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Genocide of indigenous peoples

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Title: Genocide of indigenous peoples  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Genocide of indigenous peoples, Utilitarian genocide, Indian removal, Selknam Genocide, Genocidal rape
Collection: Anti-Indigenous Racism, Genocide, Genocide of Indigenous Peoples, Genocide of Indigenous Peoples of the Americas
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Genocide of indigenous peoples

Genocide of indigenous peoples is the genocidal destruction of indigenous peoples, understood as ethnic minorities whose territory has been occupied by colonial expansion or the formation of a nation state,[Note 1] by a dominant political group such as a colonial power or a nation state.[1]

While the concept of genocide was formulated by [3][4] According to David Maybury-Lewis, imperial and colonial forms of genocide are enacted in two main ways, either through the deliberate clearing of territories of their original inhabitants in order to make them exploitable for purposes of resource extraction or colonial settlements, or through enlisting indigenous peoples as forced laborers in colonial or imperialist projects of resource extraction.[5] The designation of specific events as genocidal is often controversial.[6]

Some scholars, among them Lemkin, have argued that cultural genocide, sometimes called ethnocide, should also be recognized. A people may continue to exist, but are prevented from perpetuating their group identity by prohibitions against cultural and religious practices that are the basis of that identity. The accusation of cultural genocide carried out by the Chinese during the occupation of Tibet is an example.[7][8][9]


  • Genocide debate 1
  • Pre-1948 examples 2
    • The question of colonization and genocide in the Americas 2.1
      • Mexico 2.1.1
      • United States colonization and westward expansion 2.1.2
        • Indian Removal and the Trail of Tears
        • American Indian Wars
        • Colonization of California and Oregon
      • Spanish colonization of the Americas 2.1.3
    • Portuguese colonial expansion in Africa and Brazil 2.2
    • Russian Empire's conquest of Siberia 2.3
    • Japanese colonization of Hokkaido 2.4
    • Vietnamese conquest of Champa and the Central Highlands 2.5
    • Qing Dynasty 2.6
    • British Empire 2.7
    • Colonization of Australia and Tasmania 2.8
    • Rubber Boom in Congo and Putumayo 2.9
    • Congo Free State 2.10
    • Herero and Namaqua genocide 2.11
  • Contemporary examples 3
    • Bangladesh 3.1
    • Brazil 3.2
    • Colombia 3.3
    • Congo (DRC) 3.4
    • East Timor 3.5
    • Guatemala 3.6
    • Irian Jaya/West Papua 3.7
    • Myanmar 3.8
    • Paraguay 3.9
    • Tibet 3.10
  • Footnotes 4
  • References 5
  • Bibliography 6

Genocide debate

The concept of genocide was defined in 1944 by Raphael Lemkin. After World War II, it was adopted by the United Nations in 1948. For Lemkin, genocide was broadly defined and included all attempts to destroy a specific ethnic group, whether strictly physical through mass killings, or cultural or psychological through oppression and destruction of indigenous ways of life.[Note 2][10]

The UN definition, which is used in international law, is narrower than Lemkin's, and states that genocide is: "...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."[11]

Most attempts to define specific events as genocidal are disputed to various degrees, especially when the victims are minority groups such as indigenous peoples and the alleged perpetrator is a modern nation state rather than a colonial empire. In these cases, whether or not genocide occurred is a legal question to be settled in International human rights courts.

The determination of whether a historical event should be considered genocide can be a matter of scholarly debate. Because legal liability is not at issue, the UN definition may not always provide the basis for such discussions. Historians may draw on broader definitions such as Lemkin's, which sees colonialist violence against indigenous peoples as inherently genocidal. For example, in the case of the colonization of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas, when 90% of the indigenous population was wiped out in 500 years of European colonization, it can be debatable whether genocide occurs when disease was the main cause of population decline, since there are some instance of deliberate introduction of disease, but the vast majority of instances without the intent to cause death. Some scholars argue that intent of genocide is not necessary, since genocide may be the cumulative result of minor conflicts in which settlers, or colonial or state agents, perpetrate violence against minority groups.[1] Others argue that the dire consequences of European diseases among many New World populations were exacerbated by different forms of genocidal violence, and that intentional and unintentional deaths cannot easily be separated.[12][13] Some scholars regard the colonization of the Americas as genocide, since they argue it was largely achieved through systematically exploiting, removing and destroying specific ethnic groups, even when most deaths were caused by disease and not direct violence from colonizers. In this view, the concept of "manifest destiny" in the westward expansion from the eastern United States can be seen as contributing to genocide.[14][15]

Pre-1948 examples

A scene depicting the (Qing Dynasty's) genocidal campaign against the Miao people at Lancaoping in 1795.

In the 16th century, the expansion of European empires led to the conquering of the Americas, Africa, Australasia and Asia. This period of expansion resulted in several instances of massacres, and genocide. Many indigenous peoples, such as the Yuki, Beothuk the Pallawah and Herero, were brought to the brink of extinction. In some cases, entire tribes were annihilated.[16][17]

The question of colonization and genocide in the Americas

Estimates of population decline in the Americas from the first contact with Europeans in 1492 until the turn of the 20th century depend on the estimation of the initial pre-contact population. In the early 20th century, scholars estimated low populations for the pre-contact Americas, with Alfred Kroeber's estimate as low as 8,4 million people in the entire hemisphere. Archaeological findings and a better overview of early censuses have contributed to much higher estimates. Dobyns (1966) estimated a pre-contact population of 90-112 million. Denevan's more conservative estimate was 57.3 million.[18] Russell Thornton (1987) arrived at a figure around 70 million.[19] Depending on the estimate of the initial population, by 1900 the indigenous population can be said to have declined by more than 80%, due mostly to the effects of diseases such as smallpox, measles and cholera, but also violence and warfare by colonizers against the Indians.

Scholars who have argued prominently that this population decline can be considered genocidal include historian David Stannard[20] and anthropological demographer Russell Thornton,[21] as well as scholar activists such as Vine Deloria, Jr., Russell Means and Ward Churchill. Stannard compares the events of colonization that led to the population decline in the Americas with the definition of genocide in the 1948 UN convention, and writes that "In light of the U.N. language—even putting aside some of its looser constructions—it is impossible to know what transpired in the Americas during the sixteenth seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and not conclude that it was genocide".[22] Thornton does not consider the onslaught of disease to be genocide, and only describes as genocide the direct impact of warfare, violence and massacres, many of which had the effect of wiping out entire ethnic groups.[23] Holocaust scholar and political scientist Guenter Lewy rejects the label of genocide and views the depopulation of the Americas as "not a crime but a tragedy".[24]


In 1835, the government of Mexican state Sonora put a bounty on the Apache which, over time, evolved into a payment by the government of 100 pesos for each scalp of a male 14 or more years old.[25] Author and historian James L. Haley wrote: "Beginning in 1837 Chihuahua state also offered bounty, 100 pesos per warrior, 50 pesos per woman, and 25 pesos per child, nothing more or less than genocide."[25] According to Harris Worcester: "The new policy attracted a diverse group of men, including Anglos, runaway slaves led by Seminole John Horse, and Indians — Kirker used Delawares and Shawnees; others, such as Terrazas, used Tarahumaras; and Seminole Chief Coacoochee led a band of his own people who had fled from Indian Territory."[26]

United States colonization and westward expansion

In the late 16th century, England, France, Spain and the Netherlands launched colonization efforts in the part of North America that is now the United States.[27] The United States has not been legally admonished by the international community for genocidal acts against its indigenous population, but many commentators and academics argue that events such as The Trail of Tears, the Sand Creek Massacre and the Mendocino War were genocidal in nature.[28] Some accounts of genocidal massacres, such as Ward Churchill's claim that the US Army distributed blankets infected with small pox to the Mandans at Fort Clark in 1837, have been shown to be false.[29]

Indian Removal and the Trail of Tears

Following the Indian Removal Act of 1830 the American government began forcibly relocating East Coast tribes across the Mississippi. The removal included many members of the Cherokee, Muscogee (Creek), Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations, among others in the United States, from their homelands to Indian Territory in eastern sections of the present-day state of Oklahoma. About 2,500–6,000 died along the trail of tears. [30] Historians such as David Stannard[31] and Barbara Mann[32] have noted that the army deliberately routed the march of the Cherokee to pass through areas of known cholera epidemic, such as Vicksburg. Stannard estimates that during the forced removal from their homelands, following the Indian Removal Act signed into law by President Andrew Jackson in 1830, 8000 Cherokee died, about half the total population.[31]

American Indian Wars
A mass grave being dug for frozen bodies from the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre, in which the U.S. Army killed 150 Lakota people, marking the end of the American Indian Wars
During the American Indian Wars, the American Army carried out a number of massacres and forced relocations of Indigenous peoples that are sometimes considered genocide. The Sand Creek Massacre, which caused outrage in its own time, has been called genocide. General John Chivington led a 700-man force of Colorado Territory militia in a massacre of 70–163 peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho, about two-thirds of whom were women, children, and infants. Chivington and his men took scalps and other body parts as trophies, including human fetuses and male and female genitalia.[33] In defense of his actions Chivington stated,
Damn any man who sympathizes with Indians! ... I have come to kill Indians, and believe it is right and honorable to use any means under God's heaven to kill Indians. ... Kill and scalp all, big and little; nits make lice.
—- Col. John Milton Chivington, U.S. Army[34]
Colonization of California and Oregon

The U.S. colonization of California started in earnest in 1849, and resulted in a large number of massacres by colonists against Indians in the territory, causing several entire ethnic groups to be wiped out. In one such series of conflicts, the so-called Mendocino War and the subsequent Round Valley War, the entire Yuki people was brought to the brink of extinction, from a previous population of some 3,500 people to fewer than 100. According to Russell Thornton, estimates of the pre-Columbian population of California was at least 310,000, and perhaps as much as 705,000. By 1849, due to Spanish and Mexican colonization and epidemics this number had decreased to 100,000. But from 1849 and up until 1890 the Indigenous population of California had fallen below 20,000, primarily because of the killings.[35] Approximately 4,500 California Indians were killed between 1849 and 1870, while many more perished due to disease.[36]

Spanish colonization of the Americas

A 16th-century illustration by Flemish Protestant Theodor de Bry for Las Casas's Brevisima relación de la destrucción de las Indias, depicting Spanish atrocities during the conquest of Cuba

It is estimated that during the Spanish conquest of the Americas up to eight million indigenous people died, mainly through disease.[37] Acts of brutality in the Caribbean and the systematic annihilation occurring on the Caribbean islands prompted Dominican friar Bartolomé de las Casas to write Brevísima relación de la destrucción de las Indias ("A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies") in 1552. Las Casas wrote that the indigenous population on the Spanish colony of Hispaniola had been reduced from 400,000 to 200 in a few decades.[38] His works were among those that gave rise to the term Leyenda Negra (Black Legend) to describe anti-Spanish propaganda.[39]

With the initial conquest of the Americas completed, the Spanish implemented the encomienda system. In theory, encomienda placed groups of indigenous peoples under Spanish oversight to foster cultural assimilation and conversion to Christianity, but in practice led to the legally sanctioned exploitation of natural resources and forced labor under brutal conditions with a high death rate. Though the Spaniards did not set out to exterminate the indigenous peoples, believing their numbers to be inexhaustible, their actions led to the annihilation of entire tribes such as the Arawak.[40] In the 1760s, an expedition despatched to fortify California, led by Gaspar de Portolà and Junípero Serra, was marked by slavery, forced conversions and genocide through the introduction of disease.[41]

Portuguese colonial expansion in Africa and Brazil

Some have argued that genocide occurred during the Portuguese colonization of the Americas, starting in 1549 by Pedro Álvares Cabral on the coast of what is now the country of Brazil. It has also been argued that genocide has occurred during the modern era with the ongoing destruction of the Jivaro, Yanomami and other tribes.[42][43] Over 80 indigenous tribes disappeared between 1900 and 1957, and of a population of over one million during this period 80% had been killed through deculturalization, disease, or murder.[44]

Russian Empire's conquest of Siberia

Cossacks collecting yasak in Siberia

Historian John F. Richards wrote: "... it is doubtful that the total early modern Siberian population exceeded 300,000 persons. ... New diseases weakened and demoralized the indigenous peoples of Siberia. The worst of these was smallpox "because of its swift spread, the high death rates, and the permanent disfigurement of survivors." ... In the 1650s, it moved east of the Yenisey, where it carried away up to 80 percent of the Tungus and Yakut populations. In the 1690s, smallpox epidemics reduced Yukagir numbers by an estimated 44 percent. The disease moved rapidly from group to group across Siberia."[45]

The Russian conquest of Siberia was accompanied by massacres due to indigenous resistance to colonization by the Russian Cossacks, who savagely crushed the natives. At the hands of people like Vasilii Poyarkov in 1645 and Yerofei Khabarov in 1650 some peoples like the Daur were slaughtered by the Russians to the extent that it is considered genocide. 8,000 out of a previously 20,000 strong population in Kamchatka remained after being subjected to half a century of Cossacks slaughter.[46] The Daurs initially deserted their villages since they heard about the cruelty of the Russians the first time Khabarov came.[47] The second time he came, the Daurs decided to do battle against the Russians instead but were slaughtered by Russian guns.[48] In the 17th century, indigenous peoples of the Amur region were attacked by Russians who came to be known as "red-beards".[49] The Russian Cossacks were named luocha (羅剎), after Demons found in Buddhist mythology, by the Amur natives because of their cruelty towards the Amur tribes people, who were subjects of the Qing dynasty during the Sino–Russian border conflicts.[50]

In the 1640s the Yakuts were subjected to slaughters during the Russian advance into their land near the Lena river, and on Kamchatka in the 1690s the Koryak, Kamchadals, and Chukchi were also subjected to slaughters by the Russians.[51] When the Russians did not obtain the demanded amount of yasak from the natives, the Governor of Yakutsk, Piotr Golovin, who was a Cossack, used meat hooks to hang the native men. In the Lena basin, 70% of the Yakut population died within 40 years, and rape and enslavement were used against native women and children in order to force the natives to pay the Yasak.[47]

In Kamchatka the Russians savagely crushed the Itelmens uprisings against their rule in 1706, 1731, and 1741, the first time the Itelmen were armed with stone weapons and were badly unprepared and equipped but they used gunpowder weapons the second time. The Russians faced tougher resistance when from 1745-56 they tried to exterminate the gun and bow equipped Koraks until their victory. The Russian Cossacks also faced fierce resistance and were forced to give up when trying unsuccessfully to wipe out the Chukchi through genocide in 1729, 1730-1, and 1744-7.[52] After the Russian defeat in 1729 at Chukchi hands, the Russian commander Major Pavlutskiy was responsible for the Russian war against the Chukchi and the mass slaughters and enslavement of Chukchi women and children in 1730-31, but his cruelty only made the Chukchis fight more fiercely.[53] A genocide of the Chukchis and Koraks was ordered by Empress Elizabeth in 1742 to totally expel them from their native lands and erase their culture through war. The command was that the natives be "totally extirpated" with Pavlutskiy leading again in this war from 1744-47 in which he led to the Cossacks "with the help of Almighty God and to the good fortune of Her Imperial Highness", to slaughter the Chukchi men and enslave their women and children as booty. However the Chukchi ended this campaign and forced them to give up by killing Pavlitskiy and decapitating his head.[54] The Russians were also launching wars and slaughters against the Koraks in 1744 and 1753-4. After the Russians tried to force the natives to convert to Christianity, the different native peoples like the Koraks, Chukchis, Itelmens, and Yukagirs all united to drive the Russians out of their land in the 1740s, culminating in the assault on Nizhnekamchatsk fort in 1746.[55] Kamchatka today is European in demographics and culture with only 2.5% of it being native, around 10,000 from a previous number of 150,000, due to the mass slaughters by the Cossacks after its annexation in 1697 of the Itelmen and Koryaks throughout the first decades of Russian rule.[56] The genocide by the Russian Cossacks devastated the native peoples of Kamchatka and exterminated much of their population.[57][58] In addition to committing genocide they Cossacks also devastated the wildlife by slaughtering massive amounts of animals for fur.[59] 90% of the Kamchadals and half of the Vogules were killed from the eighteenth to nineteenth centuries and the rapid genocide of the indigenous population led to entire ethnic groups being entirely wiped out, with around 12 exterminated groups which could be named by Nikolai Iadrintsev as of 1882. Much of the slaughter was brought on by the fur trade.[60]

The Aleuts in the Aleutians were subjected to genocide and slavery by the Russians for the first 20 years of Russian rule, with the Aleut women and children captured by the Russians and Aleut men slaughtered.[61]

The regionalist oblastniki in the 19th century among the Russians in Siberia acknowledged that the natives were subjected to immense genocidal cruelty by the Russian colonization, and claimed that they would rectify the situation with their proposed regionalist polices.[62] The Russians used "slaughter, alcoholism and disease" to bring the natives under their control, who were soon left in misery, and much of the evidence of their extermination has itself been destroyed by the Russians, with only a few artifacts documenting their presence remaining in Russian museums and collections.[63]

The Russian colonization of Siberia and conquest of its indigenous peoples has been compared to European colonization in the United States and its natives, with similar negative impacts on the natives and the appropriation of their land.[64] The Slavic Russians outnumber all of the native peoples in Siberia and its cities except in the Republic of Tuva, with the Slavic Russians making up the majority in the Buriat Republic, Sakha Republic, and Altai Republics, outnumbering the Buriat, Sakha, and Altai natives. The Buriat make up only 25% of their own Republic, and the Sakha and Altai each are only one-third, and the Chukchi, Evenk, Khanti, Mansi, and Nenets are outnumbered by non-natives by 90% of the population. The natives were targed by the Czars and Soviets policies to change their way of life and ethnic Russsians were given the native's reindeer herds and wild game which were confisticated by the Czars and Soviets. The reindeer herds have been mismanaged to the point of extinction. In just the American state of Arizona, the Native American population outnumbers the total northern Siberian native population of 180,000.[65]

Japanese colonization of Hokkaido

The Ainu are an indigenous people in Japan (Hokkaidō).[66] In a 2009 news story, Japan Today reported, "Many Ainu were forced to work, essentially as slaves, for Wajin (ethnic Japanese), resulting in the breakup of families and the introduction of smallpox, measles, cholera and tuberculosis into their community. In 1869, the new Meiji government renamed Ezo as Hokkaido and unilaterally incorporated it into Japan. It banned the Ainu language, took Ainu land away, and prohibited salmon fishing and deer hunting."[67] Roy Thomas wrote: "Ill treatment of native peoples is common to all colonial powers, and, at its worst, leads to genocide. Japan's native people, the Ainu, have, however, been the object of a particularly cruel hoax, as the Japanese have refused to accept them officially as a separate minority people."[68] In 2004 the small Ainu community living in Russia wrote a letter to Vladimir Putin, urging him to recognize the Japanese genocide against the Ainu people, which Putin declined.[69]

Vietnamese conquest of Champa and the Central Highlands

The Degar (Montagnard) people have been subjected to abuse and killing by the Vietnamese government, which settles ethnic Vietnamese into their native land in the Central Highlands. The Vietnamese also conquered Champa and settled its territory with Vietnamese migrants during the march to the south after fighting repeated wars with Champa, shatterring Champa in the invasion of Champa in 1471 and finally completing the conquest in 1832 under Emperor Minh Mang.

Qing Dynasty

The massacre of Oroi-Jalatu, 1756. Manchu general Zhao Hui attacked the Dzungars at night.

Some scholars estimate that about 80% of the Dzungar (Western Mongol) population (600,000 or more) were destroyed by a combination of warfare and disease in the Zunghar Genocide during the Qing conquest of Zunghar Khanate in 1755–1757, in which Manchu Bannermen and Khalkha Mongols exterminated the Dzungar Oirat Mongols.[70] Mark Levene, a historian whose recent research interests focus on genocide,[71] has stated that the extermination of the Dzungars was "arguably the eighteenth century genocide par excellence."[72]

Anti-Zunghar Uyghur rebels from the Turfan and Hami oases had submitted to Qing rule as vassals and requested Qing help for overthrowing Zunghar rule. Uyghur leaders like Emin Khoja were granted titles within the Qing nobility, and these Uyghurs helped supply the Qing military forces during the anti-Zunghar campaign.[73][74][75] The Qing employed Khoja Emin in its campaign against the Zunghars and used him as an intermediary with Muslims from the Tarim Basin to inform them that the Qing were only aiming to kill Oirats (Zunghars) and that they would leave the Muslims alone, and also to convince them to kill the Oirats (Zunghars) themselves and side with the Qing since the Qing noted the Muslims' resentment of their former experience under Zunghar rule at the hands of Tsewang Araptan.[76]

The Qing were the ones who unified Xinjiang and changed its demographic situation.[77] The depopulation of northern Xinjiang after the Buddhist Öölöd Mongols (Zunghars) were slaughtered, led to the Qing settling Manchu, Sibo (Xibe), Daurs, Solons, Han Chinese, Hui Muslims, and Turkic Muslim Taranchis in the north, with Han Chinese and Hui migrants making up the greatest number of settlers. Since it was the crushing of the Buddhist Öölöd (Dzungars) by the Qing which led to promotion of Islam and the empowerment of the Muslim Begs in southern Xinjiang, and migration of Muslim Taranchis to northern Xinjiang, it was proposed by Henry Schwarz that "the Qing victory was, in a certain sense, a victory for Islam".[78] Xinjiang was a unified defined geographic identity was created and developed by the Qing. It was the Qing who led to Turkic Muslim power in the region increasing since the Mongol power was crushed by the Qing while Turkic Muslim culture and identity was tolerated or even promoted by the Qing.[79]

Kim Lacy Rogers wrote: "In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, while the Hmong lived in south-western China, their Manchu overlords had labelled them 'Miao' ('barbarian' or 'savage') and targeted them for genocide when they defied being humiliated, oppressed, and enslaved."[80][81]

British Empire

The British Empire has been accused of several genocides.[82] The doctrine of terra nullius was used by the British to justify their seizure of territory in Australia and Tasmania. The death of the 3,000–15,000 Aboriginal Tasmanians has been called an act of genocide.[83][84]

Colonization of Australia and Tasmania

The extinction of the Tasmanian Aborigines is regarded as a classic case of genocide by Lemkin, most comparative scholars of genocide, and many general historians, including Robert Hughes, Ward Churchill, Leo Kuper and Jared Diamond, who base their analysis on previously published histories.[85] Between 1824 and 1908 White settlers and Native Mounted Police in Queensland, according to Raymond Evans, killed more than 10,000 Aborigines, who were regarded as vermin and sometimes even hunted for sport.[86]

Ben Kiernan, an Australian historian of genocide, treats the Australian evidence over the first century of colonization as an example of genocide in his 2007 history of the concept and practice, Blood and soil: a world history of genocide and extermination from Sparta to Darfur.[87] The Australian practice of removing the children of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent from their families, has been described as genocidal.[88][89] The 1997 report "Bringing them Home" concluded that the forced separation of Aboriginal children from their family constituted an act of genocide. [90] In the 1990s a number of Australian state institutions, including the state of Queensland, apologized for its policies regarding forcible separation of aboriginal children.[91] Another allegation against the Australian state is the use of medical services to Aboriginals to administer contraceptive therapy to aboriginal women without their knowledge or consent, including the use of Depo Provera, as well as tubal ligations. Both forced adoption and forced contraception would fall under the provisions of the UN genocide convention.[92] Many Australian politicians and scholars, including historian Geoffrey Blainey, political scientist Ken Minogue and prominently professor Keith Windschuttle, reject the view that Australian aboriginal policy was genocidal.[88]

Rubber Boom in Congo and Putumayo

Amazonian Indians enslaved during the rubber boom in the Putumayo region of Peru

From 1879 to 1912, the world experienced a rubber boom. Rubber prices skyrocketed, and it became increasingly profitable to extract rubber from rainforest zones in South America and Central Africa. Rubber extraction was labor-intensive, and the need for a large workforce had a significant negative effect on the indigenous population across Brazil, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia and in the Congo. The owners of the plantations or rubber barons were rich, but those who collected the rubber made very little, as a large amount of rubber was needed to be profitable. Rubber barons rounded up all the Indians and forced them to tap rubber out of the trees. Slavery and gross human rights abuses were widespread, and in some areas 90% of the Indian population was wiped out. One plantation started with 50,000 Indians and when the killings were discovered, only 8,000 were still alive. These rubber plantations were part of the Brazilian rubber market which declined as rubber plantations in Southeast Asia became more effective.[93]

Roger Casement, an Irishman travelling the Putumayo region of Peru as a British consul during 1910-1911, documented the abuse, slavery, murder and use of stocks for torture against the native Indians: [94]

"The crimes charged against many men now in the employ of the Peruvian Amazon Company are of the most atrocious kind, including murder, violation, and constant flogging."

Congo Free State

Under Leopold II of Belgium the population loss in the Congo Free State is estimated at sixty percent.[95] Congo Free State was especially hard hit by sleeping sickness and smallpox epidemics.[96]

Herero and Namaqua genocide

Herero survivors after an escape through the arid Kalahari desert

Atrocites against the indigenous African population by the German colonial empire can be dated to the earliest German settlements on the continent. The German colonial authorities carried out genocide in German South-West Africa (GSWA) and the survivors were incarcerated in concentration camps. It was also reported that, between 1885 and 1918, the indigenous population of Togo, German East Africa (GEA) and the Cameroons suffered from various human rights abuses including starvation from scorched earth tactics and forced relocation for use as labour. The German Empire's action in GSWA against the Herero tribe is considered by Howard Ball to be the first genocide of the 20th century.[97] After the Herero, Namaqua and Damara began an uprising against the colonial government,[98] General Lothar von Trotha, appointed as head of the German forces in GSWA by Emperor Wilhelm II in 1904, gave the order for the German forces to push them into the desert where they would die.[99] In 2004, the German state apologised for the genocide.[100] While many argue that the military campaign in Tanzania to suppress the Maji Maji Rebellion in GEA between 1905 and 1907 was not an act of genocide, as the military did not have as an intentional goal the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Africans, according to Dominik J. Schaller, the statement [Note 3] released at the time by Governor Gustav Adolf von Götzen did not exculpate him from the charge of genocide, but was proof that the German administration knew that their scorched earth methods would result in famine.[101] It is estimated that 200,000 Africans died from famine with some areas completely and permanently devoid of human life.[102][103][104]

Contemporary examples

The genocide of indigenous tribes is still an ongoing feature in the modern world, with the ongoing depopulation of the Jivaro, Yanomami and other tribes in Brazil having be described as genocide.[43] The states actions in Bangladesh, against the Jumma have been described internationally as ethnic cleansing and genocide.[105][106][107] Paraguay has also been accused of carrying out a genocide against the Aché whose case was brought before the Inter-American Human Rights Commission. The commission gave a provisional ruling that genocide had not been committed by the state, but did express concern over "possible abuses by private persons in remote areas of the territory of Paraguay."[108]


In Bangladesh, the persecution of the indigenous tribes of the Chittagong Hill Tracts such as the Chakma, Marma, Tripura and others who are mainly Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, and Animists, has been described as genocidal.[109][110][111][112][113] The Chittagong Hill Tracts are located bordering India, Myanmar and the Bay of Bengal, and is the home to 500,000 indigenous people. The perpetrators of are the Bangladeshi military and the Bengali Muslim settlers, who together have burned down Buddhist and Hindu temples, killed many Chakmas, and carried out a policy of gang-rape against the indigenous people. There are also accusations of Chakmas being forced to convert to Islam, many of them children who have been abducted for this purpose. The conflict started soon after Bangladeshi independence in 1972 when the Constitution imposed Bengali as the sole official language, Islam as the state religion - with no cultural or linguistic rights to minority populations. Subsequently the government encouraged and sponsored massive settlement by Bangladeshis in region, which changed the demographics from 98 percent indigenous in 1971 to fifty percent by 2000. The government allocated a full third of the Bangladeshi military to the region to support the settlers, sparking a protracted guerilla war between Hill tribes and the military.[110] During this conflict which officially ended in 1997, and in the subsequent period, a large number of human rights violations against the indigenous peoples have been reported, with violence against indigenous women being particularly extreme.[114]


Indigenous protesters from Vale do Javari in Belém

In the late 1950s until 1968, the state of Brazil submitted their indigenous peoples of Brazil to violent attempts to integrate, pacify and acculturate their communities. In 1967 public prosecutor Jader de Figueiredo Correia, submitted the Figueiredo Report to the dictatorship which was then ruling the country, the report which ran to seven thousand pages was not released until 2013. The report documents genocidal crimes against the indigenous peoples of Brazil, including mass murder, torture and bacteriological and chemical warfare, reported slavery, and sexual abuse The rediscovered documents are being examined by the National Truth Commission who have been tasked with the investigations of human rights violations which occurred in the periods 1947 through to 1988. The report reveals that the IPS had enslaved indigenous people, tortured children and stolen land. The Truth Commission is of the opinion that entire tribes in Maranhão were completely eradicated and in Mato Grosso, an attack on thirty Cinturão Largo left only two survivors. The report also states that landowners and members of the IPS had entered isolated villages and deliberately introduced smallpox. Of the one hundred and thirty four people accused in the report the state has as yet not tried a single one,[115] since the Amnesty Law passed in the end of the dictatorship does not allow trials for the abuses which happened in such period. The report also detailed instances of mass killings, rapes and torture, Figueiredo stated that the actions of the IPS had left the indigenous peoples near extinction. The state abolished the IPS following the release of the report. The Red Cross launched an investigation after further allegations of ethnic cleansing were made after the IPS had been replaced. [116][117]


In the protracted conflict in Colombia, indigenous groups such as the Awá, Wayuu, Pijao and Paez people have become subjected to intense violence by right-wing paramilitaries, leftist guerrillas, and the Colombian army.[118][119] Drug cartels, international resource extraction companies and the military have also used violence to force the indigenous groups out of their territories.[120][121][122] The [123][124]

Congo (DRC)

In the Democratic Republic of Congo genocidal violence against the indigenous Mbuti, Lese and Ituri peoples has been endemic for decades. During the Congo Civil War (1998–2003), Pygmies were hunted down and eaten by both sides in the conflict, who regarded them as subhuman.[125] Sinafasi Makelo, a representative of Mbuti pygmies, has asked the UN Security Council to recognize cannibalism as a crime against humanity and also as an act of genocide.[126] According to a report by Minority Rights Group International there is evidence of mass killings, cannibalism and rape. The report, which labeled these events as a campaign of extermination, linked much of the violence to beliefs about special powers held by the Bambuti.[127] In Ituri district, rebel forces ran an operation code-named "Effacer le tableau" (to wipe the slate clean). The aim of the operation, according to witnesses, was to rid the forest of pygmies.[128][129][130]

East Timor

Indonesia international intervention force to be deployed for a vote by the population for independence of East Timor in 1999. The vote was significant in favor of independence and the Indonesian forces withdrew, although paramilitaries continued carrying out reprisal attacks for a few years.[131][132] A UN Report on the Indonesian occupation identified starvation, defoliant and napalm use, torture, rape, sexual slavery, disappearances, public executions, and extrajudicial killings as sanctioned by the Indonesian government and the entire colflict resulting in reducing the population to a third of its 1975 level.[133]


During the Guatemalan Civil War (1960 - 1996) the state forces carried out violent atrocities against the Maya. The government considered the Maya to be aligned with the communist insurgents, which they sometimes were but often were not. Guatemalan armed forces carried out three campaigns that have been described as genocidal. The first was a scorched earth policy which was also accompanied by mass killing, including the forced conscription of Mayan boys into the military where they were sometimes forced to participate in massacres against their own home villages. The second was to hunt down and exterminate those who had survived and evaded the army and the third was the forced relocation of survivors to "reeducation centers" and the continued pursuit of those who had fled into the mountains.[134] The armed forces used genocidal rape of women and children as a deliberate tactic. Children were bludgeoned to death by beating them against walls or thrown alive into mass graves were they would be crushed by the weight of the adult dead thrown atop them.[135] An estimated 200,000 people, most of them Maya, disappeared during the Guatemalan Civil War.[130] After the 1996 peace accords a legal process was begun to determine the legal responsibility of the atrocities, and to locate and identify the disappeared. In 2013 former president Efraín Ríos Montt was convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity, and was sentenced to 80 years imprisonment.[136] Ten days later, the Constitutional Court of Guatemala overturned the conviction.[137][138]

Irian Jaya/West Papua

From the time of its independence until the late 1960s, the

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  1. ^ The definition of "indigenous peoples", is controversial. This article uses a definition of "indigenous peoples" similar to used by international legislation by UN, UNESCO, ILO and WTO, as well as by the majority of relevant scholarship which applies to those ethnic minorities that were indigenous to a territory prior to being incorporated into a national state, and who are politically and culturally separate from the majority ethnic identity of the state that they are a part of. This definition differs from the commonsense definition of indigenous peoples as being simply the first known inhabitants of a territory.
  2. ^ By 'genocide' we mean the destruction of an ethnic group . . . . Generally speaking, genocide does not necessarily mean the immediate destruction of a nation, except when accomplished by mass killings of all members of a nation. It is intended rather to signify a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves. The objectives of such a plan would be disintegration of the political and social institutions, of culture, language, national feelings, religion, and the economic existence of national groups, and the destruction of the personal security, liberty, health, dignity, and even the lives of the individuals belonging to such groups.
  3. ^ "As in all wars against uncivilized nations the systematic damage to hostile people's goods and chattels was indispensable in this case. The destruction of economic values like the burning of villages and food supplies might seem barbaric. It one considers, however, on the one hand, in what short time African Negro huts are erected anew and the luxuriant growth of tropic nature gives rise to new field crops, and on the other hand the subjection of the enemy was only possible through a procedure like this, then one will consequently take a more favourable view of this dira necessitas."


David White states "In all, over one million Tibetans, a fifth of the population, had died as a result of Chinese occupation up until the end of the Cultural Revolution."[152]

On 5 June 1959 Shri Purshottam Trikamdas, Senior Advocate, NGO):


There are 17 indigenous tribes who live primarily in the Chaco region of Paraguay. In 2002, their numbers were estimated at 86,000. During the period between 1954 and 1989, when the military dictatorship of General Alfredo Stroessner ruled Paraguay, the indigenous population of the country suffered from more loss of territory and human rights abuses than at any other time in the nation's history. In early 1970, international groups claimed that the state was complicit in the genocide of the Aché, with charges ranging from kidnapping and the sale of children, withholding medicines and food, slavery and torture.[148] During the 1960s and 1970s, 85% of the Aché tribe died, often hacked to death with machetes, in order to make room for the timber industry, mining, farming and ranchers.[42] According to Jérémie Gilbert, the situation in Paraguay has proven that it is difficult to provide the proof required to show "specific intent", in support of a claim that genocide had occurred. The Aché, whose cultural group is now seen as extinct, fell victim to development by the state who had promoted the exploration of their territories by transnational companies for natural resources. Gilbert concludes that although a planned and voluntary destruction had occurred, it is argued by the state that there was no intent to destroy the Aché, as what had happened was due to development and was not a deliberate action.[149][150]


In Myanmar (Burma), the long running civil war between the Military Junta and the insurgents has resulted in widespread atrocities against the indigenous Karen people some of whom are allied with the insurgents. These atrocities have been described as genocidal.[144] Burmese General Maung Hla stated that one day Karen would only exist "in a museum"[145] The government has deployed 50 battalions in the Northern sector systematically attacking Karen villages with mortar and machine gun fire, and landmines. At least 446,000 Karen have been displaced from their homes by the military.[144][146] Karen are also reported to have been be subjected to forced labor, genocidal rape, child labor and the conscription of child soldiers.[147]


[143] had committed genocide through environmental destruction which "resulted in the purposeful, deliberate, contrived and planned demise of a culture of indigenous people," the court found that genocide pertains only to destruction of indigenous people and did not apply to the destruction of the culture of indigenous people; however, the court did leave open the opportunity for the petitioners to amend their filings with additional claim.Freeport-McMoRan, one of the first lawsuits where indigenous people outside the U.S. petitioned to get a ruling against a multinational corporation for environmental destruction outside of the U.S. While the petitioner, an indigenous leader, claimed that the mining company Beanal v. Freeport Genocide against indigenous people in the region were key claims made in the U.S. case of [142] A 2004 report by the Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School identified both the mass violence and the transmigration policies which encouraged Balinese and Javanese families to relocate to the area as strong evidence "that the Indonesian government has committed proscribed acts with the intent to destroy the West Papuans as such, in violation of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide."[141] The resulting human rights abuses included extrajudicial killings, torture, disappearances, rape, and harassment of indigenous people throughout the province.[140]

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