Letter: Columbus Day: The land grabs continue
October 13, 2013
Columbus Day: The land grabs continue
As a person of indigenous ancestry, I often feel that white writers exclude important nuances regarding pioneer and native relations. I do believe, however, that Tony Vagneur's column ("Mill Creek still haunts the Utes," Sept. 21, The Aspen Times) gets us closer to a balanced telling of the story.
That being said, the most sickening part of our common story is that so many people resort to "Oh, that was then and now our nation has progressed." Unfortunately that belief is fantasy. The American "Christian Doctrine of Discovery" law that dispossessed the Ute "heathens" in the 1880s is still the law of the land.
John Dewy said it best by observing, "Government is the shadow that business cast on society." In my lifetime, I have witnessed more unethical white vs. Indian land grabs than I can list here.
Just a few years ago I drove across Interstate 70 past Elko, Nev. To my surprise, two new gold mines were now located where I knew the Shoshone Indian reservation existed a few years before. I was taken aback to find that two multi-national gold mining corporations, Newmont and Barrick, had successfully argued in court Americas' long-forgotten and secretive manifest destiny laws, just like the developers of old. They even used the same system of deploying federal agents to clear the land: They killed the native's livestock and evicted the Indians from their treaty parcels at gunpoint.
To add insult to injury, the mining companies choose to decimate the land's ability to support life as they spray cyanide water over the ore.
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Indigenous leaders continue to insist that colonizing nations must start following the guidelines set out in the U.N. Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Although the United States has signed the declaration, our present government has formally stated that our nation will not uphold these very basic human rights. Every moral human being in the country should be questioning their elected officials about that policy.
Since 1492, indigenous people have been crushed by the blessings of our free market's golden rule (he who controls the gold sets the rules.)
As we celebrate Columbus Day in Aspen, we should reflect upon American businesses that continue to practice conquest. After all, the Aspen community is said to embrace the concepts of human dignity and justice.
I still worry, however, that Chief Red Cloud's words will stand as a stark warning about the United States to all the "inferior" people of the world. "They made us many promises, more than I can remember, but they kept only one: They promised to take our land, and they did."
J. Ross Douglass
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