Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Assimilation, Sexual Exploitation and Genocide of Native Americans

"A great general has said that the only good Indian is a dead one, and that high sanction of his destruction has been an enormous factor in promoting Indian massacres. In a sense, I agree with the sentiment, but only in this: that all the Indian there is in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him, and save the man."~ Gen. Richard Henry Pra

From: Carlisle Indian Industrial School History

As the white population grew in the United States and people settled further west towards the Mississippi in the late 1800s, there was increasing pressure on the recently removed groups to give up some of their new land.

Since there was no more Western territory to push them towards, the U.S. decided to remove Native Americans. Uncomfortable with extermination policies , Quaker and missionary reformers explored new methods to turn Native Americans into a copy of his God-fearing, soil-tilling, white brothers. …assimilation.  As part of this federal push for assimilation, the U.S. government forced tens of thousands of Native American children to attend “assimilation” boarding schools.

Parents expressed widespread opposition and resisted sending children to the schools. Agents withheld rations from uncooperative families, and in cases where there was continued resistance, police were sent to take the children by force.

Native American's were given new Anglo-American names, clothes, and haircuts, and told they must abandon their way of life because it was inferior to white people’s.

Assimilation and Death

Native children attended these schools from the late 1800s to the 1970s.

By the early 1930s, an estimated two-thirds of Native Americans had attended boarding school at some point in their life.

  • 332 boarding schools in 29 states 
  • 100,000 children between 1879 and the 1970s 
  • 1973: 60,000 in off-reservation boarding schools
  •                              Locations of Indian Boarding Schools throughout the United States

    Court documents filed against the boarding schools allege that as recently as the ’70s Native students were beaten, whipped, shaken, burned, thrown down stairs, placed in stress positions and deprived of food. Their heads were smashed against walls, and they were made to stand naked before their classmates. They charge that priests, brothers, nuns and lay employees at these institutions raped, sodomized and molested them, often for years.

    Former students recall their experiences:

    Howard Wanna’s story:
    “Father Pohlen sat me down, unzipped his pants, took his penis out, and began to wipe it on my face and lips….suddenly I’d be choking and something would be running out of my mouth. He’d also turn me around and rape me, hurting me badly as he used his hands to grip my hair, neck, or shoulders.
    I had no one to turn to, not even God, because God’s representative on earth was the one hurting me.
    “Soon a nun began to abuse me as well…. Other abuse included beating us with sticks, hoses, and even a metal shovel.
    “I often wonder how so many pedophiles ended up at Native American schools. ….Was there a dual plan to hurt Native Americans while taking care of the pedophiles? Was this genocide?”
    Renville’s story:
    “All I remember was being hungry and being placed in a dark crawl space.

    “I have a memory of being told to go get Vaseline, then returning to the room to find the boys and men in the family waiting for me. This lasted for a summer.” (instead of returning the Indian children to their families during the summer months, the detribalizing process was continued by placing them for hire with non Indian families.) 
    “….Now, I’m back living on my reservation, which sometimes feels like a foreign country, though I’m related to half the people here.”
     Zephier’s story:
    “They beat us with straps and a two-by-four with handles, which they called the ‘board of education. There were regular whippings at noon. The beatings were so frequent, we adapted to the pain and got used to living that way.”
    “The child-molesters would come and was a disturbing, sickening place to be. I have often wondered, where did the nuns and priests learn those things?”
    Thousands of children died at these schools, or ran away never to be heard from again.

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