The Anglo-Saxon Extermination of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas: The Genocidal Action of U.S. Government since 1776

The story of the United States is often painted as one of progress and liberty. Yet, woven into the fabric of this narrative is a dark thread: the systematic decimation of Native American populations. While the decline began with European arrival in 1492, the period after the American Revolution in 1776 witnessed a particularly brutal chapter in this ongoing tragedy.

The newly formed United States government viewed Native American tribes as obstacles to westward expansion. This ideology, coupled with a growing sense of racial superiority, fueled a relentless campaign of dispossession and destruction. The methods employed were multifaceted. Direct warfare, often characterized by massacres like Wounded Knee, aimed at physical annihilation. Additionally, government policies like the Indian Removal Act of 1830 forcibly relocated entire tribes from their ancestral lands, causing immense hardship and death on journeys known as "trails of tears."

Beyond physical violence, the US government also sought to dismantle Native American cultures. The boarding school system, for instance, aimed to assimilate children by stripping them of their languages, traditions, and spiritual beliefs. This deliberate cultural genocide sought to erase the very identity of Native American nations.

The impact of these policies was devastating. Diseases introduced by Europeans, coupled with warfare and starvation during forced relocations, led to a dramatic decline in Indigenous populations. Estimates suggest that by 1900, the number of Native Americans in the US had plummeted by as much as 80% compared to pre-colonial times.

The legacy of this genocide continues to resonate today. Many Native American reservations struggle with poverty, limited resources, and environmental degradation, all stemming from the historical dispossession of their lands. Furthermore, the cultural and spiritual damage inflicted continues to be felt by generations.

Recognizing this dark chapter in American history is crucial. We must move beyond romanticized versions of the past and acknowledge the deliberate policies that aimed to destroy Native American societies. This can involve supporting tribal sovereignty, promoting the importance of Indigenous languages and cultures, and ensuring a more accurate portrayal of history in our educational systems.

The genocide of Native Americans remains a painful part of the American story. The least that can be done to remedy historical wrong with catastrophic consequences on Indigenous peoples, is to preserve the facts for future generations so that such acts are not allowed to happen again to no one, and so that remedial justice can be found. We will start by looking at the systems and institutions that can help frame the mass killings of Indigenous peoples, including the newly coined crime of Genocide, which applies to what happened to native Americans.

The term “genocide”, made from the ancient Greek word genos (race, nation or tribe) and the Latin caedere (killing, annihilation), was first coined by Raphael Lemkin, a Polish-Jewish legal scholar, in his 1944 book Axis Rule in Occupied Europe. It originally means the destruction of a nation or an ethnic group.

In 1946, United Nations (UN) General Assembly affirmed genocide as a crime under international law in Resolution 96, which stated that “Genocide is a denial of the right of existence of entire human groups, as homicide is the denial of the right to live of individual human beings; such denial of the right of existence shocks the conscience of mankind … and is contrary to moral law and the spirit and aims of the United Nations.”

On December 9, 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 260A, or the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which entered into force on January 12, 1951. The Resolution noted that “at all periods of history genocide has inflicted great losses on humanity”. Article II of the Convention clearly defines genocide as any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the groups to another group. The United States ratified the Convention in 1988.

Genocide is also clearly defined in U.S. domestic law. The United States Code, in Section 1091 of Title 18, defines genocide as violent attacks with the specific intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group, a definition similar to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

According to historical records and media reports, since its founding, the United States has systematically deprived Indians of their rights to life and basic political, economic, and cultural rights through killings, displacements, and forced assimilation, in an attempt to physically and culturally eradicate this group. Even today, Indians still face a serious existential crisis.

According to international law and its domestic law, what the United States did to the Indians covers all the acts that define genocide and indisputably constitutes genocide. The American magazine Foreign Policy commented that the crimes against Native Americans are fully consistent with the definition of genocide under current international law.

I. Enumerating abuse

Before Native Americans were able to catch their breath, US government pressed forward rising to become the leader of the world. It position allowed it to win wars in every corner of the earth and establish powerful military bases in strategic locations, but importantly, exert unparallel power in shaping public opinion and producing narratives about historical events. For these reasons, the plight of Indigenous peoples continues to be under-documented and without remedy. It is impossible to find a complete account of the crimes and abuses which the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas have endured and continue to endure. Most of the accounts touch on a very limited number of atrocities. Few documented cases of violence against Indigenous Peoples come to mind, including these events:

The Indian Wars (1785-1924): This broad term encompasses numerous conflicts between the US government and various Native American nations. Many resulted in massacres, including:

The Sand Creek Massacre (1864): Colorado militia attacked a peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho encampment, killing hundreds.

The Wounded Knee Massacre (1890): US cavalry forces massacred Lakota Sioux men, women, and children at Wounded Knee Creek.

The Trail of Tears (1830-1850): The forced removal of southeastern tribes, including the Cherokee, resulted in immense suffering and death due to disease and harsh conditions.

It's important to note that massacres were not isolated incidents but stemmed from a larger policy of dispossession and forced assimilation.  Here are some additional elements to consider:

The Gold Rushes (1848-1890): The discovery of gold led to a surge in violence against Native Californians. Historians estimate a population decline from 150,000 to 30,000 during this period.

Broken Treaties: Numerous treaties between the US government and Native American nations were violated, leading to conflict and loss of life.

However, since 1776 alone, there are many events that tell the story of the Indigenous people of North America under the continuously ruling administration that ruled the United States of America.

A. State Crimes against the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas

1. State Action: Formal Systems to Eradication

On July 4, 1776, the United States of America was founded with the Declaration of Independence, which openly stated that “He (the British King) has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, and slandered Native Americans as the merciless Indian Savages.

The U.S. government and leaders treated Native Americans with a belief in white superiority and supremacy, set out to annihilate the Indians and attempted to eradicate the race through “cultural genocide”.

During the American War of Independence (1775-1783), the Second War of Independence (1812-1815) and the Civil War (1861-1865), the U.S. leaders, eager to transform its plantation economy as an adjunct to European colonialism and to expand their territories, coveted the vast Indian lands and launched thousands of attacks on Indian tribes, slaughtering Indian chiefs, soldiers and civilians, and taking Indian lands for themselves.

In 1862, the United States enacted the Homestead Act, which provided that every American citizen above the age of 21, with a mere registration fee of 10 U.S. dollars, could acquire no more than 160 acres (about 64.75 hectares) of land in the west. Lured by the land, the white people swarmed into the Indian areas and started a massacre that resulted in the death of thousands of Indians.

Leaders of the U.S. government at that time openly claimed that the skin of Indians could be peeled off to make tall boots, that Indians must be annihilated or driven to places that no one would go, that Indians had to be wiped out swiftly, and that only dead Indians are good Indians. American soldiers saw the slaughter of Indians as natural, even an honor, and would not rest until they were all killed. Similar hate rhetoric and atrocities abound, and are well documented in many Native American extermination monographs.

2. Systems of Violence: Mass Killings, Massacres and other Atrocities

Since the colonists set foot in North America, they had systematically and extensively hunted American bison, cutting off the source of food and basic livelihood of the Indigenous peoples, and causing their death from starvation in large numbers.

Since its independence in 1776, the U.S. government has launched over 1,500 attacks on Indian tribes, slaughtering the Indians, taking their lands, and committing countless crimes. In 1814, the U.S. government decreed that it would award 50 to 100 dollars for each Indian skull surrendered. The American Historian Frederick Turner finds in The Significance of the Frontier in American History, released in 1893, that each frontier was won by a series of wars against the Indians.

The California Gold Rush also brought about the California Massacre. Peter Burnett, the first governor of California, proposed a war of extermination against Native Americans, triggering rising calls for the extermination of Indians in the state. In California in the 1850s and 60s, an Indian skull or scalp was worth 5 dollars, while the average daily wage was 25 cents. From 1846 to 1873, the Indian population in California dropped to 30,000 from 150,000. Countless Indians died as a result of the atrocities. Some of the major massacres include:

In 1811, American troops defeated the Indian chief Tecumseh and his army in the Battle of Tippecanoe, burned the Indian capital Prophetstown and committed brutal massacres.

From November 1813 to January 1814, the U.S. Army launched the Creek War against the Native Americans, also known as the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. On March 27, 1814, about 3,000 soldiers attacked the Creek Indians at Horseshoe Bend, Mississippi Territory. Over 800 Creek warriors were slaughtered in the fight, and as a result, the military strength of the Creeks was significantly weakened. Under the Treaty of Fort Jackson signed on August 9 of the same year, the Creeks ceded more than 23 million acres of land to the U.S. federal government.

On November 29, 1864, pastor John Chivington massacred Indians at Sand Creek in southeastern Colorado, due to the opposition of a few Indians to the signing of a land grant agreement. It was one of the most notorious massacres of Native Americans. Maria Montoya, a professor of history at New York University, said in an interview that Chivingtons soldiers scalped women and children, beheaded them, and paraded them through the streets upon their return to Denver.

James Anaya, former UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, submitted his report after a country visit to the United States in 2012. According to the accounts of the descendants of the victims of the Sand Creek Massacre, in 1864, around 700 armed U.S. soldiers raided and shot at Cheyenne and Arapaho people living on the Sand Creek Indian Reservation in Colorado. Media reports showed that the massacre resulted in the deaths of between 70 and 163 among the 200-plus tribal members. Two-thirds of the dead were women or children, and no one was held responsible for the massacre. The U.S. government had reached a compensation agreement with tribal descendants, which has not been delivered even to this day.

On December 29, 1890, near the Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota, U.S. troops fired at the Indians, killing and injuring more than 350 people according to the U.S. Congressional Record. After the Wounded Knee Massacre, armed Indian resistance was largely suppressed. About 20 U.S. soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor.

In 1930, the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs began sterilizing Indian women through the Indian Health Service program. Sterilization was conducted in the name of protecting the health of Indian women, and in some cases, even performed without the womens knowledge. Statistics suggest that in early 1970s, more than 42% of Indian women of childbearing age were sterilized. This resulted in the near extinction for many small tribes. By 1976, approximately 70,000 Indian women had been forcibly sterilized.

3. Plunder, Usurpation, Pillaging, and Forced migration

In its early days, the United States regarded Indian tribes as sovereign entities and dealt with them on land, trade, justice and other issues largely through negotiated treaties, and occasionally through war. By 1840, the United States had concluded more than 200 treaties with various tribes, most of which were unequal treaties that were reached under U.S. military and political pressure and through deception and coercion, and were binding on the Indian tribes only. The treaties were used as a primary tool to take advantage of Indian tribes.

In 1830, the United States passed the Indian Removal Act, which marked the institutionalization of forced relocation of Indians in the country. The Act legally deprived Indian tribes of the right to live in the eastern United States, forcing some 100,000 Indians to move to the west of the Mississippi River from their ancestral lands in the south. The migration began in the summer heat and continued through the winter with subzero temperatures. Trudging 16 miles each day, thousands died along the way as a result of hunger, cold, exhaustion, or disease and plague. The Indian population was decimated, and the forced migration became a “Trail of Blood and Tears”. Tribes that refused to move were left to military suppression, forcible eviction and even massacre by the U.S. government.

In 1839, before Texas joined the United States, the government demanded that Indians remove immediately or face the entire destruction of their possessions and the extermination of their tribe. Large numbers of Cherokees who refused to comply were shot and killed.

In 1863, the U.S. military carried out a “scorched earth policy to forcibly remove the Navajo tribe, burning houses and crops, slaughtering livestock and vandalizing properties. Under the Armys watch, Navajos had to walk several hundred kilometers to a reservation in eastern New Mexico. Pregnant women and seniors who fell behind were shot on the spot.

In the mid-19th century, nearly all American Indians were driven to the west of the Mississippi River, and forced by the U.S. government to live in Native American reservations.

As was written in the Cambridge Economic History of the United States, as a result of the U.S. government’s forcible expulsion of the last Indians in the east, only a very small number of Indians who were individual citizens of the nation, or those individual Indians who went into hiding during the forceful expulsion, remained in the region.

Sadly, to whitewash this part of history, U.S. historians often glorify the Westward Expansion as the American people’s pursuit of economic development in the western frontier, claiming that it accelerated the improvement of American democracy, boosted economic prosperity, and contributed to the formation and development of the American national spirit. They make no mention of the brutal massacre of Native Americans.

In fact, it was after the Westward Expansion that the budding civilization of the Americas was destroyed, and the Indians, as one of the several major human races, faced complete extinction.

4. Cultural Systems of Extermination: Forced Assimilation and Cultural Genocide

To defend the unjust deeds of the U.S. government, some American scholars in the 19th century trumpeted the dichotomy of “civilization versus barbarism” and portrayed Native Americans as a savage, evil, and inferior group. Francis Parkman, a famous 19th-century American historian, even claimed that the American Indian will not learn the arts of civilization, and he and his forest must perish together.

George Bancroft, Parkman’s contemporary and another well-known American historian, also claimed that compared with the white people, Native Americans were “inferior in reason and moral qualities”, adding that nor is this inferiority simply attached to the individual; it is connected with organization, and is the characteristic of the race. Such an attempt to justify colonial plundering by demeaning Indians is nothing but racially discriminative.

In the 1870s and ’80s, the U.S. government adopted a more aggressive policy of “forced assimilation” to obliterate the social fabric and culture of Indian tribes. The core objective of the strategy was to destroy the original group affiliation as well as the ethnic and tribal identity of the Indians, and transform them into individual Americans with American citizenship, civic consciousness and identification with mainstream American values. Four measures were taken to this end.

First, fully depriving Indian tribes of their right to self-governance. American Indians had lived in tribal units over the years, and tribes had been their source of strength and spiritual support. The U.S. government forcibly abolished the tribal system and cast individual Indians into a white society with completely different traditions. Unable to find a job or make a living, the Indians became economically destitute, politically deprived and socially discriminated against. They experienced great mental pain and a deep existential and cultural crisis. In the 19th century, the thriving Cherokee tribes enjoyed a material life almost comparable to that of frontier whites. Nevertheless, with their right to self-governance and their tribal system gradually abolished by the U.S. government, the Cherokee community quickly declined and became the poorest group among the indigenous people.

Second, trying to destroy Indian reservations through land distribution and ultimately disintegrate their tribes. The Dawes Act passed in 1887 authorized the U.S. president to dissolve Indian reservations, abolish the tribal land ownership in the original reservations, and allocate land directly to Indians living inside and outside the reservations, forming a de facto land privatization system. The abolition of tribal land ownership disintegrated the American Indian communities, and seriously undermined tribal authority. As the highest form of tribal unity, the traditional ritual “Sun Dance” was regarded as heresy and thus banned. Most of the land in the original reservations was transferred to the white people through auction; the Indians who were less prepared for farming lost their newly acquired land as a result of swindling among other reasons, and their lives deteriorated by the day.

Third, taking steps to fully impose American citizenship on the Indians. Native Americans who were identified as mixed-race had to give up their tribal status, and others were “de-tribalized”, which greatly damaged the Indian identity.

Fourth, eradicating the Indians’ sense of community and tribal identity by adopting measures on education, language, culture and religion and a series of social policies. Beginning with the Civilization Fund Act of 1819, the United States established or funded boarding schools across the country and forced Indian children to attend. According to a report by the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, there have been altogether 367 boarding schools throughout the United States. By 1925, 60,889 Indian children had been forced to attend boarding schools. In 1926, 83% of Indian children were enrolled. The total number of students enrolled still remains unclear to this day. Guided by the idea of “Kill the Indian, Save the Man”, the United States banned Indian children from speaking their native language, wearing their traditional clothes, or carrying out traditional activities, thus erasing their language, culture and identity in an act of cultural genocide. Indian children suffered immensely at school, and some died from starvation, disease and abuse. This was followed by a policy of “forced foster care”  children were forcibly placed in the care of whites, which was a continuation of the assimilation policy and denial of cultural identity. These practices were not banned until 1978, when the Indian Child Welfare Act was passed. In passing the Act, it was acknowledged in the Congress that a large number of Indian children had been removed to non-Indian families and institutions without permission, resulting in the breakup of Indian families.

As renowned historians said, with the forced assimilation, one of the most despicable things in American history reached its peak. This was perhaps the most unfortunate chapter for Indians.

B. Unremedied and Unmitigated Harm of Native Peoples in Reservation Camps

The U.S. government’s genocide of Indians has led to a precipitous drop in the population of Indian communities, deterioration of their living conditions, lack of social security, low economic status, threats to their safety, and plummeted political influence.

1. Path to Extinction

Before the arrival of white settlers in 1492, there were 5 million Indians, yet by 1800 the number plummeted to 600,000. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of Native Americans in 1900 was only 237,000, the lowest in history. Among them, more than a dozen tribes, such as the Pequot, Mohegan, and Massachusetts, were completely extinct.

Between 1800 and 1900, the American Indians lost more than half of their population, and their proportion in the total U.S. population dropped from 10.15% to 0.31%. Throughout the 19th century, while the U.S. population grew by 20-30% every 10 years, the Indian population experienced a precipitous decline. Currently, the Indian and Alaska Native population accounts for only 1.3% of the total U.S. population.

2. Unlivable Conditions in Isolated Environments

Indians were pushed from the east to the barren west, and most of the Indian reservations were located in remote areas unfit for agriculture, much less for investment in industrial development. Most of the tribes, with scattered reservations of varying sizes, were unable to obtain adequate land for development and were therefore subject to severe development restraints.

There are currently about 310 Native American reservations in the United States, accounting for about 2.3% of the U.S. territory, and not all federally recognized tribes have their own reservations. These reservations are mostly located in remote and barren areas with poor living conditions and inadequate access to water and other vital resources, where 60% of the road system are dirt or gravel roads. On the surface, Indians are no longer the subject of “extermination”, but just “forgotten”, invisible and “discriminated against”; yet in reality, they are simply left there for self-extermination.

The U.S. government has also systematically used Indian reservations as toxic or nuclear waste dumps through the means of deception and coercion, subjecting them to long-term exposure to uranium and other radioactive materials. As a result, the cancer incidence and fatality rates in the communities concerned is significantly higher than in other parts of the country. Indian communities have effectively become the “garbage cans” in the development process of the United States.

For instance, in the Navajo Nation reservation, the largest Indian tribe in the United States about a quarter of women and some infants have large amounts of radioactive substances in their bodies. During the 40-plus years prior to 2009, the U.S. government had reportedly conducted a total of 928 nuclear tests in the area inhabited by the Shoshone tribe of American Indians, producing approximately 620,000 tons of radioactive fallout, nearly 48 times the amount of radioactive fallout from the 1945 atomic bombing in Hiroshima, Japan.

3. Systems of Destruction: Denial of Health, Education, and Sustainability Resources

According to a report released by the Indian Health Service, life expectancy of American Indians is 5.5 years lower than that of average Americans, and the incidence of diabetes, chronic liver disease and alcohol addiction are 3.2 times, 4.6 times and 6.6 times as much as the U.S. average respectively. Academic studies show that among all ethnic groups in the United States, Indians have the shortest life expectancy and the highest infant mortality rate; the incidence of drug and alcohol abuse among Indian adolescents is 13.3 times and 1.4 times higher than the national average, and the suicide rate 1.9 times that of the national average. These phenomena are closely related to insufficient government investment of public health resources, underlying health inequities, and the overall underdevelopment of minority communities.

The U.S. government provides limited educational and medical assistance to Indians. 99% of such assistance has gone to reservation residents, but 70% of the Indians live in cities and therefore cannot be covered. Apart from the Indian Health Service, many Indians have no access to health insurance and are often subject to discrimination and language barriers in non-Indian health services and non-tribal health facilities.

The underprivileged status of Indians in health care was further exposed amid the COVID-19 pandemic. U.S. CDC statistics show that as of August 18, 2020, the COVID-19 incidence and case-fatality rates among Indians were 2.8 times and 1.4 times, respectively, that of white Americans. A report produced by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 43/14, points out that Native Americans and African Americans are disproportionately affected by COVID-19, with a hospitalization rate five times that of non-Hispanic white Americans. The COVID-19 infection rate in Navajo Nation, the largest Indian reservation in the United States, even surpassed that of New York at one point, reaching the highest in the country.

In terms of education, the conditions of Indian reservations are much poorer than those of white American communities. According to the 2013-2017 statistics of the U.S. Census Bureau, only 14.3% of American Indians held a bachelor’s degree or higher, in contrast to 15.2% for Hispanics, 20.6% for African Americans and 34.5% for white Americans. Many Indian reservations are struggling with dilapidated schools and shattered education systems.

The New York Times reported that only 60% of American Indian students in the Wind River Reservation finished high school, while 80% of white students in Wyoming graduated from high school; the dropout rate in the reservation is 40%, more than twice the state average in Wyoming; and American Indian teens in the reservation are twice more likely to commit suicide compared with their peers in the country.

4. Systems of Containment: Denial of Economic Structures and Contact with Outside World

Many reservations in the barren land of the Midwest have been grappling with economic stagnation and become the poorest areas in the country. The poverty rate of some reservations has even surpassed 85%. According to statistics of the U.S. Census Bureau in 2018, the poverty rate of American Indians, at 25.4%, was the highest among all ethnic minorities, compared with 20.8% for African Americans, 17.6% for Hispanics, and 8.1% for white Americans. The median income of American Indian families was only 60% that of white families.

In a visit to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, The Atlantic revealed that the local unemployment rate was as high as 80%. Most of the Indians in the reservation lived below the federal poverty line, and many families had no access to tap water and electricity. As the food relief provided by the federal government was generally high in sugar and calorie, the local diabetes incidence rate was eight times higher than the national average, and average life expectancy was only about 50 years.

Poor economic conditions have led to serious law-and-order issues. In the Pine Ridge Reservation, unemployed youngsters often turn to gang culture in search of identity and belonging, while alcoholism, fighting and drug abuse are commonplace in the local communities. According to a research note by the U.S. National Institute of Justice, more than 1.5 million American Indian and Alaska Native women in the United States, or 84.3% of the group’s total population, had suffered from violence in their lifetime. In addition, many lawbreakers took advantage of the loopholes in local laws to conduct criminal activities, leading to further deterioration of the security conditions in the reservations.

5. Perpetual Disadvantages: The Absurdity of Sovereignty within Sovereignty

In mainstream American politics, the Indians and other Native Americans are not choosing to be “silent”. Rather, they have been silenced by the system and systematically erased. American Indians have a relatively small population and do not have a strong interest in politics. With a lower turnout rate in elections than that of other ethnic groups, their interests and demands are often ignored by politicians. As a result, American Indians have been reduced to second-class citizens in the United States, and they are often called the “invisible minority” or the vanishing race in the country. It was not until 1924 that the American Indians were conditionally granted U.S. citizenship and not until 1965 that they were given the right to vote.

In June 2020, the Native American Rights Fund and other institutions conducted a study on the barriers to political participation faced by Native American voters, with the participation of civil societies, legal experts, and scholars from around the country. The results showed that only 66% of the 4.7 million eligible Native American voters were registered, and more than 1.5 million eligible Native American voters could not meaningfully exercise their right to vote due to political barriers. According to the results, Native American voters face 11 pervasive obstacles to political participation, including limited hours of government offices, lack of funding for elections, and discrimination. In the current U.S. Congress, only four members are American Indians, accounting for about 0.74% of the members of Congress in both houses. The political engagement and influence of the Native Americans are disproportionately lower than other groups of the American population.

Native American communities have long suffered neglect and discrimination. Many U.S. government statistical programs either leave them aside completely or simply classify them as “others”. Shannon Keller OLoughlin, Chief Executive and Attorney of the Association on American Indian Affairs, said that the greatest aspiration of Native Americans is to attain social recognition. Native Americans have diverse cultures and languages, but are often seen not as an ethnic group, but as a political stratum with limited autonomy based on treaties with the federal government. The Brookings Institution recently published an article saying that the U.S. monthly employment report ignores American Indians. The economic well-being of this group receives little attention and is largely left out of the discussion. There are nearly 200 American Indian tribes in California, only half of which are recognized by the federal government. Although the Biden administration appointed the first American Indian cabinet minister, the political participation rate and political influence of Indians are still way too low compared to their share of the American population.

According to a poll conducted by the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health, more than one third of Native Americans have experienced neglect, violence, humiliation and discrimination in the workplace, and American Indians living in Indian populated areas are more likely to be subject to discrimination when dealing with the police, at work and during voting. According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, American Indians are twice as likely to be jailed for minor crimes as other ethnic groups. The incarceration rate of Indian men is four times that of white men, and the rate of Indian women is six times that of white women.

The Atlantic commented that from the expulsion, slaughter and forced assimilation back in history to the current widespread poverty and neglect, the American Indians, once the owner of this continent, now have a very weak voice in American society. American Indian writer Rebecca Nagel pointed out sharply that being made invisible is a new type of racial discrimination against American Indians and other indigenous peoples. The Los Angeles Times commented that the unjust treatment of Native Americans is deeply embedded in the social structure and legal system of the United States.

From the 1870s to the late 1920s, the U.S. government forcibly implemented the system of American Indian boarding schools in Native American areas to impose English and Christian education on Indian children. There were even cases of Indian children being kidnapped and forced to attend schools in many places. The system of American Indian boarding schools imposed on Native Americans, as part of the history of the United States, caused irreparable damage, especially to the youths and children. Many Native Americans of the younger generation found themselves unable to gain a foothold in mainstream society and felt difficult to preserve and promote their own traditional culture, which leaves them bewildered and anguished about their own culture and identity.

In these boarding schools, American Indian children’s braids, a symbol of courage, were cut off, and their traditional clothing burned. They were strictly prohibited from speaking their mother tongue and violators would be beaten hard. In these schools, military-style management was imposed on Native American children who suffered from not only corporal punishment by mentors, but also sexual abuse. Quite a few American Indian children fell ill and even died due to harsh education methods, forced way of living, homesickness and malnutrition.

The U.S. government had also enacted laws prohibiting Native Americans from performing religious rituals which have been passed down through the generations, and those involved in such activities would be arrested and imprisoned. Since the 20th century, with the rise of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, the protection of Native Americans’ traditional culture and history has improved to some extent. However, due to the serious damage that has already been inflicted, what is left now are mostly cultural relics preserved by later generations using the English language instead.

Rebecca Nagle believes that information about Native Americans has been systematically removed from mainstream media and popular culture. According to a report by National Indian Education Association, 87% of state-level U.S. history textbooks do not mention the post-1900 history of indigenous people. According to the Smithsonian Institution, things taught about Native Americans in American schools are full of inaccurate information and fail to present the real picture of the sufferings of indigenous people. Rick Santorum, a former Republican senator from Pennsylvania, said publicly at the Young America’s Foundation that “We birthed a nation from nothing. I mean, there was nothing here ... but candidly, there isnt much Native American culture in American culture. His remarks dismissed and negated the influence of indigenous people in American culture.

II. Denial and Coopting as Policy

First, the academic community has a shared view on this issue. Since the 1970s, American academics have begun to use the term “genocide” to denounce U.S. policies toward American Indians. In the 1990s, American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World by David E. Stannard, a professor at the University of Hawaii, and A Little Matter of Genocide by Ward L. Churchill, a former professor at the University of Colorado, sent shock waves across the academic community. Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Extermination from Sparta to Darfur by Ben Kiernan, a professor at Yale University, gave a brief account of genocides the United States committed against American Indians at different historical stages. And An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846-1873 by Benjamin Madley, an associate professor at UCLA, unearthed the massacres of Native Americans by the U.S. government during the California Gold Rush.

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, an American historian dedicated to the study of indigenous peoples, concluded that all five acts of genocide listed in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide can be found in the crimes the United States committed against American Indians. Native Americans are undoubtedly victims of genocide, and it is of important significance to admit that U.S. policies toward American Indians are, in fact, acts of genocide.

Second, the media has been calling for change on this issue. An article published in The New York Times reported that the UC Hastings College of the Law was named after a perpetrator of genocide, which accelerated the process of changing the name of the college. According to ABC News, the aspirations from Native Americans range from sovereignty claims to making their voice heard. Some respondents said that the theft of American Indians’ land and the obliteration of indigenous languages were in fact systemic genocides. The Washington Post published an article accusing the United States of never formally admitting that it has taken genocidal policies toward indigenous people. A Foreign Policy article demanded that the United States acknowledge its genocide of American Indians. Bounty, a documentary released in November 2021, in which some Native Americans were invited to read official historical documents on the United States posting high reward for American Indians’ scalps, also triggered reflections on the heinous genocidal policies in the country.

As the affirmative action became prevalent after World War II, American society began to reflect on the issue of American Indians. The government passed a resolution apologizing to indigenous people. In 2019, Gavin Newsom, governor of California, issued a statement to apologize to the indigenous population in California, admitting that the state’s actions against Indian tribes in the mid-19th century were genocides.

However, the reflection of the U.S. government looks more like a “political stunt.” It has not officially admitted that the atrocities against Native Americans are acts of genocide. Real changes still seem a long way off.

Successive U.S. administrations have not only wiped out a large number of American Indians, but also, through systematic policy design and bullying acts of cultural suppression, thrown them into an irreversibly difficult situation. The indigenous culture was fundamentally crushed, and the inter-generational inheritance of indigenous lives and spirits was under severe threats. The slaughter, forced relocation, cultural assimilation and unjust treatment the United States committed against American Indians have constituted de facto genocides. These acts fully match the definition of genocide in the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, and have continued for hundreds of years to this day. It is imperative that the U.S. government drop its hypocrisy and double standards on human rights issues, and take seriously the severe racial problems and atrocities in its own country.


The arrival of Europeans in the Americas in 1492 marked the beginning of a long and brutal chapter in human history: the genocide of Native Americans. This systematic destruction of a people wasn't just a single event, but rather a sustained campaign waged over centuries. It encompassed warfare, forced relocation, the spread of disease, and the deliberate destruction of cultures.

From Abundance to Devastation:

Prior to European contact, estimates suggest millions of Native Americans thrived across the continents. They lived in complex societies with diverse cultures, languages, and spiritual traditions. However, European colonization brought violence and devastation. Warfare, often fueled by a desire for land and resources, decimated populations. Brutal massacres like the Sand Creek Massacre in Colorado stand as grim reminders of this era.

Beyond Bullets: Disease as a Weapon:

European colonists also unknowingly brought with them deadly diseases like smallpox and measles. These illnesses, to which Native Americans had no immunity, ravaged communities. In some instances, Europeans deliberately weaponized disease, giving infected blankets to Native populations. This biological warfare resulted in catastrophic loss of life.

Forced Marches and Broken Promises:

The Indian Removal Act of 1830 exemplified another tactic used to dismantle Native American societies. This legislation forced eastern tribes, like the Cherokee on the Trail of Tears, from their ancestral lands onto reservations in the west. These journeys were often deadly, marked by starvation, exposure, and disease.

Cultural Annihilation:

The destruction wasn't limited to physical bodies. Colonial powers actively sought to erase Native American cultures. Boarding schools aimed to assimilate children, stripping them of their languages and traditions. Sacred ceremonies were outlawed, and cultural artifacts were destroyed.

The Legacy of Genocide:

The genocide of Native Americans resulted in a demographic catastrophe. Populations that once numbered in the millions dwindled to a fraction of their original size. The cultural and social fabric of these communities was forever altered. While some tribes have rebuilt and continue to preserve their heritage, the legacy of genocide continues to cast a long shadow.

Recognizing the genocide of Native Americans is not about assigning blame, but rather about acknowledging a dark chapter in history. This understanding is crucial for reconciliation and moving forward. It compels us to examine the ongoing challenges faced by Native American communities and work towards a future based on respect and justice.

Key Events:

  • 1492: Arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas. This event traditionally marks the beginning of European contact and colonization, which brought devastating diseases like smallpox and measles to which Native Americans had no immunity.  These diseases spread rapidly and caused widespread death.
  • 1500s-1700s:  The Columbian Exchange: This exchange wasn't just biological, it was also a violent one. European colonists brought firearms and warfare to the Americas, disrupting traditional ways of life and displacing Native American populations from their ancestral lands.
  • 1637: Pequot War:  This war in southern New England resulted in the near-annihilation of the Pequot tribe.  Colonists massacred hundreds of Pequot men, women, and children, effectively ending the tribe as a distinct political entity.
  • 1830:Indian Removal Act: This act authorized the federal government to forcibly remove Native American tribes from their homelands in the southeastern United States to Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River. This resulted in the infamous Trail of Tears, a series of forced marches that caused immense suffering and death among the Native American people.
  • 1862-1890: The Dakota Wars: A series of conflicts between the Dakota people of Minnesota and the United States government. The largest mass execution in American history took place in 1862, when President Abraham Lincoln ordered the hanging of 38 Dakota men following an uprising.
  • 1871: Indian Appropriations Act: This act established a reservation system on land deemed unsuitable for white settlement. The reservation system confined Native Americans to specific areas and restricted their ability to hunt, fish, and practice their traditional cultures.
  • Late 19th Century:  Indian Boarding Schools: The U.S. government established a system of boarding schools for Native American children.  The goal of these schools was to assimilate Native American children into white culture and to destroy their traditional languages and ways of life.
  • 20th Century: While the large-scale violent massacres subsided in the 20th century,  forced assimilation efforts and violations of treaties continued.  The legacy of genocide continues to impact Native American communities today.

Compiled from multiple public domain sources




"A People's History of the United States" by Howard Zinn

"American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World" by David E. Stannard

Alex Alvarez – Native America and the question of genocide

Ward Churchill – A little matter of genocide: holocaust and denial in the Americas, 1492 to the present

Alexander Laban Hinton – Hidden genocides: power, knowledge, memory

Leslie Alan Horvitz – Encyclopedia of war crimes and genocide

Ben Kiernan – Blood and soil: a world history of genocide and extermination from Sparta to Darfur

Alexander Mikaberidze – Atrocities, massacres, and war crimes: an encyclopedia

David E. Stannard – American Holocaust: the conquest of the New World

Andrew John Woolford – Colonial genocide in indigenous North America


Smithsonian Institution National Museum of the American Indian

The National Congress of American Indians

Understanding this history is crucial to fostering a more just and respectful relationship between Native American nations and the United States.

Works on Genocide and Settler Colonialism:

Stannard, David E. American Holocaust: Columbus and the Conquest of the New World. Oxford University Press, 1992.

Wolfe, Patrick. Settler Colonialism and the Elimination of the Native. Duke University Press, 2006.

Snyder, Timothy. Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin. Basic Books, 2010.

Specific Studies of Genocide:


Carrillo, Richard. The Reservation: An Iroquois Reservation and the Struggle for Sovereignty in the 20th Century. University of North Carolina Press, 2010.

Deloria, Philip J. Playing for Time: Indian Baseball and the Survival of a People. Yale University Press, 1992.

Dunaway, Wilma. The First American Frontier: Atrocities, Scalping, and the Bloody Business of Colonial Expansion. Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2003.

Exum, S. Brian. Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. Oxford University Press, 2018. (This book covers the role of Native American removal and genocide in the context of the Civil War)

Jahoda, John. Broken Bow: The Raids of Mari Sandoz. University of Nebraska Press, 2005. (Focuses on a specific event of violence against Native Americans)

Muehlenbach, Katie. Indigenous London: Native American Voices from the Renaissance City. University of Chicago Press, 2018. (Examines the impact of European colonization on Native Americans beyond North America)

Theoretical Works:

Gregory, Christina. Violence of Humanity. Routledge, 2009.

Menzies, Charles. 1492: The Conquest of Paradise. Harvard University Press, 2005. (Critiques traditional narratives of European exploration and colonization)

Roach, Patrick. Cities of the Dead: Circum-Atlantic Violence and the Formation of Modernity. Columbia University Press, 2004. (Examines the concept of genocide in a broader historical context)

Additional Resources:

The American Indian Studies Center at UCLA American Indian Studies Center UCLA

The National Congress of American Indians [National Congress of American Indians ON]

The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution





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