Error message

User error: Failed to connect to memcache server: :11211 in dmemcache_object() (line 415 of /var/www/html/sites/all/modules/contrib/memcache/dmemcache.inc).
(Mary Annette Pember)

Reader Reactions to Our Story, 'Tiny Horrors: A Chilling Reminder of How Cruel Assimilation Was—And Is'

ICTMN Staff
1/22/13

Mary Annette Pember’s recent story on ICTMN.com about a pair of tiny handcuffs donated to Haskell University touched many people, and touched off many debates.

The cuffs, believed to have been used to restrain Indian children sentenced to boarding schools in the early part of the 20th century, resonated for many readers as a chilling reminder of the atrocities perpetrated against Native peoples, a ruthless campaign that targeted the youngest, the most innocent, the most precious.

The story drew heavy traffic at ICTMN.com, on Facebook and was picked up by Slate. It also elicited many comments, some of them personal stories from a dark chapter in the U.S. government’s treatment of Natives.

Here are a few of those posts:

Harry Delorme: As a second generational Indian Residential School Survivor, witnessing atrocities at hands of those who were to save us Spiritually, Physically, Emotionally, and Mentally is not anything new. Many a times children were flogged, left in cellars without food or water as corporal punishment for not conforming to their will. Life as political prisoners to kill the Indian and Indian Spirit was their mandate. Running away to escape was our only option even though we knew the consequences of flogging, hair shorn and harsh psychological punishments to break us… [D]eceiving us with lies about family, nation, community and extended family to break the ties that bind us. January 1 at 6:08pm · [ICTMN / FB]

Jim Woods: This is what my Mom lived through. Now she's gone to the creator, with no resolution. January 1 at 4:13pm via mobile · [ICTMN / FB]

Anonymous: My Dad said something about this long years ago. They took his brothers Albert, Jerry and Richard along with his sister Polie. He found all but his sister; they said her records had burned up... January 2 at 11:22 · [ICTMN / FB]
 
alawyer: Not to trivialize the absolute horror of the Indian boarding schools - but I really hate to tell you this but the use of handcuffs and shackles has simply become more technologically advanced - these devices are routinely utilized throughout the United States on children as young as seven years old, and in Florida, there is no minimum age. A few years ago when a five year old African American child had a temper tantrum in a St. Pete School, she was handcuffed by police before being taken away in the police car. There are several other documented incidents involving children under seven being handcuffed and shackled throughout the United States - regardless of the fact that our forefathers would not have recognized children that young as having the capacity to commit crimes. Handcuffing and shackling children is routine in the United States regardless of the purported crime because there is a profitable industry related to such restraints. In some jurisidictions, small children swimming in prison jumpsuits and shackled hand and foot are led into youth court rooms sobbing and in terror, humiliated by America's abusive use of restraints. No other nation in the world permits small children under 12 from being handled in this fashion.
 
… The introduction of school resource officers and zero tolerance policies has led to thousands of American children being removed from their classrooms in handcuffs for minor offenses that once received scoldings from principals. This is known as the "School to Prison Pipeline."
 
SO please don't fool yourselves into thinking that these handcuffs are no longer applied to tiny wrists. My guess is that it is being done as I write this email - probably some 8 year old is being charged with disrupting school in South Carolina or Ohio or Florida or even in New Jersey and being handcuffed and searched and led out of the building. And some 14 year old girl who is the victim of sexual abuse who has run away from home is probably being shackled hand and foot to make the trip to Juvenile Court to face a judge for her transgressions. [Slate.com]

 
Not all of the comments were positive. Some of the negative comments reflected a general hostility toward Natives, and the usual “get over it” advice. But some skeptics raised important points, such as this:

John Humbert: I have a pair of these. So close to identical I'm wondering if somebody broke into my house. My wife just dug out our pair, and it really is identical. It is also grossly misidentified here. I can attest to how easy it is for a child to get out of these having been put in them often as a child. I'm afraid that what you have is a set of toy handcuffs from the 1930's. They do not lock, and the latch is easily released by the child... They are heavy just because toys were sturdier then than now... January 1 at 4:22pm · [ICTMN / FB]

Pember presented Humbert’s argument to Bobbi Rahder, former director of Haskell’s Cultural Center, who took part in the transfer of the cuffs. “I don't believe they were a toy and the elders who helped me with wrapping them and praying over them did not think they were a toy,” she says. “And although it is intangible, I can tell you that the energy I felt coming from those handcuffs was misery and suffering. I know that is not proof of anything but it is what I felt. I don't believe there is a way to prove one way or the other because there is no documentation in the family who donated them as to how they were used.

“I think the important message is educating people that devices like these were used to forcibly remove children from their families during the boarding school days. People need to know the truth so it never happens again.”

Shane Murray, whose grandfather gave him the handcuffs and solemnly charged him with safeguarding them, also knows he can’t prove anything about the handcuffs, but knows what they mean to him. “I don’t believe that my granddad would have storied me on something like that,” he says. “I’ve held those handcuffs and they seem to have a voice of their own. They are extremely heavy, emotionally heavy. Even if it turns out they were originally made as a toy, something like that would have still worked on a kid, especially a first Nations kid who would not have seen something like that. The kid would only know that they were being hauled away from home. “
 
 

You need to be logged in in order to post comments
Please use the log in option at the bottom of this page

POST A COMMENT

Comments

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
My Mom was raised in an Indian boarding school on the Akwesane Mohawk Reservation. Although she was fluent in the Mohawk language, she refused to teach it to me, because she "didn't want me to be beaten the way she was when she spoke the language." She then recounted how she had been caught speaking the language, and was taken outside and beaten with a cane pole, then locked in a room for three days with no food or water...just a bucket for a toilet. Afetr all those years, my mother still carried this paranoia with her. My mother has been gone now for almost 20 years, but I still carry her pain in my heart.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Seems like throughout history the "conquered" nation or tribe of people be it Huns, Greeks,Romans,Native people were forced into assimilation of some kind.The Native Americans were no exception to kidnapping an enemy people and if they were children , to raise them as their own.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Seems like throughout history the "conquered" nation or tribe of people be it Huns, Greeks,Romans,Native people were forced into assimilation of some kind.The Native Americans were no exception to kidnapping an enemy people and if they were children , to raise them as their own.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
As a criminal defense attorney whose practice is, at any given point, up to 40% juvenile crime, I can tell you that nothing is more horrifying than seeing a child -- A CHILD! -- in shackles. I have worked hard to change the policy regarding shackling of children in juvenile courts in my area, and have blogged about it several times on both my blogs. (Since I don't want to be thought a "spammer," I won't post the links to those articles here.) One such article, by the way, was inspired by your earlier article here about those shackles used on Native American children. I cannot even begin to imagine how horrific that whole situation was for them, their parents, and their communities.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Read Walter Littlemoon's memoir "They Called Me Uncivilized" or watch the documentary "The Thick Dark Fog". Sixty years ago, at the age of 10, he was handcuffed for trying to run away from the boarding school here on the Pine Ridge Reservation. He wasn't the only one.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Google this: (Photos are available) VINTAGE 1930'S JUNIOR G-MAN DETECTIVE BADGES AND HANDCUFFS - ANTIQUE TOYS

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
I am so, so sorry.... Makes me embarrassed to be white! Good thoughts, prayers to the Creator for ALL who have been hurt at the hands of others, either physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually. <3 <3<3 <3 (A heart for each of the 4 Directions)!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Our government has done all kinds of atrocities through out the years .. not only to the Indian Nation and their children.. but during the War they put Japanese American citizens in Prison camps.. IN and ON American soil.. & today they are doing many of the same atrocities to our children and American citizens.. !! Do you really think .. that this so called president will look out for your best interest or.. will he put YOU..US in prison camps..now called FEMA camps!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
I think the big message is that Indian children were basically stolen and dragged off under restraints they could not escape from; whether those restraints were handcuffs or ropes or brutal men terrorizing them matters little- but I am confident that products were made for immobilizing children.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Regardless of the fact that some may consider them a toy from the 1930's ,it does not change the fact that native children were punished for cherishing their heritage and wanting to be with their families. There is no right in what was done to the native people by forcing them to assimilate to the ways of the white people. Now because of these past atrocities the native tongue of some tribes is not used as much, so it will soon die out for future generations.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
these are clearly not toys you have got to be guilty of something to say there are a toy

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
My father was beaten and abused by the boarding school priests.....he thought it was ok to send his own children to Catholic boarding school where we were segregated and beaten as well.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
It dosen't even go right with me to hear our ancester's be called "Indians" they weren't Indians they were Native Americans,

truthseeker1926's picture
truthseeker1926
Submitted by truthseeker1926 on
These are toy handcuffs for children that were commonly sold in the 1920's and 30's as a novelty item. You don't even need a key to open them and can be easily broken. Someone has mistaken these for something else. They are a TOY. I know bad things have happened in the past but these are not part of it.
15