Several weeks ago, the media network Indian Country Today published its listing of the five worst U.S. Presidents ~ with regard to the welfare, indeed the survival, of Native American peoples. The information supporting each entry is as jolting as that in the book Lies My Teacher Told Me, which sets the record straight on how American history is presented in a selective, dishonest, and self-serving manner. Presidents whom we have been told were virtuous visionaries and defenders of liberty, were often just the opposite when it came to dealings with American Indians.
The worst five presidents by this reckoning, are~
- Andrew Jackson
- Dwight D. Eisenhower
- George W. Bush
- Abraham Lincoln
- Ulysses S. Grant
I've long held that Native Americans are the great invisible minority in this country, living under the most dehumanizing conditions, having survived a long history of genocide, broken treaties, and relegation to the ghettos we call "reservations". Some individuals and some tribes have managed to adapt, with varying degrees of preservation of their language, culture, and traditions. But like any other victim of criminal abuse and neglect, they should never have been placed in that position in the first place. They were indigenous, sovereign nations. Europeans were the conquering invaders.
The Indian Country piece prompted a response from Akim Reinhardt, a professor of American Indian history. In addition to the five leaders already mentioned, he describes other U.S. presidents who have been willing participants in the carnage ~ George Washington, Zachary Taylor, Thomas Jefferson, John Quincy Adams, James Monroe, Martin Van Buren, John Adams. (And let's not forget Christopher Columbus, who started it all.)
Each article is well worth reading more than once. It may take repeated exposure to really soak in the enormity of the crimes against humanity committed by leaders we've considered to be honorable men. Reinhardt's piece provides considerable historical evidence to support the need to reassess the actions and reputations of our country's leaders.