Colorado: Native American History an “Atrocity”, not “Genocide”

Last week, the Colorado legislature passed resolutions condemning the genocide of Jewish, Armenian and Sudanese people.

But after a marathon session tossing around numerous terms, the legislators failed to apply ‘genocide’ to America’s treatment of its Native people; they picked ‘atrocity’ instead.

State Senator Suzanne Williams, a member of the Comanche Nation who pushed a resolution on Native genocide [PDF], told Indian Country Today:

“Every year the Senate and House legislators acknowledge the holocaust and genocide of Jewish people and we also acknowledge the genocide of Armenian people. But it’s important to acknowledge the first genocide on our own land — the genocide of American Indians.”

Williams said the resolution was to “look at history from the Indian point of view.”

She expected a “positive reception” from the current legislature, although she thought the measure might “hit too close to home.” She was right.

According to Indian Country Today, Colorado legislators went through amendment after amendment before settling on ‘atrocity.’ Some objected to ‘genocide’ because Native Americans were not literally annihilated. Williams was forced to point out that neither were the Jews or the Armenians.

According to Ward Churchill, a professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado, the reduction of the North American Indian population from an estimated 12 million in 1500 to barely 237,000 in 1900 represents a “vast genocide … the most sustained on record.”

Using arguments reminiscent of that surrounding the genocide of Armenians by Turkey a century ago, some legislators objected to the resolution’s focus on the past, its “negative” nature, and the way in which, they charged, it seemed to blame the U.S. government although the government apparently lacked a Hitler-type leader to instigate a policy of widespread massacre. One Senator said there were “many wrongs” against America’s first people, but also “many blessings.”

Williams pointed out that there had been an extermination plan, executed in the Trail of Tears, the Sand Creek Massacre, and Native exile to barren lands. She quoted Thomas Jefferson as saying “the American Indian has justified his own extermination.”

The crime of genocide is defined in international law in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. Part of that Convention reads:

Article II: In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

When passed April 20, remaining in the resolution’s language was that “settlers on many (but not all) occasions treated the indigenous population of North America with cruelty and inhumanity.” It also cites broken treaties, the demonization of Native Americans and other depredations, and it called on the General Assembly to recognize the millions of Native deaths that resulted from the European invasion.

Related stories:

United Nations Investigating Native Americans’ Plight

Native American Family Attacked in Possible Hate Crime

Did Oklahoma Ban Native American Rights?

Picture from Cherokee Museum of the Trail of Tears mural by nick see


Eleonora Oldani
Eleonora Oldani4 years ago

Dear Virginia - I wish I could find some words of consolation, but - eloquent as they may be - they become empty, incapacitated and redundant in the face of what you describe. I feel that's not what you and your people need. What you need is justice at long last. Could I only do something! My positive thoughts are with you - travelling the thousands of miles that separate us. Take care, Eleonora

Virginia C.
Virginia C4 years ago

This genocide against the First People is NOT OVER. In Arizona McCain & Kyl have already sold all the fresh water rights that were treatied to the Natives in 1862 to a big coal company & a big elkectricity company and promised that they'd gladly "truck in all the water the Natives need" in the fracking fields they are stealing the Native land, they are arresting Natives for refusin g to allow the big companies trucks laden with bs acroiss their lands {they are cutting thru to avoid paying the proper taxes on the roads they are destroying that every other company has to pay} they are tearing up graves in California to put up solar & wind on Native property, pavin g over buriel mounds, they doing the same in Dakota with pipelines crossing ancient graves---before ANYONE CRIES FOR THE JEWS OR ANY OTHER GROUP OR SENDS A DAMN PENNY TO ANY OTHER POOR COUNTRY FOR ANY PROB, THINK ABOUT THE LAKOTA CHILDREN FREEZING TO DEATH AGAINST THEIR MOTHJERS BODIES EVERY N9IGHT, THE ELDERLY THAT FREEZE TO DEATH EVERY DAY IN DAKOTA----HERE, in the most prosperous land ha! Here, where it's legal to STEAL A NATIVE CHILD FROM ITS FAMILY AND SEND IT TO A WHITE FAMIL;Y THAT CAN PAY BIG BUCKS IN CAROLINA....OR GIVE IT TO A WHITE FAMILY WHO CAN GET 3 TIMES THE FOSTER MONEY AND THE ENTIRE SHERIFF'S FAMILY HAS A HOUSEFUL OF LITTLE SERVANT GIRLS WHO ARE ALSO BEING SEXUALLY ABUSED. NO ONE CARES.

Kevin Brown
Kevin Brown4 years ago

Maybe some of these assholes should look up the "Chivington Massacre"

Eleonora Oldani
Eleonora Oldani4 years ago

Sorry - got cutt off:

What's "civilization" and "human development" worth in the face of this?? The US is always the first to claim Human Rights where one of their puppets gets arrested - like for killers like Morsi, Hegazi, et al., but never thinks of looking inside ...

Eleonora Oldani
Eleonora Oldani4 years ago

“One Senator said there were “many wrongs” against America’s first people, but also “many blessings.””

Is it just me … or does anyone else feel like smashing this “Senator”?! From 12 Mio to barely ¼ Mio – where exactly is the blessing? That they should feel blessed that they didn’t kill all?!

The Holodomor against Ukrainian Christians (main planner being Lazar Moishe Kaganovich under Stalin’s regime) killed some 10 Mio in 2 years; previous estimates were as high as 25 Mio - one still doesn’t have exact figures and never will. The Holocaust against the Jews, Roma, Sinti, Socialists, Handicapped et al., under Hitler’s regime killed approx. 5 to 6 Mio (as the numbers in Auschwitz were already twice revised down by the JA I put an approx.). The Rwandan Genocide killed in 100 days almost 1 Mio. The Cambodian … the Armenian … there are so many!

What would the outcry be if someone would say e.g. that Hitler did “many wrongs” against the Jews, but also “many blessings”?!?!

I just can’t swallow this. Can’t someone get a protest going against negating such a horrific genocide?

Where is Pres. Obama? There must be a nation-wide recognition of this genocide and maybe ... someone might even find the decency to start properly compensating the remaining Native Americans and help them to finally come out of their ghettos back into a normal life?!


sharyn w.
sharyn w4 years ago

Continued from first post. Some of those people I mentioned are posting on this article on this site.

sharyn w.
sharyn w4 years ago

There will always be certain groups of people who will never accept the genocide of Native Americans/American Indians and some who do admit it will do it to take the public pressure off of them. No one is asking them to take personal responsibility for what happened just to acknowledge what happened and give it the term that rightfully applies to what happened which is 'GENOCIDE' and all the atrocities that go with GENOCIDE.

Kayleigh Harter
Kayleigh Harter4 years ago

Certain aspects of the Native American Genocide continued well into the 20th century as well. I know a woman who was forced to attend a government boarding school back in the '70s. The stories she's told me about that place are nothing short of horrific.

Terence Nelson
Terence Nelson4 years ago

For the 1% who said 'no' - read your history! Particularly that of the 19th. century. The extermination of the Native Peoples was government policy. Period.

However, not surprised that the legislature in a state of the 'Land of the Free' refused the term - much too near to home!

However, has no one in US politics realised the immense potential in PR for the USA if it just came to terms with the fact and at least apologised? Exterminating the buffalo and other life resources was no different to the chemical weapons of today - different techniques with the same effect.

Robynne W.
Robynne W4 years ago

It was genocide. They can play with the 'words' all they was genocide.