REDLAND, Texas – It is a history that the United States buried, along with the Indian women and children. But there is an invoice for the smallpox blankets given to = Indians to eradicate them and a printed record of the scalp laws with payments of 10 pounds of silver for the scalp of an Indian child.Steve Melendez, Pyramid Lake Paiute and president of the American Indian Genocide Museum in Houston, said the genocide of American Indians is a fact of history that must be recorded accurately in history so Indian nations can heal and racism in America can be countered.
Melendez said the invaders of this continent carried out systematic genocide to eradicate Indians and it continues today, with the recent theft of Western Shoshone land in Nevada by the United States government.
Melendez spoke on genocide at the commemoration of the massacre at Neches, near Tyler in northeast Texas, where the Texas militia murdered 800 Indian men, women, children and elderly on July 16, 1839.
On display was the invoice documenting the smallpox that was distributed to Delaware Indians by way of blankets and handkerchiefs in 1763.
“I think it is ironic that we stand here today at the site of a destroyed Delaware village. For it was the Delaware Indians in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania who were given the smallpox blankets back in 1763. Many people don’t believe that the Indians were given smallpox blankets but we have found the invoice from Fort Pitt.”
The invoice states: “To sundries got to replace in kind those which were taken from the people in the hospital to convey the smallpox to the indians. Viz: 2 Blankets; 1 silk hankerchef and 1 linnen.”
Speaking to several hundred people, including Cherokee and other tribes, Melendez said, “Was there genocide in America?
“The killing here continued in the surrounding area until July 24. A militia force was stationed to the north to cut the Indians off if they fled north but they never saw battle. They were not needed.”
The people were slaughtered. Texas Cherokee and 13 associated bands led by Chief Bowles and Chief Big Mush were among 800 men, women, children and elderly killed on July 16, 1839. The bands included Shawnee, Alabama, Delaware, Kickapoo, Quapaw, Choctaw, Biloxi, Ioni, Coushatta, Mataquo and Caddo of the
“At some point in history, America has to acknowledge the wrongs that were done and call them what they were – Genocide,” Melendez said.
“At some point in history, America has to acknowledge that the way they confiscated Native lands was not right. At some point in history, America has to call things like what happened here – they have to call it extermination, which it was.”
“On July the 7th, our President George W. Bush signed into law bill H.R. 884 which arbitrarily confiscated 24 million acres of Western Shoshone Land.”
Melendez pointed out that in its final report to Congress, the Indian Claims Commission, which was the vehicle used to value the Western Shoshone land, describes itself as a commission and not a judicial court. This commission arbitrarily set the price of Western Shoshone lands at 15 cents an acre.
“Fifteen cents an acre! We had the All Star Game in Houston last Tuesday and hot dogs were selling for five dollars apiece. At this kind of an exchange rate, the Western Shoshone would have to sell 33 acres of land just to buy a hot dog. History seems to keep repeating itself over and over again,” Melendez said.
“Any memorial that is erected here should not be called the Battle of the Neches. We should honor the dead with the truth, and call it what it was – genocide in the Americas.”
During the 11th annual Neches memorial ceremony, tribes gathered to pray at a monument erected in memory of Cherokee Chief Bowles.
Danny Hair, chairman of the North American Indian Cultural Association of Texas, told those gathered that the spirits of the ancestors remain strong here. The American Indian Cultural Society hosted the ceremony, which included Cherokee Nation Chief Chad Smith and Cherokee National Youth Choir from Tahlequah, Okla.
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