Friday, November 27, 2009

Should Non-Indians Write About the Indian Boarding School Experience?

Today is National Indian Heritage Day and ironically, I was contacted by a non-Indian woman who wanted to interview me re: Indian Boarding Schools and the legacy left to the progeny of the attendees. Her seeming assumption that Indian people's families are inheirently flawed due to their mother's and father's incarceration in the residential schools irked me. What frustrated me even more was that her thesis appeared to be designed to cure the ills of indigenous families that have resulted from the experiences of the Indian Boarding Schools. I couldn't help but wonder if she thought she could cure us with an academic attempt at reporting out our problems? Or could she make it all better with a finger stroke on a keyboard?

Clearly, there are problems relating to the after effects of the imprisonment of our family members that remain in our families today. However, a question that I wondered at is; would an Indian person writing a book on the same topic assume that our families are elementally flawed or more acurately assert, that we are heroic survivors who face generational challenges that are not of our own creation? As I continued to try and understand my negative response to the woman's request I became concerned that I have not read one report where a writer has thought to interpret the majority population's historic attempt to imprison, dehumanize, and torture small indigenous children as what it will always be---demonic acts of depravity against the most vulnerable segment of humanity. Children.

The actions taken against our families were nothing less than war crimes perpetrated against the most innocent. Beatings, rapes, brutilization, isolation, and outright hatred of an innocent child for no other reason than who she or he is, has to be defined as a crime against nature. Perhaps a book should be written recreating a reality that is more truthful, one where these horrific educational insitutions of physical and emotional torture would be described as what they really were, charnel houses purposefully designed to strip Indian youth of identity, family, humanity, and ultimately life.

Destruction and maiming of young children for no other purpose than land aquisition should not be seen as an admirable and patriotic act of an emerging nation. If the real story of heartbreak and sorrow were to be written of the Indian children forced into residential schools, would non-NDNZ be angry? Would they be frustrated? Would their hearts break when they read of the little boys and girls broken, bruised, and buried in forgotten secret graves without tradition in fields surrounding the schools? Would they feel shame? Would they weep for the broken hearts of the mothers, the fathers, the grandmothers, the grandfatheres, the brothers, the sisters, the aunties, the uncles, the brothers, the sisters, those who loved and remembered them?

As a community, a country, a world, we are only as honorable as the way in which we treat the most vulnerable segments of our population. What can be said of a country that built its honor, its political philosphy, and its memories of history on the burial ground of chilhood lost?