Yesterday, PBS Newshour interviewed Deb Haaland, Secretary of the Interior, about the government’s efforts to (finally) look into the history of its Indian Boarding Schools.
Frankly I was floored that the interviewer, Judy Woodruff, seasoned Newshour anchor who has interviewed folks like Suzan Shown Harjo and moderated panel presentations at the Smithsonian NMAI, has only recently learned of this country’s atrocious abuse of Native children.
How brilliantly our educational systems have upheld and continue propagating the myth and half truths of US colonial roots and practices while blissfully, irresponsibly excluding the truth of its broader history.
History matters because it informs and impacts the present.
As the daughter of a boarding school survivor…I do not speak what should have been my native tongue. And that is true for most in my generation and beyond.
Language loss includes loss of oral history, cultural practices and perspectives and so much more. If you’re separated from family, from your elders, at 5 years old, stripped of your given name and slapped (and worse) for even saying just one word in your language…Then how likely will it be that you’ll be speaking your native tongue to your children and grandchildren?
The effects of boarding schools, genocide, forced removals, relocation continue to impact native people and communities. The cover-up and omission doesn’t pardon; it gives blind permission to continue down a sinful path. California, in particular, prides itself on diversity and progressive politics; yet it is blindest of all when it comes to knowing its racist history. Society’s obeisance swallowing a white-washed (color reference intended), “this is a country of immigrants”, history is harmful and keeps us from learning to be better – as community, as country, as human beings.
I’m with Deb Haaland; I love my country, too. Loving country – like loving one another – means we are brave enough to accept we are not perfect; so we can seize opportunity to expand our knowledge and improve. My prayer is that we will pause, really look in the mirror and deep dive into what is revealed. But … Are we ready?
Thanks for listening, – Suanne