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

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.

Carlisle Indian Industrial School portrait of female Omaha Indian students in school uniforms in 1894. (NAA INV 06821500. National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution)

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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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.