A LITTLE MATTER OF GENOCIDE: Holocaust Denial In the Americas 1492 to the Presentby Ward Churchill

City Lights Books, San Francisco, 1997

Since the release of his book Marxism and Native Americans in 1983, Ward Churchill (Keetoowah Cherokee), a leading figure in the American Indian Movement from the early 70s, has established himself, with the dozen books he’s authored, co-authored and edited, as an important voice in modern Native academia.

As well he has become a key spokesperson of the resurgent Native resistance to continuing colonialism and genocide in the Americas.

Churchill’s most recent contribution is a book-length collection of essays addressing the concept of genocide both in the broadest theoretical sense and as it applies to ongoing destruction of Native peoples.

In the first two essays, “Assaults on

Truth and Memory” and “Lie for Lie,” Churchill has two objectives. Drawing on international law he establishes a basic framework of how we need to understand genocide and he addresses and effectively refutes that strain of Jewish thought which claims that only the Nazi holocaust of World War II qualifies as a true genocide.

In the subsequent three essays, “Deconstructing the Columbus Myth,” “Genocide in the Americas,” and “Nits Make Lice,” Churchill persuasively establishes, with a wealth of heavily referenced evidence, the genocidal intent of early European visitors and settlers in the Americas.

He takes the reader systematically through the successive and aggressive campaigns, for the most part very successful, engaged in by Europeans to depopulate the Americas of Native peoples.

One essay, “Cold War Impacts on Native North America,” is devoted to the continuing genocide of Native peoples in the U.S. through uranium mining on their lands with the consequent devastation of their land

bases and the poisoning of their peoples, a process not entirely dissimilar to the havoc wreaked on Cree lands by hydro-electric development.

In “The United States and the Genocide Convention,” Churchill examines the history of the unwillingness of the United States to sign the UN Genocide Convention and similar documents specifically to avoid the charge of genocide against Native peoples, as well as charges that might arise pursuant to U.S. genocidal campaigns in the Third World, particularly those engaged in Indochina in the 60s and 70s.

Finally, in his closing essay, “Defining the Unthinkable,” Churchill presents a cohesive analysis of genocide and offers some insightful observations on steps that could and should be taken to address genocides past, present, and future.

As usual Churchill is strongest when discussing the U.S., while his remarks about thesituation in Canada are cursory and incidental. Nonetheless the reader will find theframework established by Churchill a useful starting point for considering Canada’sgenocidal campaign against Native people, which if less spectacular was and is no lesscriminal.