Time-lapse of American seizure of indigenous land, 1776-1887


There’s a bit of exaggeration here. The modern day US, including Alaska, is only about 6% of the earth’s land area. Thus, the claim that the US stole 1/8 (or 12.5%) of the world is not remotely accurate. This doesn’t diminish the misappropriation of indigenous land of course, but the hyperbole does not help with the story’s overall credibility.


So what do you think about the “misappropriation of land”?

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this is pretty much what happens when you have no power, they have power, and there is a strive towards a particular goal (expansion in this case) they will do it by force, do it by treaty, do it by whatever means needed. seems to be a constant like an ideal gas goes from areas of greater concentration to areas of lesser concentration, resources go from those with less power to those with more. only a balance of power can stop it.

I’m amused to see that California is shown as ‘Indian Homeland’ right up until the 1850s, when those dastardly Americans stole it, as though the 18th C. Spanish colonization, the Franciscan missions, and the succeeding Mexican ranchero culture of Alta California never happened.

My Chumash and Tongva neighbors don’t quite remember it that way. The city seal of Los Angeles has four flags that have flown over LA since Europeans arrived: Spain, Mexico, the Bear Republic, and - last of all - the US.

By the time the Americans got here, there wasn’t much left to steal. The Yankee merchants and farmers mostly had to hornswoggle it away from the Mexicans - but they brought lawyers and bankers, so it didn’t take long. =:-)

The local Indians - the few that remained - worked as vaqueros on the Mexican ranchos, or were alcoholics getting arrested for public drunkenness and being sentenced to chain-gang labor - for which they were paid in aguardiente at the end of each week’s sentence.

A Tongva correspondent reminds me that, according to testimony on both sides, the local Indians invited the Spanish to come live here - practically begged them, in fact.

Sorry, but not everything in America actually fits this simplistic ‘evil Amurricans’ trope.


Sorry, but not everything in America actually fits this simplistic ‘evil Amurricans’ trope.

Not to mention that Canada is hardly innocent in this. They were settled by Europeans as well. Canada was at war with the Cree as recently as 1885, just five years before Wounded Knee.

Also, there’s England.

And…well…every conquering empire, ever.

Yeah, it’s good to have a reminder that there’s a European history that dates back to before England showing up at Jamestown. Having been to Spanish sites on both ends of the country that are roughly 500 years old, I knew something seemed hinky about that timeline.


Out of frame to the west: a small chain of rocks in the middle of the Pacific Ocean that happen to have a rather nice port and, of course, strategic importance. We stole that bit of real estate, where I happen to live, from a sovereign nation recognized by the majority of the international community at the time. We stole it fair and square, and eventually “rewarded” them with their own star on the flag. What’s not to like? ***

***For the record, I realize that you can’t turn back time, and that mistakes of the past are largely something we just have to accept and live with . . . but Christ, what assholes.


I’ve checked the legal textbooks and, it turns out, “other people have also committed crimes” is not a valid defense.


This reminds me of the nuclear bomb time-lapse post, with less thematic intensity, but as a human who has some small connection with the First Peoples…may I say “Yes, You Thieving Manifest Death-stiny Trail O’ Tears Creating Indigenous Culture Destroying Crow Shit Ghost Face Murdering Treaty Breakers…you got what you wanted: may the land serve you as well as it did the previous ‘proprietors’…until you break it.”

Hopefully the future will be kinder to us than the original human inhabitants…but I sincerely doubt it.

I was concentrating on that Kansas rectangle, hoping it would get bigger…until it disappeared.

How lucky are we to live in such a time of peace and prosperity. (If there were a tag that could adequately describe both grim honesty and bitter sarcasm…please imagine it here.)

A better defense would be that, in the historical context of the times when these seizures occured, they largely weren’t seen as either illegal or amoral, and consequently we’re applying our modern sensibilities ‘ex post facto’.


I’d hazard to guess the natives considered it illegal and amoral right as it happened.


It’s more complicated than that. At any given time, some tribes were allied with the Europeans and some were allied against them. Those alliances continually shifted as various tribes sought advantage over each other and the Europeans.

North and South American tribes were conquered and displaced long before Europeans arrived, just as groups of Europeans, Asians, and Africans conquered and displaced each other. It’s what humans do.

This observation doesn’t justify, defend, or rationalize anything that happened (or continues to happen). My point is simply that you shouldn’t look at information like this and consider one group to be the good guys and one group to be the bad guys. They’re all just humans, doing what humans do.


I like the interactive map BB posted just last week on this topic better. Much more informative.

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I wouldn’t be too sure of that. Before Columbus and Co. arrived there was no shortage of war and conquest in the Americas (some anthropologists estimate that in some areas – BC, for example – that up to 1/3 of all deaths (man, woman, and child) resulted from tribal waring).

I consider it immoral, but it was the status quo at the time, both in Europe and the Americas.

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While Indians were no strangers to warfare or fighting over land, they did have a system of honor and civility. While it varied from tribe to tribe, treaties and peace agreements were something that would be honored. However they were fucked over by the repeated breaking of treaties by the US.

The band of Potawatomie I belong to is called the “Citizen” band, was we were the first to take US citizenship, hoping doing so would help them in the legalities of land matters. (Not so much, in the end.)

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What’s your evidence for this?

Would they may have been friendly enough to the Spaniards at first? Possibly.
In reality the mission system eventually enslaved and brutalized them. Systematic death and punishment. That’s why there were revolts.


I think you mean that they were probably not seen as wrong by the people doing the wrong (and benefiting) at the time, which is why we have notions of “manifest destiny”. The people being “civilized” could find plenty wrong with at the time. Just as there were plenty of people who understood and spoke against the evils of slavery as our elite founders happily engaged in it. In the end these are just poor excuses used to justify anything. I suppose a lot of white Southerners didn’t see the big problem with keeping blacks from voting and generally terrorizing a huge portion of their populace. I guess we just apply ‘modern sensibilities’ when we say that this kind of treatment was indefensible.

In Western Europe you’d probably have to go back to ancient history in order to find something even remotely similar to such devastation: In this country from being 100% of the population to around 1%

[quote=“Ambiguity, post:14, topic:36128”]I consider it immoral, but it was the status quo at the time, both in Europe and the Americas.

How was it the status quo in Europe at the time? What was comparable around that time? I’ll even give you a handicap or 500 years previous to find something. Not trolling, I honestly can’t think of something remotely similar without going back nearly a thousand years or at least to a time when the price of life was pretty much nothing: like Mongol/Viking/Roman scale destruction.

I was referring to war and conquest, which has always been a big part of European culture.

(Keep in mind that when Country X invades County Y and displaces some ethnic group, often the group is in fact “indigenous” to the area. We tend to think of “indigenous” as “primitive,” although that’s really just a bias. If you’ve group has been living in an area all the way back into the mist of prehistory, I think you can be considered indigenous.)

[Edit: And for something reasonably current, think Bosnia. This stuff doesn’t really seem to change :(]

Ethnic cleansing wasn’t invented in the 20th century.

I’ll give you one small example I happen to know intimately.

My maternal antecedents are Croats, but my ancestral villages are in Burgenland, Austria, up against the (current) Austrian/Hungarian border. How did a bunch of Croats (and Bavarians) end up so far from home?

Because Empress Maria Theresa (yes, that one), found her lands “empty” and invited “reliable” Catholic settlers from Southern Germany and Illyria.

How land that had been farmed since pre-history was suddenly “empty” and in need of “settlers” is left as an exercise for the reader…