Our Lenape Ancestors Were Slaughtered At Bowling Green Massacre
In an interview with Chris Matthews, host of the MSNBC show “Hardball,” Kellyanne Conway, an advisor to President Donald J. Trump, mentioned “two Iraqis [who],” she said, “came here to this country, were radicalized and were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre.” “Most people don’t know that because it didn’t get covered,” she said. As she later found out to her chagrin, “most people don’t know that” because no such massacre was carried out by two Iraqi men. She later acknowledged her error and corrected herself on Twitter.
Ironically, Ms. Conway’s phrase “Bowling Green massacre” provides an opportunity to mention a massacre of our Lenape people in the Bowling Green district of lower Manhattan Island by the Dutch colonizers during Kieft’s war (1643-45). During that period, the Dutch murdered hundreds of our Lenape people. One notable genocidal incident occurred in lower Manhattan, near where the American Indian Museum is today, and near the site where Fort Amsterdam once stood. The episode was written about by a Dutchman named David Pietersz de Vries.
In the early 1640s, Dutch Governor William Kieft tried to impose a tax on our Lenape ancestors. They were refusing to pay foreigners for the ‘privilege’ of living in their territory. According to de Vries, Governor Kieft judged the “relatively nonbeligerant Hackensack Indians at Pavonia to be in a weakened position.” Kieft vowed to force them into submission. (Herbert C. Kraft, The Lenape: Archaeology, History, and Ethnography, Newark, 1986, p. 223).
De Vries was unsuccessful in his effort to talk Kieft out of slaughtering our Lenape ancestors. The governor would not be dissuaded. De Vries gave the following account of the atrocity which occurred on February 25, 1643. The bloody incident makes for very difficult reading:
I remained that night at the Governor’s, sitting up, and I went and sat by the kitchen fire, when about midnight I heard a great shrieking, and I ran to the ramparts of the fort, and looked over to Pavonia. Saw nothing but firing, and heard the shrieks of the savages murdered in their sleep. . . When it was day the soldiers returned to the fort, having massacred or murdered eighty Indians, and considering they had done a deed of Roman valor, in murdering so many in their sleep; where infants were torn from their mother’s breasts, and hacked to pieces in the presence of their parents, and the pieces thrown into the fire and in the water, and other sucklings, being bound to small boards, were cut, stuck and pierced, and miserably massacred in a manner to move a heart of stone.
Some were thrown into the river, and when the fathers and mothers endeavored to save them, the soldiers would not let them come on land but made both parents and children drown–children from five to six years of age, and also some old and decrepit persons. Those who fled from this onslaught, and concealed themselves in the neighboring sedge, and when it was morning, came out to beg a piece of bread, and to be permitted to warm themselves, were murdered in cold blood and tossed into the fire or the water. Some came to our people in the country with their hands, and some with their legs cut off, and some holding their entrails in their arms, and others had such horrible cuts and gashes, that worse than they were could never happen. (Kraft, pp. 223-224)
Thirty more of our Lenape ancestors were also massacred that same night on Corlaer’s Hook, elsewhere on Manhattan. The Dutch raiders “returned to Fort Amsterdam with thirty prisoners and the heads of several Indians.” (Ibid., p. 224)
Sheldon Wolfchild (Dakota) and I included this and other horrific and dehumanizing incidents in our documentary movie The Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code (2016). Those incidents are but a few of the innumerable examples of domination and dehumanization used against our Native nations and peoples by the invading colonizers from Christendom, and eventually by the United States government and the American colonizers.
Perhaps we ought to thank Ms. Conway for mistakenly using the phrase “Bowling Green Massacre.” She has thereby enabled us to further publicize our movie. It documents the methods used by the United States government against our Native nations and peoples, perpetuated by U.S. federal Indian law and policy, based on the Bible and Christianity.
One of the most recent examples of the United States using the Christian claim of a right of domination against our Native nations, is the Trump administration’s use of an executive order to approve the Dakota Access Pipeline. Efforts are being made to finalize the pipeline on Oceti Sakowin territory, the territory of the Seven Council Fires of the Great Sioux Nation. This is being done without Oceti Sakowin consent, in violation of the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie.
The doctrine of Christian domination, as used by the United States, in the name of U.S. “law,” argues that our nations are rightfully subject to the ideas and rules developed by the “first Christian people” (the U.S. Supreme Court’s italics) to “discover” the non-Christian lands of “natives, who were heathens” (U.S. Supreme Court’s wording). According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “heathen” is “a word of Christian origin,” which means it is a word of biblical origin used by the Supreme Court.
How has the United States managed to get away with officially using doctrines of Christian Fundamentalism and the Bible to claim a right of ownership in relation to our lands and territories? Answer: They claim a “right of domination” over our nations and peoples based on the Chosen People / Promised Land model of the Old Testament. In other words, because the Bible told them so.
Steven Newcomb (Shawnee, Lenape) is co-founder and co-director of the Indigenous Law Institute, and author of Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery (Fulcrum, 2008). He is a producer of the documentary movie, The Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code, directed and produced by Sheldon Wolfchild (Dakota), with narration by Buffy Sainte-Marie (Cree). The movie can be ordered from 38Plus2Productions.com.