Dehumanization and its Lasting Effects: Native Americans and the Wasichus

Native Americans were the only people in the Americas up until the Wasichus (white men) arrived and claimed the Native Americans lands as their own. Dutch, French, Spanish, and Portuguese settlers came to the new world looking for many different things and while there were here they founded colonies and settlements. This new interaction between the Native people and the Wasichus started off on rocky footing and the results are still felt today. The white men as well as the Native Americans had a culture based on dehumanization of others who were not the same as they were. Cultural beliefs, greed, and even the meaning of the spoken words all played into this dehumanization between the different cultures.

The cultural beliefs of the white men who came across the seas were that of religion. Christianity to be more specific and looking into those beliefs there is one major thing that stands out. The great chain of being is the major underlying theme that helped to dehumanize all other people that are outside the normal culture. Ranking on the great chain of being starts with God then things are ranked down from there (Smith, pg. 46). Christians are just below the angels and animals follow suit down the line there after. Those who are not Christian are, at times, thought of as animals or sub-human. Now this does not mean that the native people did not share a common feeling toward outsiders. In some native tribes the name of the people actually means “human” and that lends to have an outlook that those who are not part of the tribe are less than human (Brody & Henretta 9). This mutual apprehension between the two groups led to fighting and eventually the enslavement of some Native Americans to work alongside Black slaves.

Some of the tribes moved past the initial sub-human ideas and helped the settlers in times of need but it was noted that even though the native population was helping out that a conquest of brute force could help to push them out of their land. The white men used tactics like enslavement or trickery to force the native people out. Deception was also used in ways like giving the native Americans blankets that had been infected with Small Pox, leading to an almost genocide of the native population.

As the Wasichus showed up in larger numbers the native population was forced further inland away from the lands that they were living on. The settlers, mostly coming from a poor backgrounds in small agricultural societies were able to claim land, live and work on their land in the new world (Brody & Henretta, pg. 14). This chance to gain status and accumulate wealth was something that was new and exciting to the White man. The native tribes of the northeast were not used to nor did they have the customs or materialism. As the trade routes became more traveled the settlers found that cash crops such as tobacco had a high retail. Because of this boom in the economics status more workers were needed to maintain the fields that were growing ever larger. A quote from Black Elk sheds light on the ever decreasing land for the Native Americans;

Once we were happy in our own country and we were seldom hungry, for then the two-leggeds and the four-leggeds lived together like relatives, and there was plenty for them and for us. But the Wasichus (white men) came, and they made little islands for us and other little islands for the four-leggeds, and always these little islands are becoming smaller, for around them surges the gnawing flood of the Wasichus; and it is dirty with lies and greed (Neihardt, pg. 5)

In my opinion I think that the dehumanization faced by the Native Americans is still being dealt with in today’s society. We hear about how some groups of people are like rats and run to their holes in the mountains, or how the net was sprung on the snakes of Al Qaeda. Using terms where humans are compared to animals is no different than having the term for your people mean “human.” The greed that was shown by the arriving white people and the tactics that were used to eradicate the locals were unethical and even the treatment faced by Native Americans today has a tone to which will perpetuate the cycle of dehumanization. That being said, there are teachers that are trying to change the current rhetoric when talking about the history of the Native Americans. Comparing the school age song, “Ten Little Indians” to that of “Ten Little Monkeys” shows how our culture has sustained the sub-human appearance of the native peoples of our country.

In conclusion, the massive influx of the Wasichus to a land that was fertile and open, meaning no one had a claim to it yet, led to the abuse of the native peoples. The greed of the new comers allowed for an entire population to almost be the subjects of genocide and those who survived had to live in fear of becoming slaves. Slaves on their own land, the land that they worked and which sustained them for hundreds of years. The lines of dehumanization were drawn early in both cultures, whether because of the language spoken and meanings of those words or because of the religion and beliefs of each population. Looking past the differences that each person has from one another is the only way that history will not continue to repeat itself. 

Bibliography

Brody, David & Henretta, James “America: A Concise History” Volume One: To 1877. Web 16 May 2013.

Neihardt, John G. “Black Elk Speaks” First People: Web 26 May 2013. Retrieved from http://www.firstpeople.us/articles/Black-Elk-Speaks/Black-Elk-Speaks-Index.html

Smith, David L. “Less Than Human: Why we Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others” St Martin’s press. Book 15 April 2013.

Humans: More or Less Animals

Mark Twain, at later stages in his life, wrote about topics that were on the boarder of being almost cynical and which held a darker tone. One essay that he wrote toward the end of his life was “The Damned Human Race.” Mark Twain may have crossed the line when he went against the accepted theories of Darwinism by making the credible, logical, and emotional points that humans are not at the top of the evolutionary hierarchy. Twain used his knowledge of these theories along with experiments and the logical conclusions deduced from those experiments to make his points valid. His use of all of Aristotle’s appeals made the essay successful in my opinion as the reader.

As the essay opens Twain makes a point to grab the reader and entice them with the contradiction to a widely accepted theory of science, Darwinism.  The contradiction is such that it not only goes against the basic ideas but rather calls out the original author as being wrong on the main point of the theory. The way that the author did this, led to a feeling that he was knowledgeable in the area that he was talking as well as gives some insight into what point Twain is going to make.  Twain states that “the theory ought to be vacated in favor of a new and truer one” when referring to his observations as compared to those in the theory of Darwinism (1).

Although the opinion of Twain is that the accepted theory of evolution is incorrect and a new one needs to be brought through to the scientific community, he goes about explaining how he conducted his experiments using the scientific method.  Using this system to test the hypotheses that he had, it allowed Twain too create his conclusions by how the experiments resulted.  If the hypothesis was incorrect then he would reject the assumed outcome and alter his hypothesis from what was observed.  Having used the system of the scientific method, allowed Twain the ability to create logical conclusions from the real data that was observed while working in the London Zoological Gardens.  One experiment that stemmed from an incorrect hypothesis was that of placing seven young calves in a cage with an anaconda, expecting them all to be eaten, which only killed and ate one calf (Twain 2).  Twain, having heard a story about how a group of humans killed 72 buffalo but they only kept one, Twain decided to test the hypothesis that given the chance, a predator would kill everything it could given the opportunity.  The anaconda showed that humans were the ones capable of mass killings for sport rather than killing for what is needed to survive.

This same example of overkill when talking about the story of the buffalo helps lend Twain to achieve an emotional response in the reader.  He used a tone in the essay that conveys that he is almost disgusted at the human race all together, “I find the results humiliating to me” (Twain 1).  Even with this tone being set he goes onto explain that all humans are the same, no matter color, stature, mental caliber and so on (Twain 1).  The best example that Twain uses is comparing humans to cats.  The Cat will play with its prey, thus causing fear, but the cat knows not of the fear it creates.  This lack of an ethical understanding is the cats’ justification for those actions.  Having an ethical understanding of the action we as humans take is what sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom.

The reasoning behind Twains’ theory that humans are at the bottom of the evolutionary hierarchy rather than at the top are sound if the reader has an open mind as well as they are able to look outside the cultural norms for a different possible answer to this age old question. The use of all three different appeal to the reader throughout the essay shows that Twain took the time to not only learn about what he was talking, but also that he was able to rationalize logical conclusions from the experiments that he preformed. Having the base knowledge that Twain does as well as becoming an authority on the topic gives the reader all the credibility they need to agree with Twain about why the human race is damned. We as humans continually ignore that little voice that Twain calls the Moral Sense, and look at our culture as it stands today (Twain 4).

Work Cited

Twain, Mark. “The Damned Human Race.” Moodyap.pbworks.com. n.d. Web. 11 May 2012