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This Land Was Conquered, Not Stolen, and if You Can't Acknowledge That Fact at Least Cope With It

Detail from The Nation Makers (1902) by Howard Pyle (public domain)

Happy Fourth of July.

In honor of the occasion and to pay tribute to those who came before us, I’d like to start this essay with a land acknowledgment statement.

My home sets on land first explored by English and Scots-Irish freemen who had migrated from their homeland in search of freedom and opportunity or sometimes on the run from the law. The land was settled primarily by Germans from the Palatinate, who, through their industry, created farms, pastures, and orchards where only unproductive, fallow wilderness had existed. These men and women held savage tribes at bay and together created a nation that has been the beacon of hope to the world for over two hundred years. This land was conquered, not stolen, and any acknowledgment we make is owed to those who, with axe and musket, created the most powerful nation in the history of the world and we don’t owe a damn thing to anybody for being proud of their accomplishment.

It has become de rigueur among leftwing academics to acknowledge the “true” ownership of the land their institution occupies. These statements are, as Graeme Wood wrote in The Atlantic, “moral exhibitionism.” They have one role, to bolster the myth that the civilization of America was evil and that we all owe some huge debt to the uncivilized peoples who warred with our ancestors for something. This is a lie.

American Indians have no exclusive title to North America for the simple reason that they couldn’t enforce what claim they had. The whole “land acknowledgment” boondoggle is based on the people who own the land today apologizing for having been victorious 200 years ago.

The first Europeans arrived in America like the first American Indians* did: via migration. The fact that American Indian presence at European arrival predates that of Europeans is not proof that these people were the “original” inhabitants. For instance, when the “Kennewick Man’s” DNA was analyzed, it did not find he was related to the current Indian inhabitants of Washington State. His DNA only showed he was “closer to modern Native Americans than to any other population worldwide.” This means that the Kennewick man is not American Indian. This lack of genetic continuity calls into question the fate of Kennewick Man’s people and how the current inhabitants came to live where they do. In my view, the best bet is that Kennewick Man’s people were exterminated in warfare. Conquest by migrating peoples is an unchanging constant in human history. The Israelites displaced the Canaanites. The modern Zulu migrated to South Africa from the north, annihilating other peoples in their path, and arrived in their current location nearly a century after the Dutch settlers. It is estimated that 0.5 percent of all people alive carry Ghengis Khan’s DNA. This is not because he was a highly sought-after gigolo.

The greatest happiness is to vanquish your enemies, to chase them before you, to rob them of their wealth, to see those dear to them bathed in tears, to clasp to your bosom their wives and daughters.

The idea that because American Indian tribes lost wars that the Indians very frequently provoked doesn’t give them “ownership” of the land being contested. It would be ridiculous for the Iroquois Nation to acknowledge they are living on the land of the Huron Nation, whom they annihilated in 1649, and it is equally absurd to acknowledge we are on land that may have been occupied by Indian tribes who lost wars as well as economic and cultural competition.

When inferior cultures run up against superior cultures, they usually lose.

If you are ashamed of the United States, that’s your prerogative. But while you’re throwing around terms like “stolen land” and “genocide,” take a moment to exercise some intellectual honesty on the subject and at least investigate the history of the contact of European migrants with the other migrants who arrived here by way of Siberia.

*I use the term “American Indians” rather than the silly “Native Americans” because my people have been here since the 17th Century. We are as native as the Irish, who arrived in the 19th Century, the Italians, who arrived in the 20th Century, and the Indians, who arrived a bit earlier than that.

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