The idea of Manifest Destiny first appeared in print in an article in the American Journal in 1845. Like all shadow doctrines, this article was unsigned; the author hiding his white supremacist ideology behind a cloak of anonymity. The author informed white Americans that they had more than a right to expand their land base; they had a spiritual obligation to do so, as “fulfillment of [their] manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of [their] yearly multiplying millions.”
Manifest Destiny became the clarion call for American Imperialism, and the justification for denying the Indian and all other non-whites the right to permanently claim possession of any property in North America. This declaration followed on the heels of the violent removals of the Jackson Era, and led to the Termination Policies that arose decades later.
The author, and all those who accepted his position, believed that their right to murder and dispossess the Indian of their land was manifest, or self-evident, arising from God’s favor on the white man. This idea was centuries old by the time it appeared in the American Journal, arising four hundred years earlier under the Christian Doctrines of Discovery. It was then adopted by all those who sought to use forced removal and other acts of genocide, as a means for claiming territories that did not belong to them. In 1630, John Winthrop used the language of Manifest Destiny in his famous “City on the Hill” speech stating: “we shall find that the God of Israel is among us, when tens of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies, when he shall make us a praise and a glory, that men shall say of succeeding plantations: the lord make it like New England, for we must consider that we shall be as a City upon a Hill, the eyes of all people upon us.” This speech has been quoted by several modern day Presidents. It was used most frequently by Ronald Reagan during his campaigns and during his farewell speech. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Reagan also voiced a vehement refusal to sign agreements with the Indians, to settle claims against their lands.
The warped ideology of Manifest Destiny has been well accepted for more than 600 years. And, it is still thriving today. In this country, we face continued assaults on Indian identity; continued taking of Indian lands; continued raping and killing of Indian women, and; continued removal of Indian children from our homes and communities. The descendants of slaves are still being enslaved in this country, through mass incarceration, public killing and forced impoverishment.
This mental illness is not isolated to this land base, nor is it reserved for white Americans. It has been sold wholesale to the entire world. And, everywhere we look we can see evidence of it. In John Winthrop’s speech, he stated that the “God of Israel” would give them the strength to defeat thousands of enemies, so that they could successfully capture their lands. If you turn on the news today, you will hear endless reports of Israelis killing Palestinians. Israel killed more than 400 children in a six week period, based on the maddening belief that they possess some form of divine providence over the lands of Palestine. If you go online, you will see that countless Americans (even some Indians) are posting memes, quoting scripture, and pledging their support for Israel’s ongoing genocide in Palestine.
It astounds me that people can convince themselves that this modern day iteration of Manifest Destiny is somehow different than the ideology that led to the slaughter of millions of Indigenous people. Even more astounding is that they are able to convince themselves that it’s somehow different than a single madman slaughtering groups of people and claiming that God told them to do it. Whether these acts are committed by a single individual, a group, or a nation, they are still acts of madness. The ideology that supports the practices of Manifest Destiny is a deeply destructive form of social pathology.
Today, the sun is at high noon and all of the things that were once hidden in shadow, ideologies of supremacy that were once hidden beneath white hoods and black robes, are coming into the light. Undercurrents of racism, hatred and white privilege, once held in secret, are now openly used as political platforms (think Donald Trump). The deep spiritual and mental illness of Manifest Destiny has risen to the surface to be healed. So, how do we engage this healing process and manifest a new destiny for humanity?
We must go back to the beginning. We must turn our hearts and minds toward the original agreement that we made with the Creator. We must remember our interrelatedness. We must reconnect with our Mother, the Earth. We must remember that all life is sacred, and all lines of division are an illusion. We must look to our spiritual medicines, to center and strengthen ourselves and our communities. We must stand united, for the preservation of all life. We must dismantle the pillars of conquest, by building new social structures that support the entire society, and that allow everyone to live with dignity, honor and safety. We must begin to care about one another, to look after one another in real and meaningful ways. And, we must end the proliferation and glorification of the disease of Manifest Destiny.
We can celebrate the brilliant example provided by the ancestors of this land. We can celebrate the survival of the many Native Nations that have lived here together for thousands of years, without destroying one another or their Mother, the Earth. We can honor our way of life, which teaches us to walk gently upon the Earth and to live in harmony with the entire creation, skijinawe bamousawakon.
Today, we can come together to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day, by engaging in some action that demonstrates a reverence for all life, and honors our deep ties of kinship with one another. We can start by remembering that we all belong to one another, and that we are all related. Nacihtasu woli-akonutomakonol – That is where peaceful relations begin.