A Place to Call Home

For some time now I’ve been studying about the Indian boarding schools. This began as several of us prepared for Paula Palmer to be with us this past summer.

Following is a letter to faith communities that explains the purpose of these workshops.

A call to faith communities has been issued by two very different organizations: the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and the World Council of Churches. Indigenous and religious leaders are urging all people Of faith to take a deep look at the Doctrine of Discovery, the 15th century papal edict that authorized European Christian nations to “invade, capture, vanquish, and subdue all.. .pagans and other enemies of Christ.. .to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery …and.. .to take away all their possessions and property”  (Pope Nicholas V) 

Why do we need to dredge up the Doctrine of Discovery now, more than 500 years later? Because over the centuries, the Doctrine has been embedded in a world view of European superiority and domination and in the legal codes of the lands the Europeans colonized. It continues to be cited by courts in our country and others as justification for denying Indigenous Peoples their rights. The notion of European superiority and domination has been perpetuated by our schools and other institutions. The consequences can be seen in the disproportionate poverty and ill health of Native American people today. How much has it influenced our own thoughts and actions? 

She presented several workshops related to Toward Right Relationships with Native Peoples. One of her presentations was “Quaker Indian Boarding Schools: Facing Our History and Ourselves”, held at Scattergood Friends School July 7, 2019. There is a complicated history related to Quakers’ involvement with Indian Boarding Schools. Although I’m sure they had the best of intentions, the attempts to force assimilation of Native children into White culture had many disastrous results. Paula wrote about this in Friends Journal. https://www.friendsjournal.org/quaker-indian-boarding-schools/

More than 100,000 Native children suffered the direct consequences of the federal government’s policy of forced assimilation by means of Indian boarding schools during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Their bereft parents, grandparents, siblings, and entire communities also suffered. As adults, when the former boarding school students had children, their children suffered, too. Now, through painful testimony and scientific research, we know how trauma can be passed from generation to generation. The multigenerational trauma of the boarding school experience is an open wound in Native communities today.

Quaker Indian Boarding Schools: Facing Our History and Ourselves,
by Paula Palmer on October 1, 2016

I’ve written about my friend Matthew Lone Bear and I sharing stories about the Quaker Indian boarding schools as we walked together during the First Nation Farmer Climate Unity March in September, 2018. That made it clear to me that trauma such as that is multigenerational. As the blog post about those conversations says, the past isn’t. https://kislingjeff.wordpress.com/2019/06/17/the-past-isnt/

A Place to Call Home

I’m glad today I can share a better story about Native Children.

Great news for the children of Standing Rock! The Lakota People’s Law Project will soon open a foster home with Native caretakers for kids in need on the reservation, a resource that’s been missing for a long, long time.

I know you may have been introduced to us through our shared pipeline resistance and defense of water protectors — and this critical work will remain front and center in 2020 with the coming of Keystone XL to my homelands on Cheyenne River.

Understanding that, I’m excited to share with you today how we got started and more about our important work on behalf of children and families. Back in 2004, I was among a group of Lakota grandmothers who helped found the Lakota People’s Law Project. We needed to stop the taking of our children by the State of South Dakota.

That was true then, and it remains true today.

We grandmothers found our people in the midst of an epidemic, an extension of the boarding school era that I and many of my generation barely survived. Back then, the saying was “Kill the Indian, Save the Man.” These days, there’s no catchy slogan. Instead, quietly — but every day — the State comes in, removes our kids, and almost always puts them in non-Native foster care, where they’re excluded from their culture and prone to high rates of suicide.

The state relocates more than 700 children from tribal homes every year, 90 percent of whom end up in non-Native foster care settings. This pattern persists, even though the Indian Child Welfare Act requires that states do everything in their power to secure Native foster care.

That’s why, in 2005, we confronted South Dakota by bringing in NPR to do a Peabody Award-winning series on the crisis. We also hosted a summit in Rapid City attended by three executive branch agencies from D.C. and all nine tribes from around the state.

Despite our best efforts, the struggle to keep tribal children in Native homes and in touch with their culture continues. Now, we’ve achieved a meaningful milestone in this struggle: working with a group associated with The Nation Magazine and with Standing Rock’s Child Protective Services, we’ve secured a lovely house on the reservation where up to eight foster children will be safe, secure, and loved.

I am also working with another nonprofit based on my home reservation of Cheyenne River to create a “children’s village” in the same spirit as our house at Standing Rock. As we both go forward, we will share knowledge and create opportunities for foster children to connect with one another across tribal nation boundaries. All these kids deserve to know they are not alone, that we are all part of a larger circle.

There is much still to accomplish and we will have more to share with you in the coming weeks. For now, I wish you a very happy holiday season! The support and attention you give the Lakota People’s Law Project makes a huge difference, not just for fossil fuel resistance but for children and families, too.

Wopila — Thank you for standing with our children.

Madonna Thunder Hawk
Tribal Liaison and Grandmother
The Lakota People’s Law Project
This entry was posted in #NDAPL, decolonize, First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March, Indigenous, Native Americans, Quaker, Toward Right Relationship with Native Peoples, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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