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New World Holocaust

October 23, 2015

Holocaust – from the Greek ὁλόκαυστος holókaustos: hólos, “whole” and kaustós, “burnt”. Most are familiar with the Holocaust of of the Nazi regime from 1941 to 1945 when six million Jews met their deaths. It is a tragedy almost beyond belief that still scars the world and its diverse cultures.

Lets turn our attention to another holocaust: The extermination of the Native American people along with their language and culture. From the time that the first explorers and colonists set foot on the American continent to the end of the 19th century, conservatively 50 million Native Americans were systematically slaughtered as Europe arrived in droves. Many put the number at 100 million. The colonization of the American continent resulted in at least eight times more deaths than the Nazi’s heinous crimes. But unlike the Holocaust of World War II, there were no war crime trials and in fact very little empathy from a newly formed American government and public.

History books tend to skip over the brutal details. Instead, they almost always focus on the “good guys” like George Armstrong Custer. There have been many good books that have spoken strongly to this subject including, “Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee”, “The Trail Of Tears” and even oddly, “The Last Of The Mohicans.” A reading of any of these is bound to leave you feeling uneasy and perhaps even a little angry. Aside from these narratives, there are a handful of Native Americans that earnestly try to keep their cultures alive. But in today’s world of cell phone mania, their small voices are often lost.

What has been lost has been chiefly lost forever. Yes, we have some written histories, a few names and the recollections by some of the very people who did the butchery. And yes, there were a few people like Lewis and Clark who tried to help preserve the cultures that are now in shambles. Even this author took a college course in the Lakota language and is still conversant in that tongue. However, what is left of the great horse culture of the American plains is left to the imagination. The only Native Americans you are most likely to meet today are selling blankets on reservations or selling you drinks at a casino. Adding insult to injury, almost all treaties that were forged between the American government and the indigenous people of the continent were broken by the Americans within months of their signing. The once proud and accomplished culture of various Native Americans was reduced to cigar selling “wooden Indians” and a brief portrait on the nickle from 1913 to 1938. Reservations? That would be an entire subject onto its own. Suffice it to say, reservations probably served as models for modern jails and Nazi work camps.

I am an American and I am proud to be one. Yet, I feel my government and many of its people have been way less than honest in dealing with our inexcusable history of genocide throughout many decades. čhaŋtéšilyA is the only Lakota word that comes to my mind. These are my thoughts; do you have some to share on this subject?

Read author Allen E. Rizzi’s latest books available at Amazon.com

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4 Comments
  1. The Historical Diaries permalink

    Wow on this post ! I have always felt that way. I mean Europe comes on the scene and brought their diseases and sickness that Indians were not used to therefore not immune . millions died of natives died from this , when the word genocide is brought into play , I think about native Americans, and holocaust as the biggest I know of

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  2. Please feel free to re-blog on your site if you would like….. Allen

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  3. There’s at least one history book that doesn’t skip over the brutal details, Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States.” I couldn’t say that it left me feeling uneasy and a little angry, more like disgusted and enraged.

    Naturally, many of the events described in this book (the systematic slaughter of the indigenous population, the absolutely brutal responses to workers organizing in the early 20th century) aren’t the sorts of things that the government want to be taught in school. Bad for the image and all that.

    As an ex-pat living in Mexico which has a large indigenous population and over 60 indigenous languages or dialects still spoken, which has a incredibly high poverty rate, especially among the indigenous, I have to admit that I was quite shocked one day when an upper class Mexican woman told me: “You guys did it right; you killed off your Indians.”

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  4. Victor,

    Thanks for your insights. Please feel free to comment here more often misúŋka.

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