By Dennis Michael Plank, NEOSC Human Rights Chair
Where did the statement “Let all that is Indian within you die” come from? This use to be a major federal policy of the United States Government. The government used to take Native American children from their families and ship them off to boarding schools to assimilate them to the dominant society. This caused major problems, so it is important that we don’t let all that is Indian within you die. Why is this important? It is important because we have already had enough cultural genocide.
The Native American Rights Fund (Summer/Fall 2013) Legal Review Newsletter documents how Native American children were forcibly abducted from their homes and put into boarding schools from about 1800 to 1950. This was done “for their own good.” The Indians had to be civilized and the Native American cultures had to be stamped out. There was a policy of ethnocide and cultural genocide. This caused major problems. The children were cut off from their families, cut off from their culture, punished for speaking their Native languages, banned from conducting traditional cultural practices, were cut off from their identity, were taught that their culture was evil, were taught that they should be ashamed of being Native American, etc.
Far from home the children were neglected and abused physically, sexually, and psychologically. They could not take it any more so they started running away. There were about 500 boarding schools in 18 states. At one school in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, 1842 children ran away. When they were found they had beatings, physical restraints applied to them, and unlighted unventilated jail cells waiting for them. There were about 500 deaths.
According to some Native Americans it is time to start healing. Tribal nations have to heal. The United States community has to heal. The environmental community has to heal. We all have to heal. The psychological, sociological, cultural, and political sciences have shown us that traumas experienced in the past continue to harm the victims and the victimizers. We cannot continue the denial and ignorance of the history of the United States boarding school policy any longer.
We need to stop cultural genocide. We need to stop genocide and ecocide. Don’t let all that is Indian within you die!
One way to start healing is to attend the 22nd Annual Demonstration and Conference to Protest Racism Against Indigenous Peoples in Sports and the Media, Please Support The Indigenous Peoples, presented by The Committee of 500 Years of Dignity and Resistance, Friday, April 4, 2014. The demonstration meets at the park at West 25th Street and Detroit Avenue at noon. (If you do not want to do the walk, then meet at Progressive Field at 12:30 PM.) The Conference meets at Denison Avenue United Church of Christ, 9900 Denison Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio, enter at side door, at 4 PM. For more information contact Dennis Michael Plank from the Sierra Club Northeast Ohio Group Conservation Human Rights Sub-Committee at 216-939-8229 or firstname.lastname@example.org.