Posted by on Aug 30, 2015 in Featured

Seattle Human Rights Commission Endorses Resolution Recognizing the Trauma of the American Indian Boarding School Era

Seattle Human Rights Commission Endorses Resolution Recognizing the Trauma of the American Indian Boarding School Era

On August 6th, the Seattle Human Rights Commission voted unanimously to support a proposed resolution to the Seattle city council that would recognize the trauma and historical impacts of the American Indian boarding school era.  The resolution was presented by Matt Remle, one of the resolutions authors.

The resolution grew out of a planning committee for Seattle’s now annual Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebration, held on the second Monday in October.  Section 5 of last years Seattle’s Indigenous Peoples’ Day resolution states: “The City of Seattle firmly commits to continue its efforts to promote the well-being and growth of Seattle’s American Indian and Indigenous community

The aim of the resolution is to help raise awareness to the American Indian Boarding School policy and the legacy of historical trauma left in its wake; support efforts towards healing for survivors and their families; encourage the Seattle Public Schools to both teach about the American Indian Boarding School policy and to bring Native American languages into its classrooms (which were lost largely due too the anti-Native language policies of the boarding schools; and to support the larger efforts of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition who along with tribes and tribal rights organizations are calling for the enactment of a Congressional Bill to “investigate the Human Rights violations and on-going effects resulting from the boarding school policy“.

Seattle city council member Kshama Sawant, who co-sponsored the Indigenous Peoples’ Day resolution and a current supporter of the Boarding School Era recognition resolution, released the following statement:

The supposed goal [of the boarding schools] was to ‘Kill the Indian, save the man,’ which is tantamount to cultural genocide. The new resolution will give City officials the opportunity to acknowledge and help heal the deep wounds opened up by the Boarding School Policy. It is also another step towards getting the City to take real action to address the poverty, oppression, and marginalization that the community faces to this day. My office is still working on the best way to introduce this legislation, but my hope and the hope of the Indigenous community is that we will be celebrating its passage this year on Indigenous People’s Day.

In the late 1800’s, the U.S. government embarked on a ruthless campaign of forced assimilation in effort to solve its “Indian problem”.  Its previous efforts to fulfill its goals of Manifest Destiny were temporarily thwarted as it met fierce resistance from Northern Plains tribes.  Due to their military losses to Northern Plains tribes, most notably the 1866-1868 Red Cloud’s War and the Battle of the Little Big Horn, policy makers revised a new strategy and turned towards the mass genocide of the buffalo, destroying the Plains tribes economy with the buffalo hunters, and the government sponsored, church ran boarding schools.

Over the course of the next 100 years, roughly 100,000 American Indian children ages 5-18 were stripped from their homes and placed in remote boarding schools.  Native languages, spirituality and customs were outlawed, physical and sexual violence was rampant.

Unlike Canada, who modeled its residential school program after the boarding school program, the United States has yet to even acknowledge the American Indian boarding school era let alone engage in efforts of reconciliation with survivors and their families.

The crime of genocide, as defined in international law in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide:

Article II: In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religous group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily of mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring chidlren of the group to another group.

The American Indian boarding school policy was an act of genocide. The resolution will now go on to the Seattle city council.