by Roger L. Nichols
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2021. Pp. x, 184.
Illus., map, notes, biblio., index. $24.95 paper. ISBN: 0806168641
A Policy of Mass Killing?
Prof. Nichols (Emeritus, Arizona), argues that the mass killing of Native Americans such as at Sand Creek (1864) or Wounded Knee (1890) were not rare, unfortunate incidents, the result of poor leadership or misunderstanding or rampaging settlers, but rather the result a barely spoken but deliberate program to exterminate America’s indigenous peoples, to open lands for further settlement and exploitation. He developed this case in ten chapters, exploring the pattern of mass slaughter inflicted on Native Americans, friendly or “hostile”, without regard for sex or age between 1813 and 1890. Inspired by racism, liquor, lurid tales of Indian brutality, and greed, some genocidal events were so brutal that even the establishment recoiled, albeit that the guilty were rarely punished.
But Nichols tends to skip over some matters that are contrary to his argument. For example, in the case of Wounded Knee, he does not explain why several other bands of so-called “Ghost Dancers” were successfully disarmed without a bloody massacre, that in the case of both Sand Creek and Wounded Knee, efforts were made by the Army to bring the leaders involved to justice, but were blocked by legal issue or political meddling, or to explain Andrew Jackson's adoption of a Native American infant following the Battle of Talladega.
Nevertheless, Massacring Indians is an important read for those trying to better understand the darker side of the American Dream.