Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘Native Americans’ Category

LONDON BURNING, GERONIMO, BERNIE AND NUCLEAR POWER, AND FLICC

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Geronimo_and_his_warriors

Some dates in history, nothing happened. Most though there are a number of things to choose from. In the first week of September in 1666 the Great Fire of London was raging. It’s a story with some interesting tidbits. I think I will write a dedicated post to it on Friday. Or not, one can never tell with these things. Maybe there will be some new shocking current event to write about. Or I could just make one up. “Nun Machine Guns Choir in Dispute Over How to Spell Arpeggio.” We’ll find out Friday I suppose.

More recently, on September 4 1886, Geronimo and his band of warriors finally surrendered to the US army. Him and his men had been more or less continuously fighting Mexico and the US for decades. All pretty ugly, especially the war between the Mexicans and the Apache. A lot of massacres on both sides. Against the Americans, he was mostly wanted for cattle rustling and “escaping” from the reservation. At one point near the end about a third of the US Army was hunting for him, 20,000 guys looking for a few dozen Indians. Whose big crime at that point was cattle rustling and leaving their reservation? Overreactions to minor threats on the frontier is a hallmark of imperialism. Just saying.

Once Geronimo and his men  surrendered, they were treated as prisoners of war. They were never allowed to return to Arizona. They were however taken out and about, IE the US government paraded Geronimo around at various events to show off the US. A tradition going back to at least the Romans. In his case, he got to make some nice pocket money. He’d sell pictures of himself, bows and arrows. Even his hat. Geronimo wrote an autobiography, which I am now putting at the top of my reading list. An interesting life indeed, the changes he saw. On his deathbed it’s reported that he regretted surrendering, who knows.

So he’s in the picture above. One of my favourite photographs of all time. Taken in the spring of 1886, it’s Geronimo and his men. I’ve probably posted and talked about it before. Cest la vie. It’s the only known photograph of a Native American military force operating in the field against the United States. These guys were at war with the US. Fun times.

Back to the here and now, I found out that Bernie Sanders wants to phase out nuclear power plants. I must admit I find that dismaying. There’s a huge problem with phasing out nuclear power plants, since they provide about 20% of the nation’s electricity, what do they get replaced by? Solar and wind can’t really take up the slack, since they can’t vary their power output on demand. Instead, exactly as is happening in Germany and Japan, they will get replaced with coal burning plants. The exact opposite of what we need to do. Nuclear power has its issues, but it is much safer and greener than burning oil and coal. And it has negligible carbon emissions, which is kind of an emergency species goal right now.

So I wonder if Mr Sander’s opposition is sincere, or his he only pandering to his base. The good Doctor Novella goes into the politics of nuclear power in his last post. Not surprisingly, Republicans are far more pro-nuclear than Democrats. I’m not sure what to think about it all. I guess I need to do more research. I’ve changed my mind before, it’s painful but the alternative is worse.

Lastly, FLICC. A new concept to me, or at least stuff I already knew in pieces, put together in a coherent package. Fairly new algorithm, 21st century. It’s a list of the big things to use to flag science denial. F is fake experts. L is logical fallacies. I is impossible expectations. IE, science can never be 100% sure of anything, and nothing is 100% safe, so one can point to the exceptions and claim they invalidate the science. C is cherry picking. And the last C is conspiracy theories. The more of these that show up in an article, the more likely it is science denying garbage. Not surprising, when both science and logic refute your position, stuff like this is all that’s left. Alas tens of millions of people listen to CNN and Rush Limbaugh, and fall for it every time. The FLICC article here.

Hope everyone had a good Labor Day holiday. There ended up being a party here. An introvert’s nightmare, a house full of friendly strangers. After enough beer I finally ventured forth and joined in the festivities . Parties here always involve the cat escaping and leading a merry chase through the neighborhood. They got the cat back, then locked me outside by mistake. All’s well that ends well though, they let me back inside, and I had a good time.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Photo by C. S. Fly of Geronimo and his warriors, taken before the surrender to Gen. Crook, March 27, 1886, in the Sierra Madre mountains of Mexico. Fly’s photographs are the only known images of Indian combatants still in the field who had not yet surrendered to the United States. Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

September 4, 2019 at 3:40 am

SAD DAYS IN HISTORY: THE FALL OF TENOCHTITLÁN, AND SYMBOLICALLY DEFACING THE STATUE OF LIBERTY

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Tenochtitlán

Yesterday was the 498th anniversary of the fall of Tenochtitlán to Spanish barbarians. Tenochtitlán was the capital of the Aztec Empire, a marvel of engineering being built on a lake, and the largest city in North America. The European conquest of the world, euphemistically called “The Age of Discovery,” was the greatest crime in world history, and the destruction of civilizations in the New World was possibly its ugliest chapter. The natives weren’t Christians though, so it was all OK. Snort. Pretty sure Christ would have disagreed, the only good thing is that at least some of the Christians of the day were horror struck and did their best to stop the genocide and horror.

It’s interesting to speculate what the world would be like if any of the Native American states had been able to resist conquest, but there really wasn’t much chance of that. Within two generations of the Spanish arrival, the Aztec population crashed from about 20 million to less than a million. Smallpox being the primary culprit. No nation can resist conquest with that kind of population loss.

I wasn’t even going to write about the fall of Tenochtitlán, because, well, my capacity for horror and sad is being tested these days. Then the same day I met a nice person who had posted about the founding of Tenochtitlán on her Facebook page. So I thought, well, if people are still celebrating the founding of Tenochtitlán, I can honor the memory of all those who died defending their homes and in the horrors that followed the city’s fall. I used to wonder why we have so many movies about aliens invading Earth for purely malicious reasons. Once one studies some world history, it becomes painfully obvious why the senseless invasion by barbarian aliens is such a well worn trope. It’s what humans have been doing to each other since we invented “civilisation,” and probably before.

The thing that temporarily overloaded my empathy and compassion yesterday was the Trump administration symbolically changing the inscription on the Statue of Liberty. Most have heard it before:

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

While announcing changes to immigration policy a Trump official was asked if the quote still applies. Instead of responding “of course” or “no comment,” he said a line should be added that basically says “but no freeloaders.” This is wrong for a number of reasons. And its racist as hell, though racism deniers, and there are a lot of those in America, will sputter and spit and claim they are just speaking the truth. The ugliest lies often hide under the rubric of truth.

It’s wrong because it’s reinforcing the whole racist anti-immigrant trope that the Trump administration has been fomenting. The idea that immigrants are flooding into the country to get on welfare and vote for Democrats. And the idea that only white people are “real” Americans. This sort of horrid crap led to the El Paso shooting, where the shooter claimed he was deliberately shooting Mexicans. Which of course is ridiculous, he was targeting Latinos because he assumed Latino=Mexican. In reality he mostly killed Americans.

In real life, the vast majority of immigrants from south of the border are poor people seeking a better life. Many of them fleeing poverty and violence that most Americans can’t even imagine. Even worse, a lot of that poverty and violence is a direct result of Washington’s foreign policy in the region. And by and large immigrants are more law abiding than the average American citizen, and they contribute more to society than they cost.

In modern America though, fiction replaced fact in public discourse long ago. And the people at the top who have been robbing the poor and working class for decades work very hard to convince people that people on welfare and immigrants are the problem. (The unspoken assumption being these are mostly non-white people.) And Trump is the apogee of that type of thinking, we now have a president who not only reinforces racist and destructive tropes, he actually believes them. Jesus wept.

And regarding yesterday’s tweet, turns out I did have the words.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: The Fall of Tenochtitlán, late 17th century. Credit: unknown, Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

August 14, 2019 at 8:27 am

THE BATTLE OF WOODY POINT

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Tonquin_(1807)

I came across a horrific story while looking up what happened on June 16 in history. June 16 1811, Vancouver Island in what is now Canada. A US trading ship, the Tonquin, was deliberately blown up, killing scores of Tla-o-qui-aht natives and one US crewman. How the hell did this happen? Well, not a happy story, but one that is interesting from a number of perspectives. Sources though, only one, Wikipedia. Every link I could find was just a clone of the information in Wikipedia. Still, there was one western survivor, so we have contemporary written source material. The basic facts seem pretty straightforward.

OK, the Tonquin, a fur trading ship. A bark to be precise. What’s a bark, or barque, or barc? Children of the early 19th century could answer easily, me, not so much. Let’s just say a small sailing ship with three or more masts. The Tonquin was a smaller example of same, with 11 cannons and a crew of 23 at the time of the unpleasantness. It was tasked with setting up trading posts on the west coast of America, buying furs, then sailing to China and selling them for a tidy profit. It founded Fort Astoria on the mouth of the Columbia River, the first American settlement on the West Coast. Then the ship sailed on to Vancouver Island and its date with destiny.

Ship arrives off Vancouver Island. Tla-o-qui-aht natives come aboard to trade. The captain of the Tonquin, one Lieutenant Jonathan Thorn, doesn’t like the price of an otter pelt. He either waves it around in anger, or throws it at a native elder. Who is insulted. That night a native women warns the captain that an attack is planned. He dismisses her concerns. The next morning, 15 June 1811, a lot of native fighters are on the beach. Captain Thorn is unconcerned, the Tla-o-qui-aht are peaceful, right? Two canoes of 20 Tla-o-qui-aht each ask to come aboard and sell otter pelts. Against standing orders about allowing so many natives aboard, Thorn lets them board. The astute reader can guess where this is going.

At first Thorn is thrilled, the natives are selling pelts at great prices. Finally Thorn realizes it’s too good to be true, and orders the ship to set sail. Too late, the elder gives the signal, and the 40 warriors pull out concealed clubs and knives. (By some accounts they used knives they had just received in trade for pelts.) Thorn and most of the crew are unarmed, and are quickly slain. Five guys below decks get to the ship’s guns and are able to hold out, but one is badly wounded. The natives leave for the night. The five guys confer, they realize they are too few to sail the ship. Four of them take the ship’s skiff and head for Fort Astoria. The wounded guy, well, God only knows what was going through his mind.

The next morning hundreds of Tla-o-qui-aht show up to claim the ship. The wounded fellow, possibly the ship’s armourer named Weeks, surrenders. As natives are swarming the ship, he set off the ship’s powder store. The ensuing explosion destroys the ship and kills 60 to 200+ natives. The four guys who escaped, their skiff was blown ashore and they were captured by the Nuu-chah-nulth tribe. Another Vancouver island tribe, on good terms with the Tla-o-qui-aht tribe. It ended badly for them, out of the frying pan into the fire. Patrick Swayze would have been perfect as the leader of the four.

I digress, though this would make a great movie if well done. Attn: Kevin Kostner. So, that’s the basics of what transpired. Wait, how do we know this? Well, the Tonquin had taken on a half native guide and interpreter,  Joseachal. And when the massacre began, he had the presence of mind to implore a native woman to take him as a slave. She agreed, and some years later French Canadian explorer Gabriel Franchère bought his freedom.

OK, lessons I see in this story. First pass, yeah, 200 plus people killed over a disputed otter pelt. Prequel to John Wick. Sadly human mass deaths over stupid stuff are all too common, another reason the aliens don’t want to buy our otter pelts. Second and self evident lesson, anyone can commit an atrocity. Yes, the European conquest of the Americas was a terrible genocide, but native Americans sometimes did bad things too. We’re all human, and all subject to fail states.

The decisions of Captain Thorn are certainly in retrospect suspect. Sounds like he had a low opinion on native Americans all around. He overestimated his own position, and underestimated the natives. It’s hard not to conclude that racism and a sense of superiority clouded his judgement. The insulted elder’s decisions are also questionable. I mean really, you’re gonna have a few dozen people killed over a public insult? Wasn’t there another way to resolve the issue without resorting to mass murder?

Which leads us to what to me is a most curious perspective. At least some natives were like, really, isn’t this a bit extreme? I’m assuming that from what we know at least. A native woman warned Captain Thorn. And another woman was actually at the massacre in order to take the one prisoner. Impressive on both counts. Though I am curious what native oral history says about this event. I’m guessing the elder was a hothead and he had enough young male hotheads to do the deed. I’ve read about enough massacres to know that it’s not unusual for one hothead to set them off.

All told a typically human event. The fact that huge numbers of natives descended on the ship to loot it reminds me of the terrible third world disasters where crowds of people gathering gasoline from a punctured pipeline or truck are incinerated when someone accidentally creates a spark. Most people have no problem looting when the opportunity presents itself. Sad all around, all the dead had family and friends who mourned (mourn?) their loss no doubt. God rest their souls.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: The Tonquin under attack. Credit: Edmund Fanning – Voyages to the South Seas, Indian and Pacific Oceans, China Sea, North-West Coast, 1837. Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

July 10, 2019 at 4:03 am