The Talking Heads: Voices Etched in Stone.
As another sublime Presidents Day has come and gone. America’s original freedom fighter and human rights advocate/founding father, George Washington’s heroic aura shrouds the ugliness of his reality, the ambivalence of his hidden legacy. Washington was responsible for the inception of military operations designed to massacre Native Americans. In 1779, after juxtaposing Indians to wolves, George Washington instructed Major General John Sullivan to attack Iroquois people. Washington stated, “lay waste all the settlements around…that the country may not be merely overrun, but destroyed.”
Slave molester and co-author of the U.S. Constitution, Thomas Jefferson’s explicit hatred of Indians, is a morose historical fact. Jefferson, when he wasn’t displaying his Romanesque architectural prowess, would frequently go on the record publicly espousing his vehement hatred of Indians. Jeffersonian genocidal policy pioneered in the cultural nihilism of Manifest Destiny. Jefferson infamously stated “If ever we are constrained to lift the hatchet against any tribe…in war, they will kill some of us; we shall destroy them all.”
Abraham Lincoln personally handpicked 38 Mankato warriors to face execution by hanging. In “Schindler’s List” like fashion, honest Abe did what he was “compelled” to do. The brave Mankato men Lincoln sent to the gallows were simply attempting to prevent their women and children from starving to death at the hands of unscrupulous Indian agents tasked with dispersing their monthly food rations. One heinous agent nefariously told the Mankato to “eat grass.” His body, pumped full of arrows and bullets was later discovered, his mouth stuffed with grass. In December 1862 the U.S. committed the largest mass execution in this country’s proud history of executions. Steven Spielberg omitted this fact in his erroneous revisionist film “Lincoln.”
Theodore Roosevelt, the man who terror-formed tribal lands into National Parks, elaborated his hatred of Indians in explicitly racist diatribe. “I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe nine out of ten are, and I shouldn’t like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth.” Roosevelt’s turn of the century racism promoted a deeply entrenched era of pervasive frontier mentality. A macabre philosophy of exclusively good dead Indians Roosevelt empathically embraced.
Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt were the four horsemen of the Native American Apocalypse. Each one of these American icons diabolically expressed their own unique forms of oppressive, deadly tyrannical visions of a land devoid of Indians. A sense of irony morbidly ascends to another level as their ostensibly heroic visages were painstakingly blasted into the Black Hills. The Paha Sapa. Hills of spirituality held sacred by the Lakota for generations. In a new twist in observance of Presidents Day perhaps Mount Rushmore should be painted red. Red as the Indigenous hemoglobin spilled out there on the plains during the systematic massacre of legions of Indians, victims of an aggregate, appalling, shameful ethnocide. Any Post-Colonial narrative, etched in stone beneath those giant talking heads is propaganda. Factual truth, as it applies to westward expansionism, is simply un-American.
-John Martin is enrolled in the Oglala Sioux Tribe (Oglala Lakota Nation). He is a veteran of the U.S. Army and holds a B.S. in Sociology from CSUDH.