Part I: American Indian Children & Cultural Genocide

I was grieving the loss of my children during Black History Month because I am being forcibly removed from their lives by their abusive father and the equally abusive family court, as a result my children are growing up not knowing their family, culture or heritage….they are losing critical pieces of their identity, and being beaten down emotionally and spiritually by the abuse they are court ordered to endure. I was then inspired to start a series on the history and true stories of Children Stolen by the Government, from time to time I will add stories on how family court has robbed my children of their family, culture and identity.

Dakota Mother and Child

                                             Children Stolen by the Government

                           Part I: American Indian Children & Cultural Genocide

     When I ask myself how could it be that I lost custody of my precious children to an abuser and wanted fugitive with over a dozen child abuse allegations against him… I remember the government and corrupt court system have been stealing children from fit, loving parents for over a centurybeginning with the children of American Indian tribes and African slaves. This article will focus on the cultural genocide perpetrated against American Indians by the US government.

Modern problems with CPS and Family Court corruption, government interference with parental rights and court injustice are are a continuance of past policies that allowed and encouraged the government to remove children from fit, loving parents—even using force to do so.

             Indian Children Forcibly Taken from Families by U.S. Government 

In the 1800’s, both American Indians and African Americans (Blacks) were viewed as “savages” and inferior to “civilized” White society. Reformers believed you could “save” Indians and Blacks by assimilating them into “civilized” society, so that they would adopt the speech, habit and mannerisms of dominant society and reject their former identity.

Taking children from American Indian families became a way for the U.S. government to conquer and control Indian people. Policies removing Indian children from their homes and forcing them to adopt new identities began in the late 1870’s and have persisted to the present. Most notably, the state of South Dakota has recently been accused of taking Indian children from their homes and placing them in foster care with non-Indian families for profit (they receive federal funding).

“Child removal sought to accomplish the original aims of warfare against indigenous peoples, by the severance of tribal and land connections, the fragmentation of indigenous communities, and the training of indigenous children to serve their colonizer..” (Haskins and Jacobs:


          “Lost Children” Stolen from Indian Families by the US Government

American Indian children who have been forcibly taken from Indian families and placed into non-Indian families are commonly called “Lost Birds”, “Lost Children”, “Lost Ones” and “Split Feathers”. These children have been placed into foster or adoptive families, boarding schools and institutions with little or no recourse for the parents or blood relatives to regain custody. The intent of placement was dictated by racist attitudes that Indian children were harmed by their own inferior or “savage” culture, and would do better if placed outside the home and away from tribal influences so they could assimilate into “civilized” White society. The results have been devastating, “With the loss of these traditional values and the languages through which they were taught, functioning American Indian communities and families are being destroyed, leaving in their wake dysfunctional families and myriad other social problems.” (Reyhner:

Many “Lost Children” are desperately searching for the families and communities they have been stolen from. Tribes are embracing the “Lost Children” as they return home—other children have not been able to trace their families or where they came from, and seek comfort in support groups and pan Indian gatherings who have become family.

          Reservation Schools as Agents for Assimilation: 1870-1928

Indian Boarding School

     In the late 1870’s the US was recovering from the Civil War and past Indian wars; the nation was growing and looking toward modernization. The US government had to deal with American Indian people and their place in American society. Previous government policies towards American Indians included war, treaties and forcible removal from their homelands to be relocated onto reservations. As white society expanded, contact with Indians increased, as did demands from tribal leaders whose people were suffering heavily under failed government policies and broken treaties. Indians could not be relocated any further out of the way, and as tensions mounted, the US government was confronted once again with the “Indian problem”. Public discussion began. Some reformers looked at Indians as “savages” and “heathens” who needed to be eliminated but wars cause instability, and great loss, so that was not an acceptable option. Other reformers thought that they had a religious or moral obligation to “save” the Indians from their “savagery”. These reformers thought that if Indians were given an education, and taught to adopt White values and customs, they would blend into society and their “heathen” origins would be erased. 

 Respect for Indian people, and allowing the tribes to govern themselves was not considered—Indians were viewed as inferior. Assimilation through forced educational programs and allotment of tribal lands became the new government policy, leading the way for cultural genocide.

                      Day Schools: the Government Indoctrination of Children

 Educational programs became a viable option for Indian assimilation and generated favorable public opinion. Education was also a less expensive option because Indians would learn to become self-sufficient by learning a trade or farming. Educational programs began in 1819 when the Civilization Fund provided funding to organizations who educated and “civilized” Indians, often creating schools. Tribal communities who relied on a communal life, and intricate bonds of family and community responsibility were torn apart by educational programs that taught children to reject their culture, and way of life, and by policies like the Dawes Act that divided reservation lands into individual plots to be farmed by families.

Indian Boarding Schools

 In 1870, the US government began operating “day schools” on reservations, and made attendance for children ages 6-16 mandatory. The schools were run by missionaries and church organizations; given the power to act on behalf of the government. Day schools meant children lived in villages with their families and attended school during the day. The children were forced to speak English and forbidden to practice tribal customs. Yet many Indian children did not fully assimilate—so the schools were moved a bit farther away but children were still allowed contact with family, and regular home visits. To the reformers, progress was not happening fast enough. It became clear that the children needed to be fully removed from their homes, and immersed into White society, in order to cut all ties and fully assimilate.

View pictures from boarding schools, and get more info at:

 Boarding Schools and the Forcible Removal of American Indian Children 1870-1940’s

 In the 1870’s, with Indian policies changing in deed but not in intent, the US government supported the position of Captain Richard Henry Pratt that“..all the Indian there is in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him, and save the man.”  “Kill the Indian, save the Man” meant if you were Indian you were automatically considered to be an unfit parent. Indian children were taken away from families with the intent to remove their culture and identity, which was considered “heathen”, “savage” and “barbaric”. The belief behind these policies was that the only hope for Indian children to be “saved” from the unhealthy influence of their family, tribe and cultural was assimilation into White society. Assimilation through educational programs meant children would be fully immersed into the “civilized” society and forced adopt its ways to such a degree they were no longer Indian, and would reject any connection to their family, tribe or culture.

Civil War veteran, Captain Richard Henry Pratt believed that both Blacks and Indians were “savages” who could be “saved” by assimilating into White society and adopting its customs. Pratt started an experiment at a prison in St. Augustine Florida working with Indian prisoners, while held captive they were indoctrinated with “civilized” customs and religious teachings. The prisoners were forced to reject their former lives, and assimilate. Assimilation happened through isolation and intimidation, the prisoners were completely reliant upon their captors to survive. Pratt’s program was so popular that he won the support of the US government who gave him permission to educate Indian children in prison-like schools.

 Pratt began his Indian school in unused army barracks outside of Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Pratt founded the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania in 1879, it was the first federally funded off reservation boarding school for American Indian children. The boarding schools were managed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), and funded by the federal government. Pratt led the movement to place Indian children in government approved schools for “distant education”. Pratt believed once Indian children were “transferred” into government care and taught “civilized education and habits” they could be reformed from being “savages” and successfully become members of white society. When the Carlisle school closed in 1918, children from over 140 tribes attended, an estimated 12,000 children.

Following the model of the Carlisle School, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) created 26 boarding schools in 15 states and territories. By 1900, that number had increased to 150 schools. Missionaries also established hundreds of private schools for Indian children across the US. Some were day schools providing education on the reservation; others were boarding schools.

To be continued…

About Emily Court

It takes "Just Us" To Fight Injustice in Family Court. I blog to raise awareness about problems existing in the family court system, and use my own story as a personal example of how the systemic failures in family court, and the Guardian ad Litem Program, affect families, in an effort to encourage needed reform. Written by a survivor of domestic violence and homelessness working to create a better life for her children, in a stable home free of violence. In her efforts to rebuild her life, she has not only encountered harassment and intimidation from her alleged abuser but faced systematic failures in family court that have empowered her alleged abuser and put her children at risk. She has spent over a decade trapped in family court until her children finally aged out of the system. Through writing and blogging, FCI is working to raise awareness about domestic violence, and the urgent need for family court reform. She is currently working on a memoir titled "'Til Prayers Are Answered".
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2 Responses to Part I: American Indian Children & Cultural Genocide

  1. Pingback: Conclusion American Indian Children and Cultural Genocide | Family Court Injustice

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