Indian Child Removal and the Ga-Ga

Carol A. Hand

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Recognizing the special relationship between the United States and the Indian tribes and their members and the Federal responsibility to Indian people, the Congress finds-–

… that Congress, through statutes, treaties, and the general course of dealing with Indian tribes, has assumed the responsibility for the protection and preservation of Indian tribes and their resources;
… that there is no resource that is more vital to the continued existence and integrity of Indian tribes than their children and that the United States has a direct interest, as trustee, in protecting Indian children who are members of or are eligible for membership in an Indian tribe;
… that an alarmingly high percentage of Indian families are broken up by the removal, often unwarranted, of their children from them by nontribal public and private agencies and that an alarmingly high percentage of such children are placed in non-Indian foster and adoptive homes and institutions; and
… that the States, exercising their recognized jurisdiction over Indian child custody proceedings through administrative and judicial bodies, have often failed to recognize the essential tribal relations of Indian people and the cultural and social standards prevailing in Indian communities and families.
(The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978)

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Years ago, the director of a child welfare agency asked me to do an in-service training for her staff about Native American child welfare issues. She added “Don’t tell them about the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978. They already know it. What staff need to know is why they should care.” Because I left my position before I had a chance to respond to her request, this essay is my belated way of addressing her concerns.

boarding school adoptionstar dot com

Photo Credit: Carlisle Indian Industrial School (1879-1918) – adoptionstar.com

The most effective way to conquer a nation is to acculturate their children. Although the removal of Native American children from their families by the federal government, under the guise of education, did not become official policy in the U.S. until after the Civil War, it was not a new practice. From the earliest accounts of Spanish and English colonizers, Native American children were a special focus of assimilation policies. Removal by force and kidnapping were sanctioned ways of dealing with the children of people who were viewed as heathens and savages, and who were certainly in the way of the foreign advance forces that were only interested in claiming indigenous territory and resources.

Although the agents of removal have changed over time, the consequences have been destructive for families and communities for hundreds of years. According to an Ojibwe elder and social worker, social workers eventually merited a name drawn from Ojibwe mythology, the ga-ga, or bogey man. In dangerous environments, Ojibwe parents and elders met the challenge of protecting children from harm in many creative ways because physical punishment and coercion were rare and culturally discouraged. In the most serious circumstances, parents and elders used “scaring stories” that were passed on through the generations, sometimes taking on new meanings. She said that according to oral tradition, Ojibwe parents or elders used to tell children that the bear would take them away if they did not learn to listen and behave. And then, one child was taken by a bear. In order to avoid offending bear relatives and invoke their anger, the ga-ga, a mythical creature like the bogeyman of European fairy tales, was substituted for the bear in the scaring stories.

No one believed that there really was such a creature, until the imposition of colonial domination gave new meaning to this warning. Canada and the United States implemented sweeping policies intended to civilize indigenous peoples by removing children from tribal communities. The agents of removal, Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) agents, missionaries, and social workers, became known as the ga-ga. As the Ojibwe social worker recounted, for generations Ojibwe children have been warned.

 I heard the story when I was little. My mother told us that if we did not behave, the ga-ga would come to take us away. They would take kids and put them into other homes or schools. That’s all I remember. (Ojibwe elder, Personal communication, July 5, 2003)

The new nation that emerged on Indigenous homelands didn’t waste much time in asserting their agenda of political, religious, economic, and cultural domination. In 1819, soon after the United States was founded, Congress authorized $10,000 annually to support religious groups and individuals who wished to establish mission schools in tribal communities. Stressing white values, the schools taught boys farming and blacksmithing and girls domestic skills. For the next several decades, Indian education remained the responsibility of the churches, with federal monetary support” (O’Brien, 1989, p. 239).

Day schools proved ineffective at dismantling culture and community ties. When the Civil War ended, a new intervention spread throughout the nation, Indian boarding schools. The first federal school, under the direction of the BIA, opened in 1860 on the Yakima Indian Reservation in the state of Washington. It was not until 1879, however, that the U.S. opened what is probably the most famous boarding school in Carlisle, PA, under the direction of Captain Henry Pratt, a veteran of the Civil War and the Indian Wars in the western United States. By the 1900s, the BIA operated 251 schools, 113 of which were boarding schools, the preferred method for educating Native children even though they were more costly to operate than day schools. “It is the experience of the department that mere day schools, however well conducted, do not withdraw the children sufficiently from the influences, habits, and traditions of their home life, and produce for this reason a … limited effect” (as quoted in Adams, 1995, p. 30).

When children arrived, their hair was cut, they were stripped and scrubbed with disinfectant soap, deloused even if they didn’t need to be, and clothed in the garb of the colonizers, sometimes in cast-off Civil War uniforms. They were stripped of their given names, forbidden to speak their languages, and housed in over-crowded dormitories. They suffered emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, and because of crowded housing and poor nutrition, thousands died from tuberculosis, measles, pneumonia, and other causes. They were only taught manual trades, to be farmers, tradesmen, or servants, and indoctrinated to value the morality of hard work and the ownership of private property. Those who did return home “were virtual strangers, unable to speak their own language or understand the ways of their own people” (O’Brien, 1989, p. 239).

Photo Credit: My Mother before Catholic Boarding School (“Mom age 7 – Grapes of Wrath”)

norma 1

norma 2

Photo Credit: My Mother after Catholic Boarding School (“My 1st Communion”)

After the Great Depression (1934), the federal government shifted the focus of Indian education from the assimilation of Indigenous children through boarding schools to a broader integration approach within the public school system. The Johnson-O’Malley Act of 1934 provided funding to cover education for Native youth within local public schools in the White communities that bordered tribal communities. The agents of child removal also shifted, from federal agents to state and local child welfare workers.

By 1976, an alarm was sounded by tribal communities and advocacy groups. The number of Indigenous children who had been removed from their families and communities had reached staggering proportions. Surveys conducted by the Association of American Indian Affairs in 1974 estimated that “approximately 25-35 per cent of all Indian children are separated from their families and placed in foster homes, adoptive homes, or institutions” (Byler, 1977, p. 1). The U.S. Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs established a task force to investigate Indian child welfare issues and discovered that foster care placement rates for Native American children were more than five times higher than those of non-Indians. Adoption rates for Native American children, predominantly by non-Native homes, were also significantly higher than those of non-Indians. The task force concluded that “the removal of Indian children from their natural homes and tribal setting has been and continues to be a national crisis [,] … seriously impacts a long-term tribal survival and … Non-Indian public and private agencies, with some exceptions, show almost no sensitivity to Indian culture and society” (U.S. Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs Task Force Four, 1977, p. 52).

The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA) was passed the next year to end the destruction of tribal cultures through policies that encouraged keeping Native American children who were removed from their families within their tribal communities or Native American homes. In reality, the law only granted tribal courts some say in decisions affecting children, and allowed tribal governments an opportunity to place some children who were removed with families on the reservation rather than with Euro-Americans families in other locations. The law did not return total jurisdiction to tribes to design the types of practices they defined as best to promote safe and healthy families. Despite ICWA, child welfare policies and best practices are still largely dictated by federal and state governments. The illusion of control represented by ICWA, however, has kept many tribes from challenging an oppressive system. And the backlash to ICWA from counties, states, and Euro-Americans who desperately want to adopt Native American children has been unrelenting.

Tribal child welfare workers with caseloads of 50 to 120 families struggle to keep children safe and families intact. Their clients span multi-county communities, states, and the nation as a whole. One of the biggest obstacles they face is the appalling ignorance of the general U.S. population about tribal histories and cultures. An even greater obstacle, however, is the rock-solid assumption among most non-Native child welfare experts and practitioners that they really know what is best for all children. Culture doesn’t matter. Community is irrelevant. What matters is being adopted as part of an insular nuclear family. They argue that nuclear families give children a sense of “permanency,” at least until they reach the age of 18.

Yet culture matters a great deal. Being part of a community with which one identifies matters as well. An exercise designed by Vera Manuel, First Nations author and teacher from British Columbia, demonstrates the profound difference between the Euro-American concept of “permanence” and an Indigenous sense of belonging to a community and culture. She engaged participants in sculpting the organization of a pre-contact tribal community. She placed a small pouch on a chair in the center of the room, explaining that it contained things that were sacred to her. The sacred pouch represented the spiritual beliefs that were the center and foundation of the community. She then asked for volunteers to act out the role of children. She asked them to form a circle facing the sacred bundle. Next, she asked for volunteers to role-play parents and form a circle around all of the children. The next volunteers, encircling parents, were aunties and uncles and other adults in the community. Elders formed the final circle of those community members who were facing toward the children and the sacred center. Around the periphery, facing outward, were the volunteers who agreed to represent leaders and warriors who were responsible for protecting the community from harmful outside forces. Next, a few brave volunteers agreed to play the role of “child stealers,” the ga-ga.

In early times, the ga-ga were federal BIA agents or missionaries. In later times, they were state and county child welfare workers. These agents of churches, the federal government, counties, and states broke through the protective circles to forcibly remove the children. Despite resistance by the leaders, warriors, elders, aunties and uncles, and parents, children were removed from their place at the center of the community and taken away by strangers using threats and force. Participants in the sculpted exercise were asked to act out their reactions to losing their children. Without their children, parents, adults, and elders cast their eyes down and turned inward, wrapped their arms over their heart, turned their backs to the center, or left the circle. Warriors and leaders were deeply shamed by their defeat and also turned inward or left. Their meaning in life was lost. When some of the children returned as adults, the community was often disorganized and unrecognizable. Without a purpose, the circles of care that had surrounded them as children were in disarray.

Most agents of removal may well have sincerely believed that Native children would be better off away from their families and cultures. Removal and outplacement continued for generations, funded and encouraged by federal policies and religious institutions. However, for the Ojibwe community members of all ages who have shared their stories with me, the life-long consequences of removal are clear. Each told me that the experiences he or she shared with me were unique and too painful for others in the community to hear or understand. They suffered silently, alone, with the legacy of self-doubt, pain, and anger. Their families and communities suffered as well. Most internalized the shame and blamed their removal on their parents’ substance abuse or irresponsibility. Few recognized that their experience was part of an enduring and deliberate federal agenda to eradicate tribal cultures, a repetition of what their parents, grandparents and more distant ancestors had survived.

Healing the legacy of widespread government-sponsored abuse of Native American children, families and communities is not an easy prospect. Children who were removed from their families and communities, warehoused and abused in federal and religious institutions, or placed with families of non-Indian strangers who were at best not able to help children be integrated into their tribal communities and cultures, and at worst were cruel and abusive, face special challenges as parents. Each generation has stories to tell about their experiences:

• being kidnapped from a village road at the age of five and delivered to a federal boarding school more than 100 miles away still carrying scars more than 70 years later from punishment inflicted on their first day for speaking the only language they knew, “Indian,”
• being the first of many community children placed in a white foster home where Native children were beaten and sexually abused from the age of nine until they were 18 and old enough to exit care,
• running away at the age of 15 to fend for themselves because system interventions only intensified their abuse,
• returning “home” to the tribal community only to find that the mythic culture they created in their imagination to survive years of exile was not there to welcome them and enfold them in a healing circle.

Tribes have done their best to rebuild communities of care despite centuries of destructive policies, and they have made significant strides. There is much yet to do and tribes need allies who understand the harm that has been done and are willing to work in partnership to help banish the ga-ga once and for all. As I write this essay in 2014, Native American children are still more likely to be removed from their families and communities than children from other backgrounds (Summers, Wood, & Donovan, 2013), and the ICWA provisions that offer some protections have suffered serious setbacks. Still, I believe it is within our power to prevent future generations of Native Americans from losing their connections to family and community, to their languages and cultures, and to their self-respect. It is possible to create policies, institutions, and practice paradigms that prevent abuse and neglect while also preserving families, communities, and cultures if we care enough to engage in constructive dialogue and work together as advocates in whatever ways we can.

circles of care samhsa dot com

Photo Credit: Circles of Care – samhsa.gov

Chi miigwetch to the community members who made me feel welcome and shared their stories, laughter, and pain, and whose inspiring work to improve the lives of the next generations will continue to give me hope despite these troubling times.

Works Cited:

Adams, David Wallace (1995). Education for extinction: American Indians and the boarding school experience: 1875-1928. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas.
Byler, William (1977). The destruction of American Indian families. In Steven Unger (Ed.), The destruction of American Indian families (pp. 1-11). New York: Association on American Indian Affairs.

O’Brien, Sharon (1989). American Indian tribal governments. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.

Summers, Alicia, Steve Wood, & Jennifer Donovan (2013). Disproportionality rates for children of color in foster care, Technical Assistance Bulletin. Reno, NV: National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. Available from http://www.ncjfcj.org/sites/default/files/Disproportionality%20Rates%20for%20Children%20of%20Color%20in%20Foster%20Care%202013.pdf

U.S. Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs Task Force Four: Federal, State and Tribal Jurisdiction (1977). Final Report to the American Indian Review Commission, In U.S. Senate Reports, Vol 1-11, Miscellaneous Reports on Public Bills, XI, 95th Congress, 1st Session, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

 

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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38 thoughts on “Indian Child Removal and the Ga-Ga”

      1. when i lived in Phoenix the Indian School was still open. In Ft Apache and Keems Canyon the boarding school still operated. Truxton Canyon Indian School looked haunted as i drove by it for a few years. 20 years in the Indian Health Service offered me opportunities to hear of much suffering.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Given the suffering and deaths that occurred in so many Indian boarding schools, I’m not surprised it looked haunted. I’m sure you heard many heartbreaking stories during your time with IHS.

          Like

        2. powerfully the story was in children’s eyes.
          from being kidnapped and abused, there were obvious scars on their grandparents hearts.
          i could understand their wanting children to be educated and yet, not actively supporting or getting involved with schools.
          it was inspiring to see some parents transmit love and compassion, along with a desire to work for justice
          and healing to their children 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        3. I worked in Polacca, in 2012 – last spring as a school nurse at First Mesa Elementary School. To my knowledge there was no longer a boarding school in Keams Canyon. And their school and First Mesa were the only schools in that area that were still directly under the management of the BIA/BIE. I worked for a few years with IHS too, but working for the BIE really gave me an inside look at the problems Of Hopi families and the ineffectiveness of the BIE.

          Liked by 1 person

  1. Hmm, I don’t remember reading about this in my history textbooks. I wonder what else I wasn’t told about? In my mind, this was genocide plain and simple. The systematic destruction of a people through it’s culture and youth under the guise of “assimilation.” I was raised to believe the U.S. was a melting pot but to me it’s a boiling pot that’s kept at just the right temperature to keep the races distrustful of one another lest they build alliances against their common oppressors.

    Puts Lady Gaga in whole new light, by the way. Love your new blog!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah yes, history textbooks — a disservice to anyone who is trying to understand what really happened. I love your imagery of the “boiling pot” — it does explain the purpose for keeping the “oppression Olympics” in play (“my people suffered more than yours”).

      Lady Gaga — I have to admit I don’t know much about new performers and was so amused when I first heard her name — it was enough to make checking out her music a low priority for me, but maybe now I will:).

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      1. Hi Carol, thanks so much for posting! I remember watching Rabbit Proof Fence and the shock I felt at the time. Lately there has been a very deeply unsettling and painful awareness of the arrogance of ‘whiteness’ and western cultural imperialism. The belief that west is just best, and that is that, and the abuse and devastation this unquestioning certainty brings has been a bit like a tsunami.

        All over the world, colonialism has, it seems, brought terrible patterns of child mistreatment, often alongside the argument of the need for (mis) education. It fits in with Biko’s argument that the most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.

        The more I read and learn about epistemicide, or destruction of culture, heritage and tribal knowledge, and the more I see of it’s impacts, in the form if internalized shame, the more confused I become, and the more painful the continual resistance to ‘other’ ways of knowing becomes.

        I know that the work of raising consciousness is very vital and I become more and more aware that history depends on who wrote it. I don’t think stories and memories like this one should ever remain buried.

        I remember watching Whitechappel, where Miles spoke about the Bogey Man as a character in East End parenting, and now wonder the fears poor parents must have had around loosing their children to social services.

        The role of the extended family and community in forming a child’s world makes a great deal of sense. I wonder at the role of knowledge and ‘insight’ into ‘family’ and community that the western practitioners bring, and actually, the importance of ‘not knowing’ and learning to listen or see, and question our own world views. I’m starting to believe this may be one of the most important qualities we can possibly bring into education.

        Again, thank you for sharing!
        Nicci

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Rabbit Proof Fence is one of my favorites, but such a painful movie to watch!

          Wade Davis (2009, The Wayfinders: Why ancient wisdom matters in the modern world) eloquently argues about the costs of “ethnocide,” or in your words “epistemicide.”

          “To acknowledge the wonder of other cultures is not to denigrate our way of life but rather to recognize with some humility that other peoples, flawed as they too may be, nevertheless contribute to our collective heritage, the human repertoire of ideas, beliefs, and adaptations that have historically allowed us as a species to thrive. To appreciate this truth is to sense viscerally the tragedy inherent in the loss of a language or the assimilation of a people. To lose a culture is to lose something of ourselves” (pp. 201-202).

          It is hard to leave the comfort zone of our own deeply held cultural beliefs and historical assumptions and take the risk of finding out how little we really know. The honesty and humility of your thought-provoking exploratory essays always remind me why it is so important to keep learning!

          Thank you, Nicci, for raising this issue initially and inspiring me to tackle a topic that was hard for me to write about!

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Hi Carol, thanks so much for the book reference! I would like to read and learn more. I do think that as a collective humanity, we have lost such a great deal by defining ourselves according to the power of one form of (colonial) rational knowledge. I do think we need to widen and deepen the stories of what it means to be human in our world, so that we can make space for alternate ways of be-ing. I think we need knowledge and insights from all branches of the human family. I am still not sure why the urge towards domination has stifled all curiosity.

          I think it is perhaps easier to believe in the certainty of set answers or theories, but I know that from the time I stopped doing that in my own life, my world has been richer. I don’t know any answers. The positive side of this is a continually evolving view of the world. The downside is noticing how superior notions of humanity have brought such devastation.

          I have to thank you for the learning and teaching you bring continually! It makes my process of growth and exploration feel very alive, and very rich. I am grateful for that. One of my friends has always said that the teachers come on the path of learning, and the true work is to appreciate them. So thank you, Carol. Warm wishes to you!

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  2. Once again your essay is serendipitous with my life. I just became aware of the Indian Child Welfare Act doing research in preparation for the job interview for which I was hired. And the HR director said my position, as RN Case Manger, would be important in the Circle of Care. I liked your concise presentation of this disturbing history, which I’ve known for years. And it’s a shame younger people, such as Jeff, do not know of it. Part of that legacy is the horizontal violence that continues in Native American nations, in which, too many who assume positions of authority, try to follow white American values, rather than recognizing the strength of their own cultural traditions. (On this topic, I’d like to write you a personal note, if you don’t mind e-mailing me skywalkerstoryteller@gmail.com). Thanks again for a thought provoking essay.

    Like

    1. i’m moved by your compassionate work on and off the rez. wishing you gentle steps and success moving forward. while on Hopi i produced a children’s radio show, called shooting stars. it gave me joy seeing so much brightness in children’s eyes despite traumas of the past.

      Like

    2. Thank you for your ever-thoughtful comments, Skywalker Storyteller. (I am pleased to hear about your new job!)

      I agree with you — lateral violence and factious communities are troubling legacies of oppressive assimilation and generations of systematic state violence targeted not only toward individuals but toward entire cultures. Yet there are still many who remember and live according to the principles that helped Indigenous communities survive for millennia in challenging environments. Like the story of the starfish, they continue to do what they can to help the next generation remember who they are.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Carol.
    After listening to interviews of Kevin Annett I was hoping to get any advice about him you could share. Should one continue to listen to him or not? In other words, is Kevin Annett the real deal or not? Comments sections have pro and con opinions, yet it seems odd for him to do what he has done for less than honorable reasons.
    Thanks,
    Jerry

    Like

    1. Jerry, thank you for your question!

      I have to admit I had never heard of Kevin Annett until I read your comment — I had to look him up on the internet. Apparently he has generated quite a wide following of both supporters and detractors. I hesitate to comment on his authenticity until I learn more. I guess the best advice is to listen to what he has to say, think critically about what he asserts in the context of reliable historical accounts, trustworthy evidence, and the credibility of his supporters and critics.

      The few pieces I skimmed that warned followers to beware were strongly worded but lacked specific documented evidence of the fraud they alleged. You have probably already explored the resources, but here are some links I looked at that might be informative: http://www.genuinewitty.com/kevin-annett/; http://www.genuinewitty.com/2012/10/17/mediawatch-rabble-ca-media-co-op-kevin-annetts-continuing-abuse-of-indigenous-communities/; http://www.genuinewitty.com/2012/10/09/a-warning-about-kevin-annett-from-dennis-banks-royce-white-calf/.

      Your question has made me curious to find out more! I will keep exploring information about him and promise to share any insights.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Hi Jerry – It has been a long time since you asked this question! In rereading this post and others on Indian child welfare today as I began serious work on a book I’m working on, I came across this question. It bothered me to know I had never answered it. As synchronicity would have it, a perspective on Annett just popped up at the top of the wordpress reader when I logged on as a way to take a break from editing: http://kevinannettmustbestopped.wordpress.com/2012/08/02/why-kevin-annett-is-toxic-its-the-narcissism-man/. I thought you might still be interested…

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  4. Hi Carol,
    Thank you for bringing attention to the forgotten narrative of people that were deliberately dehumanized to facilitate their conquest. I can certainly understand the difficulty associated with delving into the history of your ancestors. The mainstream tends to consciously ignore the bias associated with the version of history as written by the victors. However, if there’s been one benefit to this period of “awakening,” it’s that what was once buried will be brought into the light.

    I thought I’d share a quote by a doyen of Western imperialism that I think helps to elucidate the mindset that underpinned the treatment of native cultures throughout the globe.
    “I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place.”
    (To the Peel Commission 1937) – Winston Churchill

    While it would be nice to think that the days of celebrating men like Churchill are a thing of the past, tribal peoples in Yemen, Afghanistan, and other regions of the world are being subjected to a similar domination and ethnocide as the march of McWorld continues. The “civilizing of savages” seems to have morphed into the “spreading of democracy” by savages who know neither civilization nor democracy.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Thank you, H3nry, for your very thoughtful comments. This was a hard essay for me to write, so I am especially grateful for feedback.

    I love the quite from Churchill — I had no idea he was such a “racist,” a word I rarely use these days but it’s the best descriptor I can think of at the moment. His words are not unlike the writings of earlier explorers 250 years before he was born. At least he was a straight-talker — he didn’t hide his feelings and disdain in remote academic language.

    It is so disheartening to see what is happening to other peoples around the globe. Although the “civilizing agents” have changed since the early days of European “discoveries of new worlds,” imperialism is still about controlling and exploiting resources. The deaths of people and cultures doesn’t matter — it’s still the “hand of God opening up the way for his chosen people” now as it was in the 1500 to 1700s in America, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, India, Africa, and the list could go on.

    So the question I ask myself is, what can I do about this? I can write and hope for thoughtful colleagues and readers like you who engage in dialogue. Colleagues who share ideas, resources, and information that help me see things from different perspectives and on deeper levels. Thank you, H3nry!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. The numbers are staggering, as is the sculpting exercise that shows the destructive impact on the entire community. Once again I ask myself how the US has the gall to talk about human rights.

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  7. Yes, Diane, I agree — it is astonishing that leaders in the U.S. are so uninformed(or callous?) about history (or current events) that they dare to comment on human rights abuses elsewhere. The numbers of people affected by trauma due to oppressive policies, not just among Native Americans but among all devalued populations, represent a tragic loss. Unfortunately we have continued to repeat patterns of oppression — I would like to be able to say it’s because we haven’t learned from history, but perhaps the opposite is true. Oppression works to minimize effective resistance.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Congrats on your Jeffster Award!

    Just now, when I read the Act of 1978, I thought it was a very hopeful proposal for the future. How horrid that this is another false promise!!!

    The power in exercises like the one designed by Vera Manuel fascinates me. How can someone NOT be changed by them? What a gift, to bring that to communities.

    I raise questions in Cultural Freedom that I hope you will consider responding to.

    Thank you for bringing attention to this issue.

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    1. Congratulations to you as well Weaver Grace! I am grateful Jeff helped me find your blog, and to you for your comments.

      I have used the sculpting exercise in classes and presentations, and it is powerful. One in-service in particular is the most memorable. I didn’t realize until I walked in to do the presentation that the majority of the audience was from the correctional system and I wondered about the wisdom of following my planned presentation. But I decided to see what would happen. The participants from corrections were the most eager volunteers and as we ended and debriefed, all of the men who towered over me had tears in their eyes and a catch in their voices as they spoke about the impact it had on them and how it had deepened their understanding of the Native American men they worked with.

      Thank you for the link to your essay. I look forward to reading it!

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for your kinds words, Gator Woman. Given your thoughtful and passionate commitment to raising awareness about social justice issues affecting Native Americans, your feedback means a great deal to me.

      Liked by 1 person

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