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.

Ho,ho,ho, Who’s Really Waging the War on Christmas?

Christmas Warriors

Once again tis the season to be jolly, and once again, tis the season for the annual “War on Christmas” conspiracy drivel. With Bill O’ Reilly out of the picture it was anyone’s guess on who would pick up the battle cry this year. No, I’m joking. We all knew it would be none other than the deranged orange clown himself.

At a speech Wednesday in Missouri to publicize the GOP tax overhaul, Trump kicked off his remarks by saying: “I told you that we would be saying Merry Christmas again, right?”. To quote the idiot-in-chief, WRONG!

There has never been a time in modern history in which we the people of the United States of America have been prohibited from saying the phrase “Merry Christmas”. Hell, there is nothing stopping you from yelling from the rooftop on Easter! You can say it any time you like for as long as you like. In fact the magazine Mother Jones reported a few days ago that since 1970 the use of the the word “Christmas” has gone up by 50%, while the use of the word “Holiday” has only gone up by 33%. If there is a war on Christmas, the other side is losing.

If by “Christmas” you mean the holiday that includes garish decorations and a sea of presents (followed closely by a mountain of debt) then, no there is no war on Christmas. We can point to the facts to prove it.

Fact: In the last decade the Christmas season has made its way into November, starting with Thanksgiving evening. For you die-hard Christmas warriors, malls across America are opening their doors earlier and earlier just for you. No longer do you have to wait in dark of night to storm the gates to plunder and pillage for bargain prices! The doors open at 6pm and stay open almost all-damn night. If you don’t want to battle for your Christmas spoils you now have the convenience of shopping Black Friday (now Gray Area Thursday) online. Missed it? Don’t worry, you get a second chance the following Monday, now called “Cyber Monday”.

Fact: During the Christmas season consumer sales damn near double what they are for the rest of the year. CNN Money reports that this year’s online sales hit 5 billion dollars. That’s right folks, in less than 24 hours, 5 billion dollars was spent on Christmas gifts (I have no doubt some of that money was spent for other reasons, but not as much as it was on Christmas). So to say there is a war on Christmas is laughable.

I know, I know. Some of you are still not convinced. You cling to the argument that the store clerks no longer say “Merry Christmas” and Starbucks sell “Holiday” cups and for some reason I cannot fathom, this offends you; all I can say is that if this is the worse thing that happens to you this season, count yourself blessed.

While you may not hear “Merry Christmas” from the clerk who waits on you, do you know what you do hear throughout the store? CHRISTMAS music! You can’t get way from the fucking noise! You hear it in the bathroom, in the food court, in the dressing rooms, and at the check out station. You are hearing the words “Merry Christmas” over and over again. Can someone please come up with some new Christmas music?! How many times can we hear Jingle Bells without going crazy?

Just because the clerk doesn’t say it, doesn’t mean the store is boycotting Christmas, it simply means the clerk is being inclusive and sensitive to all the December holidays even if you and the damn music are not. I know it may be hard for you to conceive, but there are other winter holidays besides Christmas; yet is Christmas music all season long! Remember our religious freedoms? They extend to all religions, not just yours.

Speaking of religion, let’s get the heart of the conspiracy. It’s not the consumer driven Christmas that Christian conservatives are worried about. They know good and well that capitalistic Christmas is under no attack. It’s the idea that Christian values are under attack. Again, WRONG!

According the World Atlas.com, The United States tops the list of Christian nations with 226,886,418 Christian living in the country. While other Western countries are believing less and less in a deity who cares about our daily lives and who wins the Superbowl, America is holding steady at 70% of those who do. As of 9am this Sunday morning no one is stopping you from going to church or praying for that big win. In fact here in America you can even start your own brand of Christianity. Joseph Smith started Mormonism, and Mary Baker Eddy started Christian Science. Both were very unconventional Christians. True, Smith was killed, but lets face it, he pushed a lot of people for a lot of reasons to the breaking point. The fact remains, Mormonism is proof that anyone can start a church. John Oliver the host of Last Week Tonight, did just that last year in order to prove this point.

If we are talking about a war on Christianity then I have to agree that there is a grain of truth to the argument. But I would argue that the war is being waged by the vary people, like you, who demand everyone say “Merry Christmas” as you ride store to store seeking the best possible deals in order to cram as many presents under the tree as you can. How Christian like is this behavior? Lets see what Jesus has to say about your shopping habits shall we?

So, the next item on my Christmas list is..

John 2 15-17 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

Luke 14 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

Mark 10 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

Do I have to go on? Because I can. It seems he has a lot to say about possessions and worldly delights.

In other words Jesus, the Savior of Christians, wants you to give up your worldly goods. Let me say that again- Jesus is quoted as saying that having and loving worldly goods, is the opposite of loving God.

There is nothing in the Bible that has Jesus demanding that you gather up your family under a well-lit carcass of a dead tree in order to pay tribute to your materialist needs. Again he is preaching the very opposite of what has become known as the “Christmas Christian Season”.

Can you imagine what he would think if he ever did return and it just happen to fall on his birthday? I doubt he’d be impressed.  Heck, tt may well even give him a heart-attack! And he’s gone again..

So the next time you find yourself faced with a store clerk who doesn’t say Merry Christmas, or outraged that your local Starbucks has dared given you a cup that says “Happy Holidays”, ask yourself who is being less of a Christian, you the greedy consumer or the person who is patiently serving you?

Works Cited

The Bible, English Standard version Print.

Works Referenced

CNN Money Black Friday Holiday Shopping 217

Mother Jones War On Christmashttp://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/11/war-on-christmas-update/

World Atlas.com Christian Nations