The Myth of White Indigeneity

Updated: Jul 8, 2020

White Indigeneity

It may come as a surprise to learn that the title of this chapter is an oxymoron: There is no such thing as white indigeneity. In fact, the very idea of an indigenous source of whiteness is irreconcilable with an indigenous perspective. Whiteness simply does not fit within the definition of indigeneity whatsoever. In fact, It is an antonym to the concept of indigeneity.

I want to encourage you, before we begin the journey of this book, that I am not here to offend your sensibilities with my opinions on the matter of race and ethnicity. Quite the contrary, I hope to provide a clearer perspective for you, the reader, on the matter of race and ethnicity as to set a path forward for you and others like you. 

In the vein of that hope, I believe it must be said, to read this book will take an act of great courage on your part. It is an unfortunate truth, but a truth nonetheless, that we are taught many grave falsehoods when it comes to the history of race and the role it has played in the founding and shaping of this nation. Although I sincerely believe that some of our forefathers truly hoped for a time when the words, “All men are created equal” would be a universal truth in action; in their time and in ours, it is only a truth in concept. 

If you are a person who checks the box for ‘white’ or ‘Caucasian’ on your legal documents of identification and demographics, then your history is an erased one. Your indigeneity has been assimilated so completely that you only know and identify as ‘white’. The proper terminology for exploring your indigenous roots starts with abandoning your identity as “white” and recognizing yourself as European-American. That is only the smallest of beginnings. However, that is where your story begins. You are European-American.

There is a long and complex history to recount for the entire European continent. Frankly, most of us are barely taught the details of American History throughout our primary schooling. It is not generally expected that you would know the in’s and outs of European history and I am not going to go into great detail here.

However, let’s hit the highlights, which, it should be noted, is a recipe for failure at its core because to highlight history is to leave out details that are frankly vital to a sincere understanding of history. So, before we jump in, I encourage you with this: There are numerous texts, documentaries, and anthologies dedicated to the deep history of European culture. Some will be listed in the bibliography of this book: Read them: For god sake, please read more!

For the sake of bringing this story to point, we will start with Rome. Specifically, the move from the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire just before the time of peaceful expansion known as Pax Romana. At least peaceful for the average Roman citizen; who’s numbers ranged in the realm of 20 to over 50 million strong with a capital city of about 1 million people. No European city would see that size of a population again until the 19th Century.  By the time the Roman expansion was completed at the end of the 1st century BCE, Rome had control over the entirety of the Mediterranean and sizable expanses of East, West and Northern Europe.  

It is difficult to overlay modern borders onto a regional concept of the Roman Empire from 50BCE to 14 AD. Utilizing regional names of the age; the Roman borders expanded to all of Hispania (Spain, Portugal) to Gaul (France & Belgium) to large parts of Germania (Germany & Austria). To the east, it expanded through modern-day Romania, Greece, Turkey and parts of Ukraine. The issue with utilizing modern names for territory is self-evident: The modern names and boundary lines do not line up or make sense. The use of the ancient names to describe western Europe is also problematic in that they do not take into account the numerous and diverse tribes and cultural groups that lived in these territories prior to assimilation into Rome. 

However, this is where many of us come into the story. The Gallic Wars waged by Proconsul Julius Caesar was a brutal 8-year military conquest against the people living in these lands. Many of these communities had trade relations with Rome and some were even considered territorial extensions of Rome without representation in the Roman Senate; much like Puerto Rico is today and Hawaii and the Philippines were; as US Territories in the last century. When Caesar and his Legions marched on these territories, they did so with phalanxes of Gallic ranks among them. 

These campaigns were ruthless, and well documented by Julius Cesar himself. Although his accounts give us first-hand information of these events, they also fall into a category of suspicion since, in this case directly; history truly was written by the victor.  

It is generally accepted that in the 8 years war that was waged in the spring and summers of 50 BCE - 58 BCE, Caesar and his armies killed 1/3 of the indigenous populations of western Europe. An additional 1/3 were carried off into slavery within the core of the Roman Republic. The 1/3 that was left remaining fully assimilated to Roman society and customs within a single generation. To achieve this, Caesar successfully implemented the tenants of colonization: a concept that would be employed in the conquests of Spain in Mexico, Central and Southern America and the expansion of European-Americans across the west through the doctrine of Manifest Destiny in the late 19th century. 

I document the tenants of colonization here, perhaps for the first time, because although there is no written manual for one group of people to colonize another, there are consistent patterns and lessons from history that conquering peoples have utilized repeatedly to subjugate, annihilate and assimilate free peoples inhabiting and occupying the land and resources that they want to possess for themselves. These tenants of colonization have been utilized over and over again, perfected from one group, nation or empire to another until we reach the shores of the New World. It is here that they are implemented with such precision and veracity that they were an act of almost monstrous perfection. 

The original source for these tenants of colonization comes from the observations and experiences of indigenous peoples all over the world: From Native American’s to aboriginal Australians to indigenous peoples in central and south America; as well as ancient Europe. They are as follows:

Claim the Culture

Through the outright destruction of monuments, writings, and artifacts, conquering peoples have attempted to leave the cultural histories of vast numbers of people in the dust and ash of time. A clear example we have of this is the conquering of the Aztec peoples beginning with Cortez in 1519.  Cortez is, quite possibly, the best example of employing these 5 tenants of colonization since the conquest of Mexico gives us an extremely rapid look at the colonization of the American continents from its origins. 

Once Cortez and his men had dispatched the Emperor of the Aztecs, Montezuma, the dismantling of Aztec life and the destruction of the once-great civilization was afoot. Disease would play a far greater role in the destruction of the indigenous peoples of the Americas over warfare, however, the dismantling of cultural artifacts, documents, histories and monuments at the hands of the monks and priests was voracious. 

By great civilization, it must be understood that contrary to popular perception, Cortez and his men were battling a highly organized military and society that was more advanced in roads, city layout, social ordering and ceremony than any European capital or country of the day. Cortez himself, upon entering the great lake city Tenochtitlán, wrote in his journals that the city dwarfed Paris; the largest European city of the time, by orders of magnitude. The richly painted pyramids, palaces, amphitheaters, gathering squares and temples were a wonder to the marching Spaniards. All of which reached across a flotilla city expanding 6 square miles and was wiped from the earth by the end of the 16th century. 

Most of the gold artifacts were melted down and sent back to Spain but the most egregious act of this tenant of colonization was the purposeful act of burning any archive, book, parchment or library that contained the vast and rich human histories of the southern and central Americas. The archives lost to the flames of conquest included rich histories of the peoples that came before the Aztecs and the builders of the great roads, cities and temples that litter the continent’s jungles today. A human history that may well span 20,000 years was wiped clean by Cortez and the advancing Spanish conquest of the territory over the next 300 years. 

Erase the Experience 

Cortez’s Conquistadors and the priests that followed him would not only erase the histories of these peoples but they would re-write a history that has stuck with us too today. The very idea that Cortez was fighting an “unsophisticated” and “savage” people to bring civilization to the New World is written in every history book and every educational film studied by American primary school students. Along with that sentiment is the concept that Columbus discovered America; a falsehood perpetuated and celebrated to this very day. He, in fact, landed on the inhabited islands of Puerto Rico and Cuba only.

By the time of Cortez’s invasion, Castilian Spanish would have been the common language of Cortez and many of his men. This form of Spanish would mix with the native tongues of Central and South American to bring about the Latin dialects found in numerous countries in these regions today. The elimination of the native languages and assimilation of the Spanish language was a purposeful and directed effort on the part of the accompanying Spanish priest, friars and monks that traveled with the Conquistadors and started missions in their advancing wake. These missions educated the indigenous peoples in new customs, language and practices and prevented their indigenous ways to speed the assimilation process of the native peoples into citizens of Spain. 

Demonize the Ancestors

The primary method of creating a barrier between ancestor and kin is through religious superiority. Many indigenous cultures hold their ancestors in high esteem; considering them guides and counselors to the events in which they currently live. Many celebrate their ancestors in ways that Christianity considered pagan at best and demonic at worst. The leaders of social change were often priests, monks and friars; marching in rank with the soldiers performing the conquest. These priests ensured the teaching of the imposed system upon the indigenous populations was done through the lens of religious superiority. Places of worship were cleansed and white-washed with the symbol of the cross being overlaid on the idols of gods and family ancestors. 

Ritual and ceremony were dismantled; often by the hands that propagated and practiced it prior to the conqueror's arrival. This was true in some respect in Aztec society because the religious system of the day was cruel and random in its reach to consume its followers in rituals of blood and sacrifice. Although this isn’t true in most areas of assimilation since the time of Cortez and his men, it is true that the hands that dismantled and demonized the icons and idols of their own culture were people within the culture itself at the behest and guidance of a new religious idol: The Catholic Church and the priest authorized to enforce its dogma. 

This is where colonization begins to show it’s true form. If it had a genetic makeup, it would be a virus; for it has the ability to turn those victimized by its perpetuation into victimizers for its cause. 

Colonize the Body

Although this one is elusive indirectly pointing out its purposeful intent, the pattern and proliferation in which it is employed in the colonization process demonstrate the veracity of its use by conquering peoples in all conquests of territory and resources. It is the systematic and brutal use of rape, molestation and the mutilation of men, women and children at the hands of the conquerors. It is anecdotally correct to assume that advancing armies leave a rift of rape in their wake.  However, once the conquest is over, it is often the religious leaders, teachers, and occupying militia that employ rape culture upon their victims. This is evident in the often religious boarding schools of Native American tribes in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is true of the baptist missionary schools in Hawaii. It is most certainly true of the slave owners and power brokers throughout the world from the 15th century to the 19th century. 

We see the consequences of this horrific practice of colonization in the rape culture that is so very evident within the Catholic Dioceses in our time and in the continuing epidemic of murdered and raped indigenous women and children all across this nation. To coincide with this proliferation of evil, an ongoing and vastly disproportionate number of brown and black women and children are sexually abused and disappear in American cities all over the nation every year.; compared to their white counterparts. 

However,  it must be noted that the rape of ‘white’ boys and girls in low classes that are in the foster care system and of all classes in the Catholic Church is directly related to the origin of colonizing the body as well. We live within the deeply damaging consequences of rape culture in our world today and, just like all other areas of colonization, it spreads like a virus. Victims become victimizers once the structures of the family and perceptions of safety are damaged or destroyed.

Protect the Privilege

The protection of privilege and status that is adored by the victors of conquest and they’re descendants. The victors of conquest were Hernan Cortez, the Conquistadors, colonizers, pilgrims, settlers, and militaries that followed. The descendants are you and your parents, grandparents, great grandparents and so on. You are the benefactor of colonization and you live in a country that perfected the art of colonization. 

As I will demonstrate in later chapters, our privilege and status as a “white” citizen of America are entrenched in the founding documents of this country and in dozens of laws and civil acts passed and perpetuated by state and federal authorities since. This protection of our privilege is only subtle and unrecognizable from our white perspective. The laws that have been set up to protect it are blatant and bold in their declaration that the white race is superior to all others on this land. Most of these laws were passed generations before us but they secure the precedence and privilege we so easily dismiss as illusion. If we are going to achieve this audacious dream of a new age of enlightenment for all Americans, then we must start with our acknowledgment of this privilege and continue with active participation in dismantling these systems of oppression. 

Colonization is a Virus

The colonization of human cultures works like a virus: The colonized become the colonizer. In our current society, this is evident in the perpetuation of consumer culture and a harmful form of capitalism that demands everything from its participants in the effort of more growth, more consumption, more production and more capital to build on. In that effort, everyone within the system becomes a colonizer;  whether willingly or not. This is evident in every cell phone in the pocket of our Levis, with the rare-earth metals inside of it pulled from the earth by the hands of workers under ethically questionable working conditions. It is found in the vehicles we drive and the plastic, petroleum and synthetic materials, lubricants and fuels that propel it down the road. Every mile requires more extraction and refinement of natural resources. There are those that consciously fight against this paradigm and are fully aware of their unwilling participation within it. This should be the goal of every person. 

In varying degrees of severity; these same tenants of colonization have been employed in the Spanish conquest of the Philippines, the American conquest of Hawaii and North America, British colonization of Australia and Europe's colonization of the entire content of Africa; spanning a timeline from the 15th Century with Columbus’s arrival in the Caribbean to the 20th Century and the US Intervention and annexing of the Hawaiian Islands. 

However, where our story begins is even farther back than that. To understand the origins of whiteness we must understand the dismantling of the indigenous peoples of western and Northern Europe. It was Rome’s incursion and eventual colonization of these lands that set the stage for our world today. These Tenants of Colonization were employed upon your ancestors first and in turn, infected and propagated the European culture with the virus of colonization that would spread to the rest of the world 1500 years later. 

It is the indigenous peoples of the Celts, the Gauls, the Germanics tribes, and the vast numbers of other ancient names lost to conquest and time who were killed, captured, enslaved, raped, and subjugated that represents you and where you come from. Many of these peoples held experiences, traditions and beliefs that would be incredibly similar to indigenous peoples from all over the globe. Their social systems were small. They grew or gathered their own food, worshiped their own gods, paid homage to their ancestors, passed knowledge from generation to generation through story, and understood the sovereignty of the individual. 

Our ancestors were not ideal humans. They had their flaws and faults. They waged war, took slaves, and raped. The tenants of colonization may well be a base human trait when one group of humans comes into boundary conflict with another. However, the sheer scale of human colonization had never been seen before Columbus, Cortez and those that followed. Our ancestors learned the lessons from their assimilation one and a half millennia before.  

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