Carlisle Industrial School for Indians by Steve Simmons
The remains of six children interned at the Carlisle Indian School will be exhumed beginning June 15, 2019. Much has been written about the school, its history, the military campaigns, and the progress made in the endeavor to “Kill the Indian, Save the Man”. There are reams of paper containing official documents between the superintendent, many layers of government officials, and social societies in the management of their endeavor, justifying actions, comparing observations, doubts, and adjustments to the Indian education policy. But there is something of vital importance missing in all this documentation.
I have read Richard Henry Pratt's book entitled “Battlefield and Classrooms”. Pratt was instrumental in “subduing” the rebellious Indians after the federal implementation of the reservation concentration camps and he was instrumental in the founding of the Indian school system. I have also reviewed documentation available at the Dickinson college online portal. Much Indian Industrial School documentation is stored at this college in Carlisle PA. I was attempting to review what Native American students, parents, and Tribal Authorities had written reflecting their educational experience and the forced attendance and cultural assimilation of the children. I am very much interested in reading the Native American perspective and representation during these activities. I found nothing aside from a few footnotes. I found total omission of what the “Indian” had to say about this forced colonial education and attempted cultural genocide. Within the reference to “letters to home” from the children within the publications of the period, I found censorship that omitted the material and excused the omission as being to wordy and lacking anything of newsworthy content to print. However, I did find much reference material on the subject of the “Indian problem.”
In the misguided attempt to transform and ultimately eliminate a pre-existing culture that survived many millennia, the imposing “civilized” people never stopped to ask themselves what knowledge this culture had to offer mankind. The offending race, with maybe withholding an exception for the Quakers, assumed a superior position without ever considering the consequences of their actions and behavioral attitudes that they were imposing on a race of people that, as stated before, sustained itself and its environment for many millennia. Just suppose for a minute if the Native people that inhabited this continent prior to contact had acted exactly as the white invaders? There would have been bigger guns on the shores when someone was “discovered”. There would be no pristine environment available to the immigrants to plunder. There would be no wildlife to slaughter for the sport of killing. And there would have been established prisons that would soon be filled to capacity with white immigrants. I believe that it is of vital importance that the group of official do-gooder's finally take the time to understand the spiritual attitudes, self governing methods, and environmental stewardship that Native Americans of the north American continent practiced that afforded them a near perfect balance with the creator, the natural resources, and the environment that the creator provided for them to prosper in and manage. In reality, it appears we have a white man problem, not an Indian problem because the corrupted attitudes persist in the present, albeit they exist in different form and terminology than the blatant “in your face” form of prejudice, hatred, and racism of the past.
Why is this critique important? This is important because there are many people attempting to heal from the actions of the subversive “civilized” culture. As victims of forced assimilation and attempted genocide, natives are attempting to address the genetic and cultural damage caused by the trauma. Since the formation of the United States from the thirteen colonies it is evident that the federal government charged itself with the authority to negotiate treaties with the Indian Nations so that the US could advance its ambitions. These negations and treaties are enshrined within the US Constitution. These writings establish the fact and acknowledge that the Native Nations had the authority and ability to enter into official government relations based on their sovereign status that was and is recognized world wide. It is also recognizable and acknowledged that the Native Nations existed and functioned under a very different life way. The subversive “civilized” people proclaimed that the native life way was inferior and primitive and incompatible with an “enlightened” and “superior” sense of self. The problem is, although the official writings and documentation acknowledged the contradictions within the superior race, they never came to terms with the reality of their greed corruption, graft, deception, double speak, the pursuit of power and control, self gratification, and money. These less than desirable virtues are being preserved in the American way of life under the deception of Self Determination.
Native American tribes attempted to embrace the new life ways that were invading the continent. Natives recognized certain benefits, inventions, knowledge and strategies. They also recognized that these new life ways were in basic conflict with a belief system, an established life sustaining life way that respected and revered the creators gift. They recognized that what came with the inventions and trade goods was graft, lies, deception, corruption, conflict, theft, murder, alcohol and drug abuse, concealment, exploitation, double speak, disease, mental illness, and confusion surrounding the many different religious belief systems, and likely, the lack there-of. Many indigenous peoples embraced the new ideology, gave it a try, and ultimately rejected this new life way because it conflicted with truth and an inherent sense of right and wrong. It threatened the life way, land base, religious and cultural belief systems, and most importantly it threatened the families and the cohesiveness that bonded entire communities, otherwise known as Tribes and Nations. Some tribes voluntarily relocated from lands in the east to lands more westerly to get away from the white settlements. Many tribes negotiated at the conference table for the Indians to stay on their side of the fence and the whites to stay on their side of the fence. However, there is nothing inherently noble in the actions of the white man, as he will do as he pleases. And after the mayhem of invading Indian territorial boundaries, ignoring legalities that the whites refuse to abide, failed bureaucratic institutions, and a total lack of interest in fulfilling treaty obligations in a just way, the whites created additional laws and policy that enabled the whites to remain lawfully in trespass and further ignore constitutionally guaranteed obligations. These are the reasons the Native defended their life way and resisted embracing the assimilation to the death if needed. Natives understood then and understand now the difference between true freedom and a facsimile thereof and this persistent deception, perpetrated on all the people, is accepted by the majority of the American population as a satisfactory condition of citizenship and inclusion. The fact is that this deception is a very large, contradictory, and immovable obstacle to personal identity, cultural identity, and denies any real progress in healing from the physical, physiological, and emotional assault perpetrated against indigenous peoples.
In the writers opinion, healing can not truly take place. To this day the hostilities exist between the two cultures. To this day the average American has very little or are without any understanding of the Native American culture, as it existed at contact and as it exists today. There can be no reconciliation between the two because the majority of Americans are steeped in ignorance. Geographical places important to Native Americans have been plundered and plowed under. Personal property has been swindled or stolen and placed in some museums closet or on display. Relatives deceased bodies have been scattered to the wind or held in perpetual bondage in make shift cemeteries throughout the continent with contempt. Myths are taught in the educational systems. There is little doubt that within the context of teaching and interacting with native American subject matter, it is inherently performed in the historical context. This is the main reason the generations that have come up and are being raised up, cannot put native cultures into any meaningful understanding and perspective. This is why the mere mention of native Americans in a conversation with the average American results in either total silence, an apologetic exclamation that lacks any real emotion or understanding of their ancestral behavior, and most always includes a racial slur or comment based entirely on what they have been exposed to in motion pictures, fairy tales, and again ignorance.
This day, June 19 2019, a news report came to my email that describes that the governor of California, Gavin Newsom, has issued an executive order that for the first time in California history has issued an apology to the Native Americans and has acknowledged the barbaric behavior of the people and government of California towards the Native American populations in that jurisdiction. This is maybe a beginning to the healing process but for who? As I have stated throughout these pages, unless the constant state of ignorance within the American culture is addressed and the population is educated properly, there is no point in spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to again study and evaluate the so called “Indian problem” for the next six years. In my experience, when the dominant culture comes forth and pretends to show respect and a free exchange of ideas, they usually want something. The dominant civilized society must review, evaluate, and question the purpose and intent of their own culture. It must face its own historical horrific acts and moral bankruptcy. I do not see this happening in an environment that endorses self destruction, selfishness, greed, corruption, lies, legal deception as practiced in the judicial system, intentional deception, partial truths, and exaggerated lies as employed within the sensationalism of the journalistic trades, immoral acts of violence to achieve a political or societal end, murder and the relentless pursuit of class warfare and fictitious wealth.
Henry Jones, died at the age of 16, a member of the Iowa Nation, Sac and Fox,
Adam McCarty, died at age 17, a member of the Modac Nation,
Jemima Metoxin, died at the age of 16, a member of the Onieda Nation,
Ophelia Powles, died at the age of 15, a member of the Onieda Nation,
Alice Springer, died at the age of 14, a member of the Omaha Nation,
Sophia Caulon, died 01/18/1893, a member of the Onieda Nation,
By Steve Simmons
Steve Simmons is a 25 year resident of Alaska and a property owner. He built a career in Public Broadcasting and established life long friendships with the Indigenous peoples of Alaska. I worked at KAKM / KSKA for 15 years and I worked for CoastAlaska Inc. as a broadcast engineer supporting the public radio stations in southeast Alaska for four years. He worked in a professional capacity for the Chickaloon Village Traditional Council for three years. In addition to his regular duties and responsibilities of the Tribal positions, he served as a liaison between the Tribes in that region and some state agencies. He served on the Matanuska-Susitna Advisory Council to the Board of Fish and Game as secretary for 4 years, he was appointed by the then Mayor Timothy L, Anderson to a seat on the Forestry and Agricultural Advisory Board in the Matanuska -Susitna Borough, and he was appointed by the then secretary of the Interior, Gail Norton, to a seat representing Tribal Interests and perspectives to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management Resource Advisory Council in Anchorage Alaska.