This land is whose land?

By Sarah Berentson

Mankind has an obsession with own­ership. Mainly this obsession pertains to land. Land is tied to power, and pow­er, above all else, seems to be the ulti­mate goal of every country. This desire to draw lines – dividing the world into countries and creating ownership – has not always been the case.

It’s said that the Native Americans didn’t understand the concept of own­ing a piece of land. An article on Ushis­ said, “selling land was like sell­ing air” to them. I think they felt this way because they were not concerned with obtaining power; they were concerned with surviving. At times the thirst for power overcomes our belief in moral obligations to each other.

An example of this abandonment of morals is evident in the history of Na­tive Americans. Even though the Na­tive Americans inhabited the land first, in the end that wasn’t really important. During the 19th century, there were several Native American removal poli­cies administered, the most famous being the Trail of Tears. Some consider these policies an act of genocide as many Native Americans died as a result of the move. President Andrew Jackson, the first proponent and instigator of these acts stated that the removal poli­cies will,

“ … separate the Indians from im­mediate contact with settlements of whites; free them from the power of the States; enable them to pursue happi­ness in their own way and under their own rude institutions; will retard the progress of decay, which is lessening their numbers, and perhaps cause them gradually, under the protection of the Government and through the influence of good counsels, to cast off their savage habits and become an interesting, civi­lized, and Christian community.”

Apparently Andrew Jackson didn’t believe in “first-come first-served,” and he certainly didn’t believe in justice. Fast forward to present time and it is these policies that led to the total de­struction of a variety of Native Ameri­can cultures. When it comes to land ownership, based on our history, it is a free-for-all. Deeply rooted in our history is the idea that no one has rights to the land. He who has the most power, force and strength, is he who gets the land.

Maintaining land seems to be more important than any moral obligation. Although our Declaration of Indepen­dence claims that all men have the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happi­ness,” if there is any risk to our country, we feel free to dispose of our so called values.

All men have these rights … except the Native Americans because we need­ed their land. Oh! And not the Japanese during WWII. Actually, let’s put them in internment camps instead and deprive them of their rights because they all might be spies. Oh, and definitely not the Haitians who are trying to float here on rafts … let them just drown at sea, as they might crowd up our precious land and take our jobs.

What I am trying to say is that man­kind has gone overboard on ownership. The idea of claiming land is rather bi­zarre. However, land is seen as a vehicle to power, as we can see in our very own country’s history where moral obliga­tion was dismissed in the quest or the maintenance of power.

America isn’t the only guilty party in­volved, this is obviously an issue world wide. Who decided land was something we could own? Something we could kill people over? All around the world the quest for land has killed millions of people. Millions of people have died over something that we all must share. When will we stop trying to conquer one another for something that really can’t be ours?

I’m with the Native Americans on this one; land is like the air, we all need it to survive. However, mankind is con­vinced that gaining power is our des­tiny. Daniel Quinn’s “Ishmael” sums it up, “that may be the ultimate destiny of man: to conquer and rule the entire universe. That’s how wonderful man is.”

Inevitably, we will eliminate each other, leaving behind the one thing we were fighting for: the land.

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