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Mandating Indigenous Holocaust Education

Dr. June Terpstra


October 8, 2007


On yet another USA manufactured "holiday" where schools close to honor the savage conquistador, Christopher Columbus, who ushered into history the holocaust of approximately 11 million native north American "Indians" I propose a mandate for indigenous holocaust education, K-12. Like the new federal legislation introduced in congress to mandate education of the Jewish holocaust, I also propose we replace not only senior citizens arts and crafts but pre-school arts and crafts with education workshops developed to examine the denial of Indian genocide and removal; the denial of African Diaspora genocide and slavery, past and present; and, the genocide of Arabs and Muslims occurring in Palestine today.

Currently being reviewed by committees in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, the Simon Wiesenthal Holocaust Education Assistance Act – if passed – would provide select organizations nationwide with competitive grants to be used to develop Holocaust curriculum guides as well as training for teachers. . (www.normanfinkelstein.com/article.php?pg=3&ar=97)

Never Forget

A common expression of white men and women in the USA regarding their barbaric history towards Africans and Native Americans is for "them to just get over it"! The sloganeering of remembering history in order to avoid extermination, removal, kidnapping, enslaving, lynching does not apply to non-Jews. Yet the history of Europe’s program of extermination of the Jews is now introduced in the US Congress to be mandated education in public schools with an official curriculum written and sponsored by Jewish historians. Mandated education on all holocausts only seems fair and right in the "democratic, truth loving land of equality". Everyone should know the history of the mass murders and removals of Native Americans and the countless Africans killed through the middle passage and their slavery and savage treatment by the Euro-Americans. The truth about all genocides should be mandated education for everyone everywhere.

My students in colleges and universities in the USA typically do not know the history of the indigenous people of North America. They believe a lie told to them in the mandated public education programs that Columbus "discovered" America! They never heard of the Arawak, the Taino, the Algonquin, the Huron, or any of the tribes of the First Nation People. They are horrified to read the first source documents, the letters of Columbus, the letters of Bartolomeo Las Casas wherein the descriptions of the genocide, torture and terrorism of the natives is described.

For example, upon Columbus’ invasion, the Arawaks, regrettably, greeted the savage Europeans, bringing them food, water, and gifts. Columbus wrote in his log:

"As soon as I arrived in the Indies, on the first Island which I found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts…They... brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks' bells. They willingly traded everything they owned.... They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features.... They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane.... They would make fine servants.... With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want."

When Bartolomme Las Casa arrived on Hispaniola in 1508, he writes, how "two of these so-called Christians met two Indian boys one day, each carrying a parrot; the soldiers took the parrots and for fun beheaded the boys…they suffered and died in the mines and other labors in desperate silence, knowing not a soul in the world to whom they could turn for help…there were 60,000 people living on this island including the Indians; from 1494 to 1508, over three million people had perished from war, slavery and the mines. Who in future generations will believe this? I myself writing it as a knowledgeable eyewitness can hardly believe it...." (Source: Bartoleme de Las Casas, Brief Account of the Devastation of the Indies, 1542)

Most of my college students know nothing about the terrorism that led to extermination and removal of the American Indians. They are unaware of the conservative estimates that the indigenous population of the United States prior to European contact was greater than 12 million. Four centuries later, the count was reduced by 95% to 237 thousand.

Students in the USA are provided with a cursory history of Euro-American genocide and slavery of African people but not to any extent that includes the hundreds of Hollywood films, after-school specials, or school projects that prioritize the Jewish holocaust. Millions of black Americans were killed during the trans-Atlantic slave trade and during their servitude. They were systematically tortured, killed and enslaved. Forty thousand slaves were transported each year to the occupied territories called colonies. These were blatant and overt acts of terrorism for political gain. Yet African Americans are consistently told to "get over" their history of slavery and genocide at the hands of Euro-Americans.

Patents on Holocaust

Who holds a patent on holocaust histories? Tragically, the genocides of history are a condemnation of human beings capabilities of human goodness, mercy and decency towards each other. Moreover, the victor’s insanity extends to a mythical patent on the very words of holocaust and genocide, terrorism and barbarism. Those who write the definitions, histories, make the movies, and develop the propaganda claim intellectual property rights to even the words and stories as they codify their stories and erase the stories of their victims.

Those who dare to use the word, "holocaust" when speaking of the genocides and the wars of terrorism against the First People of North, Central and South America; the natives of Africa in the past; and the Iraqi and Palestinians presently are accused of "anti-Semitism". Jobs are lost, tenured denied, and rendition and prison if they are a Semitic Arab. Thus, even the history of the Arab people as Semites has been erased and now only applies only to the Jews. He who writes the rules, rules.

Who benefits?

The conquerors, the imperialists, the state terrorists of today are US, UK and Israel. Therein resides the majority of 4% of the class who own the biggest weapons of mass destruction, the most nukes, and the control of the media and who directly benefit from which peoples stories are mandated and those whose stories are erased and denied. Today, it is the stories of the genocide and holocausts of the Iraqi and Palestinian people being erased in the corporate media of the USA. When the stories are told, they, like the indigenous peoples of Africa and North America, are painted as savages and terrorists deserving of a program of extermination. After all, if one does the crime of resistance by fighting the imperialists, one will do the time. Their story will be erased if not mandated by their advocates and lobbyists. Without a mandated history they are invisible, they do not exist. No Hollywood films for indigenous oppressed people unless it includes a white hero who tells their story and comes to rescue them in the super power’s super hero fairy tale.

Sankofa and Rights to Return

I teach the concept of Sankofa in my classes on Race and Ethnic Relations. Sankofa is derived from the Akan people of West Africa. Sankofa literally translated means "it is not taboo to go back and fetch what you forgot." The word Sankofa is used today across the pan-African world to promote the idea that African people must go back to their roots in order to move forward. Whether oppressed or oppressor, all people must go back to their roots in order to change domination paradigm.

The term Right of Return refers to the principle in international law that members of an ethnic or national group have a right to their lands whether through immigration and naturalization into the country that they, the destination country, or both consider to be that group's homeland independent of prior personal citizenship in that country. This belief is sometimes reflected in special consideration in a country's immigration laws (called "repatriation") which facilitates or encourages the reunion of a Diaspora or dispersed ethnic population.

When will the land be returned to the indigenous of North, Central and South America, Africa, and the Middle East? When will they have a right to have what was theirs, returned?


History repeats itself in horrifying patterns mirroring past tragedies. During the Cold War the imperialists of the USA sponsored covert terrorism that killed millions of people. These wars were called WWIII by CIA officials. Today, the same rabid greed that fueled the Europeans of the past fuels the US, UK and Israeli imperialists as they conduct genocidal programs similar to those of their Europeans ancestors. Replete with walls, Jim Crow separation of latrines in Iraq, no voting or land rights for Arabs, puppet regimes, and the killing of over a million men, women, and children in Iraq and Palestine, recently including a little girl with backpack at a checkpoint in Gaza, the terrorism of the super power goes unchecked and unabated.

As the greedy imperialists veto healthcare for children in the USA they simultaneously give the orders to rendition, torture and terrify Arabs and Muslims all over the world. They enslave the poor with IMF debt while giving them "equal opportunities" to work in their sweatshops, oil fields, diamond, copper and gold mines. Clearly, they do not remember their genocidal history and need the Red, Black, and Brown indigenous peoples mandated education curriculum before millions more people are erased in their latest extermination program.

Alan Ronkin, deputy director of the Jewish Community Relations Council says that teaching about the Holocaust is "critical to shape the next generation…Holocaust education not only teaches about the past but it also uses the lessons of the past to help shape students' decisions to become future leaders [who fight] against racism, bigotry and anti-Semitism." (http://www.normanfinkelstein.com/article.php?pg=3&ar=97) I agree, lets teach all the holocausts of history including Native American, African, and the genocide of the Arabs of Palestine and Iraq)

I remember a song taught to me in elementary school whose words said, "Red and yellow, black and white, we are precious in his sight"… a more truthful version would be "red, and yellow, black and brown, no matter where they’ll mow you down". Perhaps a true history of holocausts will benefit all humanity and not just the victors, their lobbyists, advocates and scribes.

June Scorza Terpstra, Ph.D. is an activist educator and university lecturer in Justice Studies, Criminal Justice and Sociology. She has founded numerous programs for homeless, abused, youth and oppressed people in the USA. She is presently teaching courses on Law and Terrorism, Social Justice, Resistance, Criminology, and Juvenile Justice. She is a former Community Research Fellow and doctoral graduate of Loyola University Chicago.


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