human rights Robert Scheer SI Podcast

[rewind] Indigenous Peoples Day: CANCEL COLUMBUS!

Paradise lost: Native Americans in the Yosemite Valley, California, c.1870.

[Editors note: This edition of the Scheer Intelligence podcast was first broadcast in September, 2016 on KCRW. We are reposting here for Indigenous Peoples Day.]

UCLA history professor Benjamin Madley’s book An American Genocide: The United States and the California Catastrophe 1846-1873 details the killing of tens of thousands of Native Americans as the state was being settled in the 19th century. In their conversation, Madley tells Robert Scheer why he believes these massacres did, in fact, constitute genocide in its 20th century United Nations definition. He talks about white settlers’ dehumanization and paranoia about “the other,” and the exceptions to that way of thinking. Finally, Madley discusses how the government supported killing native Americans and how people could read about them in the local newspapers.


Benjamin Madley – University of California, Los Angeles

Robert Scheer

Joshua ScheerRebecca Mooney

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter

* indicates required


  1. I find it fascinating to think that one hand, we, or at least I, appear to believe that America has taken a turn for the worst of late. That ‘the good ol days’ have somehow gone and been replaced with fascist horror of today.

    And yet, I have always read history, and as one thinks back in time and history, one finds that perhaps it is not exactly true that America has taken a turn for the worst of late. Perhaps it has always been such?

    The promise of liberty and freedom was always there. But, as one looks back, one finds, say from the point where I came into this, the Vietnam War and its horrors. Including Americans ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ of throwing people out of high flying helicopters. The police riot in Chicago against pro-democracy demonstrators. The assassinations of popular leaders to force the country along a militarist right-wing path. Before that, McCarthyism. Have you ever been a communist? These days, have you ever spoken to a Russian? MKULTRA. COINTELPRO. Military experiments on unaware civilians. The use of the atomic bombs on the civilians of an already defeated nation. The firebombing of cities made of wood and paper. The giant ‘firestorms’ deliberately lit in major European cities. Migrant labor and the grapes of wrath. Red-baiting. Lynchings. Constant racism. Not just against Africans, but also against Mexicans and Indians and the Chinese who were used to build the railroads. Racism within the block now known as ‘White’. The American English Idiom has a whole slew of racist terms towards other whites …. Spic, Dago, Frog, Kraut … etc, etc, etc. We find the Haymarket events, where speakers on a stage speaking for a shorter workday were hanged for the killing of a po-lice which occurred while they sat on the stage in full view obviously not involved. Henry Ford and the Gov of Michigan unleashing the National Guard on workers who wanted a decent wage and a schedule where they could still see their families. The massacre of the miners at Ludlow, CO. The horrors of the Civil War. The deliberate burning of an American city (Atlanta), Sherman’s March to the Sea. Slavery and all its horrors. Indian wars out the wazoo. Massacre after massacre. Rivers of Blood. Biological warfare, its ok to give the Indians blankets infected with smallpox, now rebranded as monkeypox. Beware of free blankets this coming cold, energy-less winter. And all of this stems back to the very ‘discovery’ of a place that had existed for millennium ‘undiscovered’ and which even Europeans had visited before. But those Europeans are forgotten, apparently because they did not bring the wave of death and view the inhabitants as ‘they would make good slaves’ the way Columbus ‘discovered’ America. Aren’t we just so exceptional? The Exceptional People who must rule the world to bring the wonders of our history to everyone who has not yet suffered from it. Next stop, Moscow. Then on to Beijing.

    “O, let America be America again—
    The land that never has been yet—
    And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
    The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
    Who made America,
    Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
    Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
    Must bring back our mighty dream again.

    Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
    The steel of freedom does not stain.
    From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
    We must take back our land again,

    O, yes,
    I say it plain,
    America never was America to me,
    And yet I swear this oath—
    America will be!”

    –Langston Hughes “Let America be America Again”

    1. Hopefully you understand you as guilty as those historical land rapists upon which you build your tedious litany of historical horror. Do you tell young Americans in uniform, “thank you for your service?” Or do you tell them to go fuck themselves? If the latter, good for you. If the former, you are part of the problem you describe. I’d bet you are in general quite obedient to the status quo, and enjoy the benefits of that obedience. Thus we see the milquetoast Langston Hughes invoked when in fact he is as we see in the last line pro USA.

  2. Wanita Wasp: You know American History very well and my hat off to you for highlighting many of the crimes committed by the US government, corporate America, and hate groups on the vulnerable.

    Most empires finally collapse from within, and some from being conquered from outside forces.

    Two photographs come to mind. The first is a picture of Geronimo and several other Apaches posing for the picture and the caption below said, “Homeland security, since 1492.” Cool!

    And at one of the anti-war protest marches in the early 2000’s, a sign saying, “Kill one person, it’s murder. Kill thousands, it’s foreign policy.”

    Real US History is not taught in school, as you know, and unless individuals have a curiosity in looking for other sources of information about the past and the present, the nation is doomed.

  3. It is interesting in life how even the most well meaning people searching for why something stinks cannot follow their noses to an elephant in their own room.

    By the 17min mark Scheer & Madley have established the causal trio of, “greed, fear, & hate.” There was gold fever, Indian atrocity in Texas committed by the Comanche had certainly implanted fear in the public mind, which leaves hate as a logical by-product of those you fear keeping you from your gold.

    As greedy fearful haters are a dime a dozen in any society, what is missed is the driving force of fanaticism. Of the millions in America, it was only the most strong-willed, the most driven, the most fanatical that would venture across the wild open spaces into fear for gain. From whence came the fanaticism? Scheer answers that question in his next question: “… what kind of people, god-fearing people, would engage in the old say, elimination of another people”

    You just said it Bob: God fearing people are who would engage in elimination, as once one owns the directive of a god, anything is allowed in it’s name.

    “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.” – Blaise Pascal, philosopher and mathematician (1623-1662).

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: