David Barton Justifies Destruction of Indian Tribes

Late last week on his Wallbuilders Live broadcast, evangelical writer David Barton addressed just war theory and conduct toward nations who don't follow conventions of war. In doing so, he justified the destruction of Indian tribes by English settlers:

What happened was the Indian leaders said "they're trying to change our culture" and so they declared war on all the white guys and went after the white guys and that was King Philip's War. It was really trying to be civilized on one side and end torture and the Indians were threatened by the ending of torture and so we had to go in and we had to destroy Indian tribes all over until they said, "Oh, got the point, you're doing to us what we're doing to them, OK, we'll sign a treaty."

Barton is a favorite of socially conservative politicians (e.g., Michele Bachmann and Mike Huckabee) and played a large role in crafting the GOP platform at the last Republican convention. His book, "The Jefferson Lies," was pulled from publication by Christian publisher Thomas Nelson citing a "loss of confidence in the book's details."

Although historical accounts of King's Philip's War indicate the encroachment of New England settlers on Indian lands was one of several precursors to the bloody conflict from 1675-1676, Barton claims the settlers had to "destroy Indian tribes" to get them to sign a treaty. However, treaties had been signed by the whites and Indians in New England prior to the war. Barton's characterization of the Indians engaging in torture and the English as civilized ignores the many American atrocities committed against the native people during that war and other conflicts.

Barton's account does not sit well with evangelical ministers who focus on reconciliation with Native Americans. Randy Adams is a minister of outreach at the Oklahoma Baptist Convention with ties to Native American ministries. About Barton's claims, Adams said, "using just war theory to support the general subjugation of Native people seems outrageous based upon the fact that Europeans were occupying a land already occupied, at least in part, and that by a people of vastly different culture and religion." Furthermore, Adams considers Barton's account to be harmful, adding, "Does it help Native Americans feel better about things? No. Does it help other Americans feel justified in some way? No. This kind of generalization is careless and too easy to disprove, in part if not in whole, to be of any good."

Barton spoke March 27 at the Kansas Governor's Prayer Breakfast, which is notable because Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, while a U.S. senator, sponsored the Native American Apology Resolution that was signed by President Obama in 2009. The resolution "apologizes on behalf of the people of the United States to all Native Peoples for the many instances of violence, maltreatment, and neglect inflicted on Native Peoples by citizens of the United States." However, according to Barton, no such apology is needed; the colonists were justified in destroying Indian tribes "all over."