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Analysis Of Defining The ‘American Indian’ By Haig A. Bosmajian

2257 words - 9 pages

Analysis of Defining the ‘American Indian’ by Haig A. Bosmajian


“One of the first important acts of an oppressor is to define the oppressed victims he intends to jail or eradicate so that they will be looked upon as creatures warranting suppression and in some cases separation and annihilation” (Bosmajian 347). The writer, Haig A. Bosmajian, begins his essay with these words in “Defining the ‘American Indian’: A Case Study in the Language of Suppression.” In his essay, which targets mainstream Americans, he attempts to show his readers how language has been used in American history to “justify” the oppression of the American Indians. The use of language that he discusses here is redefinition, in which the American Indians were renamed in accordance with the oppressors’ perception of them (Bosmajian 347). He points out the natural-religious, political-cultural, and legal redefinitions imposed upon them as the basis of his essay (Bosmajian 348). Through the use of various techniques, including historical accounts, examples, and choice of evidence, Bosmajian creates an effective argument to show how language has been manipulated for unjust acts.

In the natural-religious redefinition, Bosmajian supports his argument with the eyewitness account of Bartolome de las Casas. He describes how the various original inhabitants of America were given a new name when the Europeans arrived. They were all placed under the label: “savages” and “barbarians” (Bosmajian 348). In the eyewitness account, Bartolome de las Casas provides a terribly grotesque image of the acts done to the American Indians. “Overrunning Cities and Villages, where they spared no sex or age; neither would their cruelty pity Women with childe, whose bellies they would rip up, taking out the Infant to hew it in pieces…The children they would take by the feet and dash their innocent heads against the rocks, and when they were fallen into the water, with a strange and cruel derision they would call on them to swim…Those whom their pity did think to spare, they would send away with their hands cut off, and so hanging by the skin” (Bosmajian 349). This piece of evidence strongly supports Bosmajian’s point about redefinition because it provides a first-hand account of the horrors, as opposed to a second-hand account, where the account would be considered less accurate, and therefore, less reliable. Also Bartolome de las Casas is an outside observer, a bystander, of these horrors, which makes his account more unprejudiced, and therefore more trustworthy, because he is neither the oppressor nor the oppressed. The shock value of this piece also helps in making the argument more unprejudiced, and therefore more trustworthy, because he is neither the oppressor nor the oppressed. The shock value of this piece also helps in making the argument more persuasive since it appeals to the emotions. ...

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