Pember, M.A. (March 2019). Death by Civilization. Atlantic. This is what achieving civilization looked like in practice: Students were stripped of all things associated with Native life. Their long hair, a source of pride for many Native peoples, was cut short, usually into identical bowl haircuts. They exchanged traditional clothing for uniforms, and embarked on a life influenced by strict military-style regimentation. Students were physically punished for speaking their Native languages. Contact with family and community members was discouraged or forbidden altogether. Survivors have described a culture of pervasive physical and sexual abuse at the schools. Food and medical attention were often scarce; many students died. Their parents sometimes learned of their death only after they had been buried in school cemeteries, some of which were unmarked.
Deb Haaland: My grandparents were stolen from their families as children. We must learn about this history. June 11, 2021 Washington Post.
Deb Haaland, the U.S. interior secretary, is the first Native American to serve as a Cabinet secretary.
As I read stories about an unmarked grave in Canada where the remains of 215 Indigenous children were found last month, I was sick to my stomach. But the deaths of Indigenous children at the hands of government were not limited to that side of the border. Many Americans may be alarmed to learn that the United States also has a history of taking Native children from their families in an effort to eradicate our culture and erase us as a people. It is a history that we must learn from if our country is to heal from this tragic era.
I am a product of these horrific assimilation policies. My maternal grandparents were stolen from their families when they were only 8 years old and were forced to live away from their parents, culture and communities until they were 13. Many children like them never made it back home.
Over nearly 100 years, tens of thousands of Indigenous children were taken from their communities and forced into scores of boarding schools run by religious institutions and the U.S. government. Some studies suggest that by 1926, nearly 83 percent of Native American school-age children were in the system. Many children were doused with DDT upon arrival, and as their coerced re-education got underway, they endured physical abuse for speaking their tribal languages or practicing traditions that didn’t fit into what the government believed was the American ideal.
There are classes if this topic interests you. AIS 330: his class introduces students to Indigenous perspectives of education, knowledge, and learning. Students will explore the historical relationships between educational institutions, policies, practices, and Indigenous communities. Through an engagement with present day efforts of educators, programs, and institutions that incorporate and engage traditional knowledges, students will develop a deeper understanding of Indigenous education and ways to promote teaching practices and pedagogies that value and support a diverse educational community.