America Does Have an "Original Sin": A Response to James GoodmanHistorians/History
tags: slavery, Native American history, religious history, Indian Removal, Theology, Settler Colonialism
Joshua Ward Jeffery is Assistant Professor of History and Diné Studies at Navajo Technical University, and the editor of H-High-S, H-Net’s High School History and Social Studies Education Network. His research and teaching interests include American religious history, political history, environmental history, the history of the American West, political theology, and post-colonialism. His latest published project is part of a collaboration with several colleagues from Lipscomb University on the political theology of David Lipscomb, is Resisting Babel: Allegiance to God and the Problem of Government (ACU Press, 2020).
As part of settler colonialism, indigenous communities are denied their full sovereignty. Recently, two different indigenous nations in South Dakota shut down their borders to non-tribal members in order to keep the virus from infiltrating their communities, since the massively underfunded Indian Health Service would be quickly and completely overwhelmed by the arrival of COVID-19 to their reservations. In response, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem threatened both tribal governments with lawsuits if they did not allow traffic to flow freely in and out of their reservation. The requirements of settler colonialism and capitalism demanded the death of more indigenous people in order to keep money and “liberty” flowing. Settler colonialism is America’s original sin, and it continues unabated to this very day. America will continue to find itself in hell—or at least, in purgatory—until it repents from and seeks redemption for its actual original sin. Additionally, American scholars will continue to misunderstand American society and culture if they fail to take stock of American civil religion and the spiritual beliefs of Americans in general. Original sin, after all, must be cleansed by a redeemer, but first, we must acknowledge our complicity in the sins of our ancestors.
Editors Note: HNN excerpted the essay by James Goodman referred to here in our Roundup of op-eds in February.
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