Saturday, January 12, 2008

Cowboys and Indians

CBS is airing the final installment in the Lonesome Dove series, Comanche Moon. Now I have never read any of this series and have not seen any of the previous installments of the series on TV when they were made into TV movies, but the commercials are really bothering me. They seem overly racist. They portray the Comanche as blood thirsty savages who the pioneers had to kill just to protect themselves. This suggests that the settlers were minding their own business, just trying to live and the Comanche decided to attack for no reason. Well, I hate to try and correct the history, but it seems to me that the indigenous peoples were here much longer than the white settlers. It seems to me that we took over their land, brought disease that killed them and in many instances began the wars. From the invasion of Mexico by Cortez and the Spaniards to the concept of Manifest Destiny where the US had to expand itself "from sea to shining sea", the settlers and invaders did nothing, but destroy the land and attack the indigenous peoples. We created any violence that was found here. I am not saying that the Native Americans did not have wars among themselves over land and such, but there were set boundaries to where tribes lived and hunted. The Comanche did not decide to just take over the land of the Apache or Cheyenne because they needed all of the land. They did not wage wars on other tribes because the other tribe was "in their way". They did not destroy the vegetation and animals, hunting the bison to extinction purely as a sport, in order to expand across the land. And they sure as fuck didn't ask the damn white settlers to kill them.

So, why is it OK to show such blatantly racist shit on TV? Why is it OK to show the white settlers as declaring war on the Comanche or any other Native tribe and then blaming the tribe for fighting back? Why is it Ok for us to now romanticize this time in our history that we should be so ashamed of? It is no longer OK to romanticize the pre-Civil War south. It is not OK, anymore, in our society to show the slaves simply as racist caricatures of singing, dancing buffoons whose sole purpose in life was the servitude of their owner and yet... And yet it is still OK to portray the Native Americans as violent, vicious, ruthless savages who wanted nothing, but to kill the white settlers. Why is this OK? Can anyone answer me?


Comrade Kevin said...

A big reason is that Native Americans have not risen up in large numbers and with a sense of common purpose the way Black folk have to protest such matters.

Historically, Native peoples were always divided and often at odds with each other, which greatly aided the European colonists in their ravages. One of the key reasons the Aztec were defeated is that Spanish conquistadors used the enemies of the Aztecs and their understanding ill-will towards them to their own advantage.

That being said, Native Americans have just as much of a legitimate beef as any other oppressed minority group but their voices in our nation's conscience have been largely silent. One wonders why that is. One wonders why they have not found a common bond which unites them together.

Boxer rebel said...

CK- That is a very good point and does explain a lot, but it would seem that in more modern times they would be able to rise together to protest the racism that is so prevalent against them in our society.

The Cunning Runt said...

Sorry CK, but your comment is so dreadfully off the mark as to DEMAND a rebuttal.

The indigenous peoples of this continent were NOT in fact in a constant state of bloody war with each other. Certainly there were occasional conflicts over territory and hunting rights, but by the time the European invaders had "claimed" vast tracts of land already in use by "Native Americans," those so-called Savages had established peaceful confederacies covering huge tracts of land occupied by numerous tribes united in their commitment to peaceful coexistence. Our Constitution is built largely on a reworking of the charter of the Iroquois Confederacy of Five (and later six) Nations.

The MYTH that American Indians never got their act together enough to stand up to the European Invaders belies the TRUTH that those people had never before in their history had to confront such a disgusting horde of disingenuous, despicable, duplicitous bigots with no regard whatsoever for the ethics and values of anyone besides themselves.

Even today, attempts to organize American Indian Movements are stymied by infiltrations of US Government operatives, steering activities toward gray legal areas and framing/entrapping the strong voices of my people.

Even today we are lured to the tables of "compromise," only to see that compromise inked out as nothing more than capitulation to the Oil and Timber and Mining industries whose well-heeled lobbyists own the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Six generations after Black Elk's desperate plea to The Great Father, his people are still not free to live as their Creator intended.

Six generations later, I'm still crying to Father Sky to "Let My People Live," but my voice is small, and the voice of money consumes and drowns out my words.

The Truth needs ALL our voices to be heard. Will you abandon the apologia of our "failure to find a common voice?" Will you join us in screaming our demands from every hilltop?

GourmetGoddess said...

Thank you, Cunning Runt.

Both of my grandparents were part of the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa. Sadly, my own generation is too dilute to be members, but we have continued to work in solidarity with our relatives and were part of the pow-wow held in honor ot the declaration of war on the United States in the late 80s, via the legal process, over continued treaty violations.

There are only about 6,000 members of the Lac Courte Oreilles band left alive. Perhaps our voices are not as loud as other groups with greater populations. But we understand the importance of standing together. We work with the Ho-Chunk and the Potatwatomi and the Menomonie and the Lakota and many many others - Native American and others. Sadly, the voices that are most often absent, or that are vehemently racist and hateful, are those of the local, impoverished whites. Sadly, these individuals can not see that they have more in common with the local tribes than they do with other whites. That we all suffer under the kyriarchal system and that if we worked together instead of against each other, me might topple that damn system.

The voices of Native Americans have not been silent, have never truly been silent, and are not silent now. Dammit.

The Cunning Runt said...

Thank you, Sister.

And Comrade Kevin, my friend, we have SO much more in common than my most recent rant might seem to suggest. Please forgive me for coming across so stridently (as a re-reading of my comment makes embarrassingly clear to me.) I've spent the last 40 years of my life choking back the rage I feel when My People are blamed for their own genocide, ridiculed for believing the sworn words in the treaties signed by the US Government and then shredded like the feet of our children as they were marched to their graves by Christians in blue uniforms.

It never ceases to amaze me, the depth of the wound I've carried all these years. You deserve better than to be asked to atone for the sins of others, and I owe you the courtesy of an apology.