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Pet Sins November 2007

Amerindian reactions to Nazi racial classifications

I am a Lakota med student. Being in college means that I tend to have friends of various ethnic backgrounds. Anyway, some of these friends were watching a B-movie with me, making fun of it the whole time. Later, after the movie was over, we were talking about how cliché it is that the villain gives an "I'm just like you" speech and the hero then proceeds to open up a can of whoopass.

I mentioned how, in the 30s, the Nazis (aware that Indian languages were used as codes in the last war) sent anthropologists to Indian reservations. These anthropologists were to study the language, and spread national socialist propaganda. The Nazis went as far as to declare in 1938 that the Sioux were Aryan! (The Nazis even saw Jews as a foreign invader that controlled the governments and tried to cheat the indigenous Aryans in Germany. Nazi operatives claimed the Bureau of Indian Affairs was also run by Jews.) This produced the predictable response: Tribes, including the Sioux, declared war on Germany before the U.S. did.

Conscription was seen by the Indians as insulting because it implied you had no will to fight. All in all, 99% of eligible Indian men enlisted, and a few ineligible ones lied about their age. The rest of the story is well-known: Indians served with such legendary capacity that we're still seen as America's badass proud warrior race. One of my friends, an Israeli, asked me if the Sioux were Muslim and that was why Hitler declared us Aryans. I did explain the sheer stupidity of that question, of course, but I got to thinking about it: My Israeli friend was letting his ethnic biases cloud his judgment.