Remembering Indian Genocide in Texas
There was no state that surpassed Texas in the genocide of American Indians. Now, it is here in Texas that the American Indian Genocide Museum is documenting the American holocaust.
"They were run out of Texas," said Steve Melendez, Pyramid Lake Paiute of Nevada, now living in Texas and president of the museum. "We are really sitting on a powder keg here in Texas."
Melendez said the museum is retelling Indian history and hopes it will lead authors to rewrite textbooks without bias. "It seems like the Indian side of the story has never been told. They would rather live in this sanitized view of history."
The payment for Indian scalps, including the scalps of Indian children, was written in the laws of Massachusetts. "The Acts and Resolves of the Province of Massachusetts Bay," Vol. I, states the rate for Indian scalps began at 50 pounds. The price for the scalp of Indian children under 10 was 10 pounds of silver.
The scalp law read:
"That there shall be paid out of the publick treasury of this province unto any party or parties that shall voluntarily go forth at their own charge, by commission as aforesaid, in the discovery and pursuit of the said Indian enemy and rebels, for every man or woman of the said enemy that shall be by them slain, the sum of fifty pounds; and for every child of the said enemy under the age of ten years that shall be by them slain, the sum of ten pounds . . .."
When the slaughter subsided in the United States, scalp bounty hunters went to Mexico and slaughtered entire villages. They would leave arrows at the sites to make it look like Indians carried out the carnage.
"This is not revisionist history; this will really shock people," Melendez said.
Melendez has also discovered an invoice for the blankets and handkerchiefs used by the British to convey small pox to Delaware Indians. It is from Fort Pitt, in modern-day Pittsburg.
Pointing out that such invoices have long been concealed, Melendez said, "They dont want this information to get out."
But it was not only the Delaware Indians who received small pox blankets. In Texas, a military colonel distributed small pox to imprisoned Indians and then released them so that they would return to their tribes and infect their people. This account comes from Col. James Neill in "Recollections of Early Texas: Memoirs of John Holland Jenkins":"On this raid, Colonel Neill adopted a singular, if not barbarous, method of sending destruction upon the Indians. Having procured some smallpox virus, he vaccinated one of the captive warriors, and then released him to carry the infection into his tribe! Nothing was ever heard as to the success or failure of this project."
Some presidents of the United States also voiced racism and determination to eliminate American Indians. President Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt was among those who felt land should be taken from the "savages."
Roosevelt is quoted speaking of the red, black and yellow Aboriginal landowners in "The Winning of the West, Vol. 4: The Indian Wars."
Roosevelt said:"The most ultimately righteous of all wars is a war with savages, though it is apt to be also the most terrible and inhuman. The rude, fierce settler who drives the savage from the land lays all civilized mankind under a debt to him. American and Indian, Boer and Zulu, Cossack and Tartar, New Zealander and Maori, - in each case the victor, horrible though many of his deeds are, has laid deep the foundations for the future greatness of a mighty people. The consequences of struggles for territory between civilized nations seem small by comparison. Looked at from the standpoint of the ages, it is of little moment whether Lorraine is part of Germany or of France, whether the northern Adriatic cities pay homage to Austrian Kaiser or Italian King; But it is of incalculable importance that America, Australia, and Siberia should pass out of the hands of their red, black, and yellow aboriginal owners, and become the heritage of the dominant world races."
Melendez points out that the bounty for Indian scalps and distribution of small pox virus was accompanied by the movement to rid the Plains of buffalo and replace them with cattle, as described in the "Memoirs of Gen. W. T. Sherman":"They naturally looked for new homes to the great West, to the new Territories and States as far as the Pacific coast, and we realize today that the vigorous men who control Kansas, Nebraska, Dakota, Montana, Colorado, etc., etc., were soldiers of the civil war. These men flocked to the plains, and were rather stimulated than retarded by the danger of an Indian war. This was another potent agency in producing the result we enjoy to-day, in having in so short a time replaced the wild buffaloes by more numerous herds of tame cattle, and by substituting for the useless Indians the intelligent owners of productive farms and cattle-ranches."
In Texas, only three federally-recognized tribes remain, the Alabama Coushatta Tribe on the eastern border, the Ysleta del Sur (Tigua) on the southwestern border and the Kickapoo in Eagle Pass, Tex.
In the 1700s, President of the Republic of Texas Mirabeau Lamar pressed for the extermination of Indians, including the massacre of 800 Cherokee and related bands at Neches 165 years ago.
Melendez said now Texas is considering constructing a monument in Lamars memory.
"It is like putting up a statue of Hitler," Melendez said.
These are facts that the American Indian Genocide Museum hopes will usher in a new era of healing for Indian people and counter racism in America. The museum board, now searching for a building to house their data as a permanent museum, has a vision to defeat prejudice and discrimination through education.
The American Indian Genocide Museum is a memorial to the victims of ethnic cleansing. Along with countering racism, the museum is exposing prejudice generated toward Native peoples through biased reporting of history. A library and microfilm archive will be available.
The museum states: "The problem with dehumanizing people in order to take their land is that the next step is to take their lives also. Genocide in the Americas is not an easy subject to address - not for any American."
Melendez, pointing out that he is father and grandfather, said, "I want better for my kids and grandkids."