Reflections with Seneca Indian Floyd Redeye: The Legacy of the Columbus Enterprise

January 1, 1991

The U.S.-driven massacre of Iraq in January-February 1991 continued the legacy of nearly 500 years of the development of the "Columbus Enterprise," the unchecked pursuit of gold and profit, something we have come to call "Manifest Destiny." Magazine publisher John L. O’Sullivan wrote in 1845 that foreign governments were attempting to obstruct the annexation of Texas in order to check "the fulfillment of our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions." What an understatement!

The U.S. military "victory" in the 1991 unprecedented technologically detached, brutal war against pathetic Iraq created an equally unprecedented dangerous threat to the lives of the majority of the people of the world, and to the planet herself and her millions of species. Manifest Destiny is now a unipolar Pax Americana, a new/old world order in brutal U.S. style, a grotesque and nightmarish assault on all dignity and life on Planet Earth. There does not appear to be any other force available to stop the spread of its destructive violence. With the elimination of the USSR as a Cold War "enemy," and with the U.S. manipulative destruction through sheer bully bribery of the United Nations to support the bombing of Iraq, nothing seems in the way of the U.S. empire causing dangerous, even terminal, havoc with the survival of the human race and much of the ecological fabric upon which we, as a species, are absolutely dependent. Any person, group, or nation–or nature herself for that matter–that is perceived as interfering with or defying the "national security" interests of the United States, as defined, of course, by the U.S., becomes immediately subject to being destroyed, devastated, eliminated, exterminated–i.e., subjected to the "Final Solution," as was experienced by many over the centuries, such as the Native Americans in the " New World" and the Jews in Europe.

The people of the United States have become Nazified, almost totally dehumanized. Most people in the U.S. have become grotesquely complicit with the means necessary for maintaining the empire, i.e., the American Way Of Life (AWOL). Their silence or, in the case of Iraq, enthusiastic, gleeful support for the most barbaric and intense bombing in military history was so diabolical as to be beyond human comprehension. Recently, a friend of mine watched a historical documentary about Hitler and Nazi Germany. The German people, everywhere, were waving the German flag with swastika, and hosting parades for the army, celebrating Germany’s aggression against Poland and Czechoslovakia.

During the relentless January-February 1991 bombing of the Iraqis, I spent most of my time in seclusion in my boyhood home in rural, southwestern New York State, contemplating the meaning of this darkness. Surrounded by neighbors flying both yellow ribbons and U.S. flags, I sought out clues as to what the Great Spirit might be calling me to do, or simply how to be. It seemed like I had never experienced such anguish as I was feeling about the victims of our bombs halfway around the world, and about the dehumanized automatons that it seemed the U.S. citizenry had become, at a level deeper than I had realized. Was I experiencing the death of my last thin thread of hope for "America?"

The Western mind, the Western way, really is diabolical beyond comprehension. The Columbus legacy is heavy, and I believe we need to undergo an unprecedented, radical transformation of consciousness, something so historic as to be beyond imagination. The inner message I continued to hear was: Be patient; you will know in time what to do, how to be. You must be prepared to be an instrument for love, justice and truth. Have faith that the way will be shown. With some difficulty I continued to let go, because the truth was, I did not have a clue as to what to do or how to be. So I continued in contemplative seclusion for several months.

A significant new insight, or new love, entered my life during the period of bombings. My seclusion was regularly interrupted by a series of very personal, and, I believe, very prophetic conversations with Seneca Indians. Our paths converged through a profound connection. I was born on July 4, 1941, in Geneva, New York, in the Finger Lakes region. At one time, Geneva, then called Kanadesaga, had been a major center of the Seneca Nation. But in early September 1779, General John Sullivan, with 5,000 men of the Continental army, carried out General George Washington’s orders: "The immediate objects are the total destruction and devastation of [the Indian] settlements… [The Indian country] is not to be merely overrun, but destroyed." The Senecas were routed, many murdered, all their homes and crops destroyed, and the survivors driven into Southwestern New York State and points further west. Most of the remaining Senecas today live in Southwestern New York State, the majority on two reservations in Cattaraugus County, not far from the small town where my family moved in 1951 from Geneva, New York. In a way, my own life had followed the Seneca "trail of tears." But this only set up the geographical convenience for our meeting. A more serendipitous force was at work.

Floyd Redeye, a Seneca, became a good friend during the bombings. In the early 1980s he lost his aboriginal land to a New York State highway route, land he and his ancestors had occupied from the late 1700s, after they had been routed from Kanadesaga (present-day Geneva). As Floyd described the trickery and deceit used to rob him of his ancestral land, I was fighting my own tears, and working on calming my anger. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Seneca Tribal Council, under pressure from the State of New York, had declared Floyd Redeye a non-Indian (unbeknown to Floyd), and the state was able to take his land through the legal provision of eminent domain as if the property was privately owned. Aboriginal land is sovereign property of Native Americans, not subject to eminent domain unless, of course, through trickery and pressure, the land is declared non-Indian, private property. Floyd subsequently learned of this trick when he saw the New York highway equipment getting ready to gorge his sacred land. Outraged that no one had ever spoken to him about this matter, he proceeded with a handful of other Seneca Indians to sit firmly in front of the road equipment, blocking its forward movement with their bodies. This occurred on several occasions, and forced a temporary showdown, delaying completion of the highway construction for a number of months.

On September 1, 1987, while Floyd Redeye was visiting his Seneca blood brother near Concord, California, he was shocked, along with millions of others, by the news that a U.S. Navy munitions train, accelerating to over three times the legal speed limit, had viciously assaulted several people who had been peacefully protesting by blocking the shipment of lethal weapons from the Concord Naval Weapons Station. Many of these weapons were destined to be used against the people in Central America who were expressing various forms of revolt against the unjust oligarchies in their native countries which were forcing virtually all the small farmers and working class people into misery and starvation. One of the demonstrators assaulted at Concord, of course, was myself.

A mutual acquaintance discovered that Floyd wanted to meet me, and arranged our first meeting, which occurred shortly after the U.S. had launched its genocidal bombing of the Iraqi people and I had begun my contemplative stay at my boyhood home. It was a connection of soul brothers. We shared our experiences of blocking white man’s machinery, of challenging the continued galloping of the Western mind, of the Western way. We were both shocked by and grieving over the U.S. bombing of the Cradle of Civilization in the Middle East. The Columbus Enterprise knows no limits. Will it end with the d
estruction of all life, or will there be an unpredicted transformation of consciousness?

When blocking the road equipment, Floyd was opposed by a number of other Senecas, including one of his own blood brothers, who sided with white authorities from the New York State agencies and the local police, all uniting to remove Floyd and the few others at his side. Floyd calls those Senecas red apples: red on the outside, but white inside. From the beginning, Floyd called me a reverse apple: white on the outside, but red inside. This became one of our attractions to each other, of course. We are both seeking an end to the Columbus Enterprise, and a re-creation, or resurrection, of a more primitive, spiritually alive consciousness.

The blocking experience took an emotional toll on Floyd. He and his wife have raised three children, all now grown and working in professions. At 69 years of age, he hobbles around with arthritic knees, one of which is a plastic substitute. He has a Veterans Administration rated disability stemming from injuries suffered in combat in Korea. Floyd has given a lot to the white man’s world order. He is a retired Master Sergeant after a 31-year career in the U.S. military, having served in combat situations in three wars, WW II, Korea, and Southeast Asia.

After retirement from the military Floyd returned to his family’s aboriginal land on the Allegany Indian (Seneca) Reservation at and around Salamanca in Southwestern New York State. He was already saddened, and angry, about the federal government’s Kinzua Dam and reservoir project in the 1960s that had carved out a third of the aboriginal land on the Allegany Reservation promised for eternity, first by President George Washington in the 1794 Pickering Treaty, and again by President John Adams in the 1797 Treaty at Big Tree. Floyd was working to recover his indigenous values and heritage. When New York State insisted on routing four-lane Highway 17 through the reservation in the 1980s, Floyd said, "Enough is enough." A section of the land to be taken was the ancestral Redeye allotment-another chunk of sacred reservation land taken by the white man’s way, the white man’s mind. Thus Floyd and the small band of Senecas attempted the physical blockade of construction of Highway 17.

The City of Salamanca, with about 6,000 white residents, sits almost entirely within the Allegany Reservation. The land had been taken from the Senecas in 1892, by mysterious circumstances, through an imposition of a 99-year lease. The whites felt certain there would be no Senecas left in 1991 to reclaim the land. That lease expired on February 19, 1991. Floyd and some of the other Sencecas, a minority, wanted the lease terminated at its expiration, and the land returned to the natives. A series of tactics by the local whites ended with a capitulation by the BIA-sanctioned Seneca Tribal Council (under pressures from the white Salamanca residents, from the Sate of New York, and the U.S. Congress), for money, to agree to the equivalent of an 80-year lease, that has, at least temporarily, left Salamanca in the possession of the white residents. But the Senecas I know are determined to not let this new lease, a continuation of a legacy of tricks and deceit that has robbed them of their land and heritage, stop them from continuing their struggling to reclaim their aboriginal rights and land. Incidentally, Floyd refused all money being offered by the state for the taking of his ancestral land. He said that by accepting the money he would be legitimizing the state’s theft of that land.

During my period of contemplative seclusion I thought a lot about the Iraqi people. But the images in my mind were not restricted to those in Iraq and Kuwait. What about the Palestinians! The Koreans! The people of East Timor! The Mozambiquans! The Blacks in South Africa! The Namibians! The Angolans! The Libyans! The Cubans! The Haitians! The Guatemalans! The Grenadans! The Panamanians! The Philippinos! The Mexicans! The Hondurans! The Chileans! The Peruvians! The Vietnamese! The Nicaraguans! The Salvadorans! The indigenous Americans! The Blacks kidnapped from their cultures in Africa to build the "New World’s" economy! Etc.!

For nearly a week I placed photographs of maimed and dead people from Vietnam, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Angola, the Philippines, and Indigenous Americans on my living room floor in front of the wood stove, about two dozen in all. I found myself looking closely at each photograph, sitting on the floor without my artificial legs, and conversing with each face, each person. "You are my brother, you are my sister, we are really one. I’m sorry you have had to pay such a price for having run into the Columbus Enterprise and all its spin-off and collateral enterprises," I cried. "The haves have become so cruel, so bestial, against the have-nots, and nature herself. Oh, my god, forgive us, forgive me," I moaned, as my weeping became steady. "Oh, great Spirit, help me feel my oneness with all of life, help me feel these people’s suffering as well as their visions for a just and fair world. Let my life express this oneness with them, including their suffering," I prayed out loud, over and over again. "We are not worth more, they are not worth less," I proclaimed almost endlessly through my weeping.

I had a number of meetings with Floyd, and sometimes with another Seneca, Lucy Watt, a good friend of Floyd’s. Usually we met at my boyhood home. We were meeting, then, not only at the spot on the globe where I roamed as a kid, but on soil once roamed by the Senecas. I came to feel extraordinarily close with these Senecas, because in the most profound sense, they knew deeper than anyone else I have met, just how intrinsically corrupt, how diabolical, this Western mind, this Western "civilized" way has been, and continues to be. I experience these feelings so deeply sometimes that I don’t know if I can express them adequately, so it was affirming to share together our mutual anguish, our sadness, anger and rage.

One day, Floyd drove me the 20-plus miles down Highway 17 from my home to point out the stretch of road and the area along the Allegheny River that had been the Redeye sacred land. He was obviously choked up, fighting back tears. Mine rolled down my cheeks. I know that we whites, and those that have adopted this Western way of thinking, always in pursuit of riches, have butchered life beyond comprehension. We were, at the time, bombing the shit out of defenseless Iraq. Here I was, riding with an indigenous Seneca who only a few years earlier had been declared a non-Indian by the BIA-sanctioned Seneca Tribal Council so that his land could be stolen by the white man’s agencies bent on completing a highway to facilitate "economic development" in Southwestern New York State. Where, when, does it end?

Floyd said to me, "The U.S. government could have avoided the bombing in Iraq. It was a conscious choice. It was so easy to bomb. I know this way of thinking." I replied, "And the people, they’re cheering, just as the German people cheered the exploits of Hitler and the German Army." Floyd and I were not cheering. We were crying. He looked at me in the car as we passed his sacred land, now lost, at least temporarily, to the white man’s "progress." He commented about the stars and stripes, the U.S. flag that was seen flying everywhere at that time. I don’t remember when I’ve seen so many U.S. flags flying as during that bombing onslaught. He said, "The flag, we call it ‘Old Gory.’ The red is our blood, ripped out of our bodies. The white, our bones, scattered around, buried, then dug up for highways." Though we were driving on New York State Highway 17, the "Southern Tier Expressway", there were moments I couldn’t tell whether I was in Vietnam, Nicaragua, Iraq, or at the end of the Seneca Trail of Tears. "Oh Great Spirit," I cried, " help me to be a peace warrior, give me the strength to continue to speak truth as I experien
ce it. Let me be open to your infinite wisdom and courage to continue on the trail as a recovering white male. The Columbus Enterprise must come to an end! Help me to be a creative force in pursuing a nonviolent, radical new vision while aiding in the death (radical transformation) of the ‘Enterprise.’"

I believe that only an apocalyptic awakening, a historically unprecedented radical change in the way we understand ourselves in relationship to everyone and everything else, can save us from extinction. A radical transformation of the Western, oligarchic way seems an absolute necessity if health is to be restored to the planet, enabling her to continue furnishing a life base for all species, including Homo sapiens. It seems that we are facing the choice between an ecological awakening, or death.


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