We took away their country and their means of support, broke up their mode of living, their habits of life, introduced disease and decay among them, and it was for this and against this they made war. Could anyone expect less? – General Philip Sheridan, who presided over the expropriation of the Plains Indians, in the 1878 Annual Report of the General of the U.S. Army
Following the War Between the States, as the formerly independent South was being re-assimilated into the Soyuz, the US military took up the task of driving the Plains Indians off of land that had been promised to them through solemn treaty obligations – but was now coveted by the corporatist railroad combine.
In 1867, William Sherman wrote a letter to General Grant insisting that “we are not going to let thieving, ragged Indians check and stop the progress” of the railroad. About a year earlier, Sherman had urged Grant to “act with vindictive earnestness against the Sioux, even to their extermination, men, women, and children.” Dr. Thomas DiLorenzo points out that Sherman set out to make the Sioux “feel the superior power of the Government,” even if “the final solution to the Indian problem” required that they be physically annihilated.
Writing in Smithsonian magazine, historian Gilbert King observes that the post-war US military wasn’t adequate to carry out that ambitious campaign. General Philip Sheridan, who succeeded Sherman as Commander of the Military Division of the Mississippi, complained that he had only 14,000 troops with which to carry out “the reduction of these wild tribes and occupation of their country.”
Note that Sheridan didn’t equivocate in describing his army’s role as the occupier of a “country” that belonged, by right, to other people. He had no moral scruples against being an occupier; his objections were limited to practical concerns.
The Plains Indians were canny, elusive, and motivated. However, their dependence on the buffalo provided the aggressors with an exploitable vulnerability. Hunting the Indians was difficult and risky; slaughtering buffalo was neither.
The railroads, acting as a military force multiplier, began ferrying tourists to the West for the specific purpose of “sport-hunting” buffalo.
Unlike the Indians, who never threatened to hunt the buffalo to extinction, or Bill Cody, who was restrained in his efforts to harvest them to feed construction crews for the Kansas Pacific Railroad, the Eastern tourists had no property interest in the continued existence of the species, and didn’t have to pay any price for the profligate destruction they wrought.
“Massive hunting parties began to arrive in the West by train, with thousands of men packing .50 caliber rifles, and leaving a trail of buffalo carnage in their wake,” recalls King. “Hunters began killing buffalo by the hundreds of thousands,” leaving their ravaged bodies to bloat and fester.
When legislatures in some states attempted to enact measures to conserve the buffalo, their objections were overruled by the Feds. The higher “national purpose” required a “total war” strategy that included the destruction of the buffalo in order to break the resistance of the Plains Indians.
“These men have done more in the last two years, and will do more in the next year, to settle the vexed Indian question, than the entire regular army has done in the last forty years,” wrote General Sheridan with satisfaction. “They are destroying the Indians’ commissary. And it is a well-known fact that an army losing its base of supplies is placed at a great disadvantage. Send them [the private buffalo hunters] powder and lead, if you will; but for a lasting peace, let them kill, skin and sell until the buffaloes are exterminated. Then your prairies can be covered with speckled cattle.”
Cattle became the successor to buffalo in the late 1860s and early 1870s. That was the era when the ancestors of Cliven Bundy settled in what was to become the State of Nevada, and began to graze cattle in what would later be called the Bunkerville Grazing Allotment. The Bundy family made peaceful and productive use of that allotment for more than 120 years, mixing their labor with the land to create original wealth.
Unfortunately, the Bundy family — like the American Indians – had been living on a reservation: They were never allowed to exercise ownership of their grazing “allotment,” in much the same way that Indians were not permitted to have clear title to their lands. The land on which the Bundy family raised cattle was “owned” by the government, and the Bundys were required to pay rent – in the form of grazing fees – for the “privilege” of making productive use of it. The public-land grazing system has been described as “the nation’s most conspicuous and extensive flirtation with socialism” – except, perhaps, for the Indian Reservation System.
Indians whose lands were supposedly protected through treaties invariably discovered that the phrase “in perpetuity” means “pending the discovery of something valuable on the land that is desired by a politically favored constituency.” The desired commodity could be gold – as the Nez Perce learned after their homeland in the luxuriant Wallowa Valley, having been reduced to a tiny, barren tract, was seized from them by General O.O. Howard. It could be fertile farm lands on the banks of the Niobrara River, as the Poncas discovered when they were forcibly relocated to Oklahoma.
Similar “adjustments” were made to practically every Indian band or tribe that signed a treaty in good faith with Washington – only to find themselves reduced to destitution when Washington withheld promised annuities and rations, and then evicted from their lands when it suited Leviathan’s interests. The high and holy purpose of Manifest Destiny nullified the property rights of Indians and any treaty obligations that would inhibit Washington’s drive for continental expansion.
In 1993, the same federal Leviathan State that unilaterally “modified” binding treaty agreements with Indian tribes and bands decided to “modify” the terms of the Bundy family’s grazing permit. This was done in the service of a doctrine even more insidious than Manifest Destiny: A new religion in which all human property rights – including, some adherents insist, the right to live itself – are to be sacrificed on the altar of “biocentrism.” The central tenet of that religion is that “Human beings are not inherently superior to other living things.”
However, there are certain superior specimens within the ranks of humanity who possess a gift of seership that permits them to discern the true needs of nature. On occasion, these infinitely wise and limitlessly benevolent beings – most of whom have found a niche in some foundation-funded eco-radical lobby – will identify “endangered” or “threatened” species whose supposed claim to a “habitat” outweighs property rights and all human needs.
Since none of those non-human creatures can speak on their own behalf, we should consider ourselves extravagantly blessed by the presence of eco-seers capable of discerning their needs, bureaucrats willing to harken to their inspired counsel, and judges who dutifully ratify bureaucratic decisions without being unduly burdened by respect for property rights.
In 1993, acting on an infallible ecocentric pronouncement, the Bureau of Land Management decreed that the land on which Cliven Bundy and his neighbors had long grazed their cattle was actually the “habitat” of the desert tortoise.
Although the BLM – like other agencies involved in administering Washington’s illegal colonial occupation of western lands – has been influenced by biocentrism, it’s not likely that its upper echelons are filled with True Believers in anything other than the Bureaucratic Prime Directive: “Maintain what we have, and expand where we can.”
The BLM’s revisions were imposed during the reign of Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, who in a letter two years earlier (written while he was head of the League of Conservation Voters) declared: “We must identify our enemies and drive them into oblivion.” Babbitt and his comrades have acted with what Sherman described as “vindictive earnestness” in pursuing that objective: In the past twenty years they have all but eradicated cattle ranching in the southwestern United States.
In his book War on the West, William Pendley of the Mountain States Legal Foundation observes that “the enormous might of the federal government has always meant that the life of the West was in the hands of strangers living thousands of miles away. Like the weather that can sweep down upon Westerners and change their lives in an instant, the federal government has always loomed as a distant threat.” During Babbitt’s tenure at the Department of the Interior, the federal eco-jihad specifically targeted “the most enduring symbol of the American West – the cowboy – seeking to price and regulate the rancher off federal grazing lands and out of business, destroying the economy of rural areas.” One of the first initiatives undertaken by Secretary Babbitt in pursuit of his vision of a “New West” was to seek a 230 percent increase in grazing fees charged to ranchers on federally administered lands. Although the proposed fee increase was thwarted by a Senate filibuster, the effort to destroy the ranching industry continued. After the fee increase was proposed, an Interior Department memo surfaced which revealed that Babbitt wanted “to use price increases as a straw man to draw attention from management issues.” While ranchers fought the grazing fee increase, Babbitt and company created “Range Reform ’94,” a cluster of proposed federal land use and environmental regulations which Pendley describes as “A Thousand and One Ways to Get Ranchers off Federal Land.”During the late 1990s – a period in which Babbitt, appropriately, was mired in a scandal involving decades of federal fraud, embezzlement, and graft in the Indian Trust Fund System — ranchers rallied to hold off the federal assault. But like the Plains Indians, the ranchers were facing an implacable enemy unburdened with respect for the law and blessed with access to limitless resources. Of the 52 ranchers in his section of Nevada, Cliven Bundy is the only one who has refused to go back to the reservation. So the heirs to Sherman and Sheridan have mobilized an army to protect hired thieves who have come to steal the Bundy family’s cattle with the ultimate purpose of driving him from the land.
Their objective is not to protect the desert tortoise, but to punish a defiant property owner and entrepreneur. This potentially murderous aggression is being celebrated by Progressives as a worthy effort to make dangerous radicals “feel the superior power of the Government.”
For more than two decades, Bundy has defied the federal land management bureaucracy, and his continued resistance could catalyze a general revolt against their designs for the western United States.
Their intent, as described by Pendley, is to transform the West into “a land nearly devoid of people and economic activity, a land devoted almost entirely to the preservation of scenery and wildlife habitat. In their vision, everything from the 100th meridian to the Cascade Range becomes a vast park through which they might drive, drinking their Perrier and munching their organic chips, staying occasionally in the bed-and-breakfast operations into which the homes of Westerners have been turned, with those Westerners who remain fluffing duvets and pouring cappuccino.”
The high priests of biocentrism and their bureaucratic allies aren’t going to let a handful of ragged but resolute ranchers “check and stop the progress” of Manifest Destiny.
In 1875, amid an entirely contrived Indian Scare in Corrine, Utah, Indian Agent William H. Danilson sent a telegram to Washington complaining about the dangerous “extremism” that had seized the restive Shoshones. “They are taught to hate the government, and look with distrust upon their Agents,” complained the bureaucrat. The Indians impudently maintained that “Bear River Valley belonged to them” and were preparing to resist efforts to evict them from their property.
“Their whole teachings [are] fraught with evil,” concluded Danilson, scandalized that Indians would believe in the sanctity of property, and thus expected the federal government to keep its promises.
Historian Brigham D. Madsen records that an Army investigation of that 1875 Indian Scare found that the Shoshones – who were, as usual, starving because of the government’s failure to deliver promised rations – posed no threat. Nonetheless, the military “issued an ultimatum that all reservation Indians were to return to their reservations at once or [the local commander] would use military force to compel them to do so.”
It didn’t matter that the Indians had done nothing wrong, and that the government had acted illegally: The cause of “law and order” meant that the government simply had to prevail. That was the central theme in Washington’s dealings with the Indians – and in its conduct toward western landowners as well.
Fifteen years after the Corinne Indian Scare, the final flickers of Indian resistance were extinguished by Leviathan in the bloody snows of Wounded Knee. Our rulers clearly intend to use the standoff in Clark County to suffocate remaining resistance to the western states land grab. The only matter left unresolved is the question of how much violence they are willing to employ to accomplish that end.