Rick Santorum says 'there isn't much Native American culture in American culture'

Rick Santorum says ‘there isn’t much Native American culture in American culture’

Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum drew criticism for comments last week that “there isn’t much Native American culture in American culture.”

In remarks to conservative group the Young America’s Foundation on Friday, Santorum argued that the culture of the United States is largely unchanged since it was birthed by “Judeo-Christian” values.

Santorum, 62, a Republican from Pennsylvania who served in the Senate from 1995 to 2007 and is now a CNN commentator, said there was “nothing here” before European settlers arrived.

“We came here and created a blank slate,” Santorum said. “We birthed a nation from nothing. I mean, there was nothing here. I mean, yes we have Native Americans, but candidly there isn’t much Native American culture in American culture.”

The reaction to Santorum’s comments, which were first transcribed and publicized by Media Matters for America, was swift.

“Sharing his views on Native genocide is no different than putting an outright Nazi justifying the Holocaust on TV,” Fawn Sharp, president of the National Congress of American Indians, wrote on Twitter.

Jaime Harrison, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, called Santorum’s comments “hot garbage.”

Social media users pointed out that Santorum’s comments simply weren’t historically accurate.

Robert P. Jones, a scholar of history and culture with the nonprofit Public Religion Research Institute, called Santorum’s history an “ex nihilo myth” that “is straight up white supremacy.”

In fact, Indigenous cities and settlements spread across the American continent before the arrival of Europeans.

Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec Empire until it was conquered and destroyed by Spanish explorers in 1521 and renamed Mexico City, is estimated to have contained over 100,000 residents at its peak.

One settlement known as Cahokia, in what is today southern Illinois, is thought to have been the largest city before Tenochtitlan, with over 10,000 residents around the year 1100, which then rivaled the population of some of Europe’s largest cities.

The St. Louis skyline is seen on the horizon beyond Monks Mound at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site in Collinsville, Ill. on July 11, 2019.Daniel Acker / The Washington Post via Getty Images

Historians have pointed out the links between America’s early founding period and one of the largest organized native government at that time, which coexisted alongside various European settlements: the Iroquois Confederacy or the “Six Nations.”

A House resolution passed on the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution in 1988 explicitly acknowledged this link between that Native government and America’s own founding documents.

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