Learn more about Peltz-Steele v. UMass Faculty Federation at Court Listener (complaint) and the Liberty Justice Center. The case is now on appeal in the First Circuit as no. 22-1466 (PACER paywall). Please direct media inquiries to Kristen Williamson.
Showing posts with label children. Show all posts
Showing posts with label children. Show all posts

Thursday, July 28, 2022

While Pope apologizes in Canada, U.S. reckons with legacy of federal Indian boarding schools

Children at Rehoboth Mission School, New Mexico
(from DOI report p. 39, credited: Hartog, C. (1910).
Rehoboth School [Photograph]. Indian mission sketches:
Descriptions and views of Navajo life, the Rehoboth Mission School
and the Stations Tohatchi and Zuni, 22. Gallup, N.M.: The Author.
Hathi Trust Digital Library)
The Pope's visit to Canada to ask forgiveness for the role of the Church has brought the tragedy of Indian boarding schools to light, but coverage has been thin on the U.S. legacy.

In the United States, Indian boarding schools were government policy and attempted a cultural genocide no less shamefully than the Church effort in Canada. This U.S. angle on the story hasn't been mentioned in my evening news the last few nights. But it was explicated by an Interior Department (DOI) report in May just this year and is being addressed in some media outlets (e.g., NPR).

The DOI report is just volume 1 in the ongoing investigation of the Federal Boarding School Initiative, "a comprehensive review of the troubled legacy of federal boarding school policies," launched in June 2021. A transmittal letter at the front of the report explained:

This report shows for the first time that between 1819 and 1969, the United States operated or supported 408 boarding schools across 37 states (or then-territories), including 21 schools in Alaska and 7 schools in Hawaii. This report identifies each of those schools by name and location, some of which operated across multiple sites.

This report confirms that the United States directly targeted American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian children in the pursuit of a policy of cultural assimilation that coincided with Indian territorial dispossession. It identifies the Federal Indian boarding schools that were used as a means for these ends, along with at least 53 burial sites for children across this system-with more site discoveries and data expected as we continue our research.

When I say "attempted cultural genocide," or "ethnocide," this isn't just me throwing around woke words. The DOI report detailed official policy dating to President Washington to "subdue[] the Indians" by assimilation, "helping the whites acquire desirable land." An 1803 memo by President Jefferson outlined a plan to relocate native Americans and push them into farming with the express aim that they would thereby fall into debt and have to cede their land. (And, I note, today still our corporate overlords are pushing all of us into asset ownership—homes, cars, cell phones—on the debt model rather than the capital model. You don't have to be native American for the strategy to make the rich richer and you poorer.)

Hundreds of thousands of children were taken from their families and sent to boarding schools often distant from their home communities. That generations of people were so traumatized explains a lot about the fragile social and economic state of reservation communities today.

In military school fashion, the children's every 24 hours in the boarding schools were regimented. Using quotes from contemporary accounts (notes and sources omitted here), the report recounted:

"The children are improved rather in their habits than in what they learn from books." For example, to teach them "obedience and cleanliness, and give[] them a better carriage," Department records detail examples of organizing Indian male children "into companies as soldiers, and the best material selected for sergeants and corporals." "They have been uniformed and drilled in many of the movements of army tactics."

The report explained the means and ends of the boarding schools with revealing perspective:

Systematic identity-alteration methodologies employed by Federal Indian boarding schools included renaming Indian children from Indian names to different English names; cutting the hair of Indian children; requiring the use of military or other standard uniforms as clothes; and discouraging or forbidding ... Indian languages, ... cultural practices, and ... religions. "When first brought in they are a hard-looking set. Their long tangled hair is shorn close, and then they are stripped of their Indian garb thoroughly washed, and clad, in civilized clothing. The metamorphosis is wonderful, and the little savage seems quite proud of his appearance."

"No Indian is spoken[:]" "There is not an Indian pupil whose tuition and maintenance is paid for by the United States Government who is permitted to study any other language than our own vernacular—the language of the greatest, most powerful, and enterprising nationalities beneath the sun."

Then there was enforcement for violating the rules, including the prohibitions on language and religious practice. Whipping was the preferred punishment for attempted runaways.

Indian boarding school rules were often enforced through punishment, including corporal punishment, such as solitary confinement, "flogging, withholding food, ... whipping[,]" and "slapping, or cuffing." At times, rule enforcement was a group experience: "for the first offense, unless a serious one, a reprimand before the school is far better than a dozen whippings, because one can teach the whole school that the offender has done something that is wrong, and they all know it and will remember it, while it is humiliating to the offender and answers better than whipping."

Conditions for even compliant children were less than optimal. Citing prior DOI investigations in 1928 and 1969, the 2022 report stated:

The Department has acknowledged "frankly and unequivocally that the provisions for the care of the Indian children in boarding schools are grossly inadequate." Rampant physical, sexual, and emotional abuse; disease; malnourishment; overcrowding; and lack of health care in Indian boarding schools are well-documented.

Moreover, the children's labor was used to operate the schools, for example, the children's clothes were made by female students as part of their vocational training.

Lest the severity of these conditions be confused with mere norms of less gentle times, we might consider that schools, even in the 19th century, rarely had their own graveyards. DOI found 53 burial sites at Indian boarding schools, at least six unmarked.

U.S. Indian boarding schools have been examined thoughtfully in media outlets: The Atlantic, National Geographic (limited free), NPR, N.Y. Times, and Time (paywall).

There are books, too, of course: Ward Churchill's well regarded Kill the Indian, Save the Man (2004); the first-person Pipestone (2010) by Adam Fortunate Eagle; and the documentary compilation Boarding School Seasons (2000) by Brenda J. Child.

There are online resource collections at The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition and the Library of Congress.

My favorite media treatment in this area is a 2015 Radiolab segment, rebroadcast in 2018, "Ghosts of Football Past." Follow it up with a compelling reflection by Professor Justin De Leon.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Missionaries kidnapped in Haiti reach freedom, but murky U.S. policy generally fails ransomed abductees

Haitian child in 2012 (photo by Feed My Starving Children CC BY 2.0).
News came last week that the last 12 of 17 Christian missionaries abducted for ransom in Haiti in October either escaped or were released, reports vary, and walked miles to freedom. The circumstances of their liberation raise questions about the ongoing apparent lack of any clear U.S. policy on abductions abroad.

Less well reported than the story of the missionaries, Haitian lawyer and university professor Patrice Dérénoncourt was shot and killed on October 31 by the kidnappers who abducted him in October.  Dérénoncourt taught crimonology and constitutional law in the Economic, Social and Political Sciences Department of the Université Notre-Dame d'Haiti.

Dérénoncourt and the missionaries are typical of the some 800 kidnappings in Haiti just this year. Economic desperation and political turmoil have resulted in flourishing gang violence, and kidnappers seeking ransom have targeted aid workers and the education sector, children included.  Struggling to maintain rule of law, the Haitian government has not been able to get a handle on the problem.  Foreign governments seem either habitually disinterested or similarly impotent.

In the Dérénoncourt case, some of the $900,000 ransom demanded had been paid.  It is unclear whether any ransom was paid for the missionaries.  Representatives of the families and, apparently, the U.S. government through the FBI, were involved in negotiation over kidnappers' outrageous demand for $1 million per person.  Whatever reports are accurate, and whether or not a ransom was paid or the pressure simply became untenable, I find it difficult to believe that the last 12 missionaries surmounted a concerted effort by the kidnappers to keep them.

The Biden Administration was understandably tight-lipped about how it was dealing with the kidnapping crisis while it was going on.  Now that the event is over, it's time for an open conversation about what U.S. policy should be, both with regard to kidnappings and to the social and economic catastrophe unfolding less than 700 miles from Miami.

In the broader picture, U.S. policy on abductions for ransom seems at best inconsistent and at worst incoherent.  In late October, families of Americans still detained abroad, in China, Egypt, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela, called on the Biden Administration to do better.  "When we do meet with ... officials," the families wrote, "we feel we are being kept in the dark about what the U.S. government intends to do to free our loved ones."

The murder of an educator such as Dérénoncourt sets back rule of law in Haiti not by just one mind, but by a generation of students he would have taught.  Persistent instability in Haiti meanwhile is contributing to a burgeoning refugee crisis in the Americas and threatens to destabilize democracy in the Caribbean.  Even an isolationist American administration can ignore Haiti for only so long.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Scharf urges rational statutory construction to ease immigration plight of child victims of abuse, neglect

My colleague Irene Scharf published further research into easing immigration hardships for undocumented youth who have been victimized by abuse, abandonment, or neglect.  She explains (footnotes omitted):

In 1990, aiming to ease the difficult situation for undocumented child immigrants who were dependent on juvenile courts for their protection, Congress enacted the Special Immigrant Juvenile provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act, located at 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(27)(J) (the provision). In 2008, in an effort to further ease the plight of these young people, it amended the provision to relieve the proof requirement from proving abuse, abandonment, or neglect by both parents to that of one or both parents. Unfortunately, the provision maintains its “two-tier” citizenship system because one of its subsections denies Special Immigrant Juveniles (SIJ) who naturalize the same rights as other citizens possess to petition for their parents to immigrate [8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(27)(J)(iii)(II)]. In Second Class Citizenship? The Plight of Special Immigrant Juveniles [40 Cardozo L. Rev. 579 (2019)], I concluded that this limitation violates Due Process by creating this two-tier citizenship system. To address this inequity, courts should employ the doctrine of “rational legislating” to interpret this provision in a way that would place SIJs on an equal footing with other citizens. This would more accurately reflect the intent Congress had when it amended the provision in 2008, and permit naturalized SIJs to reunify with their parents.

Professor Scharf in the article further frames the problem in describing its impact on the lives of young people from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, relating experiences amalgamated from real clients of the immigration law clinic she has supervised for nearly two decades.

The article is Robbing Special Immigrant Juveniles of Their Rights as U.S. Citizens: The Legislative Error in the 2008 TVPRA Amendments, 30 Berkeley La Raza L.J. 41 (2020).

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Kids everywhere play

Kids find innocent fun in the toughest of living conditions. It's a reminder that soulful joy doesn't come from worldly things.

In the photo at left, kids in Ganvie Lake Village in Benin wanted to see themselves on the screen of my little camera. Ganvie has an unusual history tied to the Portuguese slave trade; read more at Atlas Obscura. Photo by my traveling mate, Dylan Armstrong. By the way, RI/South Coast US readers, you can catch Beninese world music Grammy winner Angelique Kidjo at The Vets in Providence, R.I., on February 22. Meanwhile watch her fabulous performance on YouTube.

The photos at right and below are from in and around Jamestown, a community in Accra, Ghana. This village was an NAACP stop for the 2019 Year Of Return (WBUR), and its Old Fort is one of the string of forts and castles that memorializes the horrific suffering inflicted on "the slave coast." Two boys I met on the street, one wearing a US Soccer shirt, were experimenting with a kite they had made out of plastic and wood debris and electrical tape. In Jamestown, ever smiling Masha was my tight-gripping companion. Both photos are mine, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0, taken with permission of their subjects.