The Influence of Henry George
on the Cherokee Nation
Ray E. Harrell
[Reprinted from Land-Theory, 31 December
This particular Georgist (Casper Davis) finally answered a
question that I posed on this list a couple of years ago to one of
his colleagues from California. In the 1880s the politician Henry
Dawes visited the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma where there was no
poverty and more than a little wealth as well as universal
education, health care and suffrage. Not a person was in debt and
everyone owned their own house. More than a few were mansions and
some were millionaires, today they would be considerably more than
millionaires. All of this in a population of under 50,000 people.
Dawes reported back to Washington that they were followers of
Henry George and would never progress further until the "common"
was broken up and "every person learned the virtue of
selfishness" which Dawes considered to be the root of all human
progress. Ten years later the federal government used Dawes' report
not only to justify breaking up the Cherokee lands but to dispossess
all indigenous nations of their lands and self government. They
created the state of Oklahoma and after giving a pittance to each
Indian citizen they dispersed the rest in a land rush to the local
European immigrants. After the state of Oklahoma was formed it was
the Cherokee Lawyers who formed the Oklahoma Bar Association and not
the immigrants the same was true for the medical doctors, teachers
and the State's Baptist Newspaper which all came from the then
defunct Cherokee nation and culture.
I asked two years ago how we (my Cherokee ancestors) were
followers of Henry George, and today Casper explained it. I would
say that Henry George was "following" us considering that
our structure was older but nonetheless it did seem to be the same.
Dawes was at least right about that. I did not realize how hostile
American Society was to George in the 1890s.
I would suggest that it might behoove economist Angell to study
the Cherokee Nation from 1846 to the Congressional Curtis
Dissolution Act in the 1890s to understand why the TNCs and
Information Revolution are such delicate affairs. It is the foreign
policy of governments that has destroyed the best ideals of Utopian
thought and schemes. Companies do not have that possibility even
when they have yearly budgets that far exceed the budgets of most
world governments. Indeed China has a limited GDP but its land and
people mass could obliterate Bill Gates and friends small universe
if they were placed in competition without outside governmental help
going to Gates.
Would the Soviet Union have collapsed if it had not had a virtual
embargo by the West for almost the entire seventy years of its
existence? How about Cuba? We have not had a fair competition with
any of the Communist systems compared to the Capitalists without
government embargo and military pressures applied on both sides thus
There is very little that was practiced by any of the communist
countries that was not practiced by this country in its first
seventy years of existence. Would the U.S. have collapsed on itself
if it had not committed genocide for its frontier expansion and had
first an owned work force of human slaves from 1776 to 1860 and then
an oppressing apartheid policy to protect the European minority in
the South from 1865 to 1954?
Would the South have been America's Chechniya (sp?) with
legislatures elected by the Black majority across the South that
were hostile and thus drove the Europeans both North and West? Would
these reverse carpetbaggers have created a hostile underclass that
would have devoured the democracy from within its white ranks and
created the kind of cynical laissez faire attitude that is prevalent
in Russia today but without the cultural glue thus driving the
wealthy back to Europe from whence they came?
Well, just some thoughts on these last few hours of 1998. I would
suggest that another traditional process might be in order for many
of the problems that have been discussed thus far on this list.
Recently there has been a revival of religious programming in the
U.S. with even the medical profession suggesting that prayer, even
from a distance, can heal people who are connected to each other.
Being both a pagan and a priest, this might seem strange to some
that I would suggest a possible answer within such a thought but
nonetheless I am offering the thought. It is said that meditation is
the highest form of prayer amongst my people. I would suggest a
meditation on the balance of things for this new year. Meditate on
your neighbors, not from the standpoint of conversion to your way of
thought, but with the idea that a healthy neighbor is less likely to
be a destructive one. If you pray for the balance of human
societies, the health of their children and the development of their
potential as humans, and then you do the same for the rest of life
on the earth and the earth itself, then at least within yourself you
will grow more aware. And who knows what will happen if we all grow
more aware and less anesthetized by both the pace and demands of the
world that we have decided to dream into place up until the
present? Happy New Year!
Ray Evans Harrell
Caspar Davis wrote:
This article gives a good description of the growing gap between
the rich and poor, and of the shrinking middle class.
I was taught and firmly believe that the health of a society is
indicated most clearly by the size and well being of the middle
group. After the second world war, there were almost 30 years of
unprecedented prosperity during which the wealth (at least in the "developed"
nations) was distributed more equally than at almost any time since
tribal times. Since 1972, that trend has reversed. GDP, which
measures economic activity regardless of its environmental or social
consequences, counting the money spent on cancer treatment, oil
spill clean up, divorce courts and prisons in just the same way as
it counts the money spent on education or food, has continued to
increase, but almost every other measure of well-being has declined,
and the social consequences are very palpable.
The author asks, "What is the relationship between equity and
economic growth?" This is the central question asked by Henry
George 120 years ago in Progress and Poverty. His answer was that
all livelihood ultimately depended upon access to land (in which he
included all natural resources, and ALSO such things as
government-created monopolies (i.e. things like salt in Gandhi's
India, taxi cab licences, radio and TV licences, and all patents).
Where those resources, which were provided by nature as commons for
the good of all, are held in a few hands, the holders of them can
and do claim all the value of both labour AND capital, leaving the
labourer or ordinary businessperson no more than they need for
elementary subsistence. George's answer was for society to charge
those who benefitted from the exclusive use of land or any other
part of the commons the full economic rent therefore, and to
distribute the rent equally to all so that all might benefit.
Since George's time, the enclosure of the commons has gone on
apace. The electromagnetic spectrum has been given free of charge to
the holders of TV and radio licences; patent laws have been
dramatically strengthened, and lately even life forms and genetic
material have been privatized for private profit. Government
funding, paid by the taxes of all, has been diverted from the needy
to profitable corporations,either to help them become "more
competitive" or often as outright bribes to induce them to
locate facilities within or not to take facilities away from a
particular jurisdiction. As Time magazine recently showed, they
often take the (public) money and run. Therefore government revenues
must be included in the modern definition of "land", as
must the ability of the earth, air and watrer to absorb and
I have sent for the full report to see what the author's
prescription is. I believe that Henry George's solution is still the
best that I have seen, but whether I am right or not, it is clear
that the Neo-Liberal "trickle down" theory results only in
the sucking up and retention of wealth by those at the top.