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Biden Becomes America’s Second Indigenous President: Who Knew?

Plantations In Ireland Due to English Settler Colonialism (Wikipedia)

Joe Biden has become America’s second Indigenous President. John Kennedy was the first. Who knew?

It turns out based on the definition of “Indigenous” as an academic construct both the Irish and the Jews are Indigenous.

No general, internationally accepted definition of indigenous peoples exists. It is typical of indigenous populations that they do not represent the dominant population in the larger society of which they are part, although they may be the population group that inhabited the area first.

These “Indigenous” people also may compose the majority of the population in a given political entity as long as they are in a subordinate position. The critical component is the presence of a dominant population. Without a dominant population having victimized a weaker people, there effectively is no “Indigenous” people.

Part of the confusion over the meaning of the term occurs due to the different ways in which “Indigenous” is used. First of all, it does not mean “indigenous.” People who are labelled “Indigenous” do not necessarily live on their ancestral homeland. There is no correlation between being an “Indigenous” people in the politically-correct sense and being ‘indigenous” in the traditional sense of local or native.  However, in the popular usage, “Indigenous” means “we were here before the dominant people came here and victimized us” including when the “here” means being displaced to somewhere else.

A second issue with “Indigenous” is with the academic construct itself.  In the article “Settler Colonial Prehistories in Seventeenth-Century Century North America” (William and Mary Quarterly 76 2019), Susanah Shaw Romney notes that the related term “settler colonialism” remains a scholarly concept most widely used for the post-1800 English-speaking world. Shaw cautions Americanists to take heed of how scholars in distant fields use the term as will be shown below. She also cautions that terms may be applied when they are inappropriate such as with the seventeenth-century Dutch in New York, her own area of scholarship. This overuse problem with the application of the term will be addressed in a forthcoming blog. In the previous blog and this one, the issue is the underuse of the terms and not the overuse.

One byproduct revealed here is the frequent limitation of the application of “Indigenous” to being directed against white people, most notably English and American. This results in the undermining of the academic construct although not in the popular usage. As shown in the previous blog, Bantu settler colonialism against other people in Africa which occurred without any involvement of white people tends to be overlooked in Indigenous studies as not being relevant. In this blog, the same situation occurs in the Middle East and Europe further rendering that academic construct suspect due to its restricted application.


On October 25, I was viewing the Indigenous History Conference. When the session ended, I zoomed over to another conference, this one entitled “The Land that I Will Show You” Recent Archaeological & Historical Studies of Ancient Israel hosted by NYU. Notice how one conference includes the name of the people and the other does not. The speaker at the second conference when I zoomed was Yifat Thareani, New York University Tel Aviv, Hebrew Union College. She is an Israeli archaeologist. Her topic was “In Praise of the Conquered: Identity Making in Israel and Judah in the Face of Assyrian Rule.”

I missed the beginning of her presentation, but when I began listening partway through, I heard her say she was talking about Israelites as an indigenous people suffering from settler colonialism. The very same terms used in the Indigenous Conference were being used in the Ancient Israel Conference only this time they involved ancient Assyria and Israel and not Americans and Indians.

If you are not familiar with the situation, here is what happened. In 722/721 BCE, Assyria destroyed the kingdom of Israel. The defeated Israelites then endured three fates:

1. One group was taken captive to Assyria, the so-called 10 Lost Tribes, with part of that group, particularly the chariot force, being incorporated into the Assyrian army.
2. A second group fled the country and became refugees in Judah.
3. The third Israelite group remained on the land in Israel as a remnant people or Indigenous.

After the destruction of the Temple in 586 BCE by the Babylonians, the refugee group and the Judeans went through their own division into exile in the Diaspora, refugees such as to Egypt, or remaining on the land. In fact the biblical term for the remnant population is “people of the land,” a very Indigenous-sounding designation.

The Assyrians not only moved people out of the country conquered, they also move replacement settlers into the now depopulated country as part of their settler colonialism policy. In 716 BCE, the relocated people into the former kingdom of Israel included Arabs. In the archaeological record, this 716 BCE forced settlement is the first known instance of the Arab people living in what would later be called Palestine named after the non-Semitic Philistine people.

What happened to this mix of Indigenous Israelite people and the resettled peoples including the Arabs? Best guess is that they intermarried and became known later as Samaritans. These Samaritans continue to live on the land to this very day as a small remnant population.

People probably are more familiar with the Arab settler colonialism which occurred 1400 years later in the 7th century AD. That settler colonialism occurred throughout the Middle East from modern Iraq to Morocco. In its wake various remnant populations have survived struggling to maintain their language and culture. They include the following peoples who trace their presence in the land to prior to Arab settler colonialism although there has been intermarriage:

Palestinian Samaritans
Palestinian Jews
Palestinian Christians
Lebanese Christians
Iraqi Assyrians (Christians)
Egyptian Copts

In a print-article entitled “The Trap of Loyalty” on the Syrian Alawites, Robert F. Worth of the New York Times quotes two people he interviewed as follows:

“We are Mesopotamian, not Arabic. We don’t want to be Arabic.”
“It’s like your riots in Detroit in 1967. They [the Syrian rebels] are like losers ⸺ not good people. Like blacks in the U.S.A.”

These rebels referred to as “barbarians” were mainly the Sunni people who were leading the rebellion. It’s astonishing to witness when the eyes of the world are upon us, what exactly they see and remember. It also is a reminder that the putdown of the “other” as “savages” is not limited to white people and Indians as will be shown again below when the subject turns to the Celtic people.

Arab settler colonialism like Bantu settler colonialism falls outside the normal purview of Indigenous studies as a politically-correct doctrine but within the purview of Indigenous studies as an academic discipline.


When the scene shifts to Europe, one finds the same dilemma – how to reconcile Indigenous studies as a politically-correct doctrine versus developing it into academic discipline where white people can be both the victim and the perpetrator of settler colonialism.

Shortly after I read the “Exchange” in the journal of the American Historical Association which initiated this thread of blogs, I read an article in Archaeology, the magazine of the Archaeological Institute of America (I am president of the Westchester NY chapter) entitled “Resisting Rome: How a Celtic tribe fought to defend their Iberian homeland against the emperor’s legions.”

The article was about an archaeological excavation of a site that had resisted Rome and then was destroyed. The Cantabrian people were described by Roman writers as “savage, uncivilized, and overwhelming belligerent in nature.” In other words, they were depicted in the standard terms people have been using for thousands of years to denigrate the proverbial “Other.” This terminology has nothing to do with race, ethnicity, or any other characteristic except that the people are the enemy other and are shown as subhuman.

The Hun versus Lady Liberty (Recruiting Poster

This famous recruiting poster from World War I shows the German Huns as barbarians of the first order in response to the atrocities they committed in Belgium. In the world at large, Indians were not first or only people to be called savages.

The victimization of the Celtic people first by Rome and then by the English falls within the guidelines for “Indigenous” people. One may observe the English royal plantations established in Ireland in the map above. This colonization including the area now known as Northern Island fits the definition. One critical difference between Israel and Ireland and the American Indian peoples is that the first two now are independent political entities whereas the third have reservations.

Here we may observe the challenge facing Indigenous studies with settler colonialism. Is its primary purpose to be an academic discipline where it can be applied globally in both the past and present to all peoples of the earth? Or is its primary purpose to be a weapon in the culture wars deployed against white people especially Americans and English? Is it possible for (some) scholars to prefer the former while (some) scholars and woke general public to prefer the other?

This issue came to a crux in the Exchange in the journal of the American Historical Association that started this thread. In a review of the book Our Beloved Kin: A New History of King Philip’s War by Lisa Brooks, reviewer David Silverman commented on her “speculative demonizations of the English” in contrast to her downplaying of intra-Indian violence [for the treatment of violence see the blog Violence and Native American and Indigenous Studies (NAIS)]. In an academic context, Silverman well may be right in his observation but in a politically-correct context he is exactly wrong. As a warrior in the culture wars, Brooks did what she is supposed to do. She even garnered acclaimed for her prowess as a warrior in defending her people and castigating the enemy white people.

Oh, you think I have crossed some line here, do you? Then take Columbus Day. Suppose you decide to topple his statue and rename the day. What name would you use? Would you call it “Indian Heritage Day”? No! Of course not! But why not? Indians are the people whose heritage is being celebrated. They don’t object to the term. They were called that for centuries. Why erase it? Why “Disappear” the Indian?

The answer is simple. How many white people would rally to the cause on behalf of “Indian Heritage Day”? Try “Zero.” Indian is a name. It has no moral connotations. It exists independently of any other people. By contrast, Indigenous is not a name but a part of a relationship. It takes two. There were no Indigenous people in what became the United States before the arrival of white people according to the definition. To be Indigenous requires a dominant people who victimized you. You can be an Indian before the arrival of the white people but you can’t become Indigenous until after they do.

To be Indigenous implies that you were here first which means another people came here second. It means the land belongs to you, and that white people need to repent America’s second original sin. White people will rally to that call. White people have rallied to that cause of the Indigenous in a way they would not for Indians. At least some white people have. For others that call is a mircroaggression that alienates them from wanting to consider the legitimate concerns of the Indian people. So what. Who cares what they think. Those “Other” people are backward.

2020: The End of the 20th Century and the Beginning of the 21st

This Is the Dawning of the Age of the 2ist Century (

Will 2020 be remembered by historians as the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st?

We humans like to organize time. Sometimes it is comparatively easy. We are consciously aware of the movements of the sun and the moon. That awareness leads to having days, months, and years as part of our calendars (but not weeks).

When we enter the political and social realm, the organization of time becomes more problematical. For example, the ancient Egyptians like to start the new reign of the king on the Egyptian New Year. The obvious problem was that the previous king had a tendency instead to die during the middle of the year. So when do you start the first year of the new king?

John Kennedy was assassinated in November, 1963. Lyndon Johnson immediately became President. Is 1963 the third year of Kennedy’s administration or the first year of Johnson’s administration or both? Should Johnson’s first year have begun in January, 1964? Should it have begun in January 1965 when he was first elected? At that point he would have been President for 14 months and over 3 calendar years.

The Egyptians had these issues too. It mattered less or them than it does for Egyptologists. They are trying to reconstruct history. It doesn’t matter what the Egyptians decided to do as long as the Egyptologists can figure out what they did and hopefully that over the millennia, they were consistent.

Did the 18th century end with the arbitrary year 1800 or at Waterloo?

Did the 19th century end with the arbitrary year 1900 or in World War I?

Did the 20th century end with the arbitrary year 2000 or on 9/11?

Historians make these decisions about how to organize time. They write books based on those decisions. They teach college classes based on the flow of history and not the arbitrarily rounded-dates which are derived from a base 10 numerical system and an error in the calculation of the birth of Jesus probably by four years.

I suggest for your consideration that 2020 will come to be regarded as the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st. The time from the Iron Curtain collapse to the Covid-19 pandemic will be regarded as a transition period. It was the time when the old order died and the new order, still in the process of being formed, was born.

The old older clearly is dead. For America, it was a time of three world wars: against Germany, against Germany and Japan, and against the Soviet Union. We were on the winning side of all three. It was a time of international organizations especially after World War II. Now probably to the surprise of many, it is the United States that has taken the lead in shredding these institutions. Instead we are left with a world where it is every country for itself. We live in a world of transactional relationships where the United States is not a leader but alone.

In mythical terms, this situation is referred to as a time of chaos and not cosmos or order. The created world, the world the United States took the lead in creating, is undone. It was a created world of firmament, of substance, of structure. Now that has been washed away and the world is returning to its primordial chaos.

Assyrians used the deluge to represent this change metaphorically. In effect, a tsunami washes away the existing order. That creates a blank slate for a new order to be built. The metaphor was for the Assyrian army, the Assyrian king, and the destruction of conquered cities. The message was that the Assyrian king had destroyed the old order. The new order would be built with the Assyrian capital as the cosmic center and the Assyrian king as the deity’s representative on earth. The Assyrians were extremely successful in delivering this message in the ancient Near East because at that time they did rule the ancient Near East from Elam in Iran to Ethiopia.

2020 has the potential to be just such a watershed in human history. Let’s considered some of the events that have or will happen in 2020 from an American perspective.

An impeachment of a President starts the year.

A Corvid-19 pandemic sweeps the world. While parts of the world have it under control America continues to flounder for all the world to see and pretends otherwise. We still are on track for over 2,000,000 fatalities before herd immunity is reached.

The economy is depressed if not yet in a technical depression. Unemployment skyrockets, businesses collapse. The 1% are immune.

America’s Third Civil War heats up. As previously written, I had expected the Presidential election in November to be the catalyst for the more violent phase of the war but trigger may have been fired earlier.

So we began the year with an impeachment and we will end the year with a constitutional crises, public outrage, or both.

Meanwhile climate change continues to wreak damage on the world.

America has been exposed as a Third World Country. Joe Biden declared LaGuardia Airport to be a Third World Airport. That problem has been relatively straightforward to repair. I am reminded of that every time I fly out of that airport which is why I avoided it even before the Corvid-19 crisis. But that virus has exposed that for much of the country, we have a Third World health care system for people with Third World infant mortality rates, Third World health, and Third World life spans. For much of the country we have Third World education, housing, infrastructure, and opportunity. What little there was of a social safety net has been ripped to shreds. Our shortcomings are visible for all the world to see, a world which watches not Fox but CNN. China which blocks CNN is more than happy to broadcast scenes of riots across America from other sources.

Speaking of China, the Middle Kingdom is exploiting the opportunity of the coronavirus crisis. Since the United States is so willing to abandon its position as world leader, China is eager and willing (but not necessarily able) to become the world leader instead. Even before the current crisis, China saw itself as the wave of the future. From their perspective, it was only a matter of time before the fading giant passed the torch of world leadership to the wolf warriors eager to seize it. They think that time is now.

Returning to Egypt, the Egyptians had a concept of ma’atMa’at was their concept of cosmic harmony, of all being right with the world, of order. It began in the beginning when the world was created. It continued to exist when the gods ruled Egypt, meaning the world, and then when human kings did so as well. Although Egypt had no Fall, it did have disruptions. There were times when kings had to do more than pledge to maintain ma’at, they had to pledge to restore it. They had to act to end the chaos that had engulfed the land and return to it to the order expressed by ma’at.

The United States lives in just such a time right now. We live in a time of chaos where the social fabric is unraveling and America’s position in the world is dwindling. Ending this time of troubles does not mean a return to the past; it does not mean restoring the world as it was in the beforetime. It means redefining the new world order so that it fixes what was wrong and can provide us with a sense of security and peace of mind for the future. A call to bring back the 50s will not solve the problems of the 21st century.

Right now America has no such visionary to lead us to a better tomorrow. In fact, no one at the national level is even trying. For the sake of the country and the world, we need a vision to define what the 21st century will be…or at least a vision We the People want to try to fulfill. Until such time we will continue to flounder and chaos will prevail here and around the world.