Most people tend to associate genocide with wholesale slaughter of a specific people. However, the 1948 U.N. Convention on the Punishment and Prevention of the Crime of Genocide, describes genocide beyond outright murder of people as the destruction and extermination of culture. Article II of the convention lists five categories of activity as genocidal when directed against a specific "national, ethnic, racial, or religious group.":

  1. - Killing members of the group;
  2. - Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  3. - Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  4. - Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  5. - Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
The U.S. government is guilty on all counts in its official treatment of indigenous groups, and has been inventing new genocidal methodologies as long as people of the first nations hold claim to the land. The evolution of colonial conquest into corporate speculation has occured primarily in strategy; the goals have remained the same:

It should come as no surprise, therefore, that the United States Government has refused to ratify the U.N. convention on genocide. This document will examine several facets of genocide as it is implemented upon the indigenous peoples of the North American continent, and attempt to uncover the reasons behind popular acquiescence of ongoing genocidal practices. The list of American genocidal policies includes:


By conservative estimates, the pre-contact population of the land now defined by the 48 contiguous states of America numbered in excess of 12 million. Four centuries later, the count was reduced by 95% to 237 thousand. What happened?

To begin with, when Columbus returned to the Hispanola, in 1493 with an invasion force of 17 ships, he promptly implemented policies of slavery and mass-extermination of the Taino population of the Caribbean. Within three years five million were dead. Fifty years later, the Spanish census recorded only 200 living.

Peter Guanikeyu Torres, President & Council Chief of the Taino Inter-Tribal Council, recently contacted me to assure me that the Taino people are by no means extinct:

"Our old Taino homeland covered from the North Land know as Bemini Southern (Florida) following the Caribbean Islands to the present day homeland of Boriken (Puerto Rico). Our Taino people have also migrated and have established the new Taino Southern New Jersey State Tribe of Jatibonuco. We are still in the thousands,living on the Island and in the North American old homeland."

Las Casas, the primary historian of the Colombian era, writes of numerous accounts of the horrors that the Spanish colonists (hidalgos) inflicted upon the indigenous populations; hanging them en masse, roasting them on spits, hacking their children into pieces to be used as dog feed, and so on.

Las Casas' works are of course omitted from popular American history, as Columbus is considered to be a hero, a founding father, an emissary of Christianity. By declaring and celebrating a holiday in Columbus' honor, The United States is guilty by complicity (under article III of the genocide convention) of the crime of genocide.

However, the mass-murders ended not with Columbus' departure; the expansion of the European colonies and the newly declared United States was facilitated by similar bloody conquests. Massacres occurred across the land at such places as
"Wounded Knee"and
Sand Creek.

Methods for "Indian removal" and "clearing" included military slaughter of tribal villages, bounties on native scalps, and biological warfare. Uninfected tribes were intentionally contaminated with smallpox by British agents. Over 100 thousand died among the Mingo, Delaware, Shawnee and other Ohio River nations. The U.S. army was further inspired to use the same methods on the Plains tribal populations with similar success.

Forced Removal from homelands -past and present:

After the success of the American revolution, it was determined by the U.S. government, that the treaties with the indigenous nations had served their purpose, and were no longer of any consequence. "Indian Removal" policy was implemented to "clear" land for white settlers. Forced marches at bayonet-point to relocation settlements resulted in high mortality rates. Much of the Cherokees population died during the "Trail of Tears".

As the expropriation of indigenous lands directly violated signed treaties, the U.S. realized the importance of enacting legislation in order to cast a veneer of legitimacy over such outright wrongdoing. The establishment of the Indian Claims Commission in 1946 was probably the single greatest maneuver on the part of the U.S. government to legally (and morally) sanction the expropriation of indigenous land without returning any land back to the original occupants. The Commission was designed to have sole jurisdiction over all indigenous claims of inpropriety and misjustice on the part of the U.S. government, yet was limited to rewarding only money as compensation. Any attempt to seek justice through the commission meant specifically losing title to the land in question. Whereas it is commonly believed that indigenous people lost claim to their land in the 19th century, Raymond Yowell, Chair of the Western Shoshone Sacred Lands Association articulates, "What's really happening is that the U.S. government, through this Claims Commission, is stealing the land from us right now." The jurisdiction of the Indian Claims Commission and the white tape of federal legal barriers continues to prohibit the permanent reclamation of Native lands illegally expropriated by the U.S. In reference to the litigational methods employed to separate Indigenous cultures from their land, Tom Leubben, a non-native attorney working for the Western Shoshone writes, "It is clear that one of the main strategies the government uses in these cases is to simply wear out the Indians over decades of struggle...It's the legal equivalent of what the cavalry did a hundred years ago."

Forced removal of indigenous children from their families:

Strategies of targeting native children for assimilation began with violence. Christian morality extended only as far as a blade into a heathen. Indigenous children were kenneled like dogs and fed the holy word of jesus. ThusIndian Education began, with forts erected by Jesuits, in which indigenous youths were incarcerated, indoctrinated with non-indigenous Christian values, and forced into manual labor. The children, forcibly separated from their parents by soldiers often never saw their families until later in their adulthood, after their value-systems and knowledge had been supplanted with colonial thinking.

Jose Noriega's well-documented historical account of the forced indoctrination of colonial thought into the minds of Indian children as a means of disrupting the generational transmission of cultural values, clearly demonstrates the cultural genocide employed by the U.S. government as a means of separating the American Indians from their land.

Current Legislation has recently taken a turn with the Adoption Promotion and Stability Act of 1996 -ammendments to the Indian Child Wellfare Act of 1978 that will determine the ability of Indian Tribes to determine membership and will remove the right of Tribes to intervene in decisions involving Indian children.

Whereas it is generally perceived that military coercion was the primary means by which the U.S. government sought to lay claim to its territory, it is evident that the pervasive indoctrination of non-Indian thinking was the only route outside of total extermination for subordinating and assimilating the indigenous people of this land. " has been the mechanism by which colonialism has sought to render itself effectively permanent..."

One of the cornerstones of U.S. imperialist strategy was to supplant traditional leadership of the various indigenous nations with indoctrinated 'graduates' of white 'schools', to expedite compliance with U.S. goals and expansion. Such cold calculation to disrupt the cultural integrity of the indigenous nations required an alibi of moral justification: "Grooming for responsible leadership" This system of self-colonization was obviously recognized in its efficiency, for it has been refined to a point where it is employed in contemporary educational facilities; the grandchildren of Indians resistant to colonial education are now teaching white thinking in public schools -free of federal spending. As Phyllis Young describes, "It's really a perfect system of colonization, convincing the colonized to colonize each other in the name of "self-determination" and "liberation"".

Jimmie Durham, another AIM leader adds, "If Indian education really had anything to with the imparting of vocational skills, Indian unemployment wouldn't still be running above sixty percent, would it?" -A statistic that would no doubt be explained by a genetic predisposition to laziness and alcoholism, by colonial reasoning, and believed by the indoctrinated .

Indian Country and Tribal Governments

If the take-over of indigenous territory had solely taken the form of military conquest, then the moral underpinnings of U.S. legal hegemony would perhaps have been more openly recognized as hypocritical by the public at large. Although other acts of open aggression by the United States have been rationalized under the ideologies of national security and national interest, there has certainly been international condemnation of such overt acts by other governments. Witness the Indonesian oppression of East Timor, the Serbian aggression in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Iraqi assault of Kuwait, etc. However, the expropriation of indigenous land and destruction of native power structures by the United States took place in subtle forms and gradually enough, that the prerogative of the federal government's actions has always been accepted as legitimate by the (Europe-centric) international community.

The acceptance of the federal relationship to "Indian Country" as an "internal" affair, has effectively prohibited indigenous nations from the international forum enjoyed by all other sovereign nations in conflict. The intent of the United States to internalize "Indian Country" was made clear from the start; The original "Indian" treaties entered into with the English Crown were handed over to the United States when they were admitted to the "company of recognized nations" at the treaty of Paris in 1783.

The ambiguity of the term "Indian Country" has permitted the federal government to gradually extract the various legal parameters that once protected indigenous territory from colonial encroachment. The concept originally described all of the land beyond the frontier, as off limits to American citizens, and under the unqualified jurisdiction of the various tribal nations. The homogeneous nature of the concept belied the diversity of federal government's relationships with the various indigenous nations. The smaller, weaker nations were forced to accept varying degrees of sovereign power in "Indian Country", while the more powerful nations were able to maintain a greater level of jurisdiction in their lands. As the newly established United States no longer had to contend with other colonial powers, and their military might grew, the legal dismantling of "Indian Country" was now backed with the whispered threat of superior fire power.

The deconstruction of the legal definition of "Indian Country" took place through legislature with the development of federal policy. The jurisdictional powers of the indigenous governments were the first to erode, later to be followed by their actual ownership of the land as they became relegated to the role of stewards and tenants. Indian Removal Policy actually changed the actual borders of "Indian Country", and the Reservations came to serve as the redefinition.

Perhaps most destructive of all was the effect of the Allotment Act on the geographical borders of "Indian Country". As allottees sold or lost their land, the allotments officially ceased to be part of "Indian Country". The result was a patchwork of "Indian Country" and U.S. territory. The continuity of indigenous land ownings as a distinct region was permanently disrupted.

Ironically, the scraps of real-estate that now comprise "Indian Country" are (in some cases) the most mineral-rich pieces of land in the world. Uranium deposits in Navajo territory could make a few tribes some of the richest communities in the country. To deal with this obstacle, the federal government has developed their Indian-liaisons into what are now commonly known as Tribal Governments.

Original attempts to normalize relations with the indigenous nations began with the establishment with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and with (non-native) Indian Agents acting as the federal intermediary. The common alibi of the agents was to function in a "protective" capacity, and in the "best interest of the tribe". If the agents had been presented as representing the interests of their employer, they surely would have been met with a greater degree of resistance.

Still, the amount of consensus and popular involvement in many indigenous governing systems presented a major obstacle to colonial politicians who were accustomed to manipulating the fate of large populaces who had voted away their representation. Traditional indigenous governments were often subject to greater levels of popular scrutiny and influence than colonial systems. Familial and Clan involvement in tribal leadership made disenfranchisement impossible.

To deal with the enduring strength of indigenous governments, the Indian Reorganization Act was enacted under the rhetoric of tribal "economic development" in 1934. As an incentive for the federal supplanting of traditional governing systems, indigenous groups were offered the opportunity to charter business corporations with money held in federal trust. The promise of economic growth to many tribal communities who had largely become dependent on the American economy at the depths of The Depression seemed worth the sacrifice. Of the 258 tribal elections, 77 native communities voted to accept the IRA, and surrendered the ancient fabric of tribal leadership. With a consolidation of power in indigenous nations, corruption was now possible, and Indian Agents finally had the means of extracting Congressional interest from "Indian Country" with a federal checkbook.

Ecocide: the environmental destruction of indigenous lands

Indigenous communities have typically been the targets of the Waste industry specifically because they lack the economic resources to prevent contamination. Winona LaDuke points out that "women are the first environment", the primary habitat between humans and the outside world. As the womb becomes infected with industrial pollutants, the 'first environment' becomes an extension of corporate dump sites. The contamination of indigenous culture by nuclear waste and refinement facilities is another facet of cultural genocide that has come to be known as "environmental racism". The federal government has been targeting reservations for several reasons: most states refuse waste contracts; the impoverished status of reservations makes the contracts more attractive; and most importantly, the sovereign status of the reservations places them outside of EPA jurisdiction, thus releasing the dump facilities from federal regulations. Ironically, it is only on environmental issues that the federal government is fully accepting of indigenous sovereignty.

Attempts to install waste facilities by the U.S. government on native lands are genocidal in their culturally destructive repercussions. As natural resources become poisoned, native communities become forced to accept other means of subsistence. Their impoverishment becomes compounded by a dependence on an industrialized economy that has no regard for indigenous culture.

Beyond the physical and cultural destruction that is caused by industrial waste on Indian land, there is a matter of principle: Such deadly waste is simply not an indigenous phenomena. Part of the claim to their land lies in their reverence of it and all of nature. The preservation of Native cultures is directly dependent upon the preservation of their lands. Claims to environmentally corrupted lands are worthless to cultures that depend upon their natural resources. There is no reason why indigenous people should live with white man's waste.


Suppression of religious freedoms:

Before the first amendment was found to protect indigenous people from being forced into Christianity, it was a regular practice. Punishment for practicing native religion such as the Ghost Dance and Sun Dance, which were declared "Indian Offenses" was also commonplace.

Despite such seemingly positive legislation as the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, indigenous people have still been prevented from exercising their religious liberties, either by direct prohibition of law, or through state-sanctioned corporate destruction of indigenous holy sites, or by harassment, or outright denial by prison administrators

For Americans, the 14th amendment explicitly renders legislation as incompetent to compromise the free exercise of religion clause in the first amendment. However, the judgments made in Lying v. Northwest Indian Cemetery Protective Association, and Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon v.Smith have stripped indigenous groups of Constitutional protection under the fourteenth amendment. These rulings are overtly unconstitutional and clearly genocidal in their effect.

public endorsement of corporate racist iconography:

The mascot for the Cleveland Indians indicates the insidious nature of racism against indigenous people. A similar icon depicting a bucktooth chinaman, a grinning black-face negro, a lazy sombrero wearing mexican, etcetera, would draw instant condemnation. Yet the Cleveland Indian and the Washington Redskin are championed as icons of "good clean fun". So familiar is the icon of the befeathered, red-skinned, predatory, blood-thirsty Indian, that we associate its image as more of a corporate symbol that a representation of culture. Americans think of cars, states, military weaponry, etc., at the mention of most indigenous names. It is by this unconscious disassociation that apologists of the "tomahawk chop", absent the attention that the civil rights movement brought to similar racist imagery of African Americans, will deny the offensiveness and genocidal implications of their "good clean fun". American history is intrinsically enmeshed with propaganda and mythic narratives of the people displaced by our national heritage. From the very start Europeans have codified lies and fiction into indigenous existence, beginning with the signifier, "Indian". Indigenous identity has been subjected to assimilation, deculturation, and comodification which has resulted in a complete dehumanization. The layers of mythic narratives codified into the "Indian" has left a pastiche, devoid of humanity. As John Mohawk puts it, "Indians thus serve as props, little more."

In addressing the forked-tongues of federal policy makers, it is important to realize that the platform of their hegemony necessitates motives of genocide. They are placed in a precarious position of maintaining a moralist stance on one side, and squashing indigenous resistance on the other. By standards set by international law, the U.S. government has adopted the position of an outlaw as policy objectives of deculturation and assimilation are directly contrary to the U.N. Convention on the Punishment and Prevention of the Crime of Genocide. Despite such a tightrope stance, U.S. hegemony is maintained through sheer force of economic might, and corporate maintenance of cultural subordination through popularization of such racist imagery and practice as the 'tomahawk chop'.

statistical extermination/federal derecognition:

The process of Federal "Indian Identification" bears a striking similarity in its strategy as a genocidal policy to the design of contemporary 'Indian education' in creating a self-colonizing dynamic. Where U.S. sanctioned 'Indian Education' employs native teachers to instruct colonial historical narratives to indigenous children, federal 'Indian Identification' policy fuels self-marginalization and fragmentation as people and tribes compete for crumbs on the basis of colonial criteria of identity. Both practices ultimately serve to force indigenous people to redefine themselves by colonial criteria as a means of legitimizing overt treaty violations and expropriating Native land.

The federal acknowledgment process in its appropriation of the criteria of 'Indian identity' usurps several of the fundamental concepts of sovereignty: Expressly, the right to self-determination as a nation, the right to determine the membership of that nation, and the basic right to answer the question, "What am I?", based upon personal criteria. BAR (Bureau of Acknowledgment and Research) chief Bud Sharpard although critical of the BIA's decisions, stands by the department's role as an arbiter in determining distinctions between "borderline descendants" and "real Indians".

A form of token sovereignty is constructed by the U.S. government on its own terms, using economic blackmail to force indigenous people to forfeit self-determination in accepting a U.S. definitions of "Indian" identity. Genocidal tactics have evolved in their subtlety as they are woven into the fabric of post-colonial institutions. Indigenous traits become memories of ancestors, as their descendants are defined as extinct. Language is the ultimate vehicle of genocide. Patricia Limerick aptly describes the fate of native people who submit to eugenic code as of being "...defined out of existence." By abdicating self-determination, indigenous nations are facing inevitable 'statistical extermination'.


Is genocide only real for whites?

The fact that Genocide did not enter international law until 1948 is an indicator of the eurocentrism and racism that still dominates on a global level; It was only when Europeans (Jews, Poles, and other victims of Nazi Germany) faced cultural extermination, that the International community took notice. The "holocaust" came to serve as the model of genocide, despite a weak statistical comparison to the extermination of indigenous cultures in the Americas.

It is the discrepancies between the model created of the Nazi "holocaust", and the ongoing destruction of indigenous cultures in its multifaceted layers of subtlety, that has reinforced the popular misconception that the U.S. government is not guilty of genocide.

Ironically, the perpetrators of the Nazi "holocaust" were originally inspired by colonial efforts at genocide, and directly based the policy of lebensraumpolitik ("politics of living space") on U.S. Chief Justice John Marshall's doctrine of tribal extermination. This is made evident by a memorandum prepared by Colonel Friedrich Hossbach to record the content of a Fuher conference conducted November 7th, 1937.

By spearheading the condemnation of the Nazis for crimes of genocide, the United States followed in its legacy as establishing international moral leadership with a forked tongue; for as Nazi leaders swung from the righteous gallows at Nuremburg, federal agencies in Washington D.C. refined their own genocidal policies, and sold them to the public.

The origin of egalitarianism in the Articles of Confederation and The Constitution comes from the Haudenosaunee -Iroquois Confederacy and the Great Law of Peace. The core concepts to which America swears patriotic devotion, are in fact the greatest obstacles of land speculation and genocide. The change of colonialism from manifest destiny to political morals has evolved like an insidious disease that feeds off people that hold the key to global survival. However, the moral achilles heel of the federal judicial system will never provide an avenue of justice for the nations displaced by the United States. The usurpation of native sovereignty by federal plenary power assures unchecked, complete legal authority over the First Nations. Furthermore, the United States Government has proven itself untrustworthy as it has long violated its own constitution and allowed judicial authority over Indian Affairs. Justice and Restitution can be found only in a forum of international law and human rights.

Recently I was asked what can be done with this information. My primary response is: Pass It On. The political pressure required to bring international law to bare upon the United States government cannot be acheived without popular understanding and support. This document is a work in progress - I am always on the lookout for relevant information, annecdotal info, reference documents, and hypertext links.
Please feel free to send me info to be appended. (as well as some context to provide a link)

Daniel Gideon Seiberling

This is the evolution of a hastily written term-paper for an american indian studies class at san francisco state university. As you may have noticed, there is a glaring lack of footnotes. This is admittedly due to laziness on my part, and my credibility suffers as a result. If you're doing research, do yourself a favor and go to the sources.
Most of the information in this document was gleaned from
State of Native America, edited by M. Annette Jaimes
Struggle For the Land, by Ward Churchill
and American Indians American Justice, by Vine Deloria Jr.

  • Washita (a book in progress) -excellent documentation of Custer's dirty work
  • California's Hidden History
  • Engineering Genocide in Indian Canyon
  • genocide pages on Armenia, Bosnia, Cambodia, Nanjing, Rwanda, and the Ukraine.
  • Federal Indian Laws, Codes, Regulations and Cases
    my Cultural Survival page
    Comments/Information/Links to add? :email me