Taking the Children: For Navajos, Separation of Families Brings Up Not-So-Distant Memories

Starting in the 1880s, the U.S. Government routinely took Native American children from their parents and educated them in boarding schools, sometimes far from their homes.

Published July 15, 2018

CHINLE, Ariz. — Many Americans were horrified by the recent news coverage of Central American children being ripped from their parents’ arms by Immigration agents and placed in holding facilities.

“What country am I living in?” gasped one woman on Facebook in response to a photo of a tearful Mexican toddler reaching for her mother as an ICE agent carried her away.

But the country’s 5.2 million Native Americans knew exactly which country they were living in. The same country that, for a century, removed Native children from their homes and placed them in church or BIA boarding schools, with nary a word of outcry from the public.

The link between the boarding school experience and what happened at the border is strong enough that the Native American Rights Fund recently felt compelled to issue a statement decrying the Trump initiative.

“In our communities, decades of federal boarding school policy removed Native American children from their parents and damaged Native communities in ways we are still dealing with today,” reads the statement, which can be found on NARF’s website.

“The current administration and its dangerous policy line not only strained our nation’s international relationships, but was an affront to the wishes of the American people and a violation of all contemporary human rights principles,” the statement says.

Editor’s Note: This article was first published in the Navajo Times. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

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