Steven Newcomb: Free and independent 'savages'
"On Oct. 23, 2008, Dick Pound, a high profile Canadian Olympic official, was giving an interview to a French-language newspaper. In addressing whether China should have been awarded the Olympics given its human rights record, Pound said, in French, that Canada was a “land of savages” 400 years ago. He later apologized and said it was not his intention to cause “harm” to First Nations people.

Let’s see, four centuries ago would take us back to 1608, one year after the British colonizers founded Jamestown in May 1607. That colony was founded on the basis of the First Virginia Charter of April 10, 1606, a British royal document that authorized the establishment of a colony in the part “of America commonly called Virginia, and other parts and territories in America either appertaining to us or which are not now actually possessed by any Christian prince or people.”

Part of the stated rationale for the Virginia grant was to propagate the “Christian religion to such people as yet live in darkness and miserable ignorance of the true knowledge and worship of God” and to “in time bring the infidels and savages living in those parts to humane civility and to a settled and quiet government.” Thus, the concept savages has a religious dimension related to “infidels” and “heathens,” or, specifically, those nations and peoples that were not Christian.

The term savage (“salvage” or “wild”) has been used as a slur for a very long time indeed. In his book “The Invasion of America” (1975), Francis Jennings pointed out that in 1395, “Richard II of England excoriated the ‘wild’ Irish who maintained independence of his rule.” King Richard and his officials in Ireland “used the term repeatedly and hanged those Irishmen when they caught them,” despite the Irish being Christian."

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Steven Newcomb: On ‘savages’ (Indian Country Today 12/12)

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