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Hello, historian here. When not Tweeting, I am writing my 2nd book, including a chapter on Indian Removal/aka the Trail of Tears. I use the term "concentration camp" to refer to the places in which Cherokees were held against their will in anticipation of removal in 1838.
I explain my choice in the text to make the case that historians should use this term when they teach/write & not the euphemisms that sanitize the story. Soooo, I've read A LOT about Cherokee removal in orig documents AND about the term concentration camp in Genocide Studies lit.
A LOT more than the folks criticizing @AOC & others, including my fellow historians, using this term to in ref. to the human rights crisis on our southern border. No, there isn't one agreed-upon definition, but there's significant consistency about these characteristics:
1) est. by the national state 2) for the physical separation of a despised minority population from the larger population 3) who are characterized by the national state as dangerous 4) whose individual members have not received due process of law or been tried for actual crimes
5) who are forced into those locations by force of arms/military and threats against the lives of their families & selves 6) who are kept in those locations by the same 7) who are intentionally separated from family members & kept in state of confusion about status of loved ones
8) who are denied access to their community/political/religious leaders 9) whose acts of self-determination or self-governance are extremely limited or totally restricted 10) whose physical welfare is totally dependent on the national state -- food, water, shelter, & medicine
11) whose suffering caused by containment is normalized & rationalized, i.e. disease & rape accepted by those in power as expected & appropriate treatment of despised population 12) whose psychological welfare is dismissed as inconsequential because of perception of inferiority
13) deaths resulting from violence (physical and psychological), dangerous living conditions, and lack of medical care dismissed as isolated incidents or reflective of weakness of contained peoples rather than conditions in which they are held.
14) exploitation of the minority group or its resources, including property, labor, or their children
I could go on, but the point of this thread is that the death of the whole population isn't inherently the point of concentration camps. US officials accepted that a large number of Cherokees would die but that majority would be removed west. The point of the camps was...
to speed up process of white acquisition of Cherokee property, prevent further Cherokee resistance, and change narrative about Cherokees in national press from sympathetic to threats to law and order. It worked. The advocates of removal won, and the camps were a tool they used.
I am not first/only historian to use this term in reference to this period in US history. In classic *1932* text Indian Removal published by @UnivOklaPress, historian Grant Foreman used it. Public presentations (museums, etc.) & text books geneally have used term "assembly camp"
if they mention these places at all. I understand why some Americans believe the US has not in the past & cannot now have concentration camps because they've been taught a sanitized history that has minimized role of white supremacist violence, including against Native people.
So those of us who know what the term means, let's keep calling a spade a spade. Glad to see so many other historians pushing back, too. This isn't Nazi Germany's term. This is our term, too, in US, and this shouldn't be happening *again* here.
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