Tuesday, November 08, 2011


This is one of those stories that certainly is not going to heard round the world in any media.  It should.  You read about the continued cultural genocide of American Indians and you aren't surprised and you are surprised.  Didn't they stop this crap a long time ago, you wonder?  I thought I heard....Well, they may not be shipping Indian kids off to some Christian boarding school today, but THEY have found another way to accomplish the same thing.

From Minnesota Public Radio.

Native children suffer under a modern-day version of forced assimilation

by Donna Ennis
November 8, 2011

The federal government began sending American Indians to off-reservation boarding schools in the 1870s, when the United States was still at war with Indians. An Army officer, Richard Pratt, founded the first of these schools.
Pratt believed that the Indian Wars weren't extinguishing the culture fast enough, so he came up with the idea of separating children from their parents. The first boarding schools were started in the late 1800s. Our elders describe trains coming into tribal communities and grabbing children from their homes and taking them to these boarding schools. The effects of boarding schools are far-reaching and have resulted in historical, intergenerational and cultural trauma to our Native people.
Those boarding schools have an echo today.
Beginning with his separation from his family at the age of 4, Andrew was shuffled 28 times from foster home to foster home. He was stripped of his identity and placed in homes outside of his culture. He grew up not knowing who he was or where he came from because he was removed at such an impressionable young age, leaving him with no sense of belonging. I believe that a child's most important need, besides food, clothing and shelter, is the need to belong. Although Andrew had many siblings, he saw only a couple of the older ones on occasion and never saw his younger siblings again.
Andrew committed suicide at the age of 17 by hanging himself from a tree on the property of what was to be his last foster home. After his death, arrangements were made to get the family together for his burial. I have worked with many youth over the years, and it never gets any easier for me to comprehend what kind of child welfare system allows these atrocities to happen.
The trauma that Andrew suffered echoed the assimilation policies set out by the government through the federal Indian boarding school program. He too was separated from his family and tribe. Dominant cultural values were forced on him through a process of forced assimilation.
The 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act was created by the federal government in order to establish federal authority over adoption of Native American children. The goal of the act was to strengthen and preserve Native American families and culture.
Each year, South Dakota removes an average of 700 Native children from their homes. Of these 700 children, 90 percent are placed in non-Native homes or group care. The continuing separation of children from their heritage is a tragic and destructive aspect of these cross-cultural placements.
Despite federal law to the contrary, a boarding school mentality exists in favor of placing Native children in non-Indian settings. The identity of Native youth is devalued. Forced assimilation leads to conflict with these young people, who can become very confused about their tribal identity.
There is again a price on Indian children's heads, seen in the distribution of federal money to social services for their care. In addition, South Dakota has a record of designating Native children as having special needs -- which means they are worth more to the state financially than other children.
Social service agencies like Children's Home Society have become the new boarding schools for South Dakota. Just like in early tribal communities, children are being forcibly taken from their homes with no real basis. Families and tribes are being forced to hide their children from the state.
Donna Ennis writes a diversity blog for the Duluth News Tribune.


syk0saje said...

i would recommend using "Native Americans" instead of "Indians". i find it a bit confusing as "Indians" pertains to an entirely different group of people. nevertheless, great article! :)

Oread Daily said...

Usually I say "American Indians". Not sure why I left that out today. I find American Indians like that better than Native Americans, but it probably six of one, half dozen of the other, depending on who you ask. Most of the world just uses indigenous.