From around the 1880s to the 1980s Indian children were forcibly removed from their homes and their tribes and placed in “educational institutions” or “boarding schools”. In these schools, the were forced to speak only English, practice only Christianity, and wear only “white” clothes. They were brutally punished for speaking their own languages. Essentially, the US and Canadian governments set about a policy of cultural genocide against the indigenous people in their countries. Over half of the children who were subjected to this forced “learning” did not survive. They died of disease, malnutrition and most likely destroyed spirits. It is heartbreaking to read.
Ward Churchill has done his research on this topic and knows his stuff. Most of what he brings to light angers me beyond belief. It is a shame, however, that Churchill tends to be unable to write in a layman’s style language and give the facts life. His writing is tedious and overly scholarly, if you know what I mean. I’ve very much enjoyed reading this part of our hidden history, and will likely look for memoirs from actual victims of the institutions.
I’m taking a creative writing course this semester, and the required text for the course is actually turning out to be quite helpful. It is written in plain language that is easy to understand. The book is broken into two parts, one for poetry and one for fiction. Each chapter so far has included good working definitions of terms used in writing poetry and fiction. There are also many examples from real workshopping sessions and real student writers. I’m enjoying the class more than I expected to mostly because this book is such a good go-to resource.
This semester, I’m taking a course called Contemporary Issues in Native American Culture. There were two textbooks required for this course, the one listed here, and Contemporary Native American Cultural Issues by Duane Champagne. We haven’t yet delved into the Cultural Issues book yet, but we have read the first essay in the compilation by Troy Johnson.
The first essay was by Ward Churchill regarding Native American tribal sovereignty. I found this essay to be extremely hard to read. Rather than using plain language, Churchill used what I like to call legalese. For the average reader, the information that Chruchill was trying to get across was completely lost in the language. His information was extremely interesting, once I got to the heart of it, but it took me a while to hack my way through the jargon.
With any luck, the rest of the essayists in the book will be a little easier to read and understand. I’m enjoying this class, and because I have some Indian heritage, it’s important that I learn at least a little about my past.