The Oneida tribe has been leading the charge against the Washington Redskins’ name. But now that tribe is itself caught in a controversy over its plans to open a casino in Chittenango, N.Y. That was the home of L. Frank Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Plans for the casino, to be named “Yellow Brick Road,” would honor the local author. But it turns out, Baum, as a newspaper writer in 1890, advocated the extermination of all Indians, including, presumably, the Oneida.
“The Whites, by law of conquest, by justice of civilization, are masters of the American continent, and the best safety of the frontier settlements will be secured by the total annihilation of the few remaining Indians,” he wrote in late 1890 for the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer in South Dakota. “Why not annihilation? Their glory has fled, their spirit broken, their manhood effaced; it’s better that they should die than live the miserable wretches that they are.”
Two weeks later, Baum, the newspaper’s publisher, reiterated his point in an editorial written after the slaughter of as many as 300 Sioux at Wounded Knee. He demanded that the U.S. government “wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the earth.”
What interests me is not the Oneidas’ inconsistent behavior nor the controversy over the names of sports teams. I am struck by Baum’s open, casual, advocacy of genocide. I guess the mindset in some circles used to be that if you don’t like a group “it’s better that they should die” so that you should just “annihilate” them. This attitude helps to account for what the Nazis did to the Jews. That thoughtful, whimsical, nice-seeming figures like Baum could think this way suggests that this sort of thing could bappen again.