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Vengeance Is Ours: What can tribal societies tell us about our need to get even?
April 24, 2008 11:20 AM   Subscribe

Vengeance Is Ours: What can tribal societies tell us about our need to get even?

From the article:
In 1992, when Daniel Wemp was about twenty-two years old, his beloved paternal uncle Soll was killed in a battle against the neighboring Ombal clan. In the New Guinea Highlands, where Daniel and his Handa clan live, uncles and aunts play a big role in raising children, so an uncle’s death represents a much heavier blow than it might to most Americans. Daniel often did not even distinguish between his biological father and other male clansmen of his father’s generation. And Soll had been very good to Daniel, who recalled him as a tall and handsome man, destined to become a leader. Soll’s death demanded vengeance.

Daniel told me that responsibility for arranging revenge usually falls on the victim’s firstborn son or, failing that, on one of his brothers. “Soll did have a son, but he was only six years old at the time of his father’s death, much too young to organize the revenge,” Daniel said. “On the other hand, my father was felt to be too old and weak by then; the avenger should be a strong young man in his prime. So I was the one who became expected to avenge Soll.” As it turned out, it took three years, twenty-nine more killings, and the sacrifice of three hundred pigs before Daniel succeeded in discharging this responsibility.
[via kottke]
posted by chunking express (52 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Reminds me of Napolean Chagnon, the anthropologist who wrote about the supposed ferocity of indigenous cultures in the Orinoco; it has been argued that Chagnon's presence (and gifts of machetes) actually triggered the wars that he studied.

More here and here.

I suppose my point is that it is impossible to trust Western interpretations of indigenous cultures.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:48 AM on April 24, 2008


Definitely. I just think it makes for an interesting story. As I understand things, Jared Diamond is not without his detractors.
posted by chunking express at 11:58 AM on April 24, 2008


As someone who is lazy and a wuss, I am glad not to be a member of the culture described in the article.
posted by everichon at 12:14 PM on April 24, 2008


What can tribal societies tell us about our need to get even?

(I agree, it's an interesting story. Thanks for the link.) I think people assume that tribal societies are "closer to nature," so if we watch behavior in them, we're seeing the human animal "in the wild." Whereas if we watch ourselves, we're seeing a dirty test-tube, corrupted by culture.

I'm skeptical.

My guess is that these tribal societies DO live closer to the way our Out Of Africa ancestors did than we do in the West. But how close is close enough? If you take a parrot out of its cage and let it fly around your living room, it IS closer to being in its natural state. But can you watch it and be sure you're learning how parrots behave in the wild?

I'm guessing that these "tribes" have very complex cultures. Our ancestors probably did too, but were they similar cultures? How similar is similar enough?

I DO think we can learn things about raw human nature by doing massive cross-cultural studies (e.g. the fact that incest is a taboo in most human cultures is telling). But comparing ourselves to one other culture isn't really all that meaningful in terms of learning about homo sapiens as a whole.
posted by grumblebee at 12:15 PM on April 24, 2008 [4 favorites]


Oooooooh! You beat me to it, chunking! Awesome article!

I suppose my point is that it is impossible to trust Western interpretations of indigenous cultures.

The story ends with (by my count) three men dead, one guy blinded in one eye and another guy crippled for life. How much room is there for interpretation? What sorts of progressive, empowering alternative explanations would you suggest?

Reminds me of Napolean Chagnon, the anthropologist who wrote about the supposed ferocity of indigenous cultures in the Orinoco; it has been argued that Chagnon's presence (and gifts of machetes) actually triggered the wars that he studied.

What evidence do you have that Diamond meddled with this society and brought about the violence in the article?

I don't think you have an issue with Western interpretations. You have an issue with this particular Western interpretation because you disagree with the political implications.
posted by jason's_planet at 12:21 PM on April 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


What can tribal societies tell us about our need to get even?

*cough* Iraq *cough*
posted by LordSludge at 12:26 PM on April 24, 2008


We regularly ignore the fact that the thirst for vengeance is among the strongest of human emotions. It ranks with love, anger, grief, and fear, about which we talk incessantly. Modern state societies permit and encourage us to express our love, anger, grief, and fear, but not our thirst for vengeance. We grow up being taught that such feelings are primitive, something to be ashamed of and to transcend.

My conversations with Daniel made me understand what we have given up by leaving justice to the state. In order to induce us to do so, state societies and their associated religions and moral codes teach us that seeking revenge is bad. But, while acting on vengeful feelings clearly needs to be discouraged, acknowledging them should be not merely permitted but encouraged. To a close relative or friend of someone who has been killed or seriously wronged, and to the victims of harm themselves, those feelings are natural and powerful. Many state governments do attempt to grant the relatives of crime victims some personal satisfaction, by allowing them to be present at the trial of the accused, and, in some cases, to address the judge or jury, or even to watch the execution of their loved one’s murderer.


Flagged as awesome.
posted by jason's_planet at 12:26 PM on April 24, 2008


My own earlier remarks on this general topic.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 12:35 PM on April 24, 2008


Cool topic. Want to plug a few contributions to it from a former professor of mine, William I. Miller (Michigan Law). He's written pretty extensively in this area. My fondest memory of law school was taking his semester-long course on nordic bloodfeuds. Good stuff.

The Fine Art of Revenge (Salon interview)
Blind Justice (book review)
posted by joe lisboa at 12:54 PM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Modern state societies permit and encourage us to express our love, anger, grief, and fear, but not our thirst for vengeance. We grow up being taught that such feelings are primitive, something to be ashamed of and to transcend.

This is just me, but if I had to point out the difference between these emotions it would be the fact that vengeance generally requires some form of premeditation. The need for it may be as powerful as the other listed emotions, but those emotions are generally pretty knee-jerk reflex responses and not easily controlled.

Vengeance may be as deeply ingrained as the others, but it makes demands of our higher-order thought processes. By engaging the conscious mind, an element outside the animal instinct becomes a contributing factor, and therefore acting on the need for vengeance seems less excusable.

I could be completely off, however.
posted by Ryvar at 1:04 PM on April 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


It’s all fun and games until population density increases and simultaneously the technology level rises, increasing the potential lethality of attacks.
posted by Artw at 1:06 PM on April 24, 2008


I think people assume that tribal societies are "closer to nature," so if we watch behavior in them, we're seeing the human animal "in the wild." Whereas if we watch ourselves, we're seeing a dirty test-tube, corrupted by culture.

I'm skeptical.


While certainly plenty of people might think that way, it's also possible to take a different view (more along the lines of what the author subscribes to): The behavior of people in tribal societies is closer to what their natural impulses tell them to do because there are fewer institutions that seek to regulate that behavior. It has nothing to do with 1st world cultures being corrupted, they are just different.

I'm guessing that these "tribes" have very complex cultures.

They are tribes, no need for quotes. Being tribes doesn't mean that they have less complex cultures, just that they have fewer institutions.
posted by taliaferro at 1:09 PM on April 24, 2008


Also: Something... something... something.. supply chains. See, I know how Jared-centric worldviews work.
posted by Artw at 1:09 PM on April 24, 2008


Vengeance may be as deeply ingrained as the others, but it makes demands of our higher-order thought processes. By engaging the conscious mind, an element outside the animal instinct becomes a contributing factor, and therefore acting on the need for vengeance seems less excusable.

At least in the case above, I think you're exactly right. Vengeance, for Daniel, was a highly complex, costly and logistically formidable operation. In fact, it parallels the contemporary 1st world corporate/industrial hierarchy: Daniel acted as a manager, and hired others to fight and kill for him - just like the manager at a plant or factory isn't involved in the actual production of a product on the assembly line.
posted by taliaferro at 1:16 PM on April 24, 2008


touche, Artw
posted by taliaferro at 1:16 PM on April 24, 2008


Five minutes spent surveying the political blogosphere on any average day gives a pretty good indication on how our tribal society practices vengeance.
posted by slatternus at 1:20 PM on April 24, 2008


True, slatternus, but now we have a theoretically sophisticated account of The Banhammer.
posted by joe lisboa at 1:28 PM on April 24, 2008


Great article.
posted by klangklangston at 1:31 PM on April 24, 2008


Also, Hobbes beats Rousseau.
posted by klangklangston at 1:31 PM on April 24, 2008


This writer points to tribal hatred as a universal, but there is research from Sapolsky et al that shows that even aggressive primates like chimps can be acculturated not to display violence IF there is no resource competition.

The writer views New Guinea as a sort of time capsule of an underlying, universal human nature, but glosses over the huge deprivation and the struggle for daily existence in that area. He mentions how rare and precious animal protein is, and how valuable pigs are, and even how pigs are often the basis for fighting, but he never joins the dots or asks what the equivalents are in a larger society.

Perhaps the universality of violence is a function of our intense population of the world, such that the struggle to monopolise resources is inevitable. If we don't want the violence to manifest, we need to work on minimising demand and fairly distributing those resources.

In other words, what causes vengeance? Violence. If you want to understand the causes of vengeance, you have to look at the causes of violence.

As to the need to acknowledge the desire for vengeance, I don't know about that either. In my country, the news media has become obsessed with portraying the suffering of the families of victims of murder and violent crime, leading to the formation of pressure groups who want increased and harsher sentences - even though the murder rate is going down. These clowns are basically making our criminal justice system less effective, and when you go right down to the base of their motivation, it's vengeance. I want to know how the need for vengeance can be expressed in modern society without damaging it. (So-called "restorative justice" is opposed by these harsher-sentencing groups because they see it as a way for criminals get less punishment than they otherwise would).
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:33 PM on April 24, 2008


Neither pacific ideals nor wartime hatreds, once acquired, are easily jettisoned. It’s no wonder that many soldiers who kill suffer post-traumatic stress disorder. When they come home, far from boasting about killing, as a Nipa tribesman would, they have nightmares and never talk about it at all, unless to other veterans.

I think Diamond is not seeing this very clearly. From his account it is quite apparent that Daniel and his entire society are suffering terrible PTSD:

Once he said to me, “I admit that the New Guinea Highland way to solve the problem posed by a killing isn’t good. Our way disturbs our day-to-day life; we won’t be comfortable for the rest of our lives; we are always in effect living on the battlefield; and those feelings go on and on in us. The Western way, of letting the government settle disputes by means of the legal system, is a better way. But we could never have arrived at it by ourselves: we were trapped in our endless cycles of revenge killings.” [my emphasis]

The passages I highlighted show the classic hypervigilance of PTSD and the classic sense that the traumatic events are always present to mind, always threatening to happen-- indeed, the traumatic event is in a very real sense always happening to you no matter where you are and what you are doing; it robs everyday life of its significance and satisfactions, and ultimately makes you restless for a new event which can compete with it for intensity, and the cycle continues. You are trapped in the cycle, and it is unbreakable by anyone who is trapped within it. It is a nightmare, or it would be except for the saving grace that the feelings of horror, empathy and pity that make for a nightmare, as well as the capacity to love, are burned away by the trauma and its repetitions, both present and remembered.

And this is exactly what has happened to Daniel:

“If we had found that a woman married into our clan was squealing, we would have tied her up and burned her with hot wires and hot pieces of wood. That was our plan"...

I asked him whether he had feared for the safety of his wife and young son, who were surely not too tough to kill. Daniel explained that he worried about his son but not his wife. She was not a Handa...


I begin to think PTSD is a standard feature of almost all adult personalities in a tribal society, and that the main function of rites of initiation is to give you a good running start in developing it.

If I were teaching the Iliad, I'd make my class read this article first.

Great post.
posted by jamjam at 1:44 PM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think it can reasonably be assumed that Jared Diamond knows a thing or two about resource competition.
posted by Artw at 1:52 PM on April 24, 2008


joe's_spleen - from the article: "A striking feature of New Guinea’s history is that New Guineans traditionally practiced unchecked violence against each other..." Well, I've dropped the second half of that sentence and chnged the context, but I don't think the author is arguing that the violence found in the New Guinea tribal system is universal; just that it is a good example of the human desire for vengeance (which is a universal desire).

Also, the author (Diamond), in his book Collapse, does connect those dots (resource scarcity and violence) in a number of case studies - he even argues that the underlying cause of the Rwandan genocide was a rising population coupled with shrinking farm sizes (because of the tradition of dividing one's land equally amongst all of one's children). My guess is the Diamond doesn't touch on these issues because he wants to focus on the idea of vengeance and is limited in the space he has to address the topic.
posted by taliaferro at 1:56 PM on April 24, 2008


Modern state societies permit and encourage us to express our love, anger, grief, and fear, but not our thirst for vengeance. We grow up being taught that such feelings are primitive, something to be ashamed of and to transcend.

We execute way too many criminals and impose far too heinously long sentences in what amount to organised rape camps for me to take this even vaguely seriously. Vengeance is alive, well, and deified.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:00 PM on April 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


Slight derail/Nitpick: I hate the term Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I don't really think that it is a disorder at all. Particularly in the case of Daniel (and jamjam's use of the term above), if you have good reason to believe that someone is out to kill you and your son, then experiencing constant stress and discomfort because you expect attack at any moment is not the sign of a disordered mind - it is an appropriate reaction in response to a legitimate threat.
posted by taliaferro at 2:02 PM on April 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


So, whatcha sayin' is we are all sick little monkeys and we ain't getting any ice cream.
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:06 PM on April 24, 2008


Perhaps the universality of violence is a function of our intense population of the world, such that the struggle to monopolise resources is inevitable. If we don't want the violence to manifest, we need to work on minimising demand and fairly distributing those resources.

At first, the idea that any random stranger and I will each get the same amount of "fairly distributed" resources sounds nice, and please pass along my thanks to whatever sucker you find to acquire those resources for us. I have to wonder about the long term, though: will my two children get the same sum of "fairly distributed" resources as his six children, or will they get two sixths as much? If the former is true, then his kids might have some concerns with your definition of "fair". If the latter is true, then we may have discovered why nobody has much personal incentive to stop adding to that intense population growth which has you concerned.

Also, if the writer "never joins the dots or asks what the equivalents are in a larger society", that's only if you consider this short article but ignore his recent bestselling books. The New Yorker has a tighter word count limit.
posted by roystgnr at 2:14 PM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't think vengeance or violence is innate to humans, but I think we are wired for understanding the concept of fairness. It seems fair if you suffer loss of a resource (food store or a man, etc) that those who caused the loss should also experience this.
posted by uaudio at 2:23 PM on April 24, 2008


For those actively researching in this field: some more accessible cultural references that demonstrate our desire for and acceptance of revenge:

Every season of 24 (terrorists? What Would Jack Do?)
Die Hard 1 thru 38
Judge Judy
Any prime-time cop/forensic/mystery TV show without a lafftrack
posted by Artful Codger at 2:35 PM on April 24, 2008


taliaferro, the whole point of PTSD is that it persists even when there's NOT danger. Even when you're safe, it persists. That's what makes it a disorder.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:56 PM on April 24, 2008


But in this case, danger really is ever-present. While the symptoms may be the same as PTSD, they are a rational response to the environment. I think it would be better to say this is like PTSD, not the same.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:41 PM on April 24, 2008


From jamjam's thoughtful comment: it is quite apparent that Daniel and his entire society are suffering terrible PTSD

This ties into ideas I've worked with, not looking at other present cultures, but at the history of our own culture. Or at least the cultures out of which ours grew. Reading accounts of pre-industrial life - and well into the industrial era, actually - you find all these horrible deaths and social upheavals. It was practically unheard of for a family not to have lost at least one child to accident or disease, with all the impact that brings. Basically, unpredictable violence, suffering and sudden death were always close at hand. The conclusion I can't escape is that if anybody today lived through the kinds of traumas that were apparently pretty much the norm for the era, we'd expect them to be psychologically shattered, damaged individuals, possibly even dangerous. And this wasn't just the soldiers. This was everybody.

And I think it helps explain the endless reports of casual brutality we find in history, from the torture methods of the inquisition, to the accounts of townsfolk considering it just good clean fun to tie a cat up in a burlap bag and throw it into a bonfire to hear it shriek.

Of course this kind of stuff would perpetuate the kind of traumatic damage that caused it, and you're in vicious cycle land just like Diamond's highlanders. And yet, somehow, we got from there to here. (Not that there aren't people like that today. But we don't think it's supposed to be that way. Frequently the police have to deal with them.) So clearly it is possible to break that cycle on a societal level, which I think holds out some hope.
posted by Naberius at 3:46 PM on April 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


Amazing article, thank you.

My father spent four years flying Focker Friendships in PNG during the 70s. Apparently, it can be quite tricky to fly near the mountains there, and pilots had been known to have ditched their planes and subsequently find themselves a long way from home. This article reminds my just why dad always flew with a 44-magnum on board.
posted by kisch mokusch at 3:49 PM on April 24, 2008


. . .most Highland wars start ostensibly as a dispute over either pigs or women.

The more things change the more they stay the same.
posted by nola at 4:48 PM on April 24, 2008


I like the aforementioned PTSD analogy. Perhaps it is not the tibes suffering PTSD, but our soldiers suffering from a need for revenge, which is suppressed by our society?

Not to derail, but I find studies on vengeance fascinating, even artistic ones.
posted by jabberjaw at 5:01 PM on April 24, 2008


> even aggressive primates like chimps can be acculturated not to display violence
> IF there is no resource competition.

Even Becky Sharp could have been good on five thousand a year.
posted by jfuller at 5:37 PM on April 24, 2008


Haven't read all the comments yet, but just to throw a personal anecdote in...

This morning this dumbshit bicyclist sped in front of me in the intersection (fortunately I was watching and started to slow down before he made this move)... Yes, he had the red, I had the green. He didn't not stop one bit.

I was furious. I honked my horn. Further on the drive to work, I visualized me getting out of the car and beating the shit outta him. Suddenly, my blood pressure was reduced. I felt calmer. WTF???

I have no clue if this has any bearing on the article, but boy, did that revenge fantasy feel good.
posted by symbioid at 7:27 PM on April 24, 2008


It's not really PTSD if your enemies really are out to get you.

For once, this is a Jared Diamond piece I can appreciate. I's much nicer when he doesn't try to construct a strong thesis (especially the Gladwellian pop-academic aren't I insightful crap).
posted by blasdelf at 8:33 PM on April 24, 2008


If the behaviour of tribes reflected some sort of proto-behaviour of prehistoric societies, cross-cultural studies would be a lot more homogeneous. But they're no more consistent than comparisons between different developed populations (understandable, as urbanization brings with it a certain uniformity), and often less so.

Example:

A study of the Ultimatum Game among various tribal groups (delicately termed "small scale societies"):Economic Man in Cross-Cultural Perspective

Lengthy, but the graphs on page 7 & 8 are intriguing enough. In case you need to know, its a cinch to rip off the Quichua.
posted by harhailla.harhaluuossa at 10:44 PM on April 24, 2008


Modern state societies permit and encourage us to express our love, anger, grief, and fear, but not our thirst for vengeance.

This is false. I was listening to an NPR story a couple nights ago wherein a supreme court justice nominee cited "retribution" as one of the three functions of the death penalty in the United States. (This is not to say that I agree with the death penalty.)
posted by wastelands at 6:43 AM on April 25, 2008


Loved the article. It was great. One thing that jumped out at me when I read:

. . .most Highland wars start ostensibly as a dispute over either pigs or women.

...was that the celebrated Hatfield/McCoy feud had, as its casus belli (in most retellings and no doubt oversimplified tremendously) a dispute over a hog.
posted by jjjjjjjijjjjjjj at 11:41 AM on April 25, 2008


I think the point is that we subordinate our capacity for vengence to the state. Grief, love, anger, fear etc. remain personal concerns.
posted by verisimilitude at 12:10 PM on April 25, 2008


From the article: After Pearl Harbor, hundreds of thousands of American men volunteered to kill and did kill hundreds of thousands of Japanese, often in face-to-face combat, by brutal methods that included bayonets and flamethrowers.

If we're talking brutal then we probably shouldn't forget the atomic bombs.

There seems to be an underlying theme here that wants to say something like: "our way of life is better than theirs". I'm sure that there are great arguments to support such a theme, but I'm unconvinced by the ones I've heard. To say better with any certainty demands a west-centric of conception of the good, and even then not just any west-centric view.

(An evolutionary conception, for example: if aliens were betting on the survival of human species living out different forms of life on two identical Earths, the smart money would be on the tribal stewards, not us lot).
posted by verisimilitude at 12:45 PM on April 25, 2008


Well, assuming they didn't have nuclear bombs and an urge to use them anytime someone looked at their pig funny.
posted by Artw at 2:04 PM on April 25, 2008


"If we're talking brutal then we probably shouldn't forget the atomic bombs."

Flamethrowers and bayonets kill people up close.

Also, I'll call bullshit on your relativism. It is better to be able to conduct your day-to-day business without being worried about being killed or maimed. It doesn't take a Western bias to say so; Daniel admits as much within the article.

Your complaints are analogous to saying, "But what if people in developing countries prefer their water with sewage in it? Isn't it 'west-centric' to agitate for clean drinking water?"
posted by klangklangston at 2:20 PM on April 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


It is better to be able to conduct your day-to-day business without being worried about being killed or maimed.

I couldn't agree more. But you're missing the point: people are also killed and maimed in the state system. Its just our view is skewed (we're on the side of the big battalions my friend).

Your analogy with drinking water - well we have a moral obligation to help because our wealth is causally linked to their poverty. Not because we have some superior grasp on reality that the rest of the world needs to learn. If some good natured westerners want to help with sanitation in PNG then thats great, but lets not misconstrue it as the gold medal in the race towards "progress".
posted by verisimilitude at 3:25 PM on April 25, 2008


uh oh. I think possibly there is a corollary to Godwins Law that states that as soon as peopel start throwing quotes around "progress" the conversation is fucked.
posted by Artw at 3:30 PM on April 25, 2008


"But you're missing the point: people are also killed and maimed in the state system. Its just our view is skewed (we're on the side of the big battalions my friend)."

To the same extent? In every functional state system?

That's bullshit. And if you're going to make a claim like that, I'm going to want to see evidence.

"Your analogy with drinking water - well we have a moral obligation to help because our wealth is causally linked to their poverty. Not because we have some superior grasp on reality that the rest of the world needs to learn. If some good natured westerners want to help with sanitation in PNG then thats great, but lets not misconstrue it as the gold medal in the race towards "progress"."

You missed the point—there is a functional and pretty obvious utility in both state institutions and in clean drinking water. People live longer and are happier where functional states exist; people live longer and suffer less where there is clean drinking water. This has nothing to do with "west-centric" thinking—No one prefers dirty drinking water.
posted by klangklangston at 3:34 PM on April 25, 2008


Artw - Godwin's Law was invoked right from the start. Read the article all the way through.

Klangklangston - I'm talking about the global state system.

You are right, drinking water has nothing to do with west-centric thinking, I've no idea why you bought it up.
posted by verisimilitude at 4:32 PM on April 25, 2008


"Klangklangston - I'm talking about the global state system.

You are right, drinking water has nothing to do with west-centric thinking, I've no idea why you bought it up.
"

Arguing that the "global state system" causes harm equivalent or greater to the harm that exists in stateless or failed-state living is bullshit. But feel free to cite some studies.

And the point of the drinking water analogy was that there are universal goods for humans, regardless of their culture. Like clean drinking water.
posted by klangklangston at 5:10 PM on April 25, 2008


Regarding all the PTSD comments, there is a fundamental disconnect between comparing tribal combatants with modern professional soldiers. Whereas the former spends their entire life (Diamond posits the feud he described to have lasted for at least a generation) engaged in small scale warfare -- committing acts both sanctioned and celebrated by their entire society -- against an enemy they know intimately, members of a state military face different circumstances. They are more likely to find themselves in an alien society engaged in high intensity combat (members of the military do not often, to my knowledge, take the to time to raise pigs while on a tour of duty), before returning to a society wherein their previous behaviors are maladaptive. It's the difference between getting a free drink at the local bar because everyone knows you're the one who killed that bastard in the next valley over (who we all know had it coming), and freaking out in a restaurant because you can't stop thinking about who was in the building your tank crew blew up.
posted by Panjandrum at 8:49 PM on April 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


I find it amusing that this tribal war was started over a pig rooting in a garden. This exact circumstance led the US and Canada (under Great Britain) to the brink of war in 1859. The military standoff this caused lasted until 1872, when the issue was sent to Kaiser Wilhelm for arbitration. His decision resulted in the San Juan islands becoming part of Washington State instead of British Columbia.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 8:59 PM on April 26, 2008


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