“History is repeating itself when it comes to genocide”
Tara Pretends Eagle Weber is a Native American social worker and activist from Palm Beach County in Florida.
I am a survivor of genocide. I am a direct descendent of Pretends Eagle, a documented survivor of The Battle at Little Bighorn. My ancestors fought for me to have a better life. I honor them today and the migrant families enduring the unthinkable as they flee to the United States.
I was born during the uprising of the American Indian Movement. I am also a Native American adoptee, one who was adopted by a white family and grew up without my culture. Despite being Indigenous to this land, Native American adoptees are the Lost Tribe of Native America. Our silent place in Native American history is quietly being uncovered…yet, ironically at the same time, our history is repeating itself. The genocidal elements used on a generation of adoptees are the same ones being used today.
The separation of families was legalized by the Relocation Act of 1956 by Congress, which forced Native Americans to assimilate to the major U. S. cities. Since food and resources were no longer being sent to the reservations, people were forced to flee. Once in the city, many were met by culture shock, isolation and more broken promises. The inability to provide for their families led to the forced adoptions of thousands of babies to white families.
The lack of documentation was horrendous. Even today, many adoptees do not have their original birth certificate, if it even exists. They may never know who they are or where they come from.
Migrant children are surrounded by human rights violations. Regular contact with their families and a documented reunification plan is mandated by the Flores Agreement, requiring the government to release children from immigration detention to their families without unnecessary delay.
Even with children dying while detained in U. S. custody, attorney Sarah Fabian from the Department of Justice has minimised migrant childrens’ rights in court. This continuous minimization of basic needs continues to dehumanize children. With their parents now homeless and unemployed they can be declared unfit parents by the U. S. Government.
The intentional chaos, and the secret shuffling of children to different locations has led to a lack of documentation. This will result in children never being reconnected with their families, or never knowing their true identities, especially those who are alone. Many will be adopted through private adoption agencies and never be reunited with their families.
The original legalization of the forced separation of families was the Indian Civilization Act Fund of March 3, 1819. It funded the boarding school era that inflicted genocide in hundreds of church-run schools. General Richard Pratt founded the Carlisle Indian Industrial School to cleanse the Indian and coined the propaganda phrase, “Kill the Indian, Save the Man.” During this time thousands of children were stolen from their families and forced to attend boarding schools. They all suffered terrible abuse; some were beaten for speaking their language, all had their long hair cut off and some were sexually abused by the clergy. Children often died trying to return home. Psychological torture and death were the norm.
Each school had a cemetery, yet the deaths were not properly documented and sometimes the families were not even notified of their child’s death. In 2019, relatives of Carlisle Indian Industrial School students who attended the school over a hundred years before finally received their ancestors’ remains for proper burial ceremonies.
Another epidemic the Indigenous women of North America are facing is femicide. The resistance movement for Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) first began decades ago in Canada and flourished in recent years in the U. S. In June 2019, an Inquiry on MMIW in Canada concluded there was genocide.
However, the Canadian government has yet to acknowledge this. In October this year President Donald Trump signed Savanna’s Act and Not Invisible Act into law, to help address the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women crisis.
Indigenous people are learning from the past. Research is being conducted on the damage of being raised away from our culture. We know historical trauma has become embedded in our DNA and is passed on to the next generation. We are healing, and we are resilient, yet it may take generations to heal. This is why the cruelty of the separation of children and parents must be stopped.
Unknown to so many, we are seeing Native American history repeat itself right before our eyes.
This is an edited version of an article published on Indianz.Com. For the original story visit their website.
Read more from Tara: “In 2020 our lives are in fear because of Covid, but also because of our words”
Featured image: Ciricahua Apaches as they looked upon arrival at the Carlisle Indian School, Pennsylvania, 1885/86. Library of Congress.