Senate Republicans Reject 'Genocide' to Describe Treatment of American Indians

Simon Moya-Smith

It was 1:30 p.m. April 19 when I received a frantic phone call from Colorado State Senator Suzanne Williams, D-Aurora, who said she had less than 24 hours to resurrect the Recognition of the American Indian Genocide resolution of 2008.

By noon the next day, the original draft of the new 2012 American Indian Genocide resolution, SJR12-046, was dead on the senate floor, and what was left was a watered-down euphemism that still reeks of sugarcoating and naiveté.

What was contentious to the republican state senators was the use of the word “genocide.” The bevy of right-leaning Reagan fans had nothing but acrimonious things to say about American Indians, including myself, who assert that genocide was inflicted upon the first peoples of this continent.

And the most boisterous polemic of the bunch that day was republican State Senator Ellen Roberts of District 6.

Her argument, which she repeatedly reiterated at the podium, was that she didn’t feel the death of millions of American Indians since Columbus qualified as genocide because American Indians are not extinct.

“When I look up the word ‘exterminate’ it is to destroy totally,” she argued. “And my problem with this resolution is I thank God that we have not destroyed totally the Native American people. And one of my challenges … is (the) wording; that is as if they are extinct, because they are not.”

It is curious then that the day prior Roberts added her name as cosponsor to Senate Joint Resolution 32 – concerning the declaration of April 16 through 22, 2012, as Holocaust Awareness Week.

Today, Germany is home to more than 200,000 Jewish people.

Jews are not extinct.

Then, on the same day Sen. Roberts voted down the American Indian Genocide Resolution, she signed on as cosponsor to Senate Joint Resolution 33 – Concerning the Colorado Day of Remembrance of the Armenian Genocide.

Today, the Armenian population in Armenia is more than 3 million.

Eo ipso, Armenians also are not extinct.

So, naturally, I’m prompted to wonder: How could Sen. Roberts, based on her logic, support two resolutions that recognize the genocide of both the Armenians and Jews when neither group has been expunged completely?


State Senator Ted Harvey of District 30 was the second loudest to object to the use of the word “genocide.” He asserted that it was a disservice to those “who have actually died at the hand of governments” and to those that were lined up “at mass grave sites,” and were shot and murdered.

Sen. Harvey either hasn’t heard of (or possibly rejects) the reality of the Wounded Knee massacre of 1890 when more than 150 Lakota men, women and children were brutally murdered by the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment and dumped into a mass grave near the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

Which is it, Sen. Harvey?

Soon after Sen. Harvey ended his pejorative diatribe, Sen. Roberts introduced an amendment that changed the language of the resolution from “genocide” to “atrocity.”

The new resolution passed 24 to 9 with the replaced phrasing, “Concerning the Remembrance of the American Indian Atrocity.”

“It’s contradictory that (Sen. Roberts) supported the other resolutions but jumped all over ours,” said Tessa McLean, of the Ojibwe Nation and senior at the University of Colorado Denver who attended the floor hearing. “She was denying the genocide against our people. I felt very angry and upset.”

Amanda Williams, 18, of the San Carlos Apache and Navajo nations and a University of Denver student, later cried in the office of Sen. Williams and said she felt personally offended by the arrogance of the senate republicans and their inability to recognize the systematic murder of American Indian peoples.

“I felt that it was a slap in the face and a further attempt at erasing the truth of the history of the native peoples (of the Americas),” she said.

The only conclusion I can come to is that our senate republicans suffer from blind patriotism. You can’t be the greatest nation in the world if you admit to genocide, right? Apparently not.

Simon Moya-Smith is a journalist and blogger from Edgewater and a registered member of the Oglala Lakota Nation.

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beaver's picture
This holocaust denier may have inadvertently done Indians a huge favor. Because the resolution she voted down says, "WHEREAS, Demographers estimate that there were 18 million indigenous people in North America north of the Rio Grande in the last decade of the 15th century." That is blatantly incorrect. By many estimates, as many as 125 million skins on Turtle Island were wiped out by the Europeans. So how can there be only 18 million skins living back then?
davidmartinez's picture
How do we educate the people on the real history of the Americas? Here in California there are so many people who still believe the native populations gladly worked for the missions and assimilated readily into the society. It is also the belief that only Casino Indians exist in California, and the 300,000+ that are on the derecognized list just never existed. Many of the massacres that happened in California were performed by “Regulators or Vigilante’s” since they were not under leadership in an official manner what they did was never recorded. One practice was to round up native people, load them onto a ship take them out off the coast behead them or scalp them. At the next port of call the records would show bounty scalps as cargo. If killing people for bounty is not genocide then what is? My great Aunties were sold as "Indian Maiden Brides" late 1880's, part of the ethnic cleansing, breed the indians out of existence. "Genocidal act?"
nanetteaverysolem's picture
The government somehow has felt justified in the murder and theft they have done to our people. I don't trust anything the government tells me. If their lips are moving they are lieing. Now, the government US showing their true self to the white man as well. May God have mercy on their souls.
curtj's picture
Colonialism is nothing but theft and murder. It is still being foisted on the Indigenous in this country as well as ongoing worldwide. As descendants of the illegal European immigrants who invaded our lands, stealing the resources and lands, murdering and committing genocide against our people to do it, and enslaving the survivors to concentration camps located on reservations on lands the whites deemed worthless, todays whites see nothing wrong in continuing the tradition of theft and murder. All legislation is geared to destabilizing countries to allow coups to set up and prop up despot 2 bit dictator regimes, bribed to subjugate their people through intimidation, terror, kidnappings, rape and murder, to allow the theft or their resources and lands. "My friends across the aisle" as quoted by the political whores prostituting their votes for their corporate pimps, is nothing but a buzz phrase signifying the cronyism, conflict of interest, collusion, lack of ethics, morality and legal standing by these legalized thieves and murderers. To be sure, there are plenty of indigenous leaders who are bribed to ensure their people get robbed. Too many of our leaders are corrupt, willing to sell out their peoples holdings and lands, to disenfranchise tribal members so they and their cabals get any profits off tribal financial endeavors.
tmsyr11's picture
Mr. Simon, As long as “AMERICAN AFFAIRS” are American affairs, all United States Govt actions will be just….words. The time and scene of using the term ‘genocides’ particularly Jewish was recognized and accepted by International communities thereafter World War II. TODAY however, the official doctrine of establishing State of Israel, however, is being challenged by an increasingly hostile world political “community” instead of established Governments based on conservative principles. The Armenian ‘genocide’ however is controversial but accepted by most, but NOTHING (resolution) is recognized nor established by the International communities. All Colorado State does (as with any other US State) is recognize long-held international acceptance of genocides in those parts of the world. However CREDIT should be given to Colorado State (particularly to that “Republican”) for phrasing ‘atrocity’ than using ‘APOLOGY’ to American Indians that Barrack Obama “Democrat” officially signed in his tenure as US Govt. President. I wonder though if the Colorado State resolution used a disclaimer ..."as nothing in this resolution authorizes nor settles a settlement of any claim against the United States – signed Barrack Obama? Your story sounds more to political party affiliations than trying to understand a wrong committed to Indians throughout North America.