A Century of Dishonor

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Helen Hunt Jackson’s classic work on the treatment of Native American tribes by the US government. This account, written even before the massacre at Wounded Knee that ended America’s long and bloody conflict with the indigenous peoples of the continent, may not attract much interest among Americans today.

But our desire to put that past behind us does not make it invisible to others, and it is precisely that past that undermines the legitimacy of our stance as Americans on matters like Tibet, East Turkmenistan, Kurdistan, Chiapas, and other parts of the world where indigenous tribes or cultures struggle to survive.

Read Jackson’s superb work, and regardless of what side you take in today’s debates, a person of conscience must first look within. We can protest and thump our chests to our content. But until we find a way to come to terms with our own handling of indigenous cultures and how we came to take what was theirs, we will lack the credibility to inspire peaceful change.

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