, seized 300 horses, and took 140 women and children into custody. There was only one problem. This was not Mountain Chief’s village but one that was friendly to the United States. Many of the villagers were sickly victims of a recent smallpox epidemic. To add to their misery, the troops burned the lodges and camp equipment.

The eternally sanctimonious New York Times editorialized on February 24, 1870, “The question is whether a wholesale slaughter of women and children was needed for the vindication of our aims.” The editorial is cited in John C. Ewers’s (1958) flawed but essential history The Blackfeet: Raiders of the Northwestern Plains (p. 251). One wonders if The New York Times keeps a file of such sentiments recyclable for suitable occasions, such as the recent bombing of a medicine factory in Sudan.

The consequences of this mass murder were as would be expected. It panicked the Pikuni into signing another compromised treaty. The whole purpose of military repression was not to restore “law and order” but to push Pikuni into the marginal portions of the state of Montana. All of these treaties from the 1860s and 1870s lack legitimacy and should be reviewed, just as the annexation of Hawaii is being reviewed by the United Nations today.

Its flaw is visible in its very title, which depicts the Blackfoot as “raiders.” Ewers draws a picture of “Blackfeet” (the Blackfoot people prefer not to use this term because it refers to feet rather than people) as warriors who enjoyed stealing horses from Indians and White settlers alike. In the very chapter where he decries the massacre at Marias river, he refers to the problems involved in “the pacification and civilization of western Indian tribes” (p. 236). This is said without irony.

THE WHISKEY TRADE AND FUR TRADING

More recent scholarship steps back from the warlike image fostered by Ewers on the Blackfoot and other Indian tribes. Margaret A. Kennedy (1997), in The Whiskey Trade of the Northwestern Plains roots the conflicts in the fur and whiskey trade.

The whiskey trade was far more than the exchange of buffalo robes and other furs for whiskey and trade goods. This exchange was conducted within a diverse and often hostile social and ethnic context. The interactions between native and nonnative were heightened by the existence of intense rivalries within each of these groups, band against band, Americans against British, trader against trader. The origin of some of the intense intergroup hostilities that characterized the whiskey trade can be traced back throughout the fur trade, but much of it was deeply accentuated in this late period by the pressures wrought through fear of loss of the buffalo, tribal territorial infringement, American and British competition and of course, the deleterious effect of liquor. (p. 13)

To put it more bluntly, the British and American fur traders lured the Indians into the cash trade by offering them whiskey, the one thing that was not available on the open range. They used whiskey in the same way that the British used opium in China. It was a way of breaking down the doors of a local economy that had little use for the lure of imported goods. One of the most notable things about opium and alcohol is that they are addictive. This is exactly what the East Indian Company or the Hudson Bay Company could use to best effect: a substance that hooked the unfortunate native into becoming unwilling accomplices to his own destruction. As the fur trade began to decrease the number of available buffalo, the various tribes fought with each other for control over the scarce resource. They stole horses from one another because the horse was necessary for the wholesale collection of hides. Pressures from fur and whiskey traders go much further in explaining the Indian wars than any lack of “civilized” values. Who needed civilizing were the entrepreneurs who used such poisons to make the Indian dependent.

While in one sense we have become inured to the idea of alcohol being a symptom of American Indian despair, it is important to understand how this substance entered their society. Today, there are all sorts of investigative journalists reporting on how the contras introduced crack cocaine into the United States in order to fund the war in Nicaragua. An investigation of the introduction of whiskey into the northwestern Plains states would also be a good idea. This is clearly the purpose of Margaret A. Kennedy’s (1997) scholarly treatment.

She points out that prior to the 1830s, buffalo robes had been a minor commodity in the fur trade. Beavers were the preferred good. When the avaricious trading companies caused the near-extinction of the beaver, the buffalo became a substitute. So whiskey lured the Indians to the trading post, where they surrendered the highly desired bison robes for alcohol, the most toxic drug. Kennedy (1997) explains,

The business was fairly simple. Fort Benton merchants were willing to commission individuals and supply them with an outfit. In return, the trader and clerks would remove to Indian Country and exchange goods as cheaply as possible for buffalo robes, wolf, antelope, elk and other animal pelts. The quiet inclusion of alcohol in the trader’s outfit, seldom accurately recorded on the manifests, was the magnet guaranteed to draw native clientele. In 1867, the selling price of buffalo robes was $8.00, the highest amount it had yet reached. The trader′s cost was only $8.00, the highest amount it had yet reached. The trader′s cost was only 3.00, thereby guaranteeing a healthy profit even after commissions, inventory, and transportation costs were considered, (p. 22)

Just as British capitalism used rum, sugar, and slaves to drive its commercial expansion into the Caribbean and the American south, so did the fur trading companies use a combination of whiskey, furs, and alcohol-addicted Indian hunters to increase their wealth. Wealthy and jaded Europeans’ taste had shifted from fur to buffalo, just as people today decide to use one cologne rather than another. Image back then was as important as it is today. It was of course no consequence that the very source of Blackfoot and other Indians’ survival was being destroyed in the process. The buffalo was no longer a source of clothing, shelter, and food. It was instead a luxury item to generate profits for the seller and alcohol addiction for the unfortunate hunters.

Unfortunately, not only could the Indian become addicted to alcohol, he or she could also suffer the consequences of “bad” drugs, just as occurs on the streets of New York City today when the occasional bag of heroin contains poisonous adulterants. Margaret Kennedy (1997) describes the horrors that took place frequently,

The movement of American traders into the last stronghold of Blackfoot territory could only have been accomplished through the extensive availability of alcohol. The Blackfoot north of the border had fervently and successfully protected their hunting territory from intruders-native and non-native alike-until 1869. Now the destructive results of the whiskey trade began to make themselves evident, as the people traded anything they owned for alcohol, which left them destitute and defenceless against winter temperatures. This was not quality alcohol. The so-called whiskey given out by traders for buffalo robes and other furs was a lethal concoction of alcohol mixed with anything that would give it colour and substance-bluestone, burnt sugar, castile soap, Jamaica Ginger, Perry Davis Painkiller, tea, ink, and sometimes, horrifically, strychnine. George McDougall, the Methodist missionary who was so outspoken against the whiskey trade, reported the same traumatic death for the native drinker as was experienced by the wolf consuming strychnine: foaming at the mouth, followed by convulsions and the body turning black after death. If people managed to survive the concoction, their faces were later horribly disfigured by blotches. Untold numbers of native people, well into the hundreds, died from the drink itself, exposure to winter conditions during intoxication, or violently at the hands of traders or each other. (p. 31)

GENOCIDE AND RESIDENTIAL SCHOOLS

While the Southern Blackfoot were suffering the combined effects of military repression and alcohol addiction, a more subtle form of genocide was being carried out against their Canadian brothers and sisters of the Bloods and the Northern Blackfoot tribes. They became the victims of a vast conspiracy by the Canadian government and the church to rob them of their cultural identity through residential schooling. Residential schooling, as J. R. Miller (1996) points out in Shingwauk’s Vision, was a tool used to rob the Indian of his birthright. The blackboard and the rod joined the fountain pen and gun as instruments of genocide.

Writing about the “Basic Concepts and Objectives” of Canada’s Indian policy in 1945, an official of the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs put his finger squarely on the motivation behind residential schools. Noting Ottawa’s desire to promote self-sufficiency among the indigenous population, and rightly zeroing in on Canada’s systematic attack on traditional Indian religion and cultural practices, the observer concluded that the dominion’s purpose was assimilation. As important as the push for self-support and Christianization among the Indians was in its own right, it was “also means to another end: full citizenship and absorption into the body politic.” Clearly, Canada chose to eliminate Indians by assimilating them, unlike the Americans, who had long sought to exterminate them physically. “In other words, the extinction of the Indians as Indians is the ultimate end” of Canadian Indian policy, noted the American official. The peaceful elimination of Indians’ sense of identity as Aboriginal people and their integration into the general citizenry would eventually end any need for Indian agents, farm instructors, financial assistance, residential schools, and other programs. By the cultural assimilation it would bring about, education residential schools would prove “the means of wiping out the whole Indian establishment.” (pp. 184-185)

As bad as this sounds, it does not do justice to the actual physical aspect of extermination that took place in the residential schools. Because most of the physical abuses took place in the classroom or in children’s dormitories, it was not visible to the outside world. For more than 100 years, Indian children were prevented from speaking their own language, sexually abused, and made ill from substandard housing and lack of adequate food. They were forced to do slave labor, such as cleaning the buildings and grounds, picking crops, and washing dishes. J. R. Miller (1996) details the sort of hell that Indian children faced.

A Sister of Charity at Shubenacadie school ordered a boy who had accidentally spilled the salt from the shaker while seasoning his porridge to eat the ruined food. He declined, she struck him, and told him to eat it. When he downed a spoonful and then vomited into his bowl, the sister hit him on the head and said, I told you to eat it!” A second attempt produced the same result. On his third try, the student fainted. The sister then “picked him up by the neck and threw him out to the centre aisle” in the dining hall. On one occasion at St. Michael’s school at Duck Lake, Saskatchewan, the boys’ supervisor ordered two boys who had broken rules to kneel in front of him and then he began “kicking the boys as they knelt in penance before him.” A Mohawk man remembered with bitterness a senseless incident that occurred at the Jesuit school at Spanish in the 1930s. The fifteen year old was taking some time to clean up after coming in from working in the shoe shop before proceeding to the study hall. The supervisor came to where he was washing and “without a word, he let me have the back of his hand, squarely in the front of my face.” Fifty-five years after the event the former student concluded that the supervisor had struck him because he knew he could get away with demonstrating his authority in this manner. (pp. 325-326)

While J. R. Miller’s (1996) book is strong on such details, it is weak on the general political conclusions that flow from these details. For this, we have to be grateful for The Circle Game, coauthored by Roland Chrisjohn and Sherri Lynn Young (1995). The thrust of The Circle Game is to situate the residential schools in the general context of genocide. There are mounting scholarly and activist campaigns to establish Canada’s guilt in the cultural genocide of the native peoples. It is a genocide that is just as real as the one unleashed by the Turks against the Armenians. Although the body count might be less, the overall effects are just as damaging. They effectively erase a people from the face of the earth. When you destroy a people’s language and spiritual and cultural identity, the consequential forced assimilation is tantamount to genocide. Chrisjohn and Young state,

We are unwilling to treat “cultural genocide” as a species of action divorced (or divorceable) from its universally recognised relatives. The machinations and intrigues that have surrounded the debate about the concept of cultural genocide have all the savoir faire of a schoolyard bully; powerful groups, in obvious double-faced violation of their own publicly stated human rights poses, have used their power to compel the rest of the world into going along with them. Consequently, we maintain, and will henceforth assume, that assimilation is genocide. Even the phrase “cultural genocide” is an unnecessary ellipsis: cultural genocide is genocide. Finally, in any intellectually honest appraisal, Indian Residential Schools were genocide. If there are any serious arguments against this position, we are ready to hear them. (p. 44)

A tribunal under the auspices of the International Human Rights Association of American Minorities (IHRAAM), a United Nations-affiliated nongovernmental organization, occurred in June 1998 to hear testimony from Canadian Indians who had been victims of residential schooling. Although the tribunal did not have the ability to impose penalties on the Canadian government or the church, it could have been an effective moral force at the United Nations, where Canada often criticizes other countries over human rights. Although the first tribunal suffered from poor organization and questionable selection of judges, it was an important first step.

One of the people who was to testify was Harriet Nahanee (Pacheedaht), who was abused at the Alberni school. She pushed for the hearings and said that the government was giving money for healing to everyone but the victims. “They are giving money to the band offices, to the treaty commissions, but not one cent has gone to the men who were sexually abused,” she told the Toronto Globe and Mail (June 9, 1998). She told the reporter that she remembered seeing a girl killed at the school more than 50 years ago and that the death was covered up. She intended to raise the allegation at the hearings.

The Canadian government is attempting to conclude a $326 million settlement with the Indian nations. Much of this money would be earmarked for psychotherapy, which would be a slap in the face to the victims. Not only is the sum paltry, the notion that the “talking cure” is appropriate for restoring the dignity of the Indian is absurd. The people who need sessions with the psychiatrists are the top officials of the Church and government who saw fit to brutalize Indian children. What would be appropriate is restoration of all the land claims that peoples such as the Blackfoot, Cree, and Ojibway are pressing. This would do more for mental health than any 50minute psychotherapy session.

THE BLACKFOOT RELATIONSHIP TO THE ENVIRONMENT

In Donald Worster’s (1994) An Unsettled Country, Black Elk, a Lakota, is quoted as saying in 1930 that “Once we were happy in our own country and we were seldom hungry, for then the two-leggeds and the four-leggeds lived together like relatives, and there was plenty for them and for us” (p. 55). He added that when the Wasichu, the White men, came, they “made little islands for us and other little islands for the four-leggeds, and always these islands are becoming smaller, for around them surges the gnawing flood of the Wasichu; and it is dirty with lies and greed” (p. 55). What is critical to understand is that by creating such islands, the organic unity between man and nature breaks down. This is key to understanding the ecological crisis of the 20th century. In restoring human rights and economic justice to the American Indian, we will also begin the process of restoring ecological health to our nation. Without one, you cannot have the other.

Black Elks’s remarks begin the chapter in Worster’s book titled “Other People, Other Lives:’ that details the transformation of Plains wildlife, with particular emphasis on the wanton slaughter of the bison.

In accounting for the terrible loss of the bison, Worster raises the possibility that the same sort of undercounting that goes into the loss of American Indian lives has affected the fauna as well. The goal of the undercounters is to minimize the depths of the slaughter. Ernest Seton, a pioneering naturalist, estimates the number of bison at 75 million when the barbarian fur trading companies and ranchers arrived. By 1895, there were only 800 animals left, all within the Yellowstone National Park. Nature writer Barry Lopez has tried to estimate the total number of local fauna that were destroyed through the uncivilized recklessness of the invaders: “If you count the buffalo for hides and the antelope for backstraps and the passenger pigeons for target practice and the Indian ponies [killed] by whites to keep the Indian poor, it is conceivable that 500 million creatures died” (Worster, 1994, pp. 69-70). Worster calls this a virtual holocaust.

As the bison were wiped out from Blackfoot territory, a new ungulate took its place: the cow. Most champions of progress assumed that the slaughter of the bison and the banishment of the Indian into reservations was a regrettable evil. If these cruel acts did not take place, then it would have never been possible to create the modern beef industry. This notion requires demythologizing.

One of the latest books to take a look at this myth, as well as a number of others, is Timothy Egan’s (1998) Lasso the Wind: Away to the New West. Egan is a third-generation Westerner and the Pacific Northwest correspondent for The New York Times. It bodes well for the “gray lady” that such a critical-minded reporter can find his way on the payroll of such an establishment paper. Comparing the bison to cow, Egan writes,

With the bison gone, the government had to come up with some way to the people who had once relied on free buffalo herds. Thus were born first major government subsidies of cattle. Significant numbers of people began to kill one another over cows as well. Indians were starving to death on the barren, bisonless reservations they had been moved to, in Oklahoma and eastern Arizona. Wards of the state, they were promised rations of beef by federal Indian agents. By 1880, the government was purchasing fifty thousand animals a year to feed the tribes. Providing those rations, through huge contracts, was a source of graft and ultimately folklore–of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett, for example.

At first, the dominant cattle were hybrids from Texas. These longhorns were scrawny and ornery. And they had two other major problems: they carried a tick, which infected Herefords, the popular cattle brought to the West from Britain, and their meat was tough and gristly. As one cowboy put it, a Longhorn was “eight pounds of hamburger and 800 pounds of bone horn.” Longhorns were quarantined, banned from most rail-shipment towns. The smaller, more docile, white-faced dogies became the dominant animal of the latter half of the cowboy era. The contrast between Herefords and bison was the difference between a redwood and a potted plant. Conditioned to a wet climate, cows bunch up along rivers and streams and will kill their water source with poop and poison unless moved. Bison spend most of time on and higher ground, going to a water source only for short periods. In the winter, bison use their shaggy heads to plow through snow for forage; cattle whimper and bawl for human help. Bison can survive droughts; cattle need the equivalent of forty-plus inches of rain a year.

Moving beeves, as cattle were called, over open ground was said to be one of the easiest routes to riches in the 1870s and 1880s. The grass cost nothing, or so the owners and the government agents initially thought. Cattle chewed up all that feed on the public domain over which buffalo used to roam and then were herded to rail depots for transport and slaughter. Establishing a tradition that, today, allows foreign-owned companies to extract billions of dollars in minerals from American public land without a dime in royalties, the United States opened the former bison lands to anyone with a head of beef. The point was to bring people west, for any reason, and to use the land, also for any reason. The Marquis of Tweeddale had 1.7 million acres. Large British investment houses bought enormous herds, and by the early 1880s more than 100 million pounds of frozen beef was being sent annually to England. The XIT Ranch in Montana, owned by a British conglomerate, counted fifteen thousand square miles of rangeland as its cattle domain-an area bigger than any of a half dozen states in the former British colonies. Inside wood-paneled clubs in Cheyenne and Denver, the owners read the Sunday Times from London, sipped gin-and-tonics and purchased local sheriffs. In Wyoming, the stockmen-owned legislature passed a law making it a felony to possess a cow that was not branded by the owners association. Basically, that meant any cow not owned by the monopoly was illegal. Rebellion by small homesteaders against this law prompted the Johnson County War, the biggest violent clash over red meat in the West. An army of hired guns owned by Wyoming stockmen started hanging, burning, and shooting people on a death list drawn up by the stockmen. A story of calculated violence and feudal power at a time when the homesteader was supposed to be king, the Johnson County War inspired one of the worst movies ever done on the West, Michael Cimino’s bloated and interminable Heaven’s Gate. (pp. 139-140)

The “progress” of cattle-ranching in Montana and other Indian territories has actually represented retrogression because water sources are either exhausted to feed the animals or polluted from their waste. Native grasses that helped to preserve the fertility of the soil have been replaced by grains that serve only one purpose: cattle feed. Meanwhile, the collapse of the cattle industry has driven many ranchers to desperation, prompting then to hook up with the fascist-like militias. Wyoming and Montana have strong militia movements, and unless a strong progressive movement takes shape in the United States, the militias can easily form the basis for a violent and racist mass movement.

I want to conclude this review essay with an examination of an obscure moment in American history that involves the Blackfoot and the environmentalist movement. It is, as far as I know, one of the first instances of eco-imperialism on record and evokes more recent clashes between outfits like Sea-Shepherd and the Makah or Greenpeace and the Innuit. The facts on this appear in Mark David Spence’s (1996) “Crown of the Continent, Backbone of the World: The American Wilderness Ideal and Blackfeet Exclusion from Glacier National Park,” an article in the July 1996 issue of Environmental History.

The eastern half of Glacier National Park was once part of the Blackfoot reservation and the tribe insists that an 1895 treaty allowed them certain ownership privileges. These lands are of utmost importance to the Blackfoot because they contain certain plants, animals, and religious sites that are of key importance to the cultural identity. The federal government considered the land to be one of its “crown jewels” and thought that the Blackfoot would tarnish it through their intrusions. This separation between man and nature of course goes against Indian wisdom. The park founders’ idea of “wilderness” owed more to European romanticism than it did to the reality of American history. The indigenous peoples and the forests, rivers, and grasslands lived in coexistence and codetermined each other’s existence thousands of years before Columbus-the first invader-arrived.

The mountains within Glacier National Park contained powerful spirits such as Wind Maker, Cold Maker, thunder, and Snow Shrinker. One of the most important figures in Blackfoot religion, a trickster named Napi or Old Man, disappeared into these mountains when he left the Blackfoot. The park is also the source of the Beaver Pipe bundle, one of the most venerated and powerful spiritual possessions of the tribe. Chief Mountain, standing at the border of the reservation and the national park, is by far the most distinct and spiritually charged land feature within the Blackfoot universe.

While pre-reservation life was centered on the plains and bison hunting, the resources of the mountains and foothills contained within the park were also important to their livelihood. Women and youngsters dug for roots and other foodstuffs in the parklands at the beginning of the spring hunting cycle. At the conclusion of the bison hunting season, which was marked by the Sun Dance ceremony, the various bands would retreat to the mountains and hunt for elk, deer, big horn sheep, and mountain goats. They would also cut lodge poles from the forests and gather berries through the autumn months. All of these activities were as important to them spiritually as economically. By denying them this, the park administrators were cutting them off from something as sacred as the whale is to the Makah.

What gives the banning of the Blackfoot from Glacier National Park a special poignancy and sadness was that it was motivated by beliefs identical to those held by George Bird Grinnell, a park administrator and well-known friend of the Blackfoot. He won the trust of Blackfoot storytellers and this allowed him to put into print the Blackfoot Lodge Tales (Grinnell, 1962). Although Grinnell said in the preface to the collection that “the most shameful chapter of American history is that in which is recorded the account of our dealings with the Indians” (p. xi), he saw no particular reason to preserve Glacier National Park as Blackfoot territory. Of course, without any self-consciousness, he also states in this preface that “the Indian is a man, not very different from his white brother, except that he is undeveloped.” Also, “the Indian has the mind and feelings of a child with the stature of a man” (p. xiv). When you stop and consider that Grinnell was a leading supporter of American Indian rights, it is truly frightening to consider the depths of racism that must have existed during the late 1800s when he was collecting his tales from the Blackfoot while accepting their banishment from the park.

Spence (1996) has an astute interpretation of Grinnell’s contradictory attitudes. He says that for Grinnell, the parks represented a living resource for American civilization. It would be a place for tourists to come and take photographs of the natural splendors. As for the Blackfoot, they were an important part of America’s past. They would live on through the Blackfoot Lodge Tales and dioramas at places like the Museum of Natural History.

Spence (1996) concludes his article with a description of how the clash between park administrators and the Blackfoot never really went away.

By 1935, relations between the Blackfeet and the National Park Service had reached an impasse that remains in place to this day. On one side, the park service, tourists, preservationists largely made Glacier into the uninhabited wilderness that continues to inform potent ideas about nature and national identity. Blackfeet use of park undermined this idealized notion of wilderness and the tribe’s resistance to Glacier’s eastward expansion limited its physical expression. Tension between Indians and the park service subsided over the next few decades, but the issue of Blackfeet in the eastern half of Glacier never disappeared.

By the 1960s, few Blackfeet actually hunted near the park, and fewer still went to the mountains to gather traditional plant foods and medicines. But the continuing importance of the Backbone of the World never depended on how many people went to the mountains. Although the Glacier region provided the tribe with a large portion of its physical sustenance in the 1890s, the issue of Blackfeet rights in the area always reflected concerns about cultural persistence and tribal sovereignty. In conjunction with the “Red Power” movement of the 1970s, these concerns arose again as Blackfeet leaders pushed for recognition of tribal rights in the park. Their efforts met strong opposition from both park officials and environmentalists, who resisted the Blackfeet “threat” as fervently as they did plans to mine coal and explore for oil in the park. The state of near-war that once characterized relations between the Blackfeet and park officials resurfaced in the early 1980s; the two sides only narrowly armed conflict on several occasions. Ultimately, continued Indian protests, ongoing risk of violence, and Blackfeet proposals for joint management of the eastern half of Glacier forced the National Park Service to revisit issues its leaders had buried in the 1930s. (p. 41)

A program for sweeping social and economic change in the United States has to put indigenous rights in the forefront. If the Indian is the canary in the mine, whose survival represents survival for everybody, then no other group deserves greater solidarity. Part of the enormous job in allying all the diverse sectors of the American population against an increasingly reactionary and violent government is explaining that the Indian comes first. This means that Sea-Shepherd and Greenpeace activists must understand that preservation of the wilderness makes no sense if the Indian is excluded.

The best way to restore the United States to ecological, economic, and spiritual health is to reconsider ways in which the precapitalist past can be approximated in a modern setting. Just as it makes sense for the Makah to use whatever weapons they deem necessary in pursuit of the whale, it might make sense for the entire northwestern plains states to be returned to the bison under the stewardship of the Blackfoot Indian. They have a much better track record on taking care of resources than do the agribusiness corporations who despoil the land for profit. Timothy Egan thinks that this makes sense, as does Ernest Callenbach, the author of Bring Back the Buffalo: A Sustainable Future for America’s Great Plains. Callenbach (1996) writes,

The basic Indian goal … is the reestablishment on the reservations of the natural ecological balance or reciprocity among humans, plants, and animals that existed before Euro-American occupation. On the Plains, a restored population of bison would be a sign that things had been put back together again on a sustainable basis. (pp. 77-78)

References

REFERENCES

References

Callenbach, E. (1996). Bring back the buffalo: A sustainable future for America’s great plains. Washington, DC: Island Press.

Ewers, J. (1958). The Blackfeet: Raiders of the northwestern plains. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

Grinnell, 0. (1962). Blackfoot lodge tales. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Spence, M. D. (1996, July). Crown of the continent, backbone of the world: The American wilderness ideal and Blackfeet exclusion from Glacier National Park. Environmental History, 1(3), 29-49.

AuthorAffiliation

LOUIS PROYECT

Columbia University

AuthorAffiliation

LOUIS PROYECT is a scholar-activist, employed by Columbia University, whose articles have appeared in Canadian Dimensions, Sozialismus, Review of Radical Political Economy, and New Politics. During the 1980s, he was the president of Tecnica, a volunteer program that placed skilled professionals and tradespeople in government agencies in Sandinista Nicaragua. The article is part of a work in progress that will attempt to synthesize Marxism and indigenism.

 

January 22, 2019

Thoughts on the Covington High School/American Indian confrontation

Filed under: indigenous,Kevin Coogan,racism — louisproyect @ 8:23 pm

After having written over 1,500 film reviews for Rotten Tomatoes for the past twenty years or so, I am probably better qualified than most people to make sense of the one hour and forty-five minute video recording made by a member of the Black Hebrew Israelites cult that can be seen below:

The recording was about the same length of the average film I review but one that was even less interesting than the Hollywood junk I am forced to watch at year end in advance of the annual NYFCO awards meeting. Made by Shar Yaqataz Banyamyan on a smart phone, it had no close-up footage of the American Indian confrontation with the Covington Catholic schoolboys except for the native drummers advancing on them and then being swallowed up. Most importantly, you don’t see the smirking Nick Sandmann whose future as a student and professional will be constrained by his arrogance. No Ivies for him.

Like Akira Kurosawa’s “Rashomon”, there are a number of versions of what happened on the plaza beneath the Lincoln Monument on late Friday afternoon four days ago. The right has predictably taken up Nick Sandmann’s cause while the left has indicted him as a racist thug. Given the kind of abuse American Indians have put up with for the past three hundred years, Sandmann ranks as a minor first-offender but an offender nonetheless. I will try to explain his and his classmates’ behavior later on but want to start off with a word or two on the Black Hebrew Israelites who created a climate that made such a confrontation possible. If they had not been haranguing people that day, the Covington students and the Indians would have never crossed paths.

The Hebrew Israelites will be familiar to most New Yorkers, where they are based. Many years ago they used to preach (for the lack of a better word) near the corner of West 8th Street and Sixth Avenue where I am embarrassed to say I used to preach socialism with my SWP comrades. It is difficult to say whether passers-by were puzzled more by them or us.

Thanks to the indispensable Wikipedia, I have a better idea of who they are. The belief that African-Americans are the true descendants of the Biblical Hebrews has been around since the late 1800s when Frank Cherry and William Saunders Crowdy formed the first such congregations, unconnected to each other. Wikipedia doesn’t have any information on Cherry but Crowdy is a notable figure. He was born into slavery in 1847 and escaped from his masters in 1863 after an argument. Wasting no time, he joined the Colored 19th Regiment of the Union Army as a cook that year. After the war, he became a Buffalo Soldier, the term for Black cavalry members used to break American Indian resistance to the white settlers.

Crowdy’s Church of God and Saints of Christ is a fairly conventional institution with a mixture of Christian and Jewish customs. Members believe that Jesus was neither God nor the son of God, but rather a strict adherent to Judaism and a prophet sent by God. Leaders of the Church call themselves Rabbis, and so on.

The outfit that Shar Yaqataz Banyamyan belongs to is a horse of another color. The best introduction to them is a Village Voice article from March 2011 titled “Black Hebrew Israelites: New York’s Most Obnoxious Prophets”. Author Steven Thrasher recounts their infamous street theater:

On this corner, in the shadow of the Empire State Building, you could just pull up a chair with a bowl of popcorn and watch a show more entertaining than anything you’d ever see in a comedy club. The House of Israel, shouting within earshot of the tens of thousands of people who pass through this intersection on any given evening, makes for a sticky web. The endless stream of “so-called black” New Yorkers, “so-called Jews,” bewildered Japanese tourists, and born-again Christian teens who pass by are their flies.

For the first 30 minutes of Banyamyan’s video, you see his four co-religionists at the bottom of the Lincoln Monument, about 40 feet from the stairs and with their back to Lincoln’s statue. Another 40 feet or so in front of them are about 150 American Indians who have come to Washington as part of an Indigenous People’s March and Rally. It is likely that the event has ended since nobody is giving a speech. Instead, they are in a circle dance with drummers keeping rhythm. Their mood is relaxed.

The unnamed street preacher of the Hebrew Israelites kept up a steady stream of invective against them the entire time. He denounced them for worshipping buffaloes and totem poles. A couple of Indians walked over to argue but they probably would have been better off just ignoring them, especially since that would rob the cult of a sense of accomplishment. Their goal is not so much winning supporters but antagonizing people.

Meanwhile, there were maybe a dozen or so Covington students on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial who were paying no attention to the war of words between the cult and the handful of Indians.

That began to change forty minutes into the video when the Covington’s numbers had increased, marked visually by the MAGA hats about half of them were wearing. When the cult spotted the MAGA hats, they turned their backs on the Indians and refocused their verbal abuse on the students who they called children of incest led by pedophile priests. They denounced Trump as a “faggot” since he was seen on the Internet hanging out with Rudolph Giuliani in drag from a charity event in 2000:

By fifty minutes, the Covington students had risen to the bait and surrounded the Hebrew Israelites who taunted them as being chicken-shits, too afraid to take on five Black men protected by angels. I suspect that the students were less interested in having a fight with the men and were simply mystified by street theater that never would be seen on a sidewalk in their lily-white town.

What they seemed to be more interested in was recreating the “team spirit” of their high school gym, seeing the group of five insane Black men as a rival basketball team. One youth stripped down to his shorts and began jumping up and down bare-chested like a cheerleader. For all I know, that’s what he was. It didn’t take much to get the Covington students revved up and they all began jumping up and down, yelling chants that are not possible to decipher from the video although I might have heard “block that pass” at some point. It is important to understand, however, that there was a good distance between them and the Hebrew Israelites at this point, likely a result of an older man (likely a chaperone) urging them to retreat.

At one hour and twelve minutes into the video, you see Nathan Phillips leading a small group of Indians headed toward the teens drum in hand. Still high on adrenaline, the students surrounded them and continuing jumping up and down in rhythm to the drum. I doubt that no more than the average contempt for Indians motivated them at this point. It is likely that they were like most teens, just acting like assholes—especially the smirking Nick Sandmann. I have seen articles that compare the Covington youth to the “Unite the Right” protestors in Charlottesville when they strike me as have never having heard of Richard Spencer. The closest analogy to them would be the football crowds who do the “tomahawk” at an Atlanta Braves baseball game. There have been references to a basketball game in the Covington gym where a couple of students have painted themselves black. It is likely that this was not minstrel-type racism but only a reference to the school colors (everybody else around them is dressed in black.) That being said, it was a slap in the face to Black players on the opposing team in the same vein as blocking Nathan Phillips. The affront was inspired more by watching NFL games where painted faces are prevalent rather than Tucker Carlson.

These are racist jerks but no more so than probably 90 percent of Americans that Leon Trotsky once described in the following terms. Substitute the word “Indians” for “Negroes” and you’ll get the idea: “99.9 per cent of the American workers are chauvinists, in relation to the Negroes they are hangmen and they are so also toward the Chinese. It is necessary to teach the American beasts.”

In terms of their political views overall, they are like probably 90 percent of the white students in Catholic schools–pro-Trump and anti-abortion. That is why they came to Washington. They were at an anti-abortion rally and picked up MAGA hats from street vendors. That’s normal for the USA even if for the rest of the planet it is aberrant behavior. Everything is relative. What’s normal for the USA would strike a Swede as fascist (at least up until the point when Swedish fascists become the majority.)

After the Indians are surrounded by the Covington students and disappear from the camera’s view, there is of little interest in the video except one key element. All of this takes place a good distance from the Hebrew Israelites who chat among each other about the bad behavior of the students, something that has a hollow ring given the hour or so they spent stoking them up. With all due respect to Nathan Phillips, there is little evidence that his small and plucky group was acting to defuse the situation since the distance between the youth and the cult was considerable. My guess is that he was asserting their right to climb to the top of the stairs, which certainly was their right. The callow youth of this Catholic School saw their right in turn to block them as if they were a visiting high school basketball team. They will pay for their arrogance in years to come.

 

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