By Mike Lander on
In my Master’s thesis I explored the role of the media with respect to the period of the “Indian Wars”, specifically the period from the outbreak of hostilities in May 1862 in Minnesota to the massacre at Wounded Knee, South Dakota on December 29, 1890. Previous treaties between the United States and the Lakota and Cheyenne Nations respecting territory ended with the passage of the Homestead Act as white settlers moved into Indian territory.
The full thesis is available for reading in the Political Science Department of Brooklyn College in Brooklyn, N. Y. Newspapers and Magazines of the day consistently portrayed American Indians as savages during this period more so by the western outlets, but also by respected eastern media. One New York based Christian missionary magazine said so much as the Indians were beyond their ability to convert to Christianity. The thesis examines why the reporting was so biased. Specific incidents are examined such as the Sand Creek Massacre. The newspapers and magazines of the day stigmatized the American Indian as “the other”. This propaganda made it much easier to eliminate the Indian as non-Indians saw “the other” as being sub-human. Üntermenschen. Unfortunately for European Jews this tactic was not lost on the Nazis.
This brings us to a conclusion that the conflict between the United States and the Indian Nations was something more than a war between respected combatants. This was a policy of genocide however distasteful this might be to some. Extermination. For only through extermination of the Indian could property rights be ensured, railroads be built, and mines be tapped in the name of progress. For the American Indian ownership of land was an invalid concept. Mother Earth is not subject to ownership as defined by Europeans.
Our collection of images include many from Pow Wows and parades, but those images are not included in this essay. This essay is focused on the American Indian way of life not normally seen by outsiders. Considering the history of United States relations with the Indian nations it is a wonder that American Indians were able to survive at all.