The Civilization Fund Act stressed that the boarding schools were only to

The civilization fund act stressed that the boarding

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The Civilization Fund Act stressed that the boarding schools were only to enroll Native students whose families gave their consent. But as the novelist and historian David Treuer notes in his latest book, The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America From 1890 to the Present, government workers often coerced Native parents through police seizures and threats . Many others surrendered their kids to these institutions simply because they lacked a better alternative—perhaps they were so destitute that the schools, where child labor and malnourishment were rampant, felt like an improvement. It wasn’t until the late 1970s that Congress outlawed the forced removal of Native children from their families. “The full effect of the boarding school system wouldn’t be understood until decades after the agenda of ‘civilizing the savage’ ground down,” writes Treuer, a member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe’s Ojibwe band who was
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raised largely on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation. […] Education was something that was done to us, not something that was provided for us. And the boarding schools are a great example of that: They were a means by which the government was trying to destroy tribes by destroying families . This is partly why education is such a tricky thing for Native people today. How are you supposed to go to school and learn about Mount Rushmore yet know that each person promoted the killing of Indian people? How are you supposed to say the Pledge of Allegiance to a country that was trying to kill and dispossess you and caused the horrible suffering of your parents and grandparents? How are you supposed to learn in an education system of which your ancestors grew deeply distrustful, and then be told we have to work hard at school to get ahead? I can speak to this conflict autobiographically. When I was a kid, I remember a teacher on a school trip to the [Minnesota] capitol scowling at a group of Native American activists who were protesting, and saying, “All those Indians are just a drag on welfare; they should just go back to Canada, where they’re from.” I wasn’t the only Indian in class—and that was my high-school teacher. Things are starting to change, but the changes are long overdue. And those changes trace back to the boarding schools: In many ways the plan succeeded, but in many ways it didn’t, because of various unintended consequences. For example, it took all these Native kids from different tribes who previously knew nothing about, or had been habitual enemies with, each other and put them in schools to suffer together. As a result, when they left school and went back to their homelands to promote the welfare of their individual tribes, they were armed with a network of other like-minded, educated people on whom they could rely. So, in this sense, the policy inadvertently strengthened tribes. Today the vestiges remain in that many Natives are suffering. But as a Native person, I
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