NAA INV 06828200. National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution
Carlisle Indian Industrial School American Indian girls in school uniform exercising inside gymnasium in 1879.

Cultural Genocide Veiled as Education—The Time for Healing Is Now

Native American Rights Fund

The Board of Indian Commissioners and the Peace Policy of 1869

The changes sought by the reformers came to fruition in the year 1869. That year marked establishment by Congress of the Board of Indian Commissioners and President Grant’s “Peace Policy,” which included a federal boarding school policy. These efforts were intended to fulfill two important goals: 1) the replacement of corrupt government officials, called the “Indian Ring,” with religious men, nominated by churches to oversee the Indian agencies on reservations; and 2) to Christianize the Native tribes and eradicate their culture and religion, primarily through removal of the children from reservation settings.

The boarding school policy authorized the voluntary and coerced removal of Native American children from their families for placement in boarding schools run by the government and Christian churches. The boarding school policy represented a shift from genocide of Indian people to a more defensible, but no less insidious, policy of cultural genocide—the systematic destruction of indigenous communities through the removal and reprogramming of their children. This approach was thought to be less costly than wars against the tribes or eradication of Native populations.

Carlisle Indian Industrial School Teacher Miss Hunt with group of students in school uniform in 1879. (Photo lot 81-12 06805200. National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution)

The first appointments to the Board of Indian Commissioners were male Protestants. This remained the case until two Roman Catholics were appointed in 1902 by Theodore Roosevelt. Although not appointed as representatives of their denominations, they clearly were selected by those denominations to be appointed. This was a clear and obvious violation of the principle of separation of church and state, but none of the leaders of the day believed that principle applied in matters relating to Native Americans. The Catholics, having been initially excluded from the Board, argued fervently that the children should have the freedom to choose their religion, saying in one statement:

“The Indians have a right, under the Constitution, as much as any other person in the Republic, to the full enjoyment of liberty of conscience; accordingly they have the right to choose whatever Christian belief they wish, without interference from the Government.” (The Churches and the Indian Schools, 1888-1912, Prucha, Francis Paul, Univ. of Nebraska Press 1979) (Emphasis supplied.)

In 1872, the Board of Indian Commissioners allotted 73 Indian agencies to various denominations as follows: Methodists, 14 agencies in the Pacific Northwest (54,743 Indians); Orthodox Friends, 10 (17,724); Presbyterian, nine in the Southwest  (38,069); Episcopalians, eight in the Dakotas (26,929); Catholics, seven (17,856); Hicksite Friends, six (6,598); Baptists, five in Utah, Idaho and the

Indian Territory (40,800); Reformed Dutch, five (8,118); Congregationalists, three (14,476); Christians, two (8,287); Unitarians, two (3,800); American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in the Indian territory of Oklahoma (1,496); Lutherans, one (273).

Whatever pretense there may have been about the appointment of Christians as Commissioners, there was no mistaking that the allocation of the agencies was by Christian denominations.

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Two Bears Growling's picture
Two Bears Growling
Submitted by Two Bears Growling on
Why would anyone want to make up with among the greatest abusers, murderers & systematic destruction of our Native Peoples? That is insane. They have proved time after time you can NEVER trust anything the government or even these churches ever has to say. Sorry isn't ever going to be near good enough for any of our People. Not ever! ......................................................................................................................... There is no amount of money, gifts or promises than can ever replace what our many Peoples have lost. So many lost their culture, tribal identity, language skills, religious practices & beliefs, family histories, abilities to love & trust others, everything that made us who WE used to be as proud Peoples, communities & families. ......................................................................................................................... I remember an old saying my elders told me decades ago that went like this: First time, shame on you. Second time, same on me! However, OUR People have been taken advantage of time after time. We may choose to forgive these murderers, abusers & offenders of our People, but I can assure you we will NEVER forget what they have done to our People. I, for one, will always keep my eyes on those who murdered, abused, stole from & raped my ancestors. Trust them? I don't think so!

andre's picture
Submitted by andre on
Excellent article that captures the height and longevity of European colonial abuses. It's also helps to know that despite treaties and rhetoric that are in place even today. The goals of this colonization force are still at work. When one realizes that talk is cheap and the colonizers and their descendants have plenty of it. The results and aftermath we see and deal with today are easily explained. Natives are still dealing with the institutional racism and exclusion of what is now America and it is for them my heart will always ache. So much of this inhumanity to mankind is exemplified by the legacies we see in America's reservations today. Least we ever forget what has been done. But learn the truth by it's existence. Andre Leonard,

SpottedCorn's picture
Submitted by SpottedCorn on
This is the response I posted on my Face Book page recently after reading this article: Alberta Mason via Indian Country Today Media Network The time is long past for the Native community to stand up and be counted. The healing process needs to begin within. As well meaning as non-Natives may be, we have to recognize that we have our own power to heal ourselves. We cannot not rely on those who do not share our paradigm. Then, and only then, can we reach out to help heal past, present, and future generations. We cannot allow others to define who or what we are. The concept is, if they don't understand us and we make them afraid, then as a defense for their own peace of mind, they feel it necessary to make us like themselves. We and our children are constantly being forced to accommodate through assimilation. I am a Navajo and my people were constantly looking for what they thought was good that would best serve them and their community. They borrowed from their neighbors and made it their own. This process is called acculturation. Pick and choose what you think is best for you and your family and loved ones and incorporate them into your lives. We need to stop thinking of ourselves as victims and remember the Beauty Way, which is not merely a way of life but more accurately, a state of being, so that, no matter what era we live in or what lifestyle we choose, we maintain the sacred state of Hozho. They cannot give us the balance and harmony our ancestors lived by. We need to remember and respect our culture, traditions and the wisdom of our elders. For the sake of our children and our People, past, present and future . . . may the healing begin.

100IndigenousAmerican's picture
Submitted by 100IndigenousAm... on

Wanbli Koyake's picture
Wanbli Koyake
Submitted by Wanbli Koyake on
Hau mitakuyepi, Greetings my Relatives, Pilamaya, I thank you for the article, Cultural Genocide Veiled as Education—The Time for Healing Is Now. Speaking as a so-called “Boarding School Survivor” I have to say that NARF’s call for healing sounds more like apologia than manifesto. I personally am leery of anything with the word “healing” because western medical or even religious institutions have proven themselves incapable of such caring power; they certainly know how to fuck people up and then make money off their victim’s need for comfort and healing. My ancestors’ Lifeway is the only thing that has helped me to alleviate my the ongoing trauma of my Life. Frankly, it is not my concern, nor should the People care whether or not the wasicu/greedy ever heal. If they feel the need to heal, as criminally insane megalomaniacs, they’ll make an overture through one of their wise men –oh, wait, they don’t have any! As it is the Genocide thing is working out quite well for them, it’s become a false flag issue that essentially has served only to deflect attention from the greedy by indicting formerly colonized non-white Peoples. I fail to see how euphemizing Genocide as “Boarding School Policy” meets our ancestor’s standards for making Peace which would necessarily begin with Telling It Straight! In my struggle to make sense of the countless layers of trauma that I carried, I had to see past these innocuous technocratic terms that have softened, normalized, even naturalized, the unspeakable, unimaginable, evil-doing of the Church and State and their minion The American Dreamer. Fortunately, through my work as an artist, I’d been invited to participate in an exhibit about historical experiences of Holocaust, to tell of our experience with genocide. This affirming recognition from the Jewish professor who organized the exhibit truly moved me to study genocide as a fact of Life, as a malevolent force of human nature. For a straightforward explanation of what constitutes crimes of Genocide read The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG) which was adopted by the U.N. in 1948. There is no statute of limitations for such crimes against humanity. The U.S. is a signatory to that treaty but of course we Original Peoples (long targeted for genocide) know that only means it’s already broken. The humanity of the CPPCG preamble of signifies that the wasicu know exactly what evil has been done in the name of western civilization’s progress. The U.S. will never allow a just application of this international law to U.S. Federal Indian Policy, nor will they ever admit to anything of the kind. I imagine that any settlement, monetary redress, will have the customary clause that the settlement money is not an admission of guilt or anything and that all future claims are null and void. It’s that incessant wasicu dodging of liability that obviates healing through peace-making. That and the objectification, commodification, and monopolization of peace and peace-making as seen in the wasicu establishment of the U.S. Institute of Peace. Our Lifeway, as Help, as Healing, is not dependent upon money and is not hierarchical. It’s a lot like Alcoholics Anonymous in its compassionate, down to earth, approach to helping the irredeemable redeem themselves. To all Wasicu and wasicula, Greedheads and wannabe greedheads, I recommend a Twelve-step approach; Twelve-step yourselves then come talk with us! Mitakuyepi, my Relatives, why go through the motions with dishonorable people when we can know the real thing on our own in our own way. Wowapi na wicoiye Hohecetu welo Mitakuye Owasin, My words and written words are true. All my Relations!

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
(from the article): There has been scant recognition by the U.S. federal government and church denominations that initiated and carried out this policy, and no acceptance of responsibility for the indisputable fact that its purpose was cultural genocide. ___________________________________________________________ Natives are well-acquainted with the meme, "Kill the Indian to save the man." The simple fact is that neither the U.S. Government nor the "Christian" churches involved will EVER admit to any wrongdoing. The truth hurts (Natives know this already) and the truth is these organizations don't think they owe anyone an apology because (in their mind) they were doing God's work. __________________________________________________________ This is just another reason I don't worship the God of the Europeans. If they had done as much good in His name as they have bad EVERYONE would be a Christian. _______________________________________________________-- To Two Bears Growling: Hey! It's good to see you still posting. I lost your email. Write me a let me know how you're doing.