Independence Day & Indigenous Trauma: American Revolution a ‘Big Mistake’

AP Images / British General Burgoyne addressing Native Americans to secure an alliance during the Revolutionary War.

Independence Day and Indigenous Trauma: Vox Calls American Revolution a ‘Big Mistake’

Though it may seem right out of the Hindsight Is an Exact Science department, the politics and news site Vox has come out with three reasons that the American Revolution should never have happened.

“American independence in 1776 was a monumental mistake,” wrote columnist Dylan Matthews on July 2. “We should be mourning the fact that we left the United Kingdom, not cheering it.”

Why? Well, he has winnowed it down to three reasons, including a strong case made for the revolution’s adverse effect on Turtle Island’s Indigenous Peoples.

When the revolutionaries won the war, the Proclamation of 1763 was voided, the Vox column pointed out. That British document strictly limited westward expansion in what would become the United States (albeit to minimize conflict rather than save lives) and would have perhaps prevented the forced removal on the scale of the Trail of Tears, Matthews surmised.

“The British government remained willing to conceive of Native Americans as subjects of the crown, similar to colonists,” wrote Ethan Schmidt in Native Americans in the American Revolution: How the War Divided, Devastated, and Transformed the Early American Indian World (Praeger, 2014), as quoted by Vox. “American colonists … refused to see Indians as fellow subjects. Instead, they viewed them as obstacles in the way of their dreams of land ownership and trading wealth.”

That, of course, was reiterated in the Declaration of Independence, which referred to Indigenous Peoples as “merciless Indian savages.”

“American Indians would have still, in all likelihood, faced violence and oppression absent American independence, just as First Nations people in Canada did,” wrote Matthews. “But American-scale ethnic cleansing wouldn’t have occurred.”

Read Matthews’s 3 Reasons the American Revolution Was a Mistake, which also notes that slavery would most likely have been abolished earlier than it was, on Vox.