Shoot Everything that Moves: Native American Genocide and the US Tradition of Civilian Atrocities

an indigenous peoples history

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz (Beacon Press 2014)

Book Review

I loved this book. It helped me make sense, finally, of the barbaric viciousness of US military policy. The drone wars, torture, sexual assault, civilian massacres and deliberate targeting of women and children all clearly have their origin in the genocidal wars against Native Americans. There is an unbroken continuity, embedded in the mindset of US military officers, between the so-called Indian Wars and the US invasion and occupation of Mexico, the Philippines, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq.

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States is a book about total war, also known as “irregular warfare” and “counterinsurgency,” a uniquely American scorched earth form of warfare that was first perfected during the British colonization of Northern Ireland. Ulster Scots-Irish settlers brought it to the New World, migrating in the hundreds of thousands in the early eighteenth century. From the beginning, it was primarily Scots-Irish settlers who illegally squatted on unceded Indigenous lands. These were typically soldier-settlers who killed Indigenous farmers and destroyed their towns. They would become the mainstay of the colonies’ early militia movement, as well as forming the bulk of Washington’s revolutionary army.

Native historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz organizes this book around three broad themes: the US role as a Covenant Nation, the Doctrine of Discovery and the uniquely North American concept of genocidal extermination as a legitimate form of warfare.

Correcting the Historical Record

The author begins by correcting centuries of lies and distortions about life in North America prior to European colonization – starting with the number of inhabitants. Archeological evidence indicates the Indigenous population of North American was closer to 40 million than the 1-2 million claimed in most official textbooks. This Over a period of 200 years, this number was reduced to a current Indigenous population of approximately 3 million.

Far from being naked savages, these 40 million lived in advanced sovereign nations comparable to the Mayan, Aztec and Incan civilization in Central and South America. These nations and city-states had extensive road networks and trade relationships and benefited from advanced agricultural techniques (which included irrigation), arts and sciences, and sophisticated systems of government, theologies and philosophies. Unlike other early civilizations, they didn’t domesticate animals. Rather they managed wild herds by deliberately creating food-rich forest parks to attract them. For this reason, they were also free of zoogenic diseases, such as small pox, influenza, measles, etc. that animal domestication introduced into other civilizations. .

By the 12th century, the Mississippi Valley was dominated by a number of large city states, including one (Cahokia) which had a population (40,000) larger than London (14,000) at the same period.

Covenant Nations and the Doctrine of Discovery

All these civilizations were destroyed by European settlers and armies who believed their Christian God had promised North America to them. Sound familiar? According to Dunbar-Ortiz, the US, like Israel and apartheid South Africa, is a Covenant Nation. In all three, the political elite justified the total subjugation, displacement and extermination of the original inhabitants based on a so-called Covenant with their God.

Although it was primarily Protestant English and Scots-Irish settlers who instigated and led the genocidal wars against Indigenous North Americans, legally they used a series of 15th century papal bulls, collectively referred to as the Doctrine of Discovery, as legal justification for their actions. These declare that European nations acquire title to any land they “discover” in Africa, Asia or the Americas – that Indigenous inhabitants lose their natural right to their land once Europeans arrive and claim it. The US Supreme Court upheld the Doctrine of Discovery in 1823.

A State of Perpetual War

Dunbar-Ortiz also carefully documents that the US has been continuously at war ever since their 200-year war against the Indigenous nations. Washington’s revolutionary army directed as much force against Native American resistors as against British troops. Until the 1800s, Indigenous populations exceeded that of the settlers. When the colonial leadership failed in defeating Indigenous warriors by force of arms, they resorted to killing their women and children.

In addition to providing a detailed description of all the battles, unprovoked massacres and forced dislocations of Indigenous Americans, Dunbar-Ortiz provides detailed background on numerous other US wars commonly omitted from textbooks. For example the two Barbary Wars (1801-05 and 1815-16). In 1801 President Thomas Jefferson dispatched the Marines to invade Tripoli* (Libya) because their ruler was exacting fees from US merchant ships that entered their territorial waters.

Between 1798-1827, the US engaged in 21 other foreign military interventions, including Cuba, Latin America and Greece. Between 1831-1896, they engaged in 71 overseas interventions on all continents except Antarctica. Between 1898 and 1919, they engaged in forty overseas military interventions.

I particularly enjoyed the section about the US war on Mexico (which abolished slavery on gaining independence in 1821) and the US desire to extend the slave-plantation system westward. Following the US-Mexico War (1846-1848), the US annexed half of Mexico, which would become the states of Texas, California, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and Colorado. Violent conflict over whether these new states would be free or slave states would ultimately trigger the Civil War.


*This is the origin of the first line of the Marine hymn: “From the halls of Montezuma (referring to the US invasion of Mexico) to the shores of Tripoli.”

23 thoughts on “Shoot Everything that Moves: Native American Genocide and the US Tradition of Civilian Atrocities

  1. Incentivizing the “human body count” via the Human Value System.
    Incentives = Do what we want and you will be rewarded. Disincentives = If you don’t comply, you will be punished. This is how the “controllers” govern humanity. Government by force. Force applied through the use of silent weapons of war against humanity.

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    • Thank you for the link. I may not always agree with you or the content of your posts, but I still read everything. The only way to get to or understand the truth is to be aware of all sides of any given issue. I’m always learning and I always appreciate those who contribute to the wealth of knowledge that is available to anyone and everyone who’s willing to make the effort to awaken and learn.

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      • Sorry, Claire. I certainly did not intend to demonize mental illness nor schizophrenia. What I should have said was that John Nash was psychotic at the time he invented game theory. He has acknowledged this (he does in the documentary gb888 mentions) and since repudiated this area of work.

        While medical scientists may not agree on what causes psychosis, there is strong consensus in the medical community that people who are psychotic have severely impaired judgment and diminished responsibility and that individuals who are overtly psychotic should not be placed in positions where they have major responsibility over other peoples’ lives (eg playing a major role in determining US foreign policy).

        Unfortunately there were individuals at Rand Corporation and the Pentagon who saw fit to exploit Nash’s “novel” ideas for their own political and ideological purposes.

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  2. Some nit picking, natives did domesticate huskies and other dogs looking back at my 6th grade catholic class in 1955 nun telling us Indians where savages and great work the residencial schools did bringing religion to pagans.

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  3. Hmm. I have to say, as a Scots-Irish with Native American blood living in New Mexico – a state 73% Hispanic, with a large population of Navajo, Zuni, and all the various Pueblo Tribal peoples as well – that this sounds like a smack out account; and it doesn’t really concur with the every day living reality accounts of the Native Americans here. I think her accounts are manufactured or just bent really, really hard in a particular direction to serve her point of view – which is what? Why doesn’t she mention the English for instance, or the Spanish specifically — or the Dutch, Germans, Swedes, French … or any number of the many other European folk that were here fighting “Indian Wars” at that time.
    I can tell you that here the the Native Americans aren’t all that crazy about the Spanish. The conquest of the tribes here and in South America being as brutal a subjugation as any in recorded history –some would argue – these social structures are still in place in South America with hundreds of thousands fleeing every year and still coming (evidently to their meaner, crazier, more violent, more unstable, less fair, worser governed neighbor to the north). If I had to say what’s happening here; I’d say someone is looking for a scapegoat. Maybe to serve as a diversion so the Spanish can avoid embarrassment while retaking north America from the safety of their governing seats in the south. The Scots-Irish were intrumental in helping to create the type of government we of the USA have here in the USA today. And if I had to say which the tribes would prefer, if it must be one or the other, I’d say, given the mass immigration realities – it would be the north.
    This is a smear campaign. Why they’re focusing on the Scots-Irish as apposed to others (or everyone) I don’t know; maybe they were some of the few who stood up to the Spanish; or maybe it’s because they got along so well with the native tribes (being sort of savages themselves) – consistently advocating for fair treatment. Or maybe it’s because the Scots-Irish are still standing up to the Spanish and there’s yet a whole nother continent in the way. Given that it’s so specific and toutingly biased, maybe in an attempt to engender hostility toward these folks; I consider it racial profiling in interest of affecting public opinion in a specific direction – redesigning North America. Tell Ms Ortiz to write a book about the brutalities of the conquistadors and the oppressive south American governments that rose up out of Spanish Imperialism — goverments that are still so oppressive it seems their entire populations are attempting to relocate from south to north (or maybe it’s a displaced ruling aristocracy fleeing the wrath of the outraged indigenous south American tribes); and I’ll consider it an unbiased, objective point of view. As far as research goes; good grief, grow up kids –everyone knows you can find what your looking for if that’s what you’re looking for, or if you can’t find it, find something else and make it look that way — it’s called pathological “fact” finding.
    As for the rest of you; all this kind of shrieking is popular right now; but very little objectivity or actual balanced reflection is expected to bear in on it. An indian would tell you to get your feet back on the ground and figure out where dirt is really located – the bottom or the top.
    My God – do you believe everything you read??

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  4. Pingback: History of the World: Global Revolution and Australian Genocide | The Most Revolutionary Act

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