Cultural Genocide Veiled as Education—The Time for Healing Is Now
No Access To Justice
There is no meaningful access to justice in the courts for the individuals and communities that suffer from the impacts of the implementation of the boarding school policy. Legal barriers to bringing suit against the United States for compensation for injuries exist in the form of statutes of limitations. Lawsuits against individual teachers, priests, and church representatives face the same kind of barriers in state courts. One Catholic order went to the South Dakota state legislature in 2010 to get a law cutting off claims against the Church and them as individuals. One wonders if that is their teaching about what Christ would do.
NARF Involvement—Symposium and Coalition
In 2011, NARF, the Boarding School Healing Project of the Seventh Generation Fund, the University of Colorado School of Law and the University of Wyoming School of Law convened a symposium of individuals from across the U.S. and Canada who had been working on various aspects of boarding school issues. The goal of the symposium was to discuss priorities and strategies to achieve a national recognition of the wrongs visited on Native American individuals and communities, and to obtain remediation to provide a framework for healing of these historic and enduring wrongs. The symposium participants agreed that it was necessary to continue the work on the issue and formed the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (N-NABS-HC) to formulate a specific strategy and framework to pursue broader support and participation. NARF completed non-profit incorporation of the Coalition in June 2012 through the Navajo Nation’s Business Regulatory Department. Application for certification as a tax exempt 501(c)(3) organization has been filed. The founding meeting of the Corporation was held in September 2012, and the first annual meeting was held in October 2013.
NARF has been working to assist the N-HABS-HC to meet its mission. The Coalition has recommended that the United States create a Commission on Boarding School Policy with the full and active participation of impacted Native Americans at all stages to carry out a range of essential tasks. The tasks of the Commission should include: (1) providing accurate and comprehensive information to the United States government, Indigenous Peoples and the American public about the purposes and human rights abuses of boarding school policies; (2) gathering documentation from survivors, their families and others about the treatment of children in the schools, the abuse and neglect they suffered, and the number of deaths that to date are unreported, including an accounting for the remains of children that are as yet un-repatriated to families and tribes; (3) receiving recommendations for redress and programs to facilitate and support healing for individuals, families, communities, tribes, Pueblos and Alaska Native Villages; (4) recommending legislative provisions that will remove the barriers to access to justice for individuals, communities, tribes, Pueblos and Alaska Native Villages; (5) documenting healing programs that are proving effective or that display promise of being effective in helping heal tribal nations and their members from historical trauma; (6) and documenting scientific theories that help explain the process, effects, and recovery from historical/inter-generational trauma.
The National Commission would plan, design, and carry out its work in collaboration with impacted indigenous communities and experts in the relevant fields. It would: gather records and related information about the operation of the schools by the government and the churches; gather information from experts about inter-generational and historical trauma; take recommendations from affected communities about what is needed to effectuate true community and national healing; raise public awareness and provide public education about U.S. boarding school policies and their ongoing effects; and recommend and commit support for culturally-appropriate community-led remedies with the full and effective participation of survivors, communities, and tribal nations.
N-NABS-HC also stresses the importance of redress for the ongoing intergenerational trauma and cultural loss that are a direct result of these polices for so many indigenous individuals, families, communities and tribal nations across the United States. Opportunities and resources must be made available for indigenous communities using indigenous principles and understandings to plan, design, implement and manage programs and processes for healing the longstanding inter-generational and historical traumas that continue to plague them, including programs to reverse language loss. These programs and processes must be locally conceived and administered with input from impacted individuals and families as well as traditional spiritual and cultural knowledge-holders, healers and other practitioners.
The quest for a fully participatory process—one that results in meaningful and just redress, reconciliation and restoration of what can be restored—will involve engaging impacted indigenous individuals and peoples to define what justice, healing and redress look like for them. This vision may differ among and between distinct communities. It is imperative to begin collecting input now on what measures are needed in each Native nation and community to begin to reverse the bitter legacy of this policy, a policy of deliberate cultural genocide. It is time to let our nations begin healing.
It is time to heal our communities and our nations. Tribal nations and the United States both stand to benefit immensely by stepping towards recovery and righting the relationship that continues to suffer because of wide scale denial and ignorance of the history of the United States boarding school policy. Both will begin to heal once the truth of the story is told. Efforts to create and recreate the wheel are underway, as of necessity, in many tribal communities across the nation. Science is advancing to finally come to understand what Native communities have been aware of for a long time—that traumas experienced in the past continue to harm the victims and the victimizers through the generations until the harm is effectively confronted and healing is undertaken in earnest. The time for this healing to begin is now, and this project is poised to help make it happen.
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