Read Beginning of “American Indian Children and Cultural Genocide” at: https://familycourtinjustice.wordpress.com/2014/03/15/indian-children-cultural-genocide
Indian Schools: Mandatory Loss of Family & Culture
Placement of American Indian children into government schools was supposed to be voluntary but that was never the reality for parents and tribes. Government officials often pressured tribal leaders and parents to give up children with threats and intimidation, including the threat of withholding federal monies or allotments of food. If a family resisted sending their child to an Indian school, the police or government agents had the power to hunt down the child and bring them to the school by force. Parents could also be thrown in jail.
Tribes like the Lakota were targeted to place children in boarding schools because they were considered hostile to the U.S. government, and it was thought the “trouble makers” could be controlled or made submissive if their own children were assimilated.
Tribes who were starving or suffering due to harsh conditions on reservations often sent children to boarding schools because they felt they had no other choice—it was assimilate or die. Other tribes were manipulated into surrendering children with false promises their children would have a better life in the schools. Tribal leaders and parents thought education would be a benefit to their children; not knowing the true intent of education was to eradicate the Indian.
The boarding schools were often hundreds of miles away from reservations, so Indian children had very limited or no contact with family. All federal Indian schools were run as military like institutions, half the day was spent learning a trade (like sewing or farming); the other half was spent learning academic subjects. Other Indian children were fostered or adopted by White families; the main incentive for taking in an Indian child was cheap labor. Indian children were exploited for cheap labor, often working in slavery like conditions in boarding schools, farms or working for White families as domestic servants. It was common for Indian children in boarding schools to be sent to spend time with a white family while being denied contact with their own family.
In boarding schools, children slept in dormitories and were monitored by matrons, their lives followed a strict schedule; any deviation resulted in punishment. At the schools, Indian children were forbidden to speak their native language, and forced to adopt an English name. Children had their hair cut short and wore government issued uniforms. Children were not allowed to wear tribal clothing or show any affinity to their tribe. Children were denied contact with family. Those who disobeyed faced severe punishment; both physical punishment, isolation and public shaming were commonly used. Children were encouraged to spy on each other, and report offenders. Even those children who were able to resist, and hold onto something from home, lost significant knowledge and bonds important to their identity and culture
Support for government run boarding schools began to decline in the 1920’s, in part due to public opposition from former boarding school students who organized to protest the schools, and fight for changes. In 1928, the Merriam Report exposed many problems with the boarding schools. Public opinion was turning against the schools but Indian input was never a real part of discussions, nor was it valued. Tribal leaders did not have any real power. In 1924, the Curtis Act declared Indian people were citizens of the United States but they were not treated that way.
The strength of government run Indian schools began to fade in the 1940’s, although many Indian schools continue to operate. Some are boarding schools; others are vocational schools. And some schools have made drastic changes and promote diversity and immerse children in native language.
The Adoption Program and Government Removal of American Indian Children
When the boarding school program began to diminish, the U.S. government began another assimilation program. Adoption programs began in the 1940’s but became stronger with the implementation of the American Indian Adoption Program. The American Indian Adoption Program ran from 1958-1967 and worked with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA), and several churches or religious organizations from all denominations.
During the Adoption Era, the US government thought assimilation was best for Indian children; and viewed their parents or their tribe as a problem to be dealt with. Indian children could be taken for any reason or no reason at all. Parents had their parental rights terminated in corrupt and biased court proceedings, including “closed” adoption proceedings. Children were taken away from families, and adopted into White families, many were relocated to other parts of the country when adopted. This was devastating and traumatic for the children, their families and tribal communities. The loss is felt to this day.
In 1968, the Adoption Program became part of the Adoption Resource League of North America, a larger program to help adopt “hard to place” children in the U.S. and Canada. By 1974, 25% of Indian children had been removed from their homes and placed in the care with non-Indian families. There was little or no recourse for families, blood relatives or native tribes to reclaim these “Lost Children”.
The CWLA has since apologized for its role in the Adoption Program, and is working to revise policies and attitudes to improve the way it handles cases involving Indian children, and repair relationships with tribes.
The Fight for Survival
Assimilation policies have had a devastating impact on Indian children—and tribal communities as a whole. Children were taught in boarding schools to hate and be ashamed of anything “Indian”. Some Indian children did reject their culture, and assimilate, those children did not lead happy lives pretending to be “white”; in their heart and soul they did not fully assimilate. Other Indian children felt lost, confused and torn between two worlds—many struggled trying to re-integrate back into their tribes because they were so different. All “Lost Children” suffered from trauma and emotional problems. Other Indian children found ways to resist, and maintain traditions in a secret or adapted way. Sometimes children ran away. Some children who survived the boarding schools later returned to families. Other children organized groups to support “Lost Children”. Other children took what they learned in schools and used it to advocate for reform or fight for sovereignty for Indian people.
Read about the Split Feather study and how removal from families and culture affected Indian children, this study includes stories Indian children who survived assimilation and were raised in non-Indian homes: http://www.nativecanadian.ca/Native_Reflections/split_feather_syndrome.htm
With the advance of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s, Indian people began to organize and also fight for sovereignty, and changes in repressive U.S. policies towards Indians. Native Pride became a new mantra to boldly assert Indian identity, and demand to be treated as equals—as fellow human beings not “savages”. With Native Pride, many of those who had been alienated from their cultures found new acceptance and support, not just with their own tribes but joining groups that included members from many different tribes.
In the late 1970’s, a movement began to return Native children to their families and communities, and give Native people more power over governing their tribes and its people. In 1978, the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) was passed to mandate that Native children be placed in out of home care, first be considered to be place with tribal relatives, tribal members or members of other tribes before considering placement into non-Indian families. ICWA also gives tribes jurisdiction over child welfare cases, and the ability to intervene in adoption cases. Despite the passage of this law, there are reports of violations of ICWA, especially in areas of adoption and children taken by state social service agencies. Allegations are rampant that the ICWA is being violated because states receive thousands of dollars from the federal government for every child taken from a family, and often those rates are higher for Native children—states receive a large portion of this money.
The fight continues for justice…
–Emily Court, M21, one mom of countless, losing her children to an unjust court system…
For More Information:
American Indian Adoptees: http://splitfeathers.blogspot.com/
American Indian Movement (AIM): http://www.aimovement.org/
“Canton Asylum for Insane Indians 1902: 1934” by Carla Joinson : http://cantonasylumforinsaneindians.com/ (A dumping ground for “troublesome” Indians who were held at the asylum against their will, and abused).
“Carlisle Indian Industrial School” by Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlisle_Indian_Industrial_School
Cultural Survival vs. Forced Assimilation” by Dr. Jon Reyhner, 2001. Cultural Survival: http://www.culturalsurvival.org/publications/cultural-survival-quarterly/united-states/cultural-survival-vs-forced-assimilation-rene
Pinterest: “First Nations and the Boarding Schools” by Roseanne Freese. http://www.pinterest.com/hokaheyhockey/first-nations-and-the-boarding-schools/
“Indian Boarding Schools” forward by Dr. Jon Reyhner. Published on California Indian Education: http://www.californiaindianeducation.org/indian_boarding_schools/
“Native Americans Expose the Adoption Era and Repair Its Devastation” by Stephanie Woodard. Indian Country Todat: 12/06/2011: http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2011/12/06/native-americans-expose-adoption-era-and-repair-its-devastation-65966
“Native Foster Care: Lost Children, Shattered Families” by Laura Sullivan and Amy Walters. NPR: 10/25/2011. http://www.npr.org/2011/10/25/141672992/native-foster-care-lost-children-shattered-families
“The Reservation Boarding School System in the United States, 1870-1928” by Sonja Keohane: http://www.twofrog.com/rezsch.html#Fail
“Split Feathers: Adult American Indians who were placed in Non-Indian Families as Children”: http://www.nativecanadian.ca/Native_Reflections/split_feather_syndrome.htm (Examines how the loss of cultural identity and connection to family due to a separation as a child affects the child emotionally and psychologically, and leaves a lifelong impact. Includes stories from Split Feathers).
“Stolen Generations and Vanishing Indians: The Removal of Indigenous Children as a Weapon of War in the United States and Australia, 1870-1940” by Victoria Haskins and Margaret D. Jacobs: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1009&context=historyfacpub
The US-Dakota War of 1862: Indian Boarding Schools: http://www.usdakotawar.org/history/newcomers-us-government-military-federal-acts-policy/indian-boarding-schools