Thursday, June 07, 2007

Phil Sheridan & Tosawi

On occasion, our troops killed unarmed enemy prisoners in the Second World War, and LT William Calley oversaw the slaughter of women and children at My Lai. Now we have prison interrogators who held themselves above international and moral law, some of whom are still being trained right here at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, where the terms "Raghead" and "Sand Nigger" are used by instructors in referring to citizens of Middle East. (Does that mean that our friends in Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, etc. are "Sand Niggers" too?). To paraphrase General Phillip Sheridan, is the only "good 'Sand Nigger' a dead 'Sand Nigger'?" ~ Wade Sanders, The Greatest Country In The World

Comanche Leader Tosawi (Toshaway, Toshua, Silver Brooch)

General Philip Henry Sheridan (1831-1888)

During the so-called "Indian Wars" of the second half of the 19th Century in the U.S. West, a Comanche leader, Tosawi of the Ponetaka band, led numerous raids on settlers in the American Southwest. In 1867-’68, the U.S. Cavalry made a concentrated effort to end these raids. Tosawi was the first Comanche leader to surrender to the military at Fort Cobb in the Indian Territory.

As the story goes, shortly after surrendering, Tosawi met with General Philip H. Sheridan:

Tosawi: Tosawi, good Indian.

Sheridan: The only good Indians I ever saw were dead.

Sheridan’s notorious response was later misquoted as: The only good Indian is a dead Indian.

There is some doubt as to whether Phil Sheridan actually made either statement. Wolfgang Mieder states in The Only Good Indian Is a Dead Indian: History and Meaning of a Proverbial Stereotype that it is highly unlikely that Sheridan actually spoke those words. However, Tosawi recounted the story numerous times, always attributing the statement to Sheridan.

I first encountered the statement The only good… when I was an R.O.T.C. cadet in the 1960s. The phrase then was The only good Gook is a dead Gook. “Gook” in this context referred to a Vietnamese.

I was reminded of that horrible phrase recently when I heard the statement: The only good sand nigger is a dead sand nigger. That pejorative term evidently is used by U.S. solders to refer to Muslims. The phrase shocked and appalled me, as did the reference to Vietnamese in the 1960s and, when I read of it, the original phrase attributed to General Sheridan.

How can there be justice, much less peace, when we use such terminology to degrade and dehumanize other people?

As I did research for this post, I found a bit of light in the midst of the darkness where I least expected it: I urge you to read the article by Wade Sanders, The Greatest Country In The World, at from which I quoted at the beginning of this post. Further in the article, Sanders writes:

It is our hubris, a "holier than thou" attitude that permeates our national psyche, and infuriates the rest of the world. It isn't that we are worse than everyone else; it is that we continually crow that we are better than everyone else and this hypocrisy grates on the international community. ~ Wade Sanders, The Greatest Country In The World

But that’s just part of his article. Please read all of it.


  1. Amazing, but not surprising.

    ”How can there be justice, much less peace, when we use such terminology to degrade and dehumanize other people?”

    Anger, resentment, war, and even a blogger argument, such as what I went through with Dani can lead to detrimental words, causing hurt and anguish. It’s a huge holy war. When we’re at war, we hurt each other with whatever we have available, and sometimes the weapons we use are words.

    It's sad, but true. And, as you've seen with words, history repeats itself.

  2. You are such a wealth of knowledge. Wowza!


  3. Hi Nick ~~ Such a shame, people use derogatory language about other people. So many of us do it, so what chance peace? Thanks for sharing that
    Thanks for your comments Nick.
    I am so sorry you do not have air=conditioning in your home or car.
    90 F is getting too warm without it.
    As we are in Winter, we must expect the cold, but at least we do not have snow. Only on the mountains.
    Take care, Nick, Regards, Merle.

  4. Hi Nick! I came because of Susie, I stayed because of you. I have just spent HOURS reading your it! I enjoy your jokes, I am inspired by your spiritual writings, feel connected to you because of your depression and most of all, I pray that your life continues to improve and get back on track!

    I have thinking for several months I would like to attend service at an UCC church...if the pastors there are at least somewhat similar to you...I believe I may find a home at last!

    Keep up the good work and congrats on your new award!

    Best wishes!!

  5. Prejudice has been around forever. This doesn't make it right. Thanks for all of your research and a well-thought-out post.

  6. That was interesting. In the last few years I've noticed a growing number of people...especially young people from outside the US that really disliked Americans in general. I was confused by it, and then when I figured out where their dislike was coming from I was really shocked. Perhaps because I never felt that way. I never felt that the US was any better or worse then other countries.

  7. What a thought provoking post, Nick. I think the word "nigger" is so ugly, as are all derogatory words to describe people of a different hue, religion or country, ie not "white".

    I just don't think there is any need for it, unfortunately there will always be those who use such terms. It's a real indictment on the phrase goes, "man's inhumanity to man". It has been coming to mind more and more as I read today's news.

  8. The prejudice against Native Americans continues throughout much of the West. One would think it would have abated by now.

  9. My maternal great-great grandfather
    was part white, part Cherokee Indian. This was during slave days when Africans were called "niggers" and were deemed to be subhuman and "one drop of African blood made you a nigger".

    Native Americans (Indians) were called "red niggers" and were classed as only a slight degree above "black niggers". Niggers of any color were not allowed to attend Universities nor Medical Schools (neither were women). My great-great gtandfather aspired to be a medical doctor and through the influence of his white father/grandfather, a local (white) doctor allowed him to be apprenticed to him, to learn medical practise through experience and by studyinbg the doctor's medical books.

    White doctors did not treat black slaves so slave owners had to call in a veterinarian when their slaves needed medical attention.
    Grandfather Rasco was able to eke out a living when he established his medical practise by treating slaves and sometimes poor whites who could not afford white doctors' fees. While treating slaves at a plantation, he met the slave owner's daughter and they fell in love. In spite of vociferous family objections, this hard headed, independent minded great-great grandmother of mine married her "red nigger". The resultant scandal could not have been worse if she had married a black nigger slave!

    Suddenly, from being an admired and respected member of the socially elite, she was transformed into a woman of the lowest repute; the pair were subjected to most cruel and vicious prejudice and discrimination that drove them ever more southerly, south-westerly until eventually they came to a poorly settled part of Texas where a doctor of any kind was welcomed. There they prospered and were highly regarded members of the community.

    The family stories of their suffering and travails simply because of great-great grandfather's race impacted succeeding generations very strongly. Most of the clan are very much opposed to racial discrimination. We REMEMBER!!

  10. Hi! Thank you for your words. I am live in a predominantly African American intercity area that is set within a rural part of the country. Several years ago I had an encounter with a elderly neighbor I have often thought back on. I do a lot of work with animal rescue and once a gentleman who did not know me well approached me and asked why I spent so much money on the animals when there were people that needed help. I thought for a moment then replied that with the animals, they just want food, some care and love, with people helping is harder because they always want more. I related how we had recently loaned a friend in the safe shelter some money but every time we saw her she seem embarrassed about the money and it was a barrier between us. We could not convince her we were just interested in how she was doing, eventually we lost all contact because she avoided us.
    He thought about this for several minutes and got very quite then he said, “Yes, I can see that is true, people are like that. You know what I can not understand, when I was in the War we were taught that the Japs were lower than animals- just good for killing- now I see the President on TV shacking their hands –everyone all dressed up.” I said something about I could understand how that it was all very confusing. Then I just talked to him about my father being in the war and asked him questions about his times in the service.

  11. it amazing we use racial slurs to insult, dehumanize and stereo type people.
    My sons who is in high school (One just graduated) and was telling me that the young people who father who was deployed to Iraq uses the term "sand nigger"
    Yes racial slurs does hurt and cause undue stress. My hubby at his old job was called all sort of nasty names and we are white.

    I came over from is America burning.

  12. This article is impressive and very sad. How can we Americans say we are the good guys when we act like this?

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