“I want to say further that you are not a great chief of this country. You have no following, no power, no control. You are fed by the government, clothed by the government, the government educates your children, and all you have and are today is because of the government. If it were not for the government you would be freezing and starving today in the mountains. I merely say these things to notify you that you cannot insult the people of the United States of America or its committees. The government feeds, clothes and educates your children now, and desires to teach you to become farmers, and to civilize you, and make you as white men.”
-Senator John Logan, 1887
The above excerpt is from a Dawes Commission meeting at the Hunkpapa Sioux Agency located in Standing Rock. There, U.S. Senator John Logan addressed the first ever-elected Supreme-Chief of all Seven Sioux Nations, The Sitting Bull. The purpose of the Dawes Commission, under The Dawes Act of 1887, was to convince Native American Tribal leaders to cede their land and practice laws in accordance with the U.S. Constitution.
Evaluating human progress —within the context of human rights in the U.S.— requires an understanding of how the denial of human rights became the foundation on which the Nation was built. Humanity was re-defined by the colonizers of this nation and civilization was the means.
Logan uses the word civilized to describe the intentions colonizers had for the indigenous people of North America. Civilized to the Anglo-European colonizer meant participation in a way of life that espoused: Christianity, centralized government, English literacy, market participation, written constitutions, intermarriage with white Americans, and slavery practices.
Tatanka Iyotanka, The Sitting Bull, was known for his fervent resistance to the forced ‘civilization’ of Native Americans by colonizers. Before becoming a war leader, Sitting Bull was a spiritual leader, a Holy Man who understood the requirement for cultural preservation in order for his people to avoid extinction.
Nights before being shot dead by Indian Police, Native American Officers selected by the U.S. Government, Sitting Bull had the premonition that he would be killed by one of his own people, one who had lost their mind to the white man. Almost 75 years later another spiritual leader and revolutionary would say that his people, “left their minds in Africa.” He would also predict a similar end for himself. He was my Grand Uncle, Malcolm X.
Malcolm understood that the civilization of a stolen country could justify its means and methods only through an indoctrinated psychological slavery, whose foundation was cultural and spiritual genocide, the re-definition of what it means to be human. Whereas Sitting Bull found himself in a time when this indoctrination was being established, Malcolm was born into a time when it was fully established. The United States Institution operates through the recognition of a civility rooted in white colonial culture. The civilizer becomes the dehumanizer through the denial of any other form of humanity. Just as Malcolm said, a people are, “like an individual man; until it uses its own talent, takes pride in its own history, expresses its own culture, affirms its own selfhood, it can never fulfill itself.”