A recent New York Times article on Native American Boarding Schools gives a full historical account of Native American Boarding School system (August 30, 2023). Readers are urged to read this report. It details all the mechanisms of cultural genocide (AKA assimilation), such as name changes, military regimentation, religious indoctrination, behavioral display, clothing and personal appearance demands, property dispossession, and much more.
The U. S. Supreme Court will soon review whether the adoption of Native American children should be restricted to Indian Parents. It is an important case. It will require members of the court to be well informed about the treatment of Indian children throughout all American history. Indians have been painfully aware of this history. The settlements of Jamestown and New England in the seventeenth century placed Indian children at the center of controversy. In a striking dialogue on peace and war between Captain John Smith and Chief Wahunsenacah (a.k.a. Powhatan), the Indian Chief made the powerful and moving statement: “I have seen the death of my people thrice”. Arguably, he was referring to cultural genocide. The plan was to eradicate “Indianess” through the forceable removal of Indian children from their parents.
Historical Treatment of Indian Children
Christian conversion would gradually “civilize” a savage people. Between 1651 and 1674, the Massachusetts Bay colony established “praying towns.” The goal of praying towns was to convert Indians to Christianity. Colonizers expected Indians to give up their own cultural lifeways, dress, and religion. Instead, it often angered parents whose children were targets of opportunity. Time and time again, the consequences of these actions led to retributive violence against settler communities. In New England Indians struck hundreds of towns. Already viewed as savages, Indians as naturally violent became a stereotype.
Jamestown and New England Compared
The settler-Indian conflict was worse in New England than Jamestown because the two colonies had separate missions. Jamestown, while not devoid of conversion interest, focused on trade and profit. Under the strong influence of the Puritans, religion motivated the New Englanders to use conversion as the means to proselytize and make Indians “safe” or less violent, the very thing that forced removal was causing. A new mechanism for creating the “good Indian” arose later.
Rise of Boarding Schools
Between the seventeenth and twentieth centuries Indian boarding schools emerged. First, organized by Christian missionaries and religious denominations, the schools arose to educate and separate Indian children from their cultural heritage. Missionaries strove to transform Indians into Americans, using Christianity as tool for cultural assimilation. The mission schools were harsh environments, especially for younger children. Conditions worsened as boarding schools increased under federal law.
Between 1819 and 1969, the U.S. operated or supported 408 boarding schools in 37 states or territories, including Alaska and Hawaii. In May of this year, the Department of Interior issued a 106-page report on all Indian boarding schools.
Techniques of Assimilation
According to the report “The Federal Indian boarding school system deployed systematic militarized and identity-alteration methodologies to attempt to transform the identity of American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian children through education, including but not limited to the following: practices: (1) renaming Indian children from Indian to English names; (2) cutting hair of Indian children; (3) discouraging or preventing the use of American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian languages, religions, and cultural practices; and (4) organizing Indian and Native Hawaiian children into units to perform military drills.”
Evidence of Infectious disease, sexual, physical, and mental abuse, especially in church schools is apparent. Researchers have found at least 53 burial sites for children across this system. More site discoveries are expected as research continues. The investigation of tribal schools continues under the direction of the Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland.
Members of the U.S. Supreme Court should take seriously the historic treatment of Indian families in ruling on adoption practices. It would be a travesty if the court now decides to deprive parents and Indian communities of their constitutional rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” once again by allowing strangers to take their children without parental or guardian consent.
Marks of Tribes of the Lost Colony of Roanoke. Engraving by Thedor de Bry, 1590. The image and its explanation appears in Thomas Harriot, A briefe and true report of the new found land of Virginia, 1588. Harriot reports that these markings typically appeared on the backs of Indians. According to Harriot, mark A are the kinds of marks found on those belonging to the Chief of the Roanoke Indians; mark B, that of the Roanoke Chief’s sister’s husband; mark C and D to diverse chiefs in the town Secotan; marks E, F, and G, to chief men of the towns of Pomeiooc and Aquascogoc.
Tribes Then and Now is a page devoted to Virginia Indians and their history and treatment from 1607 to the present.
Monacan Nation to Add Virginia Health Center
The Monacan Nation will add a new health center in Amherst County, Virginia. The center will treat all Native Americans belonging to federally recognized tribes (21 October 2032).
Chief Earl Old Person of the Blackfeet Nation dies at age 92
This 106-page report confirms that the United States directly targeted American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian children in the pursuit of a policy of cultural assimilation that coincided with Indian territorial dispossession. It identifies the Federal Indian boarding schools that were used as a means for these ends, along with at least 53 burial sites for children across this system- with more site discoveries and data expected as we continue our research.
The Federal Indian boarding school policy was intentionally targeted at American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian children to assimilate them and, consequently, take their territories.
According to the report “The Federal Indian boarding school system deployed systematic militarized and identity-alteration methodologies to attempt to assimilate American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian children through education, including but not limited to the following: (1) renaming Indian children from Indian to English names; (2) cutting hair of Indian children; (3) discouraging or preventing the use of American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian languages, religions, and cultural practices; and (4) organizing Indian and Native Hawaiian children into units to perform military drills.”
A new page devoted to understanding the atrocities and massacres of Indigenous people that occurred in North America during the English and Spanish invasions.
Deb Haaland, Laguna Pueblo, New Mexico congresswoman, has been confirmed as Secretary of the Interior. She is the first Native American in history to hold a cabinet position.
- Today there 574 federally recognized tribes.
- The 1900 census enumerated 237,000 North American Indians. This number represents a population collapse of 90%.
- The Covid-19 pandemic has killed more Native Americans than any other group. Deaths among Native Americans are one in every 475 compared to one in every 645 African Americans and one in 121 white Americans (ARM Research Lab).
- Despite more general acceptance of the vaccines and willingness to be vaccinated ,distribution in tribal communities has been less than the demand.
- President Joe Biden has created a Covid-19 Health Equity Task Force in response to the inequities in healthcare among minority population groups across the United States.
Covid Vaccinations in Native American Communities
- Cherokee in Northeast Oklahoma have 141,000 on the reservation, but vaccine supply is greater than the demand.
- The Osage Nation in Northeast Oklahoma are vaccinating 200/day with capability to vaccinate 500/day.
- The Navaho Nation is 70% vaccinated.
- The virus has killed American Indians at twice the rate of white people.
- Vaccine rollout in Native communities has been a surprising source of strength compared to Black and Hispanic communities.
Native American Needs:
- access to water and electricity
In the Navaho Nation, 30 to 40 percent have no running water; 30 to 40 percent are without electricity.
- improvements to roads and bridges
- adequate health care
The Indian Health Service includes 26 hospitals, 56 health centers, and 32 health stations serving 2.2 million tribal members
- shutdown the Dakota Access Pipeline that crosses north of Standing Rock Sioux reservation
- end the rollback protection of Bear Ears National Monument that President Trump started to boost oil production
- support Indian schools
Navaho Nation Reaches Zero Cases and Deaths
The Navaho Nation with the worst Covid-19 case rates in the United States has reached a level of zero cases and deaths in a twenty-four hour period. How? They followed strict health guidelines for masks and a lockdown. Also important has been the collaboration of Indian Health Service with Deb Haaland, the new Secretary of the Interior, and the Relief Bill in providing vaccination resources.
Podcast: U.S. Parks From Indigenous Voices
Episode 1: Yellowstone
Episode 2: Grand Canyon
Others to follow…
Algonquian Choice of Town Settlements
In the January 2023 issue of The William and Mary Quarterly, Julia A. King, Scott M. Strickland, and G. Anne Richardson have an excellent article on the factors that guided Algonquian choices of town settlements. Between 900 and 1700, Algonquian decisions were driver by locations with good soils, level land, marshlands, access to waterways and viewsheds for security and communal needs. The evidence is based upon data from 247 archaeological sites, in the Rappahannock River Valley and oral tradition.
This new page includes a description of the hundreds of Indian towns located in the Chesapeake Bay region when the first invaders arrived. Most of them are Algonquian-speaking towns. Typically located on the rivers which often bear the name of the tribe and the river. Captain John Smith took two trips up the rivers of the area and created the famous Map of Virginia. This page describes the types of towns, their subsistence economies, and everyday life in them. They ranged in size from 40 warriors (the way Smith described them) up to thousands. Household size was 3-4 members, i.e., a town of 40 warriors would have 120 to 160 Indian residents.
Algonquian women and their roles in Early Virginia before, during, and after the Jamestown settlement have received little attention. See the new post: Matoaka and Algonquian Women.
Burying the Dead
See the page on Drought, Siege, and Starvation