In 1492, Christopher Columbus of Spain encountered the indigenous Arawak people of the Caribbean Islands, envisioning them as potential servants. What followed was a brutal reign of terror, resulting in the extermination of eight million Arawaks through torture, murder, forced labor, starvation, disease, and despair.

Columbus justified his atrocities with the Christian doctrine of “divine discovery,” setting a precedent for the invasion and genocide of America’s indigenous peoples over the next 500 years. By 1650, relations between the East Coast native nations and New England colonies deteriorated into slaughter and enslavement, fueled by settlers seeking land and wealth. Many English colonies even sanctioned and incentivized the scalping of Native Americans.

In 1776, the United States emerged, founded on land obtained through the ethnic cleansing of numerous tribes, with the Declaration of Independence labeling native peoples as “merciless Indian savages.” Despite the Constitution’s recognition of treaties as the supreme law, these agreements were often broken at the convenience of the government.

In 1823, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Johnson and Graham’s Lessee v. McIntosh prioritized the United States’ “divine right of discovery” over the indigenous peoples’ right of occupancy. This decision provided legal justification for policies aimed at stealing indigenous lands and perpetrating genocide.

The California Gold Rush of 1849 further exacerbated tensions, leading to a mass western migration of settlers and direct conflicts with existing indigenous nations.

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