As nearly all “good” Americans know, our hallowed statement of purpose — aka the Declaration of Independence — begins with these familiar words (highlights added):
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form . . .
What most Americans do NOT realize, however, is that the same Declaration also contains these words:
The . . . present King of Great Britain . . . has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
Interesting how even way back then, the Western Hemisphere’s white-skinned and newly-arrived (what today would be called “illegal”) immigrant population was unwilling and unable to admit that aboriginal inhabitants of said lands had any intrinsic rights. The original inhabitants were, after all, nothing but merciless and non-white Savages and therefore were not at all burdened by the all men are created equal meme that had been spelled out and worshiped so extensively — at least by the white European (illegal) alien invaders.
In the new America, in other words, all was well IF you were a white European (illegal) immigrant. Otherwise? Not so much, since from the moment of European discovery of the Americas forward to the present day, it can safely be said that the superiority implicit in white skin remains codified, in effect, as the legal license that enables white America to take — from any aboriginal land remnant anywhere in the country — whatever might be considered useful and to, without challenge or legal barrier of any kind, do with it as they please.
In fact, in 1823 a Supreme Court decision (under Chief Justice John Marshall) effectively ruled that ever since since discovery, the (illegal immigrant) Europeans have held superior title and sovereignty to the entire of all the land in North America, and that the inferior and savage aboriginals have only the mere right of occupancy — which can be terminated at any time and for any reason. Those precepts still hold today; they have not been overturned or even reevaluated.
Enter year 2014. Enter Rio Tinto and the continuation/acceleration of Merciless Savage Travesty, American style:
When the U.S Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015 on December 12, 2014, it thereby approved a land swap that will hand over to the global Rio Tinto Mining Company a 2400 acre area that is part of the traditional territory of, and sacred to, the Apache Nation. The area is the location of a massive copper deposit which will be mined for the billions of dollars that will accrue to the dominating societies of the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
So. 2400 acres of land that’s considered sacred by the San Carlos Apaches is essentially handed, by the US Congress via a non-defense addendum to the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, to a British-Australian company that wants to mine the copper deposit embedded in said sacred land, and the Apache people have absolutely NO SAY in the matter because as we all know and as was affirmed by the Marshall Court in 1823, merciless savages are inferior and have no real rights beyond ‘occupancy’ — which is similarly tentative.
I wonder if maybe the term “Merciless Savages” ought to be redefined to include the Western Hemisphere’s white European (illegal) immigrants and their descendents?? I wonder, too, if maybe all of this Rio Tinto nonsense might soon come to define the fate of South Dakota Sioux lands, lands which the descendents of ancient Aboriginal Peoples do NOT wish to see gouged and/or contaminated by the environmentally insane Keystone XL Pipeline. The final decision may well not be theirs to make, however, given that they are technically and in the eyes of legal precedent little more than “merciless INDIAN savages.”
For a far more complete discussion of American aboriginal legal status and “rights” see the Bill Moyers interview with University of Arizona Law professor, Indian rights advocate , and author of “Savage Anxieties” Robert A. Williams, Jr. It’s well worth the half-hour it takes to watch it; transcript also included.
Meanwhile, I should note that this Rio Tinto vs. Apache Sacred Land deal is not brand new, it’s been ongoing for several years. I left Arizona in 2008, but recall that even then procedures were underway that would one day ‘soon’ hand Rio Tinto the copper mining rights to the land in question, and no Apache protest — nor any common sense thesis, for that matter — would be taken into account; AZ’s right wing politic had only one solution in mind, and would tolerate nothing less.
The land in question lies east of metro Phoenix and in the mountains just to the north of US 60 near the town of Superior, AZ, also to the west of existing copper mines near Globe, and to the west of the current western boundary of the San Carlos Apache Reservation. Adjacent to Superior and just across the US 60 highway is a place I often visited back then, a desert botanical ‘garden’ called the Boyce-Thompson Arboretum, a place dedicated to the survival of plant species native to the area and beyond. Following are a pair of photos of flowering cacti taken circa 1980 in Boyce-Thompson, just across the highway from the Sacred Lands in question.
Golden Barrel Cactus (Echinocactus_grusonii)
Bishop’s Cap Cactus (Astrophytum myriostigma) local variety
So which is it? What shall it be? A giant open pit copper mine? Sacred Land left undisturbed? You be the judge. Vote here.
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