The name Candace Owens continues to be familiar among nearly every conservative that values open dialogue of political and racial issues that goes beyond the condescending group-think favored by mainstream media and academia. She is renowned for her strong rhetoric and beliefs that are based on the importance of self-reliance among communities of color, and the value of education and free thinking. The BLEXIT Movement, which seeks to empower both Black Americans and other people of color to leave behind the ideology of the Democratic party that hinders the improvement of minority communities, has been a sweeping inspiration adopted into many variations such as LEXIT (Latinos Exit) and our own NEXIT (Natives Exit) here at The Native Conservative.
However, despite her inspirational vision for Black America and other people of color, Candace Owens is not without necessary critique to her thoughts and words, especially those that are based on her lack of knowledge and exposure. On April 12, 2020, Candace Owens made a controversial statement about Native Americans on her podcast, The Candace Owens Show, during an interview with Dennis Prager of PragerU: https://youtu.be/Bz1e4n-Mg-g. On the subject of what her grievances are with leftist ideology, Owens stated that the left has demonized the West for every dark and vile parts of history and not recognized the good that has come from American civilization, such as the ending of slavery while other countries continued it. This argument usually results in the modern leftist idea of “white privilege” that ultimately condemns white people for the actions of their ancestors, despite not directly being involved. It is in this argument that Owens reiterates the common concept that Native Americans were peaceful people until the white man came and ruined everything. “They (native people) were cannibals; they sacrificed children to the gods,” Owens states. “That stuff stopped when white men started believing in a monotheistic worldview and started assigning morality that it is not all for not, and it is not about the rain or the sun gods.”
The majority of the issues that Democrats and leftists of color have with people of their race supporting or “standing with” Republicans and conservatives, is that they don’t admonish the insensitive and or prejudice comments that are made from their political party. Here at The Native Conservative, we seek to provide accurate knowledge to our audience about our history that is so rarely told correctly. This critique of Candace Owens is necessary in order to point out the dangers of simplifying history in order to benefit a particular political stance—something that native people continuously find themselves in the middle of.
The Misguided History of Cannibalism in Native Tribes:
So, what is this cannibal argument that continues to reappear throughout discussions of native history? It is often in response to the idea propagated by the left that tribes were all peaceful people before Europeans came to this continent, which is not true. However, the evidence of cannibalism in certain tribes is not to be easily dismissed as a collective finding. The word, cannibal, first made its correlation with Indigenous people in early European colonization. The Spanish assigned the name “Canibales” to a Caribbean tribe that they believed ate human flesh, which scientists continue to argue the accuracy of that claim. However, this long-standing stereotype was only the beginning and continued due to the ongoing cultural differences between tribes and early colonizers. European colonizers and early Puritans already attributed native people and their culture to the ways of evil since early arrival. The European view of the devil as red-skinned, naked, animalistic, and covered in fur and feathers was exactly the way they viewed native people. They believed that natives were the servants to the devil due to their bare skin which was seen as temptation and religious bigotry, despite the fact that much of native attire depended on the natural climate of their homelands and included modest clothing in some tribes. Contrary to popular belief, native people were not always naked.
When tribes refused to accept and convert to the Catholic or Christian religion, it furthered the belief that they were in league with the ways of evil. Spaniard, Juan Gines Sepulveda, encouraged war on native people during Spanish Colonization because of this belief that they were barbaric and without a soul. It was easy for European colonizers and early Puritans to identify all Native Americans as soulless, flesh-eating, boogeymen due to the cultural differences and lack of understanding, despite the fact that there were many other tribes that condemned the act. The cannibalism argument, unfortunately, is just another way of further justifying the violence against tribes.
Debunking the Stereotype:
Candace Owens isn’t wrong in stating that there were in fact tribes that practiced sacrificial ceremonies and took part in cannibalism. The facts, however, also paint another picture. While there were the Aztec people of Mexico who were renowned for these practices, the Karankawa tribe of southeast Texas, and several Pacific Polynesian tribes to name a popular few, there also existed the numerous amounts of other tribes throughout the expanse of North America. Ethnographer, James Mooney, stated that North America had 1.15 million or more tribal inhabitants at the time of European arrival and more than 2,000+ tribes throughout the time of early colonization on into America’s earlier years as a country. How is it possible that 2,000+ tribes culturally engaged in cannibalism or that it was a practice central to their cultural values?
Cannibalism remains a huge taboo within many tribes who reject the idea due to their cultural teachings regarding the consuming of human flesh. There are countless legends and stories that were meant to dissuade the act when winters were harsh and food was scarce. They also served as important reminders to have a strong mind and heart during times when natives were purposefully starved during colonization; the infamous Fur Trade was a perfect example of when over-exploitation of game brought famine to villages. The Wendigo legend of the First Nations Anishinaabe/Ojibway people remains a popular tale of how partaking in cannibalism will turn a human being into a monster that will never be satiated. It was these tales that warned people to turn away from cultural taboos such as eating human flesh, murder, and insatiable greed. These stories didn’t just serve its purpose of frightening children, they also fervently instilled values within people of the village to be of a sound mind and heart.
The New York Times piece that Candace references to in her podcast that confirms the cannibalistic nature of Native Americans is “New Data Suggests Some Cannibalism by Ancient Indians” by John Noble Wilford: https://www.nytimes.com/2000/09/07/us/new-data-suggests-some-cannibalism-by-ancient-indians.html. Here, Dr. Jared Diamond, Anthropologist at the University of California, states that there is evidence of “customary cannibalism” that suggests the consumption of flesh as a non-emergency practice or last resort action in the face of starvation. True, the archeological evidence does prove that some tribes did actively participate in cannibalism that went beyond just a desperate means of survival. But it does not prove that cannibalism was a part of the broader native culture. Partaking in cannibalism, whether it was customary or a last resort means of survival, was common throughout history as a whole and was practiced either briefly or consecutively by many cultures and people throughout the world.
What many fail to take into account is that the descendants of these tribes whose ancestors did participate in the practice, now condemn it. Due to the presence of many cultural teachings that portray the taboo of cannibalism, tribes that did take part in it, whether customary or as a means of survival, instilled a very harsh teaching and warning to their descendants to recognize their fear and failings through tales, legends, and cultural values that warned against making the same immoral mistake. Candace Owens is right when she points to the archeological evidence of cannibalism in certain tribes, but she makes an incorrect assumption that cannibalism was rampant throughout all 2,000+ tribes that only stopped when “white men” came and instilled in native people a better morality with the Catholic and Christian faith, as well as the expansion and birth of this nation. Native people already had an understanding of their morality through their own teachings of self-discipline and values that kept them in harmony with themselves and the world around them, and away from the taboo of eating human flesh. Native people were not bad children that needed their hands to be slapped by European colonizers for doing something bad, we already knew that ourselves and disciplined accordingly. Tribes that took part in cannibalism taught their descendants differently and kept them from the errors of their ways, while tribes that never took part in cannibalism continued to teach the taboo as a warning to never succumb to the greediness of oneself.
The cannibalism argument, unfortunately, is used in retaliation when there is discussion regarding the grievances of historical racial tensions between Indigenous people and early colonizers. This is usually in response to articles and discussions that are expressed through a narrow and divisive lens that places the blame heavily on the actions of all white people and their ancestors. However, the argument that all natives were murderers and cannibals before the white man came, has the same tired, divisive tact the left uses to argue that all white people are bad; both only serving as justification to enact violence on either end.
The history of Native Americans in this country is so rarely taught, if at all correctly, and we are far from a monolith that can be easily dismissed as some immoral, cannibalistic people who were turned good by European colonizers and early American expansionists. Like our fellow conservatives, we take great value in the correct portrayal of our history and rely on the facts no matter the good or the ugly. Too long has our history as native people been incorrectly simplified to cater to both the political narratives of the left and right. It is discouraging as Native Conservatives to see the feeble virtue signaling tactics that are utilized by the left as a means to use our history as a shock factor. We are now in an age where it is crucial that the truth of history is portrayed in all its multifaceted glory and gore on both ends of the spectrum. We as native people will not benefit from sticking to one particular victim narrative, especially when we are confronted with the dark parts of our past, just as others will not benefit from learning the truth about our history when it is continuously polished and simplified as cheap shock value. We are not the innocent, incapable idea of a people that is propagated by the left, nor are we the immoral, cannibalistic heathens worthy of colonization. Whether pictured as the barbaric savage or the noble savage, native people have always remained “savage” due to the continued misunderstanding of our existence.