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Thanksgiving, Crazy Horse, Us
VDARE.COM Thanksgiving Note: Michelle Malkin's latest column is a Thanksgiving prayer. Which reminds us that Thanksgiving is actually a religious holiday. As James Fulford wrote at Thanksgiving last year: "There's a question on the Citizenship Test that you (used to) have to take to become an American citizen. Who helped the Pilgrims in America? The "school solution" is Native American Indians…But the Pilgrims themselves would have said that "God Almighty" had helped them. Or possibly 'God's merciful Providence.'"
President Bush has issued the annual Thanksgiving Proclamation, dated, like all presidential proclamations, "IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-first day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand two, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and twenty-seventh. GEORGE W. BUSH." The Year of Who? Doesn't he know you can't even say B.C. and A.D. anymore? Eventually someone will have the same kind of fit as when Bush proclaimed a National Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving for having come through the Florida mess with the country intact.The questions asked will be "Thanksgiving? What do the Indians (sorry, Native Americans) have to be grateful for? What do Hispanics have to be grateful for? Where do Hindus fit in with this Thanksgiving story?" Thanksgiving will be attacked the way Christmas is now. Meanwhile, Chilton Williamson reflects on Indians and whites, with some thoughts about viewing modern-day Pilgrims (or Conquistadors) with suspicion.
And a Happy Thanksgiving to all our readers.
On a warm day in the fall of 1987, I happened (just happened) to be floating lazily down the cocoa-brown Colorado River between red slickrock walls somewhere above Moab, Utah, in a dory owned by my friend, the late auteur-provocateur Edward Abbey from Wolf Hole, Arizona.
For years, Ed and I had maintained an off-and-on-again correspondence across a distance of a thousand miles before meeting up finally in Moab, where he and his wife Clarke had rented a house on Moenkopi Drive for the summer. The author of the notorious novel The Monkey Wrench Gang, about a gang of eco-terrorists intent on blowing up the Glen Canyon Dam to liberate the thousands of slickrock canyons inundated by Lake Powell, Ed had recently published One Life at a Time, Please, a collection of essays that included "Immigration and Liberal Taboos," one of his own favorites as well as of mine.
Ed Abbey, a self-proclaimed liberal and proud of it, was really an Old Believer: a cranky, independent, elbows-out, Don't-Tread-on-Me individualist, a paleo-American always very much his own man in terms of holding an opinion and stating it with a blunt cracker-barrel humor that could be more offensive to his liberal supporters than to their conservative opponents. As a believer in Jeffersonian republicanism and the old American political culture it created, he championed representative democracy and the Second Amendment, deplored socialism and its oppression and conformity, and all the forms of political messiness typical of Third World societies.
So Ed was concerned by mass immigration not only as an environmentalist advocating the conservation of national resources, but also as an Old American devoted to the founding institutions, customs, and values of his country.
As he asked in "Immigration and Liberal Taboos,"
"How many of us, truthfully, would prefer to be submerged in the Caribbean-Latin version of civilization?…Harsh words: but somebody has to say them."
Alone on the river lined by wavy green tamarisk plumes, seven hundred miles north of the border and with nary an immigrant in sight, we still insisted on abrading our emotions and raising our blood pressures by discussing the immigration issue—it had attained critical mass only the year before by the passage of the Immigration Control and Reform Act of 1986—when we should have set our brains on autopilot and bathed them in beer instead.
Perhaps because the Colorado Plateau through which the river cuts remains haunted by the ghostly Anasazi people, who vanished abruptly from the region some eight hundred years ago, leaving the shell of their civilization in the form of stony ruins still hanging from the walls of sheer cliffs, our conversation turned to the Indians as we floated slowly downriver through a wilderness of primeval slickrock.
[VDARE.COM question: OK! OK! What's slickrock? CW: It's a form of sandstone that splits cleanly, looks like butter cut by a knife.]
Ed had written in his essay:
"Yes, I know, if the American Indians had enforced such a policy [of immigration restriction] none of us pale-faced honkies would be here. But the Indians were foolish and divided, and failed to keep our WASP ancestors out. They've regretted it ever since."
We whites would seem to be a strange people—as the Sioux chief Crazy Horse so often remarked. Was he familiar with the story of Crazy Horse? I asked Ed.
Crazy Horse was the greatest warrior-chief of the Sioux. He was called "Our Strange One," not from any mental incapacity—"Inspired Horse" is a better translation. "Strange" recognized simply the diffident, set-apart nature of this fair-skinned, light-haired Indian who eschewed war paint, war dances, and counting coup after a fight.
Far from being defective, Crazy Horse was the most farsighted of his people, perhaps of all the aboriginal tribes west of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers: a leader who observed more accurately than Geronimo the events of his time and place; a visionary capable of extrapolating from these an unwelcome—in fact, a disastrous—future for the Sioux.
Like all great leaders, Crazy Horse identified plainly the paramount issue, in his time, for his people: IMMIGRATION.
Crazy Horse's story was a Greek tragedy, translated to the late-nineteenth century American West. It's marvelously told by Mari Sandoz—daughter of Swiss pioneers who was raised on the Niobrara River in the Nebraska panhandle and had a personal acquaintance with some of her subject's associates—in her CRAZY HORSE: THE STRANGE MAN OF THE OGLALAS.
It begins with a vision experienced by the young man, in which he is exhorted to save his people by expelling the immigrant invaders and making whole again the damaged circle of the Teton Sioux. In recognition of his valor he is made a chief, but later has his warrior shirt stripped from him when he shoots his rival for the hand of Black Buffalo Woman. Unhappy in love, he finally marries—and loses his young daughter to tuberculosis, one of the many virulent diseases introduced into the country by immigrants arriving on the Holy Road or immigrant trail, so-called by the Sioux because travelers on it must not be touched. Inventive and ingenious, he grasps the need to fight the whites with their own tactics and weapons–only to discover his small force is no match for the enemy's superior numbers. At Little Bighorn, he defeats the Americans and kills General Custer in battle, while continuing to lose the war. And then Fort Robinson, under the command of General George Crook, where Crazy Horse comes in peaceably after being apprehended by Indian "friendlies"–and is assassinated by one of his own, as he has been warned in his vision.
The strategy toward the Sioux adopted by the sponsors and protectors of the immigrant whites–that is, by the blue-uniformed troops and their masters in Washington, D.C.–was divide and conquer, as with all the Indian tribes. In the Southwest, Kit Carson dealt the Navajo their final defeat by employing scouts hired from the Utes –the Navajos' traditional enemies—to lead him to their secret redoubt in Canyon de Chelly. In the case of the Sioux, the U.S. Army divided the tribe by bribing the people with much-desired goods like coffee and sugar, tobacco and beads, substandard calico and other fabrics, even guns and knives, and their influential men with chieftainships created–extra-legally as far as the Sioux were concerned–out of thin air. The Army established trading posts and invited the Indians to "come in" to them, promising plenty and security in return.
Needless to say, a great many of the Sioux saw nothing but advantage to be gained from the white invasion. Immigration was a good thing–a windfall for the Sioux economy! The whites brought skills the people lacked, they were inventive (and carried their inventions along with them), and entrepreneurial. Thanks to all the material goods the white men imported with them into the country, the Indians no longer had to work so hard to support themselves, to stay alive! Instead, they could relax and enjoy a life enhanced by mass-produced goods and a multicultural cuisine. As for the impact of immigration upon the Sioux political system, the whites were voting to make every man of substance a king, while hiring lesser men into the Army where they were paid and fed well and issued the most up-to-date rifles and the handsome blue coats with the gilt buttons on them.
But Crazy Horse understood that the source of foreign immigration was inexhaustible. Nobody had guessed there were so many white people in the world, but here–suddenly–they were. He understood that the newcomers would shoot all the game and take all the land (and fence it: a custom hitherto unknown to the Indians). He tried to make the coffee-coolers and the others who counseled acceptance–Red Cloud, Spotted Tail (his own uncle), Red Dog, American Horse—understand. But they would not listen. Or had no care for the long term, only for the benefits they received in the short term.
None of the above should be taken as an endorsement of the White Guilt Lobby, but the opposite. The natural and healthy instinct of ANY people is to defend itself and its civilization against co-optation, even as powerfully perverse counterforces within it are working toward an opposite end.
The Indians lost because their fate was to play a role that was to recur inexorably throughout history when a higher and more sophisticated civilization runs against a lower and more primitive one.
For the Sioux, oblivion advanced more slowly. In fact, it continues to proceed apace on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota where a once proud and, in their way, magnificent people have been reduced to a surly remnant of bull-necked, beer-sodden, federal dependents, forced to sacrifice the freedom of the plains for what is no doubt–materially—a higher standard of living.
The saga of Crazy Horse is thus a timeless human story. It is also, however, a fable for our own time–even more, for our own people, our own nation. Its relevance is so notable that, in fact, it has NOT gone unnoted. The Indian v. white-native v. immigrant parallel has been a staple of the immigration debate for decades–as a feature of the enthusiast case exclusively.
The lesson, immigration enthusiasts insist, is that European Americans whose ancestors stole the country from the Noble Red Men have it coming to them. Whites DESERVE to lose their country to the new immigrant tribes! As an Anglo board member of a southern California hospital whose specialty is treating illegal immigrants for free at the taxpayers' expense recently crowed, "Now the tables are turned, and the Mexicans are taking California from US!"
History, of course, doesn't work that way. Thomas Aquinas argued the first human duty of each individual is to family members. Similarly, the first duty of every society is to its own members with their culture and its history—which amount only to itself.
Nor should the entwined interests of a given society, like those of any individual, be dismissed as an aggregation of selfish impulses. The Christian ideal of self-sacrifice is a strictly personal virtue. No such thing exists as a society's duty to be an historical loser.
Crazy Horse was a hero–for his own people. Americans need to find their own.
"What do you suppose Crazy Horse would say if he could witness the situation today?" I asked Ed.
He pondered, trailing one oar in the quickening water as the dory slid smoothly toward the head of a small rapid.
"'Good borders make good neighbors. Zapotec [Mexican] Indians heap bad medicine for the [American] Sioux?'" he suggested at last.
Edward Abbey's essay "Immigration and Liberal Taboos" was actually commissioned by the New York Times, which somehow never got around to printing the piece, or even paying its starving author a kill fee for it.
Ed died in the spring of 1989. He was buried, at his request, in a remote spot in the Arizona desert known only to his friends.
Chilton Williamson Jr. is the author of The Immigration Mystique: America's False Conscience and an editor and columnist for Chronicles Magazine, where he writes the The Hundredth Meridian column about life in the Rocky Mountain West.
November 27, 2002