[Marxism] Indian-hating in the Wizard of Oz

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Jun 26 14:11:59 MDT 2004


Counterpunch Weekend Edition
June 26 / 27, 2004
L. Frank Baum: Racist
Indian-Hating in "The Wizard of Oz"
By THOMAS ST. JOHN

Lyman Frank Baum (1856-1919) advocated the extermination of the American 
Indian in his 1899 fantasy "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz". Baum was an 
Irish nationalist newspaper editor, a former resident of Aberdeen in the 
old Dakota Indian territory. His sympathies with the village pioneers 
caused him to invent the Oz fantasy to justify extermination. All of 
Baum's "innocent" symbols clearly represent easily recognizable frontier 
landmarks, political realities, and peoples. These symbols were 
presented to frontier children, to prepare them for their racially 
violent future.

The Yellow Brick Road represents the yellow brick gold at the end of the 
Bozeman Road to the Montana gold fields. Chief Red Cloud had forced the 
razing of several posts, including Fort Phil Kearney, and had forced the 
signing of the Fort Laramie Treaty. When George Armstrong Custer cut 
"the Thieves' Road" during his 1874 gold expedition invasion of the 
sacred Black Hills, he violated this treaty, and turned U.S. foreign 
policy toward the Little Big Horn and the Wounded Knee massacre.

The Winged Monkeys are the Irish Baum's satire on the old Northwest 
Mounted Police, who were modelled on the Irish Constabulary. The scarlet 
tunic of the Mounties, and the distinctive "pillbox" forage cap with the 
narrow visor and strap are seen clearly in the color plate in the 1900 
first edition of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz". Villagers across the 
Dakota territory heartily despised these British police, especially 
after 1877, when Sitting Bull retreated across the border and into their 
protection after killing Custer.

The Shifting Sands, the Deadly Desert, the Great Sandy Waste, and the 
Impassable Desert are Frank Baum's reference to that area of the 
froniter known always as "the great American desert", west and south of 
the Great Lakes. Baum creates these fictional, barren areas as 
protective buffers for his Oz utopia, against hostile, foreign people. 
This "buffer state" practice had been part of U.S. foreign policy 
against the Indians, since the earliest colonial days.

The Emerald City of Oz recreates the Irish nationalist's vision of the 
Emerald Isle, the sacred land, Ireland, set in this American desert like 
the sacred Paha Sapa of the Lakota people, these mineral-rich Black 
Hills floored by coal. Irish settlements in the territories, in Kansas, 
Nebraska, and Minnesota--at Brule City, Limerick, at Lalla Rookh, and at 
O'Neill two hundred miles south of Aberdeen--founded invasions of the 
Black Hills.

full: http://www.counterpunch.org/stjohn06262004.html

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