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Every tribe’s greatest ally

Over the course of the 19th Century the United States had the power to wipe out all oppressed tribal cultures. People will say, oh, believe you me, they tried, and, generally, the discussion ends there. But I am post-traditional, and I try to take discussions to their logical conclusion.

We know why they tried—they wanted to make this land their land, and remove any obstacle challenging that remake. Tens of thousands of books and articles and speeches are made addressing what happened during the failed attempt, but never why it failed.

Both cultures have a reason for avoiding that question. Tribes avoid it because they are fixated on the wrongness done to them and the bad intent of those that took what was once theirs. That the dominant culture failed to wipe them out, they must attribute to something the tribe did, or it was something the supernatural powers that love and support the tribe would not allow. Whites avoid this question because it is a bitter pill to swallow for a self-worshipping culture that prides itself as being the flagship of cultural enlightenment and social justice. Their policies and actions toward tribal cultures are condemned by their own morality, and it takes colossal cognitive contortion to find a way to reconcile it…

…they never took this land from Indians. History took it. History was a ref with a biased whistle, just kept blowing it in favor of the white team over the red team, until the red team was locked up in cubby hole reservation holding pens, and you can’t blame the white team for that…

Something stopped the United States from flat out exterminating tribal cultures, and don’t think that wasn’t something many in this country wanted, and in large numbers. In 1890, Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum, then editor of a weekly South Dakota newspaper, twice called for the extermination of the Lakota, and in no uncertain terms. But when processing his editorials through a present-day prism, we would do well to recognize two fundamentally overlooked factors. More than one thing can be true. L Frank Baum can be a virulent racist and the Wizard of Oz can be a great story. Vilifying subsequent children stories, which had nothing to do with those editorials, just because it was his writing, is playground level overreaction. Nothing kills support from otherwise empathetic people than tribes that grandstand victimhood, or in their reaction to those who lack empathy, fail to respond with empathy. What stopped the extermination of tribal people was the social conscience of a critical number of white people. We have grown so cynical as a nation we no longer acknowledge that white people of conscience existed historically, or that they exist to this day. They do not self-identify as such, and our society has no mechanism for recognizing them let alone honoring them. Over the decades, tribes have often displayed an ungracious disregard for white people of conscience, and recoil at the thought they have benefited at all from white support and sacrifice.

White people of conscience have no greater enemy than white people without empathy, and the four years of Trump gave a chilling indication of what would happen if they had the final say. Remove any people of conscience and you cut the heart and soul out of the human equation. No need for conjecture about how history would have played out, because Homo sapiens would have never survived prehistory.

Something is driving the engine of social progress in America, something freed the slaves, something enacted child labor laws, secured women the right to vote, ended segregation, legislated civil rights. Black protest didn’t get us civil rights. AIM protests didn’t give us the religious freedom act of 1978. These activists certainly helped gin up support, but the real change was forced by white people of conscience, for the simple reason they are the only group with the power to challenge tyranny and injustice—and routinely prevail. Even now tribal activists are trying to take credit for the Washington NFL franchise dropping their blatantly racist moniker. I have been one of those activists, and many of those activists are friends of mine. We don’t deserve the credit. Washington capitulated because of the pressure brought to bear by corporate advertisers pressured by white people of conscience after the George Floyd protests.

Think of our sacrifices and struggles on behalf of our tribe as a powerful bulldozer, ready to plow ahead and run over every threat and injustice. We can be a formidable force. But the bulldozer just sits, with a bunch of Indians pushing, kicking and yelling at it, and even holy men responding with sacred ceremony can’t budge it an inch. For some inexplicable reason the mystical incantations borrowed from long dead science-ignorant men have no impact on bulldozers. White people of conscience are the fuel that will drive that engine, and until they fill up that fuel tank, regardless of who sits in the driver’s seat, every bulldozer stays parked.

(Contact James Giago Davies at

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