Today, Native American history is repeating itself-
But no one is calling it-Genocide
By Tara Pretends Eagle Weber-
Citizen of the Standing Rock Tribe
I am a survivor of genocide. I am a direct descendent of Pretends Eagle, a documented survivor of The Battle at Little Bighorn. My ancestors fought for me to have a better life. I honor them today and the migrant families enduring the unthinkable as they flee to the United States.
I was born during the uprising of the American Indian Movement. I am also a Native American adoptee, one who was adopted by a white family and grew up without my culture. Despite being Indigenous to this land, Native American adoptees are the Lost Tribe of Native America. Our silent place in Native American history is quietly being uncovered…yet, ironically at the same time, our history is repeating itself. The same genocidal elements used on a generation of adoptees are the same ones being used today!
The separation of families was legalized by the Relocation Act of 1956 by Congress which forced Native Americans to assimilate to the major U. S. cities. Since food and resources were no longer being sent to the reservations, people were forced to flee! Once in the city, many were met by culture shock, isolation and more broken promises. The inability to provide for their families led to the forced adoptions of thousands of babies to white families. The lack of documentation was horrendous. Even today, many adoptees do not have their original birth certificate. That is if it even exists. They may never know who they are or where they come from...Genocide.
Not only are migrant children surrounded by human rights violations. Regular contact with their families and a documented reunification plan is mandated by the Flores Agreement. Even with children dying, while detained in U. S custody, attorney, Sarah Fabian from the Department of Justice recently minimized the migrant children’s rights in court! This continuous minimization of basic needs, side tracking to the financial burden of the crisis continues to dehumanize the children. With their parents now homeless and unemployed they can be declared unfit parents by the U. S. Government.
The intentional chaos, the secret shuffling of children to different locations has led to a lack of documentation. This will result in children never being reconnected with their families and/or never knowing their true identities, especially those who are alone. Many will be adopted through private adoption agencies and never be reunited with their families....Genocide.
The original legalization of the forced separation of families was the Indian Civilization Act Fund of March 3, 1819. It funded the Boarding School era that inflicted genocide in hundreds of church run schools. General Richard Pratt founded, the Carlisle Indian Industrial School to cleanse the Indian and coined the propaganda phrase, “Kill the Indian, Save the Man.” During this time thousands of children were stolen from their families and forced to boarding schools. They all suffered terrible abuse! Some were beaten for speaking their language, all had their long hair cut off and were sexually abused by clergy. Children often died trying to return home. Psychological torture and death were the norm.
Each school had a cemetery yet, the deaths were not properly documented and sometimes the families were not even notified of their child’s death...Just last month, relatives of Carlisle Indian Industrial School students who attended the school over a hundred years ago, finally received their ancestors’ remains for proper burial ceremonies.
Another epidemic, Indigenous women of North America are facing is Femicide. The resistance movement for Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) first began decades ago in Canada and flourished in recent years in the U. S. Recently, an Inquiry on MMIW concluded in Canada there was genocide. However, the Canadian government has yet to acknowledge the genocide. Presently, in the U. S. there are several legislations that address MMIW. A Senate Committee hearing on Indian Affairs held last month, the Department of Justice, Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Trump Administration were not prepared to testify and they failed to submit their opinions on the bills, despite a thirty day notice. These continued government denials are an atrocity! Femicide.
Indigenous people are learning from the past. Research is being conducted on the damage of being raised away from our culture. We know the historical trauma has become embedded in our DNA and is passed on down to the next generation. But we are healing! We are resilient! Yet, it may take generations to heal. This is why the cruelty of the separation of children and parents must be stopped!
Unknown to so many, we are seeing Native American history repeating itself. Right before our eyes!
Weber is social worker, social justice publicist and advocate for MMIW & Native American issues.