About Gary Alton Russell

While occasionally engaging in the frivolous, I prefer to spend my time engaging in pursuits that enrich my life and the lives of others.

Land Ho

Everybody needs some elbow room, so early American immigrants elbowed the natives out of the way.

When the Pilgrims came to New England they [. . .] were coming not to vacant land but to territory inhabited by tribes of Indians.1

Natives that weren’t exterminated were eliminated by diseases introduced by invaders.2

“Captivity narratives” romanticized genocide. These narratives “typically related the white captive’s gruesome ordeals at the hands of ‘merciless savages.’”3

This narrative is captured in the Schoolhouse Rock short: Innocent white people armed only with a Bible are shown being attacked for no apparent reason.

Native Americans have failed to gain ground.

The Vermont Supreme Court dismissed a land dispute, ruling that “aboriginal rights were extinguished” by “governmental action”:

The period preceding Vermont’s statehood was a confusing era, and valid questions remain as to the legitimacy of the opposing governing entities. Nevertheless, the tumultuous political context does not preclude a finding of extinguishment. . . . Vermont’s admission to the union provided closure to a long period of authority transferred from one body politic to another, giving final, official sanction to the previous events, and eliminating any remaining ambiguity about who had dominion over lands once controlled by the Abenaki[] [Tribe].4

How convenient.

Seizing land from the natives wasn’t enough.

We needed more elbow room, so we took parts of Mexico:

Yes: Mexico must be thoroughly chastised! [. . .] Mexico, though contemptible in many respects, is an enemy deserving a vigorous “lesson.” [. . .] Let our arms now be carried with a spirit which shall teach the world that, while we are not forward for a quarrel, America knows how to crush, as well as how to expand!

After California was grabbed, natives were told by an agent of the conqueror:

We come to prepare this magnificent region for the use of other men, for the population of the world demands more room, and there is room enough for many millions, who will hereafter occupy and till the soil.5

The new occupants “acquired more than 500,000 square miles of valuable territory and emerged as a world power in the late nineteenth century.”

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was a treat for the U.S. and a trick for Mexico:

Partly because of the loss of valuable territory, the treaty ensured that Mexico would remain an underdeveloped country well into the twentieth century.

We forced our way into prosperity but deny entry to those fleeing penury. We barged in; they walk in.

A UN treaty declares:

Outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.

We planted the U.S. flag on the moon. Five U.S. flags remain. If the need for elbow room sends us to the moon, will we declare there’s no room to spare?

Notes:
1 Zinn, Howard. A People’s History of the United States. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2005, 13.
2 Ibid., 16.
3 Graffagnino J. Kevin, Hand, Samuel B., and Sessions, Gene. Vermont Voices, 1609 through the 1990s: A Documentary History of the Green Mountain State. Vermont: Vermont Historical Society, 6.
4 Ibid., 378.
5 Zinn, 163.