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Memorial Day for Native American Warriors
May 26, 2012
by William P. Meyers

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On Memorial Day we honor all Americans who have died in wars. But we tend to remember, and honor, some more than others. I'd like to remind you of some of the others.

We have no records of the ancient battles that took place among the true natives of what is now the United States of America. There are some records of some of the age-of-heroes battles of Mexico and South America, but most have been lost or destroyed.

I would like to honor the almost forgotten heroes who, around 1000 A.D., died in a battle against the first know European would-be settlers, the Norse, led by Leif Ericson, even though that most likely took place somewhere in Canada.

There is the Calusa brave who shot the arrow who killed the Spanish pirate Juan Ponce de Leon in Florida in 1521. No one in their right mind would want to be conquered and ruled by the Spanish. The native tribes were in their right minds. As I recall they also managed to nearly wipe out a large military expedition by Hernando De Soto in 1542. Here's to any warriors who died defending America in that contest. Sadly, the Spanish eventually got a foothold in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1565.

I just was reading a section in A History of Christian Missions by Stephen Neill in which he derided native Americans, before they were Christianized, as being too violent. I think they were not violent enough. If they had fought among themselves more, earlier, they might have had weapons and tactics (military and political) capable of keeping the Brits out. The Brits are synonymous with global terror. From a slow start on their own backward, pestilential island in 1600 they ended up conquering and enslaving about half the world by 1900. When the Brits first arrived in what are now called Virginia (in 1606, after the failure of 1584) and Massachusetts (in 1620), unfortunately the local native American peoples were led by weak or peace-loving chiefs. Once established, the Brits would never be dislodged. Here's to the Indian warriors who died trying in that early era.

The battles came frequently and furiously after that. One of the most important events to remember is King Philip's war of 1675-1676. The tribes of New England, unfortunately not fully united under their chief Philip, came reasonably close to driving out the British settlers. Instead the Indians themselves were defeated, massacred, and the remnant confined. On Memorial Day it is a good thing to remember the Indian warriors of 1676, because they were brave and in the right, yet lost anyway.

A lot of Indian warriors died defending their people, land, and way of life between 1676 and the defeat of the western tribes in the late 1800s. Here's to their collective memory.

The last brave American Indian warriors, so to speak, that we should remember on Memorial Day were actually in the Indies for which American Indians were misnamed. They were the people of the Philippine Islands who had finally defeated the Spanish and proclaimed their independence in 1898. Meanwhile the U.S. infamously declared war on Spain with no just cause, only the desire to seize Spanish colonies. The Spanish, who pretended to own the Philippines despite their defeat by the natives, "sold" the islands to the U.S. when the peace treaty was signed. In fact grabbing the Philippines and their sugar plantations had been a central reason that the U.S. had declared war.

The mopping up operations that made the Philippines a slave colony of the U.S. involved killing some 500,000 to 2,000,000 Filipinos, depending on whose count you use. On Memorial Day we don't need to remember them all. Only the soldiers.


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