By Rick Bretz
The desire of nations and societies to expand their land holdings has caused much consternation in many countries. The United States and Australia never had a monopoly on the ill-treatment of indigenous people. The Persians conquered the Middle East, the Mongols rode across Eastern Europe, the Greek and Roman Empire sought to expand their cultures and the French, Spanish, and British monarchies sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to the New World.
At the least, the United States and Australia’s failures to initially blend their opposing cultures upon colonization demonstrates a poor decision-making process to fix an issue before blood is spilled. Research and the record indicate that the treatment of indigenous people was cultivated in a divine belief in a God-given right to civilize “savages.” This belief gave the conquering colonists the right to do what they needed to further the nation’s promise. Although some may have acted with pure intentions, for others this belief gave them license to act unfairly and with malice.
The United States’ policy of Manifest Destiny resulted in wars, forced relocation, cultural indoctrination and a distrust that has remained to this day.
The story of the Australian Aborigines’ struggle and the British Colonization mirrors that of the Native Americans fight for recognition. For both countries, it took several deaths on both sides for each to realize that conciliation and compromise might be the best route for a sustained peace and understanding. That this atmosphere is continually tested by both sides is a testament to the deep-rooted scars from a turbulent history.
What is clear today is that an understanding developed among the first colonists and subsequent government power elite in both countries that the idea to treat indigenous people as second-class or worse was acceptable toward a united nation under predetermined religious beliefs and races. This idea permeated society and gave the majority of “civilized” society permission to treat Native Americans and Aborigines how they pleased. Not everyone thought this way but enough to give both governments the power and permission to keep certain rights and land away from them. From then on, the “original” people from both lands would have to struggle to get them back. These rights would be earned one by one over several years by intellectual discussions, casualties from conflicts, government enlightenment and mutual compromise on both sides. This leads us to where we are today. The relationship is being repaired but disagreements remain between each party. This may be the price for how each land was settled at the start—a continuous process of reconciliation and compromise that may lead to total harmony one day.
What do you think? Is it a valid comparison?
A Comparison Study Chart
Australian Aborigines meaning “original people”
|Composed of various tribes usually based on languages and geography. (Aku Ramul, Kambre, Panara)||Composed of various tribes, nations, and languages (Cherokee, Sioux, Seneca, Lakota, Shoshone, Shawnees, Seminoles, Catawba)|
|Migrated from Indian subcontinent||If migrated, most likely came from Eastern Asia|
|Original people of Australia before colonization by British explorers||Native people of North America before French, British, and Spanish colonization|
|Disease brought by colonization decimates population (small pox)||Disease brought by colonization decimates population (small pox, measles)|
|1770-East Coast of Australia claimed by Captain James Cook.||1492 or Later-East Coast of United States colonized|
|1770-1788-More British ships appear and dock on the east coast.||1621-One the first treaties between Plymouth Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Tribe. Colonists seek to expand further West from coastal region.|
|1788-British set up penal colony. Skirmishes between British and Aborigines begin.||1830-1840-Native American Nations were forced to move from East to lands west of the Mississippi River.|
|1799-Aborigines resistance to white settlements in areas known as Black Wars||1838-Trail of Tears. Thousands of Cherokee forced to move from Georgia to Oklahoma with many dying in the process. This despite Supreme Court Rulings in 1831 and 1832 stating that they had a right to stay on their lands.|
|1810-Aborigines moved into mission stations to learn European beliefs||1830 and later-The establishment of Indian Reservations|
|Major conflicts and killings occur due to Aborigines lands forcefully taken from them.||Issues with treaties that were agreed upon, land agreements broken|
|1835-The Dunghutti people of north coast NSW are now confined to 40 hectares (2,47 acres) of land on the Bellwood Reserve, near present day Kempsey. They previously owned 250,000 hectares.||On January 12, 1833, a law was passed by US Congress making it unlawful for any Indian to remain within the boundaries of the state of Florida.|
|1949-Aboriginal people are given the right to enroll and vote at federal elections provided they are entitled to enroll for state elections or have served in the armed forces.||On June 2, 1924, Congress enacted the Indian Citizenship Act, which granted citizenship to all Native Americans born in the U.S. the right to vote. Many states were slow to grant the right to vote by placing restrictions on eligibility. The 1965 Voting Rights Act strengthened laws prohibiting state restrictions on voting rights.|
|1979-Aboriginal people are counted in the Census for the first time.||1860-Native Americans identified for the decennial census. Census instructions indicate that the families of Indians who have renounced tribal rule, and who under state or territory laws exercise the rights of citizens, are to be enumerated. The 1870 Census is the first to list “Indian” as a choice.|
|1992-The High Court of Australia hands down its landmark decision in Mabo v. Queensland (Mabo Case, Mabo Decision). It decides that Native Title exists over particular kinds of lands – unalienated Crown Lands, national parks and reserves – and that Australia was never terra nullius or empty land.||1924-The Citizenship Act gives Native Americans dual citizenship. This enables Native Americans the status of US citizens and also be members of their tribes.1968-Congress passes Indian Civil Rights Act.
2007-Seneca Indian Nation revokes agreement to build highway through their territory in New York.
Aborigines (Original People)