NOTE: What is presented here is first a dramatic story from 1907 showing a family’s struggle against the United States government’s “re-education” policy followed by an article from 15 years earlier which illustrates the treatment of American Indians by the Federal government as it implemented its progressive social engineering policy, and finally an article from almost 70 years after the struggles of the “crippled father” in the 1907 report, showing the horrible consequences of this governmental experiment in “outcome-based education” and the continuing struggle for civil rights waged by the target population, Indians.
FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 3):Waterloo, Iowa, Aug. 22. – With only one arm and one leg, an aged Indian, who kidnapped his boy from an industrial school in Nebraska, to-day fought off two deputy United States marshals who, having pursued him across two states, overtook him in the woods thirty miles north of here. The red man’s nose was also gone and as he fought desperately for the possession of his son with his one hand, he presented a weird spectacle.
The officers were armed with revolvers and the old man had only a club, but he flourished it so spiritedly that his pursuers kept out of range. While the combat was in progress the boy escaped and his in a cornfield.
The old Indian’s story is sad. One son died two years ago. The boy that he kidnapped was the only remaining [male] child. The government officials placed him in an industrial school for some unknown reason. This grieved the father and mother. The father imagined that his son was being worked so hard that he, too, might die. Then, after a consultation with his wife, he decided to abduct the boy. He succeeded, and the reunited family set out with a span of ponies for the Wisconsin reservation. Officers took the trail and overtook them.
When the crippled old Indian saw the officers approach he broke down and wept. His wife and daughter united their tears with his. Seeing that tears would not avail to save his son, the father grabbed a club and attacked the officers with terrible fury.
[“Crippled Father Fought For Son – Aged Indian Held Two United Sates Marshals at Bay With a Club.” Manitoba Free Press (Winnipeg, Canada), Aug. 23, 1907]
NOTE: The Indian Industrial School at Genoa, Nebraska was the fourth non-reservation boarding institution established by the Office of Indian Affairs. The facility opened on February 20, 1884, and, like other such schools, its mission was to educate and teach Christianity to Native American children. The village of Genoa was selected because the Federal Government already owned the former Pawnee Reservation property there; however, existing buildings at the site were unsuitable and in poor repair. Like many buildings designed for Indian school campuses, this was a simple three-story structure with a hipped roof and a small triangular pediment above the center entrance. The pairs of tall windows and the strong horizontal lines across the front created a balanced composition. This was a popular design during the late 1880s. The school closed in 1934. [fromWikipedia]
FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 3): A dispatch, from Kingman, in Arizona, announces that a few days ago representatives from five tribes or bands of Indians met at Pine Springs to protest against having their children taken away and sent to Government schools in the East. It is said that some of them were for resorting to arms, and that a great many families had gone to the mountains to prevent their boys and girls from being carried off. It is quite possible that the parents have exaggerated the risks they run, but their feeling that it is a hardship to have their children carried a long distance away is natural. The Fifty-first Congress at its second session passed a law authorizing and directing the Commissioner of Indian Affairs “to make and enforce by proper means such rules and regulations as will secure the attendance of Indian children of suitable age and health at schools established and maintained for their benefit.” This compulsory attendance law furnishes the basis for the action of which the Arizona bands complain. But whether Congress foresaw that the authority thus given would be used to take children against the will of their parents hundreds of thousands of miles from their homes may not be so clear. To civilized people such a removal will, of course, seem a great opportunity for the youngsters. They are cared for, fed, clothed, and instructed without cost, and are made much fitter for citizenship and for success in life than their companions who receive no such advantages. But while we understand all this, to the Indian fathers and mothers the forcible wresting away of their children must look very much like kidnapping.
The Indian Bureau itself has recognized this difficulty in its rules and regulations, which prescribe that, “So far as practicable, the preferences of Indian parents or guardians, or of Indian youth of sufficient maturity and judgment, will be regarded as to whether the attendance shall be at Government, public, or private schools.” But it is further provided that, if schools in the reservations are lacking or already filed,” or if for other reasons the good of the children shall clearly require that they be sent away from home to school, they will, be placed in non-reservation schools.” – which seems to mean that, unless the parents part with them willingly, they may be taken away by force. But a law which is perfectly sound and wise, if administered by people with discretion, for procuring attendance at the reservation schools, might cause some distress if enforced to the extent of separating children from their parents for years together. Nor is is it usually understood that the Eastern training schools are unable to get their quota of pupils without such a process. There are Indians, presumably, who allow their children to go to these schools. But, however that may be, it is particularly desirable, in neighborhoods where objection is made, if the Government schools are full and private or contract schools can take them, that they should do so where the provisions made by Congress will permit.
There is no doubt that the main hope of civilizing the red man and of bringing them into line with American citizens lies in the training of their children. It would be unwise to allow the prejudices of ignorant parents to deprive the rising generation of the provisions made by the Government for their benefit. Yet it is quite evident that in this matter sound judgment and careful consideration of the peculiar circumstances of the red men are needed. Commissioner MORGAN has noted that the Indians “are loath to have their children taken from them, even for a short time. They are devotedly attached to them, miss their companionship, and are accustomed to rely upon their assistance in the performance of such simple duties as they are capable of.” Perhaps in this statement may be found an explanation of the feeling of bitterness against the Government which is now reported to exist among some of the Arizona bands. It would hardly be fair to charge them with prejudice against education if what they are really prejudiced against should turn out to be simply the sending of their offspring far away. It does not appear from the dispatch that they would object to having them instructed in schools where the parents could still have a share in their companionship. The problem, no doubt, is a difficult one, but it is evident that, while an admirable work is done by the Eastern training schools – one of whose advantages is in taking the children at an impressionable age away from their savage home surroundings – yet the ultimate reliance for the great body of the Indians must be in schools on and near the reservations. Commissioner MORGAN in his last report made a strong appeal to Congress for the multiplication of day schools, fully supplied with all the means to make up for the lack of home instruction. It would require no very extravagant amount to furnish sufficient schools and instruction for such of the Indian children of school age as cannot now be accommodated somewhere, and it might be a wise expenditure to do this within the next few years. With more reservation schools the compulsory attendance law would be enforced with a better grace and without embittering the lives of Indian parents in seeking the benefit of their offspring. [“Indian Education.” The New York Times (N.Y.), Sep. 20, 1892, p. 4]
FULL TEXT: (Article 3 of 3): Washington, D.C. — At what point does governmental intrusion, whether federal, state or local into Indian family life to protect a child become “kidnaping” and “cultural genocide,” and what should be the role of a tribal government in this area?
These questions were at the heart of testimony taken from about 30 witnesses by the Senate Indian Affairs Subcommittee in two days of hearings April 8-9 to document what Committee Chairman Sen. James D. Abourezk, D-S.D., called “abusive child removal practices which are destroying Indian families.”
Lead-off witness William Byler, executive director of the Association on American
Indian Affairs, stated that based on his organization’s surveys, “approximately 25 to 35 per cent of all Indian children are separated from their families and placed in foster homes, adoptive homes, or institutions.” Institutions were defined by Byler as federal or mission boarding schools or state training schools.
Byler cited the following statistics: In Minnesota the rate of adoption of Indian children per capita is five times greater than that of non Indian children; in South Dakota the foster care rate is nearly 16 times greater per capita; in Washington state the adoption rate is 19 times greater, the foster care rate 10 times greater; in Michigan, 16 times greater.
A number of Indian parents before the subcommittee recited a litany of abuses they and their children suffered at the hands of state and county welfare workers eager to remove the children from what they deemed a home environment of “neglect” or “social deprivation.”
Margaret Townsend (Paiute) of Fallen, Nev., described how her children were forcibly taken from her home without her consent and placed in foster care homes by county welfare workers after she had been arrested — her first arrest — for driving while intoxicated. With the aid of an MIA attorney Mrs. Townsend was finally able to get a court to release her children from the custody of the county and return them to her.
Her daughter Anna was also a witness. Anna was supposed to describe to the subcommittee the treatment she and her younger brother endured in their foster home. Instead, Anna gave more effective testimony. After a brave start; she broke down and cried.
Other witnesses told of outright abduction of Indian children from their parents Byler of AAIA told how Benita Rowland had been taken by two Wisconsin women with the collusion of a local missionary from South Dakota after her Oglala Sioux mother was tricked into signing a form purportedly granting them permission to take the child on a short visit but, in fact, agreeing to her adoption. It was months before Mrs. Rowland could obtain counsel and regain her daughter.
Governmental intrusion in to the privacy of family life is not confined to Indian families. However, witnesses testified to the qualitative differences between removal of non-Indian children and that of Indian children.
Non-Indian children are taken into custody by the government when, said two physician witnesses, the child has no recognized or legally appointed guardian, that is, is dependent or abandoned; when the child has been involved in delinquent acts; when the child’s needs are not being met by the family, constituting neglect; and when the child is being physically abused.
According to the witnesses, Indian children are removed for the above reasons and in addition for the following reasons: to meet the educational needs of the child, or because a social worker does not feel the reservation is a fit place for any child to be brought up, or because the lowered birth rate in the dominant race leaves fewer children available for adoption, and thus Indian children are considered “fair game.”
The effects of these unwarranted removals and placements with non-Indians are psychologically disastrous for both parents and children, according to witnesses. Gov. Robert E. Lewis, president of the National Tribal Chairmen’s association (NTCA), said:
“Children who must adjust to a new way of life away from their own cultural group often must overcome a language barrier, adjust to a new religion, learn new foods and are often faced with overt and covert racism.”
Melvin Sampson, Yakima tribal councilman, while acknowledging the good intentions
of non-Indians who adopt Indian children, said: “The damaging effect this creates on our Indian children is beyond the scope of evaluation. The Indian is on the receiving end of a total lack of understanding.
They literally surfer when they discover that their physical appearance is not that or their adopted parents. The wonderment and search for true identity is crucial and probably, at times never completed.”
The causes of this latter day “Indian removal” campaign were described by witnesses as follows: a lack of standards for what constitutes mistreatment that is relevant to Indian culture; failure of social workers and courts to follow ‘due process of law”; strictures in taking children away from parents; social conditions in Indian families such as low income, poor health and substandard housing which make Indian children prime targets for removal.
One particular problem stems directly from the inadequacy of tribal courts to cope with demands by social workers that they authorized the removal of a child. According to witnesses, they have no independent means of either experts or resources to judge the validity of a request by a social worker to remove a child from his home. In states where tribes have lost civil and criminal jurisdiction over their reservation under Public Law 280, the situation is even worse because the tribes have absolutely no role in removal.
The BIA also came under fire at the hearings for its role or lack of it in this area. A witness charged that the BIA is spending over $1,040,000 in Minnesota to provide for foster care payments. Since it is a PL 280 state, Minnesota should be picking up this expense, according to Abourezk aide Sherwin Brodhead. Recommendations for reform by witnesses included repeal of PL 280 so affected tribes will have more control over what happens to their children, revision of standards governing child welfare issues to conform to Indian cultural life, and strengthening of due process to protect parents faced with losing their children.
[“Indian Adoption vs. ‘Kidnaping’ Answers Sought,” Independent (Gallup, N.M.), Apr. 23, 1974, p. 2]