Was America Stolen from the Natives?


A review of Not Stolen by Jeff Fynn-Paul


I grew up in a time and place where diversity meant mixing Protestants and Catholics and there was only one actual minority. These were the American Indians, or Native Americans as they’re called now, who mostly lived by themselves in county-sized reservations. As children, we regarded them with a mixture of fear and awe, finding it hard to believe the quiet, pathetically poor people who occasionally drove their pickups into town had once been fierce warriors who could shoot a buffalo from the back of a galloping horse. It was a time when America was starting to acknowledge the raw deal these people had gotten from the Europeans and others who flooded this continent. But though we realized our forefathers had done wrong, nobody talked about “genocide.” These claims came later.

Since then I’ve met a fair number of Native Americans and gotten to know a few of them. In particular, there was a Lakota fellow who married into our family. He and I got along well and we would joke about sensitive issues in a way that other people found shocking. It was interesting to see both Dances with Wolves and Black Robe with him and get his perspective on these movies. Though his outlook was quite different than mine, we respected each others’ viewpoints. Later on, after he’d been estranged from the family (by his own choice, I must note), his outlook became increasingly more radical. When he claimed that the term “Native American” was racist because America was named for a white person, I could only shake my head.

I bring this up to illustrate that I’ve tried to keep an open mind on the topic. I’ve always been a history buff and I’ve come to understand that the story of humanity has been a long struggle of war, struggle, and death. To me, the recent academic brow-beating about the fate of Native Americans seems very one-sided. So when I saw a review of a book with a different take on the topic, I downloaded it at once. It’s called Not Stolen, the Truth about European Colonialism in the New World by Professor Jeff Fynn-Paul, PhD. (published by Bombardier Books, 2023) The cover features a classic painting of European settlers meeting with a party of Native Americans back in the early days of colonization. It presents an interesting counterpoint to the current hypercritical, anti-American view of The 1619 Project and other screeds of the mainstream media.

This is ostensibly a book about history, but it’s also a political treatise. The author’s premise is that we should not view America as being “stolen” from its original inhabitants. Though he admits that the white settlers committed the occasional atrocity, the real story is much more nuanced and complex.

The first of his points are that there was no “genocide” of Native Americans by whites. This is an argument I’ve long been using myself. At the time when the Plymouth and Jamestown colonies were founded, the original population had already suffered a huge reduction due to epidemics brought by early explorers. These sixteenth-century Spaniards had no concept of the causes of disease, much less the lack of immunity in this alien population. Furthermore, Fynn-Paul argues there is no evidence of any US government entity deliberately spreading smallpox among the Indian tribes. Yes, a few individuals discussed this notion but by that time the greatest damage had already been done. In fact, the US government did its utmost to treat the residents of Indian reservations for epidemic diseases, bringing the new smallpox vaccine to them before it was distributed to whites.

Besides this forceful argument, the book debunks the idea that Indians were peaceful stewards of the earth, giving ample evidence of brutal inter-tribal war and extermination of numerous indigenous species well before whites arrived. They were essentially like Europeans, subject to the same flaws as our ancestors. For example, Southern tribes such as the Cherokee embraced African slavery, bringing their human chattel with them after their expulsion to Oklahoma. In addition, Natives were not as naive and foolish in their dealings with whites as progressives would have us believe. Among the so-called “trinkets” they received in trade for land were valuable goods and technologies such as firearms, metal tools, horses, and medicines.

Not Stolen is a detailed, well-researched book written in a style that’s quite accessible to the average high-school-educated American. Fynn-Paul pulls no punches, discussing land treaties, the “Trail of Tears”, reservation schools, and so on. Many of the most egregious incidents, though tragic, have been exaggerated by progressive self-loathing. This one-sided mythology has led to hysterical, knee-jerk reactions such as the demonization of church-run residential schools in Canada. Despite the outrage, there is no evidence that extensive abuse happened. Many of the alleged “mass graves” don’t actually exist.

Some of the author’s arguments are more semantic than factual, in particular, the title itself. One can argue that you can’t steal a country from a people who have no concept of land ownership. Yet we must acknowledge that staking a claim to a place deprives others of their use, much as Great Britain’s Enclosures Acts abolished the system of open fields, driving English peasants from their towns and into London slums. While I’d dispute the accuracy of Fynn-Paul’s title, its incendiary phrasing should help sell copies of the book and that’s a good thing.

In particular, I take issue with the author’s closing statement that America needs to clean up its historical image so it can speak with authority on human rights issues such as the alleged Uighur “genocide” in China. We do need to tell the Chinese to “butt out” with their hypocritical accusations of American “racism” but their internal politics are none of our business. The US government already interferes far too much, encouraging Islamic radicalism in Russia and China while pretending to be fighting it elsewhere. But this is not a major point of the book.

Suffice it to say that although I don’t agree with all of Fynn-Paul’s arguments, this book brings forth many important counter-arguments against the overwhelmingly anti-American tenor of current historical scholarship. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn the truth about America’s history.

The Trouble With “Thank You For Your Service”

On Veteran’s Day, should we be thankful, contemplative, or angry?


A few years ago, in the wake of the Afghan and Iraqi wars, it was fashionable to say, as soon as a non-veteran learned of someone’s veteran status, “Thank you for your service.” This wasn’t just a conservative cause, though of course conservatives were more adamant about it. The corporate media was well on board. Though I’m not a veteran myself, something about this practice made me uncomfortable. For many people, these had the air of empty words spoken automatically, like blessing somebody after a sneeze. At present, the adulation has subsided, but we see it recurring at times like Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day, which is once again upon us.

If the words are spoken sincerely, and in many cases they are, I agree with the sentiment. Being in the military is a difficult but necessary job. Somebody’s got to do it. Even as powerful and relatively isolated as America is, we could still be invaded. In fact, we ARE being invaded from the south, because the current administration is encouraging the invaders. But that’s another story. Though I’m grateful that our military provides deterrence and some modicum of order, I don’t go out of my way to say “thank you.” As I see it, there are two big problems with this practice.

The first is that the greeting does nothing to help our wounded and psychologically damaged veterans. If we want to truly show our thanks, we should donate to veterans’ charities. We should also vote for candidates who will represent their interests and agitate for more funding. Of course there must be a continuing audit of the historically corrupt Veteran’s Administration.

The second problem is that it doesn’t address the proverbial elephant in the room. Why have all these troops been sent overseas anyway? Since 1945, these have all been wars of choice and we’ve been stalemated or lost almost all of them. Even when we seemed to win, as in the first Iraq War of the early 1990s, that’s because we stopped before the mission was completed. We didn’t unseat Saddam Hussein, nor did we make any deals with him to promote better behavior. Instead, we sanctioned and crippled his regime as an excuse for further intervention.

More recent military adventures have not just been failures, they’ve been complete disasters. Take for example the American-sponsored overthrow and murder of eccentric Libyan dictator Muammar Gadaffi. He may have been oppressive by Western standards (or not, given recent events) but he kept his nation in order and provided his people with one of the highest living standards in Africa. Removing him interrupted the flow of oil and provided a conduit for millions of “refugees”–actually economic migrants–into Europe. Many people, myself included, suspect this was the actual goal of the operation.

I’m quite certain that the whole “thank you” campaign as promoted by the government and corporate media was designed to bolster public support not for veterans, but for the misbegotten foreign wars which have killed and crippled so many of them. For a while, there was even talk that protesting these wars was somehow disrespectful to vets and their families. Never mind that in the Vietnam era, veterans’ groups were some of the war’s biggest opponents.

I want to make two things perfectly clear: I don’t condemn any American who joined the military and went to war overseas, even though I view all our recent wars as both unnecessary and counterproductive. They did what they felt was right and we civilians have no right to judge them. My second point is that I don’t advocate for anyone, not a single solitary person, to join up, not until our nation’s priorities change. If this brings on military conscription, so be it. I’d like to see how our pampered, mentally fragile Millennials and Zoomers react to that. The ensuing riots will dwarf the George Floyd fiasco.

On that cheery note, I want to wish all our veterans and current service people well. Be safe, get out as soon as you can, and question (at least mentally) what your superiors tell you. And thank you for your service.