Native American massacres

From Academic Kids

In the long history of the English colonization of North America, the term "Indian massacre" was often used to describe mass killings of European-Americans ("whites") by Native Americans ("Indians"), and, less frequently, mass killings of American Indians by whites. In theory, massacre applied to the killing of civilian noncombatants or to the summary execution of prisoners-of-war. In practice, the label was often haphazardly applied, rarely without bias, and was sometimes used to describe an overwhelming (though lawful) military defeat. Similarly, massacres were sometimes mislabeled "battles" in an attempt to give legitimacy to what would today be considered a war crime.

Determining how many people died in these massacres overall is difficult. In the book The Wild Frontier: Atrocities during the American-Indian War from Jamestown Colony to Wounded Knee, amateur historian William M. Osborn sought to tally every recorded atrocity in the area that would eventually become the continental United States, from first contact (1511) to the closing of the frontier (1890), and determined that 9,156 people died from atrocities perpetrated by Native Americans, and 7,193 people died from atrocities perpetrated by whites. Osborn defines an atrocity as the murder, torture, or mutilation of civilians, the wounded and prisoners. Different definitions would obviously produce different totals. For example, Osborn does not count Indian deaths on the Trail of Tears (because these were allegedly unintentional), but he does count several episodes of post-mortem mutilation, even of combatants killed in open battle. Osborn's exact total of 16,349 killed on both sides can therefore be disputed.

Neither side stands out as being more merciful or humane than the other. Both sides collected scalps and scrota as trophies. Both sides raped. Both sides would promise safe conduct to defeated enemies or non-combatants, and then massacre them as soon as they let their guard down. Both sides attacked easy targets (such as peaceful -- even friendly -- villages and settlements) as retaliation for hostile acts by totally unrelated war bands and militia units.

List of massacres

Here is a list of the larger or more widely known massacres in North America:

See also

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