Yes, this is terrible. It’s quite sad.
However, I want to remind many of you that the number one killer of Native Americans was actually disease. You see the fancy map of the old Indian tribes, but understand that by the early 1600’s (which that map obviously precedes), only about 5% of the original Native population remained in North America. Disease from the Spanish conquests traveled all the way through the continent and very quickly and efficiently wiped out over 73 million Natives. So, while the English and Europeans had a personal hand in killing and taking land away from the Indians, they didn’t actually kill all of those Natives by themselves. Too many Indians were dead that they couldn’t defend their lands by the time the English got there and the colonies began to spread.
I’m not defending the English taking their land at all. But I am clarifying that most of the Indians were already dead, so this was not accomplished through genocide. Like I said, there just weren’t enough Indians left to defend their land. Which sucks. And Americans are dicks and shouldn’t have taken it from them.
But still. Not genocide. Just shitting luck because the Indians had never been exposed to European diseases, so their immune systems were shit when it came to them. Aaaand (to make sure no one gets mad at me and don’t think I’m defending the Americans or English) dick-ish moves on the part of the Europeans.
Okay, let’s look up the definition of genocide, as defined by the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948:
…any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
And now let’s see if these are present in the case of the Native Americans:
(a) Killing members of the group: There are countless cases of Indians being massacred by whites. Wounded Knee, Fort Robinson, Bear River, the Baker Massacre, and the absolutely appalling Sand Creek Massacre were all cases of racist trigger-happy US soldiers slaughtering unarmed Indian civilians. Several thousand California Indians suffered violent deaths at the hands of the Gold Rush folks. And these are just the massacres we have records of. The intense racism that the whites felt towards the natives meant that settlers were often totally fine with shooting any Indians who got in their way. After all, it’s not like the Indians were really human, right?
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group: This aspect of the American genocide still continues today. 1 in 3 Native American women will be raped during her lifetime, compared to 1 in 6 American women overall, and in 80% of those cases, the rapist is a non-Native man. However, because of stupid jurisdiction laws imposed by the US government, Indian reservations do not have the ability to prosecute non-Native offenders who commit crimes on their land, so non-Native men can come onto reservations and rape Native women without fear of punishment. Last I checked, the US government still can’t be arsed to fix this legal loophole.
Rewind a century, and there were the Indian boarding schools. In the late 1800s/early 1900s, thousands of native children were forcibly taken from their families and put into Caucasian-run boarding schools, where they had the Indian-ness literally beaten out of them. The kids were forced to convert to Christianity, speak only English, adopt Western styles of dress and behavior, and were severely punished if they reverted to practicing any of their native traditions, which caused the extinction of numerous native languages. The tales of psychological, physical, and sexual abuse from those places are absolutely horrific, and I can’t emphasize enough how badly they psychologically scarred the Native American community at large. The aftershocks of those ordeals are still felt today, even after most of the boarding school survivors have died out.
During the same era as the boarding schools, the Native adults were also suffering “mental harm” at the hands of the US Government, in the form of the Code of Indian Offenses which banned all native religious practices, all native dances, and certain types of native gatherings, like potlatches. The intent was to eradicate every last shred of Native culture and assimilate the Indians into Western culture. “Kill the Indian, save the man” was the watchword of the day, and it took a huge toll on the psychological health of native people.
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part: Indian reservations are notorious for being plagued by poverty and poor living conditions, and while they’ve improved somewhat in recent years, they used to be universally grim places to live.
The US government would dole out food rations to each reservation, to be distributed by the Indian agent, a white bureaucrat in charge of the reservation. The Indian agents were a corrupt bunch who would frequently hoard the best rations and sell them to white settlers for a profit, and then give the worst and most weevil-ridden rations to their Indian charges. Many native people starved as a result.
There’s also the method by which the Indians arrived on the reservations in the first place: They were forcibly “removed” from their aboriginal lands by the US government, and made to walk hundreds or thousands of miles. The Trail of Tears is the most famous instance of this, but pretty much every tribe had its own “long walk” to the reservation, in which many people died from starvation, exhaustion, disease, exposure, etc.
Going back even further, there is the case of the buffalo. The Plains tribes depended heavily on buffalo meat as their main food source, so when the buffalo were hunted to near-extinction by white hunters who only hunted for sport and often did so by riding the transcontinental trains and shooting out of the window, the Plains people starved. The US Government approved of the over-hunting, since they correctly predicted that it would weaken the native tribes and make it easier to steal their land/move them to reservations/etc. This phenomenon is called “ecocide” — causing genocide by destroying the environment that a group depends upon to survive. The over-hunting of the buffalo is only one of the numerous cases of ecocide committed by the United States against the Native Americans.
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group: Two words: forced sterilization. Native women were a target for this procedure, along with African-American women and mentally/physically disabled women.
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group: That’s covered by the boarding school debacle I mentioned earlier. There were even court cases in which native parents tried to have their children removed from the schools, but the courts didn’t allow it, because the forced schooling was supposed to be for the kids’ own good.
And finally there’s the little matter of "intent to destroy, in whole or in part." Personally I’d argue that intent isn’t magical and that accidental genocide is still genocide, but in this case it’s a moot point because the white Americans definitely intended to destroy, in whole or in part, the Native Americans. Go back and read some of the relevant literature from the 1800s and you’ll hear words like “extermination” and “inferior race” and phrases like “the only good Indian is a dead Indian” and “nits make lice” as a justification for why Indian children should be killed along with their parents. There were even pseudo-scientific studies done arguing that Indians were subhuman, thus providing a justification for the slaughter.
So yes, the genocide of the Native Americans fits every aspect of the definition established by the UN. It’s true that 90% of the original native population was wiped out by disease, but they could have bounced back from that catastrophe if given the opportunity. However the US government and the white settlers did everything in their power to finish the job that smallpox started, motivated primarily by greed and racism. At every quarter, they displayed a staggering lack of basic human decency towards the native people, and the torrent of abuses and cruelty they heaped upon the natives made the epidemics of the 1600s look tame by comparison. In fact, if you compare the tactics and policies employed by Manifest Destiny America to those employed by Nazi Germany, the similarities are striking. This is what genocide looks like.
One more thing: You are mistaken in claiming that the Indians were too few and too weak to defend their lands. Despite having been decimated by disease, they still outnumbered the invaders and posed a credible military threat to the settlers. Why do you think the colonies even bothered making treaties and agreements with the natives? Why do you think in the early days of the colonies, it was common for settlers to buy land from the tribes? Because it was safer than risking war with them. Most of the “conquered” tribes were never really conquered at all, nor were they decisively defeated on the battlefield. The Indian Wars with the Plains tribes, for example, only ended because the US was sick and tired of fighting hundreds of bloody battles against the skilled and tenacious native warriors, so they offered to make a treaty to end the fighting. The Plains tribes agreed… and then the US promptly broke the treaty and screwed them over once their guard was down. The Indians were actually pretty capable of defending their lands militarily, which is why the US had to resort to broken treaties and legal shenanigans in order to win.