Historical trauma and Indian child welfare: Part 1

After years of abuse, neglect and the loss of children accumulated for tribes across the nation, the federal government took some measures to acknowledge the situation.

A look into the history of the U.S. government reveals that in the late 1800s, a prevalent mindset about Tribal Nations was that they needed to assimilate to the culture and lifestyle of their white, American neighbors. As a result, many boarding schools throughout the country were opened and operated for the purpose of eradicating traditional language, culture and many other aspects of Tribal Nations. The first Indian Boarding school opened in 1879 in Carlisle, Penn. As explained on the Carlisle Indian Industrial School History website, Richard Henry Pratt, a military officer, “lobbied Washington; he contacted his wealthy supporters in the East and convinced the powers that be that his experiment would be a success. He would take Indian children from the reservations, remove them to a school far away from tribal influences, and transform them.”

Tribal communities across the nation were affected by the loss of their children to theses boarding schools. The children were taken from their homes and placed in a school either in their own community or at other locations further away. In Michigan, there were two Indian Boarding schools that were built: in 1829, the Holy Childhood of Jesus Boarding School and in 1893, the Mt. Pleasant Industrial School.

The boarding school policy had drastic effects on Michigan Tribal Nations’ abilities to teach their children their traditional language of Anishinaabemowin and to pass on traditional teachings. After years of abuse, neglect and the loss of children accumulated in tribes across the nation, the federal government began to take steps towards acknowledging the situation. It wasn’t until 1978 that the Indian Child Welfare Act was enacted to protect American Indian and Native American children from being over-represented in the government system.

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