Following the Revolutionary War and George Washington’s election as president the forces he had commanded had been substantially weakened and not up to the task of nation expansion.
That undoubtedly has something to do with his administrations approach to the indigenous nations.
Henry Knox, Washington’s Secretary of War, made the following statement: “ The Indians being the prior occupants possess the right of the soil”
That’s a definitive statement that precludes the concept of Manifest Destiny and Papal Bulls.
The first tempering of this may have been in a statement made by Washington’s Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson when he said in locations Indians inhabited within the “boundaries of a state” they should be left in peace and encroaching settlers should be removed.
On the surface this sounds innocent enough but I believe the keywords in this line of thinking are “boundaries of a state” – a presupposition that the government had the authority to not only create boundaries and states but created from land it had seized.
A clear contradiction of prior occupancy and an inherent “right” of indigenous people to possess or own the land.
Following the Revolutionary War the die was cast and the trail of tears became the norm with perhaps one of the greatest land grabs in history facilitated by hundreds of worthless treaties, genocide, the extermination of entire tribes, and the creation of the gulags.
The number of deaths may never be accurately known, but there is no dispute that literally millions of indigenous people perished throughout this hemisphere.
There’s something of a custom alongside roads where fatal accidents have occurred for people to erect a small marker as a remembrance, a roadside memorial of typically a cross or flowers – I wonder at times what the landscape would look like across the width and breadth of this country if the same were done where every indigenous person fell?