Presidents’ Day and indigenous peoples


Yesterday, after I took my mile-and-a-half daily walk, I was talking to my older brother.  He said there was going to be no Elders Lunch delivered today.  Then, he explained to me that our community staff had taken the day off in honor of Presidents’ Day.  I thought to myself, “Why are our Dakota People celebrating Presidents’ Day?  There is nothing to celebrate!”

For example, George Washington, one of the “founding fathers” and a U.S. president, once compared Indigenous Peoples to wolves, “both being beasts of prey, tho they differ in shape.”  He, to put it mildly, did not have a positive view of, nor did he have positive feelings for, the Haudenosaunee Peoples or for the other Indigenous Peoples. Washington was one of those western European invaders who was of the mind-set that Native Peoples were sub-human, that they were more like animals.  The Seneca People referred to Washington as the “Town Destroyer.”  Washington burned down 28 of the 30 towns of the Senecas, as well as burning down the towns of the Mohawk and Onondaga Peoples.

George Washington, in pursuing his “scorched earth policy,” instructed Major General John Sullivan to “lay waste all the settlements around . . . that the country may not be merely overrun but destroyed.”  Washington wished to burn down all of the communities, their properties, their fields, and their storehouses of grain.  Washington further instructed his general not to “listen to any overture of peace before the total ruin of their settlements is effected.”  One writer says, that the Haudenosaunee “were hunted like wild beasts” in a “war of extermination,” something Washington approved of (Stannard, 1992).  Washington wished to exterminate the Indigenous Peoples so that the “chosen people,” the U.S. Euro-Americans, could safely steal, occupy, and exploit Native Lands.

George Washington is not a “hero” for Native Peoples of the U.S.  Washington is NOT a good guy to Indigenous Peoples.  He didn’t think that the first “Americans” were even human.  Thus, there is no good reason for any of the Indigenous Peoples and Native Nations to take a day off to honor George Washington.  Washington is not worthy of honor by the Aboriginal Peoples of the U.S.  George Washington is a genocidaire, a perpetrator of genocide!

Thomas Jefferson, another U.S. racist president, also, had a genocidal mentality, a frame of mind which advocated the extermination of the Indigenous Peoples.  For example, in 1807 instructed his Secretary of War that any Indigenous peoples who resisted American expansion into their lands be met with “the hatchet.  And . . . if ever we are constrained to lift the hatchet against any tribe, we will never lay it down till that tribe is exterminated, or is driven beyond the Mississippi.”  Jefferson also said, “in war, they will kill some of us; we shall destroy all of them.”  At other times, Jefferson advocated genocide of the Native Peoples, using terms such as “extermination” and “extirpation.”  These kinds of statements would lead to “killing members of the group” (Indigenous Peoples), Criterion #1 of the 1948 UN Genocide Convention.

These kinds of genocidal statements caused Dr. David Stannard, author of THE AMERICAN HOLOCAUST (1992), to write, “had these same words been enunciated by a German leader in 1939, and directed at European Jews, they would be engraved in modern memory.  Since they were uttered by one of the U.S.’s founding father, however, the most widely admired of the South’s slaveholding philosophers of freedom, they conveniently have become lost to most historians in their insistent celebration of Jefferson’s wisdom and humanity” (p.120).

Thomas Jefferson is NOT a hero for Indigenous Peoples.  He is not a good guy to Native Peoples.  He wanted to “kill,” “exterminate,” and “extirpate” us.  There is no reason why any of our Native Peoples and Communities/Reservations to take the day off to celebrate Thomas Jefferson.  Jefferson is not worthy of honor by the Indigenous Peoples.  Jefferson had no respect for Indigenous Peoples, nor for the Black Peoples (he made slaves of them), and Jefferson, probably, would not have had any respect for other Peoples of color – the Mexicans, the Asians, Guatemalans, etc., if they had been around.  Thomas Jefferson, in addition, to being an advocate of Genocide against the Native Peoples of the U.S., was a white supremacist!

Lastly, a few comments will be made about Abraham Lincoln, another U.S. President.  This man had a direct connection to the Dakota People of Minnesota.  It was he who signed the death order for the hanging of 38 Dakota men, in Mankato, Minnesota on December 26, 1862, in perhaps the largest mass execution in the history of the United States.  This was a political decision by Lincoln in order to gain the votes of Euro-Minnesotans for his re-election.  Our Dakota men were treated as war criminals, not as prisoners of war.  What Lincoln did was “legalized murder” (Roy Meyer, and Carol Chomsky). 

Today’s Dakota People of Minnesota see these U.S. Presidents as haters, fighters, and killers of not only the Dakota People but also of the other Indigenous Peoples of the U.S.  We can take out a five-dollar bill and we see the “Dakota Executioner”.  We take out a one-dollar bill, and we see the “Town Destroyer.”  We see schools, buildings, counties, towns, universities, etc. named after these murderers of Native Peoples.  There is no good reason why the Yellow Medicine Community (BIA name “Upper Sioux Community,” Granite Falls, MN) and other Indigenous Communities/ Reservations need to celebrate and honor these Genocidaires.  Instead, let us have holidays for our casinos, hotels, gas stations, businesses, and for our community programs, in which we let our employees and staff have a day off to celebrate and honor our Indigenous heroes, or to honor and mourn for those who paid the ultimate price in defending our lands against the land-stealing, treaty-breaking, and genocidal western European invaders.

For questions re: documentation, contact Chris Mato Nunpa, Ph.D. at “Chris.MatoNunpa@ “.