Separating Parents from Children History is repeating itself

The Stewart Indian School. one of the original buildings that housed and educated Native American students

We are almost halfway through summer and yes, I am aware that I have not posted in quite awhile. Where does the time go?

While I have no problem posting my views on a variety of topics, it is rare that I talk openly about my day job. But, given that the Federal Government’s solution to immigration is to separate children from parents, I am going to talk about my job. I am developing expertise on the subject, not due to any involvement in the current situation but because history is repeating itself, and part of my job involves dealing with the history of separating children from parents. This will also explain in some measure why my posts are far and few.

In order to understand my job we have to travel back in time. Back to the early 1900’s when the Federal Government and white settlers were fighting with Native Americans as more and more Americans moved westward and outward determined to fulfill the doctrine of Manifest Destiny.

In order to gain control of large parts of what was quickly becoming a vast United States, treaties were signed between the Federal Government and Indian Tribes. Along with treaties came reservations; areas designed to round up and “house” Indians in order to keep them in one place; often far from their native lands and way of life.

The government felt they had an “Indian problem” so a narrow part of these treaties was the promise to “educate” Indian children in order that they could navigate (or hopefully assimilate) the American culture. As the issue of how best to educate these children arose, a group of “progressive” thinkers offered a solution; it would be best to remove the children from the reservations and place them in boarding schools. Schools specifically designed to force assimilation. To quote the founder of the first boarding school, the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania, the schools were created to “Kill the Indian and save the man”. In order to accomplish this goal, the schools forced students to speak only English, wear proper American clothing, deny them access to their culture, religion, and to replace their Indian names with more “American” ones. In short, the children were stripped of all notion of self and forced to become other than who they were.

Children as young as four were forcibly removed from their homes. Parents had little say in the matter as armed men came into the reservations using the promise of food and medicine as their primary weapon. If the parents willingly gave up their children they would be given government commodities and medical attention to their elders. If this approach did not work, children were kidnapped and taken in secret to boarding schools, sometimes across the country. Parents were not allowed to visit their children even if they were in a nearby school. I kindly ask that you think about this last paragraph and if you can, imagine yourself in these families’ place. Imagine the government coming into your homes and taking your children and or grandchildren never knowing if you will see them again. If you need to take a moment to scream, I completely understand. There are days when I go home crying.

As you can well imagine, this had a devastating effect on the families and most importantly on the children. Thousands of young children grew up never knowing what it was like to be hugged or told that they were loved. On top of this psychological damage came more damage, as their identities were stripped away to be replaced by alien ones. Not only were they unloved, they were taught that by being Indian they had no value. As you can guess, these boarding schools did not result in the making of well-adjusted young people.

It was hoped that after graduating the students would return to the reservations and teach their elders how to succeed in the new American culture; though how they were supposed to do this not knowing their own native language or culture defies explanation. Most did not return and are lost to history. In the later half of the 1900’s many students were not returned to their families, but were sent out across the country to work on ranches or factories.

By the late 1920’s it was obvious that denying the children their culture was not working. Some of the boarding schools, including the Stewart Indian School, began to slowly integrate American and Indian culture. This had a positive impact on the students though many still resented being educated away from home. By the time Stewart Indian School closed in 1980, it was thought to be a shelter from systemic racism found in public schools. During the last 30 years of the school’s operation the students excelled in sports and music; the last of the students have fond memories of the school in large part because attendance was voluntary and they had the option of going home (daily if they lived nearby, or in the summer months if they lived outside the area).

Though it may appear that this story has a happy ending, we need to keep in mind that the devastating effects of the first 70 years of this history is still felt in families and communities. The children who were raised without loving parental role in turn were not always the best of parents. Low self-esteem and loss of cultural identity are only now are beginning to be recognized and dealt with. Many families still remember the loss of loved ones; for a culture that places high value on unity this is a shattering loss of personal unison. How as a society we work to honor those who suffered so much is part of the ongoing history of the “Indian problem”. Here is where I come in.

The Stewart Administrative Office built in the 1920

The Stewart Indian School is one of the few intact historic boarding schools. It was one of the first 25 such schools. It opened in 1880, and closed in 1980. Though the original wooden structures are gone, the beautiful stone buildings from the 1920’s remain. I work in Superintendent Frederick Snyder’s home. Snyder oversaw the building of the stone structures by Hopi stonemasons. Today, the Stewart Indian School is home to government offices and training facilities. In the spring of 2019 it will also be the home to the Stewart Indian School Cultural Center and Museum; the beginning of a new era for the school. It will be a place to learn the history of Indian boarding schools and a place for local Native Americans to share their art and culture. The new master plans calls for the revitalization of the school; the campus will be a mix of maker-spaces for native artists, small convention facility, guest housing and auditorium. Visitors will learn about the school’s history while contributing to its future.

The Administrative office will now be the Stewart Indian School Cultural Center and Museum

I work for the Nevada Indian Commission. Our mission is to work government to government with Tribes and to promote economic growth and stability within tribal communities. We are also in charge of the changes to Stewart as it becomes an economically viable campus. This means that on any given day you may find us meeting with tribal councils, state and local government bodies or working directly with the Stewart Alumni and the master plan design team; but most importantly to this post, with the legacy of the Stewart school, and the consequences of its history. I’ve met wonderful people with not so wonderful stories. I see first hand the devastating aftermath of the Federal Government’s solution to its “Indian Problem”. There are days I come home exhausted. Oh do not get me wrong. I love my job and what we are doing, but it does take an emotional toll.

And now history is repeating itself. The Trump Administration’s policy of separating families at border is not only horrific now; it will have lasting detrimental effects on the future. The children caught in this real life horror will also have life-long issues. The policy will result in suspicion on authority, trust, and loss of self-worth. I cannot even imagine how hard this is on parents. Can you imagine fleeing a war torn country or extreme poverty only to have your children ripped from your arms by those who you have asked for help?

History will not be kind to this policy or the society that sat back and silently allowed it to be normalized. We may have an “Immigration Problem” but as history as shown us, this is not the way to solve it.

 

If you would like to learn more about the Stewart Indian School, please visit our website at http://stewartindianschool.com/ or come by and take a self guided tour of the campus.

Face it America, we deserve a visit from Krampus

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I had planned on finishing my fantasyland series this week with a look at how the 60’s Flower Power turned into the New Age power of thought, but a cold has got me down. So instead, I thought I’d follow up last week’s Christmas rant with a re-blog of my 2015 look at Krampus.

Sunday I binged watched HBO (you know I am sick when I sit and watch TV for hours on end) and wonders of wonders, the movie Krampus aired in the afternoon. It’s a movie that’s part comedy, part horror and while these two things do not pair well together, Krampus delivers on both. It’s a lesson on what happens when the spirit of Christmas is lost and how it is important to value those we love. It quickly became my second favorite Christmas movie.

So as I cough and sneeze my way back to health, I offer this. Things you may not know about the Krampus. Enjoy!

One of my biggest complaints against the war over the words “Merry Christmas” is that it isn’t all that friggin merry any more. Parents consumers battle for toys to stuff under the Christmas tree for kids who already have more than they deserve and will, without hesitation, ask for more just weeks after the season is over.

We all know about the horrors of Black Friday. Each year millions of parents rush out Thanksgiving night in the hopes of snatching up presents at low low prices. Part of this “seasonal” tradition involves trampling other parents or fist fighting over the last X-Box or big screen TV. For what? So that little Johnny or Suzie will wake up to find that Santa has visited late in the night; a man who is no relation to them, but yet for some unknown reason leaves expensive gifts for children to enjoy? Kinda creepy if you think about it. This tradition of allowing a stranger to enter your home while you are sleeping in order to shower your children with gifts. On top of that, he seems to have a naughty and nice list. Bet you’d be calling 911 if some stranger told your child “if you’re nice to me, I’ll give you a iPad”. But I digress. It’s not Santa’s fault Christmas is now a consumer’s wet dream. We’ve conditioned ourselves to take this one time of year to ensure all children, whether they are naughty or nice, get exactly what they want, even if it means running over someone else in aisle 3 to get it. What’s so merry about that?

Not that long ago Santa’s visit was used as a threat to make little children behave. They were reminded all year long that naughty deeds would ensure that Santa skipped them on the next Christmas Eve, or worse yet, leave coal as a reminder of his disapproval. I actually remember hearing a parent once sigh and say, “I was going to buy Richard a bike this Christmas, but he’s really becoming a dick, so it’s clothes and a basketball this year”.

Now that we (and by we I say Americans) are so enamored with the idea of the perfect commercialized Christmas you would be hard-pressed to find even one parent who uses Santa as a behavior modification tool. Santa is now every child’s beloved uncle whose loves is unconditional. What America needs more than ever is a reminder that not all children are worthy of such lavish gifts. Sometimes children (and their parents)need to be reminded that while they should always get what they deserve, what they deserve is not always pleasant. What we need is Krampus, Santa’s evil sidekick who plays bad cop to Santa’s good cop.

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Don’t know who Krampus is?

Well then here are 5 things Americans may not know about Krampus.

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What the hell is a Krampus?

According to Norse mythology, Krampus was once believed to be the son of Hel, ruler of the Norse underworld. In Norse mythology, Hel is the ruler of Helheim, the realm of the dead. She is the youngest child of the evil god Loki. Hel is most often described as a horrible hag, half alive and half dead, with a gloomy and grim expression.

So, what does the child of Hel look like?

His appearance is befitting of a demon from hell. Americans would recognize him as the devil, with matted fur, one cloven hoof, the other human, sharp teeth and large horns. He is usually depicted carrying chains or bundles of birch branches to hit bad children with. Other times he is depicted with a sack, which he uses to carry naughty children to the underworld where he will later torture and possibly even eat them.

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WTF? Why Christmas?!

In the 17th Century, some countries bordering the Alps reintroduced this once pagan monster into their Christmas traditions. Most likely because they thought their children were growing soft and needed to toughen up. They were experiencing extreme effects of the Little Ice Age, and thought the kiddies needed to be reminded “life is hell, deal with”. Or maybe they thought this yearly grab for presents to be getting a little out of hand. Either way, Krampus, demon from hell, became a part of the Christmas gift giving tradition.

No, seriously, WFT? Christmas?!

The night (December 5th) preceding St. Nicholas’ feast is known as Krampushnacht or Krampus Night. This is the night the Krampus comes out and chases down all the naughty children, beating them and stuffing them in his sack to take back to hell. Those that are left are given gifts by Santa (or then, St. Nicholas) during the following night. Some legends suggest the Krampus hunted down naughty children throughout the Christmas season. Today, some Austrian towns and villages continue the celebration by encouraging men to dress as the Krampus in order to scare the local children. This is known as Krampuslauf—a Krampus Run.

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The modern Krampus has a new PR agent

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While Americans may cringe at the idea of a demon sidekick for Santa, Europeans love and celebrate Krampus. These countries have access to his image in the form of candy, postcards, Christmas Cards, ornaments, T-shirts, hats, books, collectable horns, and this year thanks to Hollywood, his own horror movie, Krampus. The demon is becoming so main stream in Europe, some feel he is being overly commercialized and will soon lose his demonic power to scare naughty children into behaving. Who would have ever guessed mass marketing could be used as a tool for good?

But before Krampus becomes too cool, to hip for his original purpose I propose we bring him to America. Not to chase and steal naughty children but rather their parents, who act demonically themselves in the days leading up to Christmas. Perhaps a Krampus running around Walmart and the like is just the Christmas miracle many of us have been waiting for.

Works Referenced

NGO Who is Krampus? Explaining the Horrific Christmas Demon http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/12/131217-krampus-christmas-santa-devil/

Smithsonian.com The Origin of Krampus http://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/krampus-could-come-you-holiday-season-180957438/?no-ist

And of course the anonymous internet and its wonderful collection of photos.

Vintage Christmas Postcard
Vintage Christmas Postcard

Merry Friggin Christmas!