Wednesday, December 24, 2008

How many?

In a review of Denial: History Betrayed, in the Aussie conservative mag Quadrant, William D. Rubinstein addresses a question I've often wondered about:
One fundamental point which might be made about ["black armband" history debunker Keith] Windschuttle’s central claim about the catastrophic decline in the population of Australian Aborigines, that direct killings and massacres played a surprisingly small role in this process compared with other causes, is closely paralleled elsewhere. In the United States, the best estimate of the decline in American Indian numbers is that they decreased from about 2.2 million at the time of first contact to about 350,000 at their nadir around 1900. How much of this decline was the result of killings by whites? An 1894 estimate by the US Bureau of the Census claimed that “about 30,000” Indians had been killed by whites between 1775 and 1894. Recent historians have raised this figure to about 53,500 (and 19,000 whites killed by Indians). Many regard the American frontier as synonymous with gun violence and the philosophy that “the only good Indian is a dead Indian”, and this figure—about 450 Indian killings a year—will surely seem surprising. As Steven T. Katz pointed out in his history of genocides, less than 4 per cent of the decline in American Indian numbers can be attributed to killings by whites; all of the other deaths were due to other causes, especially the spread of virulent diseases to which Indians had no immunity.
Can that be? "Only" fifty-three thousand Indians killed by whites between 1775 and 1894? Putting aside Rubinstein's extreme low estimate (isn't it?) of the North American Indian population in 1492 (the unfailingly accurate Ward Churchill always claims 18 million, give or take, and some estimates go as high as 100 million for the Americas as a whole, which is bollocks), it seems to me an estimate of Indian casualties since the U.S. was formed would be much more readily quantified. Still, I have trouble believing there were so few.

Update: Merry Christmas, you boot-faced, towser-faced totem poles on a crap reservation! (And if you identify the quote, I'll give you a big sloppy kiss with my herpes-raddled lips.)

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