Ten Years of Blogging: The Trail of Tears Remembered

One of the most popular posts ever is this one about the Trail of Tears. It showed up on the top ten most popular posts for the years 2011, 2012, and 2013.  I wrote about the Trail of Tears in response to the American Family Association’s spokesman Bryan Fischer’s incendiary comments about Native Americans. Fischer said English settlers were morally superior to Native Americans which justified cruel and dishonest treatment of native people by whites. Later, David Barton made similar arguments. Below is the first part of the article; to read the whole thing, click through to the 2011 post.

The Trail of Tears was a low point in American history when the United States government brutally carried out a systematic removal of Native Americans from locations throughout the South to the Indian Territory (now eastern Oklahoma). Broadly the forced removal began in 1830 with the signing of the Indian Removal Act and culminated in the forced death march of the Cherokee in 1838 and 1839 where 4,000 of an estimated 17,000 travelers died. The last Cherokees arrived in present day Oklahoma in March, 1839.

The Trail of Tears has been obscured in the retelling of American history. It seems obvious that the American Family Association does not grasp the significance of the event and has spread misinformation to their millions of listeners and readers about the relationship of the United States and native peoples.

This is not a partisan issue. In 2004, conservative Senator Sam Brownback authored a resolution apologizing to the Cherokee and other native people for the Trail of Tears. It was not passed until 2009 and signed by President Obama on December 19, 2009. According to the American Family Association and Bryan Fischer, the US had nothing to apologize for.

To read the rest of this post, click here.

The Invasion of America

No, this is not a post about a tea party conspiracy theory involving immigration.
Rather, watch this video about Native American dispossession.
Two of our favorite Christian nation proponents, David Barton and Bryan Fischer, believe the native people got what was coming to them. The history cannot be undone, but we should never forget.
(hat tip to John Fea)

After getting history wrong, David Barton claims he was misunderstood about the destruction of Indians

On March 21, David Barton addressed “just war” theory on his Wallbuilders Live program and in the process he said the following about the destruction of Indian tribes.

What happened was the Indian leaders said “they’re trying to change our culture” and so they declared war on all the white guys and went after the white guys and that was King Philip’s War.  It was really trying to be civilized on one side and end torture and the Indians were threatened by the ending of torture and so we had to go in and we had to destroy Indian tribes all over until they said “oh, got the point, you’re doing to us what we’re doing to them, okay, we’ll sign a treaty.”

Barton Responds
Yesterday, I learned that David Barton responded to the various articles and posts about these statements. In a March 28 post on Wallbuilders Facebook page, someone on Barton’s behalf wrote:

In response to a recent WallBuilders Live show, we wanted to clarify statements made by Mr. Barton that we have been receiving questions and comments about. We encourage you to listen to the program to get the full context: http://www.wallbuilderslive.com/Historic.asp?cdate=77515. 
David was not justifying, but merely explaining the historical context of what happened, in the same way that he explained the British march to the sea. He made a parallel between the two as to tactics and strategy that were used during war at that time. David was explaining the historical events regarding King Philip’s War, not the atrocities that were in general committed against the Indian tribes and nations, which we in no way condone. There is a big difference between justifying and merely explaining or reporting.
WallBuilders Staff

I don’t buy it and many commenters on his page don’t either.  For instance, one said

Oh! You weren’t trying to “justify” what happened by reporting what happened in a way that only served to whitewash history (“It was really trying to be civilized on one side and end torture and the Indians were threatened by the ending of torture and so we had to go in and we had to destroy Indian tribes all over until they said “oh, got the point, you’re doing to us what we’re doing to them, okay, we’ll sign a treaty.”) without reporting atrocities on BOTH sides, and without applying any meaning to actual historic events that do not fit with your self-serving slanted view of said events. Silly, actual historian who interprets Native history on a daily basis, me! Thanks for your half of an apology!

He is backpedaling for sure but his wording and the context of the show don’t leave much wiggle room. He certainly seemed to be arguing that the destruction of Indian tribes was a just response of the English. As the commenter above points out, even if he was explaining, his explanation was biased and inaccurate to the point of being offensive.
Just War Theory
To check the credibility of Barton’s defense, let’s review more of what he said on his broadcast. The relevant section is from about 9 minutes in to about 13:40. He begins by saying in war “you have to go beyond what you would like to do, but that’s what you have to do to save lives.” He then discusses the American response to prisoners of war and invokes just war theory, defining it as “you want to conduct a war in such a way so as you don’t make God into your enemy. So if you have to do certain things to defend yourself, you do that; but if you’re going to be the aggressor, if you’re going to gratuitously use pain and torture to harm others because of the meanness of your soul, now you’re in trouble with God.” He added that there were wars that God has shown to be justified and made a distinction between offensive and defensive wars. Pivoting to history, Barton said “Let’s take these principles back into the way they were dealt with at the time.” He described what he believed to be differences in how the Americans and British treated their prisoners of war. Then he illustrated his points via Native Americans.

You have to deal a lot of it with how the enemy responds. It’s gotta be based on what the enemy responds.
You can’t reason with certain types of terrorists, you can’t reason, and see that’s why we could not get the Indians to the table to negotiate with us on treaties until after we had thoroughly whipped so many Indian tribes, and people say you took away their land, let’s back up a minute, let’s go back to time of the French and Indian War, let’s go back to the late 1600s, what’s called King Philip’s War in 1672.* The reason the Indians attacked the American settlers in the 1600s was because Moravian missionaries, now Moravian missionaries were probably the least intrusive people in the world. They don’t go in and say, hey, to be a Christian, you gotta dress this way, act this way, believe, they just want you to read the Word of God and get in a relationship with God. And living among the Indians as they did, and by the way, they didn’t ask the Indians to dress like Americans, the Americans dressed like Indians, so the Moravian missionaries, you couldn’t tell them from the Indians. They looked alike, they dressed alike, they talked the same language, but what the Moravian missionaries did was say, guys, you know you’re warring against all these other tribes and as you’re capturing other tribes, you’re torturing them before you put them to death. You’re not just putting to death your enemy, you’re making them line up and link arms together and as they hold their arms together, you’re going by and slitting their stomachs and they’re required to hold their own guts as they die. Just kill ’em, don’t torture them. 
What happened was the Indian leaders said “they’re trying to change our culture” and so they declared war on all the white guys and went after the white guys and that was King Philip’s War.  It was really trying to be civilized on one side and end torture and the Indians were threatened by the ending of torture and so we had to go in and we had to destroy Indian tribes all over until they said “oh, got the point, you’re doing to us what we’re doing to them, okay, we’ll sign a treaty.”
And that’s what we had to do with Jefferson and the Barbary pirates. Jefferson went in, we had 32 years of them fighting Americans and Jefferson went in, thumped ’em real good, and they said, aye, got it, we got the message, we’ll leave you guys alone, we’ll sign a treaty with you.
A lot of it is based on what you have to do to secure justice and to secure the protection of life and liberties for your citizens and you do what you have to do at times, but you play on the rules sometimes that the other guys have set up. And if they’re not going to negotiate with things like the Geneva treaty or other rules of civilization, you still have to secure the life and the property and the protection of your citizens.

Much of this is wrong, but I want to point out two problems. First, it certainly seems to me that Barton is speaking prescriptively. I provided this context because it certainly seems to me that Barton is defending the actions of the English settlers when he said what got the Indians to the treaty table was whipping and destroying them. He says you can’t reason with certain types of terrorists and then speaks about Indians as an illustration (Indians were terrorists for defending their land claims?). Barton then presents the conflict with the Barbary pirates which he also approves. The entire context of his speech was to explain and defend just war theory and his conclusion is that sometimes you have to protect your citizens by doing whatever it takes. If he is now sorry that he said that and doesn’t now believe it, then he should express that instead of insulting the intelligence of his listeners.
Getting History Wrong
Another problem is that Barton’s description of the causes of King Philip’s War is incorrect. First, Barton fails to mention that the Indians had entered into agreements with the British long before King Philip’s War (we didn’t have to destroy them to get them to the table). Second, the cause of the conflict related to British intrusions on Indian land and Philip’s perception that three of his warriors had been falsely convicted and executed for murder. Third, the Moravian missionaries were not in New England at the time. Barton says the Indians attacked whites because the Moravians tried to get them to stop torturing their enemies. However, the Moravians did not begin their work in the Americas until the 1730s, over 50 years after King Philip’s War.**  The following description of Moravian work comes from Loskiel’s history of Moravian missions in America, a source used elsewhere by Barton.

The first missionaries from the Church of the Brethren were sent in the year 1732 to St. Thomas, an island in the West Indies under Danish government. Others went in the year following to Greenland, and their labours were crowned by God with success. Not long after, the Brethren had an opportunity of introducing the Gospel to the Indians in North America. For the trustees of Georgia offered to Count Zinzendorf, then warden of the congregations of the Brethren, a tract of land to be cultivated by them which was accepted the Brethren hoping thereby to become acquainted with the Creeks, Chikasaw, and Cherokee Indians. The first company set out from Herrnhut in November 1734, conducted by the Brethren John Toeltschig and Anthony Seyffart attended with the best wishes and prayers of the whole congregation. 

In fact, a review of the book indicates that the Moravians were not in New York or Connecticut until the 1740s. I can’t find any evidence of his story in relationship to King Philip’s War and it clearly can’t be about the Moravians. Thus, Barton’s narrative about the Moravians and the reaction of the Indians is faulty, as is his use of the event as a support for just war theory.
*Actually, it was 1675 when King Philip attacked the settlers. Click the link to read an account which provides a contemporary account of the causes for the war.
** A commenter on the Wallbuilders Facebook page pointed out that the Moravian missionaries were not in New England at the time of King Philip’s War. Sadly typical that Barton’s supporters ignored her.

Baptist Minister Reacts to David Barton's Justification of Indian Destruction

At Crosswalk and Huffington Post, I posted articles this week with comments from Randy Adams, outreach minister with the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (Southern Baptist). Adams has outreach responsibilities with Native Americans in OK and has commented before on Bryan Fischer’s views of native people. He reacted similarly to Barton’s statements about the destruction of Indian tribes as being a part of a just war theory.

About Barton’s claims, Adams said, “using just war theory to support the general subjugation of Native people seems outrageous based upon the fact that Europeans were occupying a land already occupied, at least in part, and that by a people of vastly different culture and religion.” Furthermore, Adams considers Barton’s account to be harmful, adding, “Does it help Native Americans feel better about things? No. Does it help other Americans feel justified in some way? No. This kind of generalization is careless and too easy to disprove, in part if not in whole, to be of any good.”

This week, I have spoken to other native Americans who did not want to comment on the record, but believe Barton’s comments are outrageous. One minister with an outreach to native peoples told me such views are a barrier to his work. This is an instance where one’s approach to history matters in the here and now.

More on David Barton and King Philip's War

After David Barton’s astounding defense of the destruction of Indian tribes and their means of supporting themselves, I started reading more about King Philip’s War. Barton said the Indians declared war to defend torture in particular and their culture more generally. This is inadequate as an explanation. In addition to any concerns about culture, there was the more important matter of English encroachment on Indian lands. Philip (Metacomet, son of Massasoit) had appreciation for elements of English culture, having taken an English name and even buying English clothing. However, the English inflamed the Indians by disarming them and disregarding their property rights. After the trial and execution of three of Philip’s tribe by the English — which he believed was unjust — Philip engaged in his first attack on an English village.
Regarding torture, it is arrogant to suggest the English only used it as a response to the Indians, at least according to George William Ellis and John Emery Morris in their book about King Philip’s War, written in 1906.  Ellis and Morris wrote:

In connection with the captivity of Mrs. Rowlandson, it may be said that one party was as forward in the exercise of cruelty as the other. The torture of Englishmen by the Indians was the exception rather than the rule. The women and children were not tortured and were generally spared if the pursuit pressed not too fast upon their captor’s heels. The Indian conqueror never lowered himself to the level of the European soldiery of the time in the sack of captured towns and villages with their carnival of rape and murder. In all the chronicles of the time, the reader finds no recorded instance of outrage upon a woman captive or the useless torture of children.
“And such was the goodness of God to those poor captive women and children that several found so much favor in the sight of their enemies that they were offered no wrong to any of their persons save what they could not help, being in many wants themselves, neither did they offer any uncivil carriage to any of the females or any attempt the chastity of any of them, either being restricted of God as was Abimeleck of old or by some other external cause which withheld them from doing any wrong of that kind.” (A quote from Hubbard).
The settlers slew without discrimination as to age or sex and inflicted torture with a stern self-righteousness. The former generation had set an example in the destruction of the women and children in the Pequot fort, the present followed it closely, the next was to burn the Salem witches. The temper of the age and their belief that they were the people of the new Israel, their foes the old Canaanites and Philistines with new faces hardened them to mercy. In the books of the Old Testament, they sought and found precedents and divine commands in plenty that spoke with the same authority and inspiration for the guidance of their Israel of the new dispensation as to the fate to be meted out to hostile people as it had for the old. Hence arose more than one instance of bad faith. Hence, men women and children were slaughtered or sold into slavery in the West Indies. Rhode Island alone, to her credit, prohibiting the practice by statute. 

Ellis and Morris referred to the destruction of “Pequot fort.” This took place in 1637 and involved the massacre of older men, women and children of the Pequot tribe during the Pequot War. As Ellis and Morris noted, the English believed they had the right to clear the land of the natives because they believed God had given them the land. All that to say that it is hard to tell who was civilized and who wasn’t when one really looks at the history.
I am not saying that I would have done anything differently if I was an English settler. I hope I would have but the lessons of my discipline (e.g., Stanford Prison Experiment, Milgram studies) tell me that the power of the situation can corrupt good morals. What I am saying is that even if I had engaged in atrocities as a resident of that time and place, I would have been wrong. To me, it is misguided arrogance and pride to defend such behavior and it is moral cowardice to refuse to call it evil.

David Barton Justifies Civilizing Indians By Destroying Them

Yesterday, on Wallbuilders Live, David Barton addressed just war theory and conduct toward nations who don’t follow conventions of war. In doing so, he said:

What happened was the Indian leaders said “they’re trying to change our culture” and so they declared war on all the white guys and went after the white guys and that was King Philip’s War.  It was really trying to be civilized on one side and end torture and the Indians were threatened by the ending of torture and so we had to go in and we had to destroy Indian tribes all over until they said “oh, got the point, you’re doing to us what we’re doing to them, okay, we’ll sign a treaty.”

King’s Philip’s War was about much more than Barton describes (e.g., one reason involved English encroachment on Indian lands in violation of prior agreements) and the English did their share of torturing as well. In fact, they burned entire villages to the ground and often went beyond the behavior of the Indians.  Barton’s narrative is woefully inaccurate.
I wonder how this justification of American atrocities will sit with Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback. Barton is slated to speak at the Kansas prayer breakfast next week (March 27). Brownback was one of the champions of the Native American Apology Resolution that passed through Congress and was signed by President Obama.  According to Barton, no such apology is needed; the colonists were justified in destroying Indian tribes “all over.”
(Hat tip to RWW where you can also hear relevant portions of the audio)
UPDATE: Indian Country Today has a feature on Barton’s ideas about wiping out the Indians.
More on King Philip’s War.

David Barton’s Capitol Tour: Did Thomas Jefferson Spend Federal Funds to Evangelize the Kaskaskia Indians?

This week, Michael Coulter and I are going to present a series of reactions to an eight minute YouTube video of David Barton’s Capitol Tour. Sponsored by the Family Research Council, the video provides narration from Barton speaking in the Rotunda of the Capitol. First, I am going to revisit Barton’s fable about Jefferson and the Kaskaskia Indians. I wrote about the Kaskaskia treaty last year and we cover it in our book Getting Jefferson Right.  In his book The Jefferson Lies, Barton uses the Kaskaskia story as evidence that Jefferson supported missionary work to Indians. Barton also points to the Kaskaskia treaty as an indication that Jefferson supported government sponsored religious activities. Here is the video (this version has 3.7 million views):

In his Capitol tour, Barton makes a little different claim about the Kaskaskia treaty than he does in The Jefferson Lies. On the tour at 6:45, Barton says:

Most people have no clue that Thomas Jefferson in 1803 negotiated a treaty with the Kaskaskia Indians in which Jefferson put federal funds to pay for missionaries to go evangelize the Indians and gave federal funds so that after they were converted we’d build them a church in which they could worship.

One reason people have no clue about this story is that it didn’t happen that way.

Continue reading “David Barton’s Capitol Tour: Did Thomas Jefferson Spend Federal Funds to Evangelize the Kaskaskia Indians?”

Top Ten Posts – 2011

To reflect on 2011, I have listed here the ten most popular posts in terms of visits this year. Two of the posts were written in prior years but were visited frequently this year. In addition to being popular, I think they are representative of the stories and issues which I wrote about this year.

1. The Trail of Tears remembered

2. Uganda update: Anti-Homosexuality Bill on tomorrow’s agenda

3. Committee chair says Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill may not be considered

4. What would dominionists do with gays?

5. A major study of child abuse and homosexuality revisited (2009)

6. NARTH is not primarily composed of mental health professionals

7. Only the gay die young: Examining the claims of shorter life expectancy for homosexuals (2007)

8. The evangelical blackout of research on sexual orientation

9. William Penn founded the Quakers and other tall tales from David Barton

10. Was the Jefferson Bible an evangelism tool?

More on The Response: Did Hitler mimic the Indian reservations?

Here is a tale of two supporters of The Response.
John Benefiel is founder of the Heartland Apostolic Prayer Network and endorser of the upcoming prayer meeting, The Response, initiated by Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) and funded by the American Family Association. Benefiel has focused on repairing relationships with Native Americans. His reasons are spiritual. For instance, he teaches that Oklahoma’s high divorce rate is due to the fact that Oklahoma was once home to the Indian Territory, a place where the government broke covenants with Native Americans. Over the years, people have been inspired by dark forces to break their marriage vows because the government broke vows with the native nations of the land. Thus, the support for making amends with native people is not simply to do the right thing, rather the big picture is to clear the land of demonic influence so that Benefiel’s version of Christianity can take hold.
Bryan Fischer is an Issues Analyst for the AFA, the group funding the event endorsed by Mr. Benefiel. Mr. Fischer has said that Native Americas were morally disqualified from ownership of their lands because of their savagry and immorality. The AFA website provides Mr. Fischer a forum to say the Indians got what they deserved because they refused to convert to Christianity. Fischer and Mr. Benefiel surely seem to disagree about this matter.
Mr. Fischer also preaches that the Nazi party was full of gays, Hitler was gay and needed gays to enforce his evil intentions. According to Fischer, gays in the Nazi military gave the world 6 million dead Jews.  
Mr. Benefiel has something to say about Hitler and the Nazi era as well. Roll the tape:

The only reference to this possibility that I can find is John Toland’s biography of Adolf Hitler, where he wrote:

If we believe Bryan Fischer (which I don’t), then Hitler was some kind of gay and his brutality was because of it. Now we hear, from Apostle Benefiel and author John Toland, that the Nazis were inspired by the cruelty of the Christian nation America toward our indigenous people. Wow.
Benefiel and President Obama have something in common according to Fischer. According to Fischer when we consider America’s treatment of Native Americans, there are two conceptual options:

The template that the left has generated is that the displacement of indigenous tribes by European colonists and settlers was irredeemably evil. All the land which now comprises the United States was stolen from its rightful owners. Our very presence on this soil is a guilty, tainted presence. 
So the question is whether that template is right, or whether the displacement of indigenous nations was consistent with the laws of nature, nature’s God, and the law of nations and history. 
A lot is at stake here. If Americans believe that the entire history of our nation rests on a horribly evil foundation, then there is nothing to be proud of in American history, and our president is correct to identify America as the source of all evil in the world and to make a career out of apologizing for her very existence. 
If, however, there is a moral and ethical basis for our displacement of native American tribes, and if our westward expansion and settlement are in fact consistent with the laws of nature, nature’s God, and the law of nations, then Americans have much to be proud of.

On the matter of native people and the evil perpetrated, Benefiel and President Obama are on the same page.   
Obviously making amends with Native Americans is a big deal to Benefiel. And to his credit, he has investigated and documented the evil treatment of indigenous people by the American government. However, given his belief in curses and apologies, it is hard for me to understand how he can endorse an event like The Response, funded by the AFA, which condones Bryan Fischer’s derogatory views of Native Americans as a race of people.   
One observation that I can make here is that Christian conservatives are not as monolithic a group as those outside the group think we are. Since I would be somewhere in there, the boundaries expand to even greater reaches.
It does raise for me a question about the intent of events like The Response. To which god are these folks praying? Are they praying to the one who demands an apology for evil done to Native Americans, or the one who empowered the Europeans to displace the indigenous people?
Well, at least The Response is bringing people of competing ideologies together.
(Thanks to Kyle Mantyla at Right Wing Watch for the tip.)
Video is derived from this sermon.

The strange bedfellows involved in Rick Perry's prayer meeting

On the video below, at least four people who are associated with Governor Rick Perry’s The Response prayer meeting speak in favor of an apology to Native American people for the atrocities committed against them by European settlers. Jay Swallow, Lou Engle, Sam Brownback and John Benefiel appear and support the Native American Apology Resolution. In fact, John Benefiel’s ministry made the video.
Lou Engle, who is not listed as a The Response endorser but is a part of the International House of Prayer which is providing support, speaks about the apology as a way to remove the curse on the land due to how the American government treated native people. He leaves the impression that abortion today might be related in some way to the government’s practice of making and breaking treaties.
On the other hand, the event is being funded by the American Family Association, a group which condones and provides a platform for the views of Bryan Fischer. Fischer believes the native people were wiped out because they were so savage and immoral that God favored the occupying European settlers. If confessing national sins is on the agenda, I wonder if the prayers of all of these people will cancel each other out. Some will pray thanks for removing the land from the native people, and others will ask forgiveness for taking it.
While I do not link any of our present day issues to curses, I do believe that Christians should be in the front of the line to support the Native American Apology Resolution. I repeatedly asked the AFA to do so back in the Spring with dead silence from them. In taking the view that America was acting as a proxy for God, he and the AFA stand in direct opposition to those they are partnering with to put on The Response.
Additional notes:
After I posted the above, I explored the work of John Benefiel a bit more. Right Wing Watch has a couple of posts bringing to light Benefiel’s views about the Statue of Liberty (demonic) and homosexuality (big Baal conspiracy). You can read more about Benefiel here. Benefiel and Cindy Jacobs have a fixation on Baal which strangely enough is a tie to the Native American Apology Resolution. It is all explained here in this prayer alert from Jacobs’ Generals International.
I don’t really understand it all, but it appears that the Resolution was used as a kind of talisman to appease spirits in places around Route 50 all through the nation. The Resolution is important because it represents a necessary step to keeping a covenant given by God to the Pilgrims to evangelize the native people. So when the settlers breached treaties, they were also breaking covenant with God. According to this line of thinking, God won’t hear our prayers until we get things right with indigenous people.
The passage of the Resolution was viewed as a means of entering into a second phase of repentence from idolatry — which is divorcing Baal via a rejection of freemasonry and the occult. Enter the statue of liberty. According to Benefiel, this pagan symbol is idol worship. Benefiel and the Generals folks want to pray all of that away.
What a gathering The Promise should be. I think if God could be confused, this meeting might be the one to accomplish it. David Barton will be thanking God for George Washington’s faith, and John Benefiel will be divorcing himself from Washington’s freemasonry. Bryan Fischer and the AFA might pray in thanks for delivering the land into the hands of the Europeans, and John Benefiel and the apostles will be in remorse over it.
Since God is not the author of confusion, then I am not sure what is going on with The Response.