Fake Genocides of the 18th Century

Discussion in 'Grandpa's Basement' started by il ragno, Jul 23, 2017.

  1. il ragno Proud American Deplorable

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    The Smallpox-infected Blankets

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    Oh, how the American Indians love this story! I’ve heard it endlessly.

    Did you know that the US gave these evil blankets to Indians all over the country, even here in California? Or Hudson Bay traders gave them to Indians in Canada? That those blankets wiped out “generations” of Indians? That the US gave them out to reservation Indians in the 1800’s? That Puritans gave out the blankets to Massachusetts Indians?

    Neither did I.

    Ward Churchill said the US Army gave Indians them diseased blankets. He lied, and he should have known better.

    It’s always nice to track down a myth, or is it really a myth?

    So let’s track it down.

    Turns out, Americans never gave smallpox blankets to any Indians anywhere at anytime. Not the government, not the Army, not anyone. So we are absolved on that one. The incident in question occurred in 1763, before there even was a USA, before there even were Americans. And American colonists (pre-Americans) didn’t do it either. It was the British that done the deed, and the one man who is always accused of doing it never even did it.

    Further, it was in the midst of a horrible and genocidal war (on both sides) called Pontiac’s Rebellion, which occurred around the Great Lakes area during this time.

    This was really a followup to the French and Indian War, with which the rebellion is often incorrectly associated. In the aftermath of that war, the area which had been ruled by the French was now ruled by the British. And the Indians, far from reflexively hating every White man around, had previously adjusted well to French rule and were angry about now being ruled by the British.

    The Indians hated the deal they were getting from the British, who were treating the Indians very poorly. There were only a few colonial settlers around at this time.

    The Indian goal in the war was to get the French back so they could live under French rule rather than British rule. Towards the end of the war, they may have even wanted freedom.

    But freedom for Indians was never going to work out, at least in the short term, because they were stupid. Stupid? Yes, which is why in the mid-1700’s, when the civilized world was starting to get themselves a country or something like a country (monarchical empires), no way could the American Indians have made one.

    Why? Because they were so stupid that they had endless deadly blood feuds with most of the surrounding tribes such that they spent way more time fighting and killing each other than they did the White man. Any country they would have gotten would have fallen immediately into mad civil war, with no adults around to sort it out and send one to one room and another to the other.

    If you ever find any of those old adolescent novels about the settling of the pre-US Upper Midwest and Appalachia (forget the name), they are a great read. I spent my early adolescence at the library reading those books.

    It’s interesting that in the mid-1700’s, these Indians were well-supplied with firearms. They didn’t invent any firearms, but they were smart enough to figure out their great value as weapons quickly, and they even got to the point where they were expert gunsmiths – experts at stocks, barrels and even gunpowder and pellets.

    The Whites were selling and giving the Indians good quantities of muskets, pellets and gunpowder in this part of the colonial US at this time, but the stupid Indians were mostly using the firearms to kill their Indian enemies rather than to fight the Whites. This situation went on for decades in the US and seriously hampered the Indians’ anti-colonial wars of national liberation against the White invaders.

    In Pontiac’s War, they added firearms to knives, hatchets (not a bad weapon), bow and arrow, flaming bow and arrow and even rocks and clubs. They ingeniously sawed off their muskets into sawed-off shotgun-type muskets so they could hide them under their blankets.

    The Indians were horrible and vicious in the course of this war, and the British were too. But it was the British who were really getting pounded. Whole forts were being overwhelmed by 300-strong Indian armies, and after the storming, the Indians would kill everyone in the place, soldiers, women, kids, anyone.

    The Indians were raiding towns, settlements and schools and killing every White they could find. These were some of the most hard-ass Indians in the history of the Indian Wars. Further, the Indians actually made an alliance of many tribes living in the area during this war, which is incredible, since the Indians usually hated their neighbors so much they would not even ally with them to fight the Whites.

    In the course of the Pontiac Rebellion, a famous British general named Lord Jeffrey Amherst wrote a letter to his subordinate among the besieged British troops in one of the forts suggesting that they give the Indians smallpox-infected blankets. Turns out that this had already been done by that very subordinate. Simeon Ecuyer, the Swiss-born British officer in command of Fort Pitt, was the man who did it.

    Although we do not know how the plan worked out, modern medicine suggests that it could not possibly have succeeded. Smallpox dies in several minutes outside of the human body. So obviously if those blankets had smallpox germs in them, they were dead smallpox germs. Dead smallpox germs don’t transmit smallpox.

    In addition to the apparent scientific impossibility of disease transmission, there is no evidence that any Indians got sick from the blankets, not that they could have anyway. The two Delaware chiefs who personally received the blankets were in good health later. The smallpox epidemic that was sweeping the attacking Indians during this war started before the incident. The Indians themselves said that they were getting smallpox by attacking settler villages infected with smallpox and then bringing it back to their villages.

    So, it’s certain that one British commander (British – not even an American, mind you), and not even the one usually accused, did give Indians what he mistakenly thought were smallpox-infected blankets in the course of a war that was genocidal on both sides.

    Keep in mind that the men who did this were in their forts, cut off from all supplies and reinforcements, facing an army of genocidal Indians who were more numerous and better armed than they were, Indians who were given to killing all defenders whether they surrendered or not.

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    Yeh- tell your story walkin' bowlegged, Chief Never-Wipes-Himself.

    If a fort was overwhelmed, all Whites would be immediately killed, except for a few who were taken prisoner by the Indians so they could take them back to the Indian villages to have some fun with them. The fun consisted of slowly torturing the men to death over a 1-2 day period while the women and children watched, laughed and mocked the helpless captives. So, these guys were facing, if not certain death, something pretty close to that.

    And no one knows if any Indians at all died from the smallpox blankets (and modern science apparently says no one could have died anyway). I say the plan probably didn’t even work and almost certainly didn’t kill any of the targeted Indians, much less 50% of them. Yes, the myth says that Amherst’s germ warfare blankets killed 50% of the attacking Indians!

    Another example of a big fat myth/legend/historical incident, that, once you cut it open – well, there’s nothing much there.

    The tactics in this war were downright terrifying. At one point the city of Detroit itself was surrounded and besieged for weeks on end.

    Pontiac was a master tactician, and the history of the war is full of all sorts of evil acts of deception. Fake peace treaties and fake peace delegations. Devious Indian women working as undercover spies for both sides. Indian mistresses tipping off their White lovers to Indian attacks. And the converse, Indian undercover female agents, disguised as workers in the forts, secretly letting the Indians in to massacre the Whites, and Indian mistresses deviously leading their White officer-lovers and the soldiers under them to their deaths.

    It took forever for the British to resupply the forts, and many reinforcement missions were ambushed and annihilated by Pontiac’s men. It was not a good time to be White in the Great Lakes region, no sir.

    At the end of the day, no one won the war, neither the Indians nor the British.

    The Indians had foolishly allowed themselves to become dependent on the fickle Whites for gunpowder and pellets, which the Indians quickly ran out of when the Whites wisely quit supplying them during the hostilities.

    Lesson: don’t buy your war supplies from the enemy. When war breaks out, he’ll cut you off.

    A little-known aspect of US colonial history.
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  2. Georg Schoenerer Der Judenkenner

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    Ol' time redskins loved the Hudson's Bay Company's iconic blankies. Useful shit, they figured correctly.

    All this pestilence blankie bull comes from the modern day injuns who won't leave it alone even though the tall tale's been thoroughly debunked and disavowed by the HBC themselves.

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    HBC's 'Colonial Barbie' Comes with Baggage.

    Yellow, blue, green, red: those four stripes of colour Bay Company four-point blanket are as iconic to Canadians as the Maple Leaf. And now Barbie, the biggest name in make-believe fashion, comes swaddled in them, sporting a striped jacket, sipping from a striped travel mug, checking her phone in its striped case and walking a poodle clad in a striped jacket. But the Hudson’s Bay Barbie (retailing for $59.99), whose mantras are “strive to better yourself” and “always seek adventure,” comes with some baggage along with those accessories.

    “First Nations people were taken advantage of by the Hudson’s Bay Company,” says Becki Bitternose, a Saulteaux-Cree fashion designer from Saskatchewan’s George Gordon First Nation. Bitternose designs jackets from Pendleton blankets, another highly prized wool blanket, but says she’s holding off on using an HBC blanket. “Knowing the history and the controversy it causes, I have not yet made a jacket with the Hudson’s Bay [blanket].” Her designs, which have hit runways in New York City, include two jackets made from Pendleton’s Glacier Print blankets—a pattern similar to the HBC point blankets. Those jackets, she says, received a lot of negative feedback from the Indigenous community because of that resemblance. “There’s still a lot of hurt feelings out there.”

    To understand why HBC’s blanket, and by extension toys like the new HBC Barbie, upset some Indigenous people, it helps to understand the role that the trading of blankets between early Europeans and Indigenous populations played in spreading smallpox. Over time, and possibly unfairly, HBC blankets have become associated with the epidemics that decimated First Nations populations. In a notorious series of letters from the 1763 Pontiac Uprising in Fort Pitt, Penn., Gen. Jeffrey Amherst hinted at using blankets infected with smallpox as a means of biological warfare. A journal entry by the commander of militia at the fort confirmed the act had been done, with the hope “it will have the desired effect.”

    Elizabeth Fenn, Pulitzer Prize-winning chair of University of Colorado Boulder’s history department and a smallpox expert, says the Fort Pitt story is likely true, but “smallpox was already circulating in the backcountry.” She adds there are oral accounts of this happening elsewhere, but that there is no documentary evidence.

    Still, Bitternose isn’t alone in her protest. In 2009, artist Leah Decter and Anishinaabe curator Jaimie Isaac responded to then-prime minister Stephen Harper’s declaration that Canada had “no history of colonialism” by sewing together HBC blankets for a travelling exhibit. They held “sewing actions” across the country between 2010 and 2016, inviting Indigenous people to etch their stories of colonialism into the fabric. Anishinaabe artist Rebecca Belmore also critiqued the HBC in her 2011 video installation,The Blanket. “Today, this blanket is an object of beauty, a collector’s item … But for many Aboriginal people, I am sure it is still viewed as a trade item that once contained the gift of disease,” Belmore told Canadian Art.

    The blankets at Fort Pitt were not HBC blankets, yet because blankets were a staple of the fur trade, and thus colonialism, the colourful ones Canadians have come to know and love have become illustrative of the heinous acts committed against Indigenous people in the name of settlement. But condemning HBC for the incident at Fort Pitt is unfair, Fenn says. “The larger point is that the conditions of colonization, the conditions of the fur trade, helped to spread the disease. Those points remain true.” In fact, Fenn notes, HBC traders sometimes mitigated smallpox infection through quarantine and inoculation programs. After all, the company needed Indigenous people for its trading empire. It’s a point the company once made in remarkably blunt terms in a post on its website, which has since been removed: “As far as Hbc [sic] is concerned, extermination was never a strategy of the Co… Killing them off would be detrimental to business, all questions of morality aside.” Last summer, that explanation was replaced with less jarring language. In an email an HBC spokeswoman said the language in the online FAQ was “inappropriate,” adding that smallpox among First Nations was of “great concern” to traders and HBC “did its best to control the spread of the disease.”

    James Daschuk, author of Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life, agrees that fur companies valued Indigenous people as long as the trade remained profitable. But, “as soon as the fur trade was done, the world system was done with those people,” he says. “Their product no longer had value, and the people no longer had value.”

    The history between fur traders and Indigenous people is long, and the relationship complex, but the Barbie—which Daschuk aptly describes as urbane, with her blonde hair under a knit toque, her blue eyes hidden behind hipster glasses, and a Hudson’s Bay Times newspaper tucked into her leather bag—makes no hints at either this history or relationship. Adds Fenn: “There’s something disturbing about that figure. Fur trade chic? Yep. Colonial chic? It’s really disturbing.

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