In 1492 the indigenous Arawak people of the Caribbean Islands encountered Christopher Columbus of Spain. Columbus wrote in his log: “They would make fine servants… With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.” Columbus proceeded to unleash a reign of terror unlike anything seen before. When he was finished, eight million Arawaks have been exterminated by torture, murder, force labor, starvation, disease and despair.
Columbus’ atrocities, with cross and sword, were justified by the Christian doctrine of “divine discovery” and set religious and legal precedent for the invasion and genocide of America’s indigenous peoples… for the next 500 years and beyond. By 1650 a precarious relationship between the first nations of the East Coast of North America and New England colonies was collapsing… into slaughter and enslavement of native people by settlers who wanted more land and wealth. Most of the English colonies sanctioned and encouraged scalping Indians. In 1776, the United States gave birth to the first 13 states on land taken through the ethnic cleansing of dozens of tribes. The Declaration of Independence further enshrined the belief of Euro-American settlers’ supremacy by declaring native peoples to be merciless Indian savages.
In 1787, United States adopted its Constitution… Article 6 established treaties as the supreme “Law of the Land.” Despite this supreme law, treaties with sovereign native nations became slippery promises, easily broken when convenient. In 1823, in the case of Johnson and Graham’s Lessee v. McIntosh, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the first nation people’s right of occupancy was subordinate to the United States divine right of discovery. “The United States has unequivocally agreed… that discovery gave an exclusive right to extinguish the Indian title of occupancy.”
This landmark ruling provided legal cover for governmental policies that would claim white Euro-Christian supremacy as justification for stealing indigenous lands and for the genocide of native peoples. In 1849, the California Gold Rush triggered the mass western migration of settlers putting them in direct conflict with existing indigenous nations.