U. S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs 810 Seventh Street, N. W. Washington, D. C. 20531 Janet Reno

Cultural Deprivation and Victimization

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Cultural Deprivation and Victimization

The majority of the stewards of Indians had a sense of justice that met their own needs and took privileges with children because children, especially Native children, were not valued. Most agents, missionaries, and school authorities were not accountable except to submit written reports and attach an explanation of events in question. They did not necessarily have to justify why or how an Indian person died but only needed to describe events if there was an inquiry. Questions on the necessity of harsh discipline within the boarding and mission schools were dismissed by congressional hearings as being necessary and appropriate since school authorities should have ultimate power to rule as they saw fit.

Native children suffered deprivations beyond description and those who did survive became the wounded guardians of the culture and tentative parents to the next generation of children. When children were taken from their families, the only name known was their Native name. When the child arrived at a school, the child was arbitrarily given a “Christian name.” Their Native names were never recorded. If a child died, moved to another school, or “got lost in the process,” the family had no way of finding their child because schools recorded only the “Christian names.” Families lost many children by not knowing what name their children were required to use. Families had no power to circumvent the system in order to find their children. Authorities were not accountable for lost children or missing children. “What was one more dead Indian?” was the message from President Andrew Jackson.

Children who ran away were punished according to military standards of desertion. When caught they were isolated and locked in the stockade. Children were not allowed to comfort each other as that was viewed as a weakness. Children had few options for resisting an oppressive system. They were not allowed to see their families for years at a time, consequently they missed the transmittal of tribal culture and traditional teachings. This setting eliminated the opportunity to form consistent nurturing relationships during those formative years. They experienced physical and sexual abuse. They became helpless or aggressive and with abusive behavior toward others. Unfortunately, the effects of child maltreatment were not known and many generations of families engaged in destructive and violent behaviors before the connection between boarding schools and disenfranchised families was made.

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