- By Cheryl Crazy Bull
The discovery of a mass grave containing the remains of 215 Indigenous children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in Canada has, once again, ignited the trauma of Indigenous people across North America.
In the United States, Indigenous children were also taken from their families and homes and required to attend boarding schools. While Native peoples’ boarding school experiences are complex, there is no doubt that the sole purpose of boarding schools as expressed by their founders, whether government or religious officials, was cultural erasure. Children were deliberately removed from their loving families and from the influences that preserved their identities and ways of knowing, with the goal of erasing them.
Boarding schools tore apart families; destroyed Native languages, cultural practices, and belief systems; and brutally punished Indigenous children and youth, often to the point of physical, mental, and emotional torture if they refused to comply by abandoning their identities. Many children who lived never saw their families again, and many others did not survive the horrific experience. Tribal ways of knowing and family systems were forever altered.
The American Indian College Fund, as a national Native-led and Native-serving education non-profit organization supporting American Indian and Alaska Native students’ access to higher education, believes in education grounded in truth, culture, and identity. We believe the right to an education is not only an individual human right, but it is also a right of Tribes as Nations to socialize and educate their people in their own ways of knowing and being in the world. We also know how an assimilationist policy shrouded in the guise of education was used in a concerted attempt to eliminate our people. We believe tribally controlled education is a form of self-determination for Native peoples and must be supported in the form of tribal colleges and universities.
Tribally controlled education as a transformative movement in American education is partially a response to the failure of American education to honor and uphold Indigenous people’s identities and ways of living. The values that support tribal people’s very existence as people—kinship, spirituality, self-determination, Indigenous languages and cultural practices, and love of place—are taught at tribally-controlled educational institutions. These values and Indigenous knowledge are taught to not only repair the damage done through boarding schools, but to also be part of the renaissance of American Indian and Alaska Native lifeways.
In addition to supporting tribal colleges and universities and every Indigenous person’s right to attend the college or university of their choice, the American Indian College Fund believes the truth of our nation’s history and Native histories and cultures must be taught in all schools. The College Fund supports the National Congress of American Indians’ repeated calls for the federal government to account for the fates and/or final resting places of Indigenous children that were taken into their custody.
Please contact your elected officials to urge them to pass legislation requiring the inclusion of the history, culture, and contemporary lives of Indigenous peoples in education at all levels—from early childhood through post-secondary and adult education. Indigenous people deserve to have their histories and contributions recognized and honored, and they also deserve the healing that truthful acknowledgements of U.S. and world history can foster.
CLICK to determine how to locate your elected offcial to voice your opinion on this important issue.
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Native American Heritage Month Musings
You’re reading the first draft of history.
November is Native American Heritage Month in the United States. We feel like every month — and every day — is a reason for celebrating Native Americans and our heritage. That’s what we try to do here at Native News Online, with stories each day that celebrate, inform and uplift American Indian and Alaska Native people. Over the past year or so, we have been especially busy with three important reporting projects that are having an impact across Indian Country:
- Indian Boarding Schools. We’ve reported and published more than 150 stories and special live stream video events to help shine a light on the dark era of boarding schools — and help create momentum for change.
- Native Health Desk. Launched in January, this reporting initiative was created to heighten awareness of Native American health inequities and spotlight pockets of progress in Indian Country. So far we’ve reported and published nearly 120 stories and launched a monthly health newsletter that reaches more than 23,000 readers.
- Native Bidaske. In March, we launched this live stream interview program to highlight the work of Native Americans who are making news and leading change in Indian Country. We have hosted guests from the federal government and Native rights advocates as well as Indigenous actors, comedians, journalists and models.
We hope you will join us in celebrating Native American heritage and history this November and invite you to consider the old adage that “Journalism is the first draft of history.” If you appreciate the voice Native News Online gives to Native American people, we hope you will support our work with a donation so we can build our newsroom and continue to amplify Native voices and Native perspectives.
Any contribution — big or small — helps us remain a force for change in Indian Country and continue telling the stories that are so often ignored, erased or overlooked. Most often, our donors make a one-time gift of $20 or more, while many choose to make a recurring monthly donation of $5 or $10. Whatever you can do, it helps fund our Indigenous-led newsroom and our ability to cover Native news.
Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous journalism. Thank you.