The AFA's Bryan Fischer said this week that Native Americans were "morally disqualified" from maintaining their land due to depravity and failure to convert to Christianity. More on that below. Yesterday, the Native American Rights Fund declined to say much about his views but did tell me:
NARF declines to comment because the article is not worth dignifying with a reply.
However, the American Family Association thought his views were worth dignifying with a column and setting before their millions of readers and listeners. What does Fischer think about Native Americans? In his Tuesday column, Native Americans Morally Disqualified Themselves From the Land (Note: without comment, the AFA has removed this article, you read it here), he says (in italics)
In all the discussions about the European settlement of the New World, one feature has been conspicuously absent: the role that the superstition, savagery and sexual immorality of native Americans played in making them morally disqualified from sovereign control of American soil.
International legal scholars have always recognized that sovereign control of land is legitimately transferred in at least three ways: settlement, purchase, and conquest. Europeans have to this day a legitimate claim on American soil for all three of those reasons.
They established permanent settlements on the land, moving gradually from east to west, while Indian tribes remained relentlessly nomadic.
Much of the early territory in North American that came into possession of the Europeans came into their possession when the land was purchased from local tribes, Peter Minuit's purchase of Manhattan being merely the first.
And the Europeans proved superior in battle, taking possession of contested lands through right of conquest. So in all respects, Europeans gained rightful and legal sovereign control of American soil.
But another factor has rarely been discussed, and that is the moral factor.
Apparently, given Fischer's analogy to "the Canaanites," he believes Native Americans deserved their fate at the hands of the Europeans. This is absurd. Here is a moral factor for Mr. Fischer to expound upon: The Trail of Tears, perpetrated by European Americans on the native people (in italics),
What happened on the Trail of Tears?
Federal Indian Removal Policy
Early in the 19th century, the United States felt threatened by England and Spain, who held land in the western continent. At the same time, American settlers clamored for more land. Thomas Jefferson proposed the creation of a buffer zone between U.S. and European holdings, to be inhabited by eastern American Indians. This plan would also allow for American expansion westward from the original colonies to the Mississippi River.
Between 1816 and 1840, tribes located between the original states and the Mississippi River, including Cherokees, Chickasaws, Choctaws, Creeks, and Seminoles, signed more than 40 treaties ceding their lands to the U.S. In his 1829 inaugural address, President Andrew Jackson set a policy to relocate eastern Indians. In 1830 it was endorsed, when Congress passed the Indian Removal Act to force those remaining to move west of the Mississippi. Between 1830 and 1850, about 100,000 American Indians living between Michigan, Louisiana, and Florida moved west after the U.S. government coerced treaties or used the U.S. Army against those resisting. Many were treated brutally. An estimated 3,500 Creeks died in Alabama and on their westward journey. Some were transported in chains.
Those Native Americans who could pass for white did so to avoid the nearly 1000 mile trek across country. Many had to walk the entire distance. Families were uprooted from their homes. Many Native Americans had roots throughout the targeted areas and were not nomadic as Fischer claims. More from the Trail of Tears site:
In December 1835, the U.S. sought out this minority to effect a treaty at New Echota, Georgia. Only 300 to 500 Cherokees were there; none were elected officials of the Cherokee Nation. Twenty signed the treaty, ceding all Cherokee territory east of the Mississippi to the U.S., in exchange for $5 million and new homelands in Indian Territory.
More than 15,000 Cherokees protested the illegal treaty. Yet, on May 23, 1836, the Treaty of New Echota was ratified by the U.S. Senate - by just one vote.
"Many Days Pass and People Die Very Much"
Most Cherokees, including Chief John Ross, did not believe that they would be forced to move. In May 1838, Federal troops and state militias began the roundup of the Cherokees into stockades. In spite of warnings to troops to treat the Cherokees kindly, the roundup proved harrowing.
Families were separated-the elderly and ill forced out at gunpoint - people given only moments to collect cherished possessions. White looters followed, ransacking homesteads as Cherokees were led away.
Three groups left in the summer, traveling from present-day Chattanooga by rail, boat, and wagon, primarily on the Water Route. But river levels were too low for navigation; one group, traveling overland in Arkansas, suffered three to five deaths each day due to illness and drought.
Fifteen thousand captives still awaited removal. Crowding, poor sanitation, and drought made them miserable. Many died. The Cherokees asked to postpone removal until the fall, and to voluntarily remove themselves. The delay was granted, provided they remain in internment camps until travel resumed.
By November, 12 groups of 1,000 each were trudging 800 miles overland to the west. The last party, including Chief Ross, went by water. Now, heavy autumn rains and hundreds of wagons on the muddy route made roads impassable; little grazing and game could be found to supplement meager rations.
Two-thirds of the ill-equipped Cherokees were trapped between the ice-bound Ohio and Mississippi Rivers during January. As one survivor recalled, " Long time we travel on way to new land. People feel bad when they leave Old Nation. Womens cry and make sad wails. Children cry and many men cry…but they say nothing and just put heads down and keep on go towards West. Many days pass and people die very much."
Some drank stagnant water and succumbed to disease. One survivor told how his father got sick and died; then, his mother; then, one by one, his five brothers and sisters. "One each day. Then all are gone."
By March 1839, all survivors had arrived in the west. No one knows how many died throughout the ordeal, but the trip was especially hard on infants, children, and the elderly. Missionary doctor Elizur Butler, who accompanied the Cherokees, estimated that over 4,000 died-nearly a fifth of the Cherokee population.
Is this moral? How Christian was this?
Many Christians opposed this policy and treatment at the time and yet here is a high profile christian celebrating the subjugation of native people. It appears that Mr. Fischer of the American Straight White Christian Family Association prefers the European-American depravity to the native kind.
UPDATE: As of now, Fischer's article has been removed from the AFA website but you can read it here.
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About Dr. Warren Throckmorton
Warren Throckmorton, PhD is Associate Professor of Psychology and Fellow for Psychology and Public Policy at Grove City College (PA). He co-founded the Golden Rule Pledge which advocates bullying prevention in evangelical churches. His academic articles have been published by journals of the American Psychological Association and he is past president of the American Mental Health Counselors Association. He is the author with fellow Grove City College professor, Michael Coulter, of the book, Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims About Our Third President. Over 200 newspapers have published his columns. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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