Jordan Lessard | Guest Writer
“Kill the Indian and save the man” was Captain Richard H. Pratt’s oft-quoted slogan that captured the contentious feelings of Americans with regard to the Native Americans.
On Monday, Oct. 1, Dr. Alan Ray, citizen of the Cherokee nation and president of Elmhurst College, discussed the history of the European invasion of Native American land that led to the introduction of this popular slogan in a lecture entitled “Doctrine of Discovery and the Conquest of America.”
This event was sponsored by the departments of biblical and theological studies, history and politics and international relations, and the Center for Global and Experiential Learning.
Ray began with the history behind the European expansion.
“This European invasion began with well-intentioned conversion but soon turned into a quest for land and power,” he said.
The conflict between the Native Americans and Europeans began with the Doctrine of Discovery, which was created and upheld by the Roman Catholic Church. This doctrine listed the requirements that needed to be met in order for a religious group to obtain American territory, including reading the Requerimento to the Native peoples. The Requerimento stated that “(the Native Americans) may either accept Christ or be annihilated,” according to Ray.
Explorers, rather than addressing the Native Americans with the Requerimento, began raiding and plundering, giving the indigenous populations no time to understand or communicate with the Europeans.
The 19th century saw many changes in the Federal Indian Policy under the leadership of Chief Justice John Marshall.
“John Marshall turned the Indian debate into an ontological problem,” Ray said.
According to Ray, Marshall compared the Native Americans to tribes consisting of savages like wolves instead of human beings.
Marshall soon devised a policy of incorporation that trained the Native Americans to adapt and contribute to society after being robbed of their land.
Statistics today reveal just how detrimental “conversion” was to Native Americans. “Now one of three Native American women are raped in their lifetime, and the race also has the lowest average years of schooling” among Americans, Ray said.
When asked how local organizations and people can help this group, Ray answered, “Engaging in Native American culture and offering help with current day challenges would be one contribution. Another would be the dissolving of stereotypes and generalizations of the race.”
Another audience member asked, “How can we reconcile with this people group?” Ray answered, “Educate yourselves first, eliminate stereotypes and, finally, don’t rule out what the Indians are doing.”
Photo credit: Chloe Cucinotta
Printed in the October 5, 2012, issue of The Wheaton Record. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.