Federal legislation moves on Boarding School accountability, Tribal Civics Guide released, and more

In this post:

  • Federal bill pushes for Indian Boarding School accountability; testimony from survivors sought
  • Tribal Civics Guide released
  • Finding language that affirms kinship with the natural world
  • State court in India makes ‘Rights of Nature’ ruling

Federal bill pushes for Indian Boarding School accountability; testimony from survivors sought

The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition is lobbying in Congress to pass a bill requiring a full inquiry into the history and legacy of U.S. Indian Boarding Schools. The Coalition has put out a call for boarding school survivors to submit their written testimony to the U.S. House of Natural Resources Committee by May 26.

The testimony can be emailed to the committee at HNRCDocs@mail.house.gov and to the Boarding School Healing Coalition at info@nabshc.org

The bills are S. 2907 and H.R. 544. They would:

  • Locate and document all children still buried at or near boarding school facilities
  • Compile evidence of the ongoing effects of intergenerational trauma in American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian communities
  • Locate and analyze all records on Indian boarding schools

Click here for the Boarding School Healing Coalition’s bill summary.

Tribal Civics Guide released

The Native Governance Center has released a Tribal Civics Guide, “to develop informed citizens who can engage in civic life effectively, ultimately strengthening and upholding a democracy.”

Screen shot

From an Indigenous perspective, the concepts of civics, civic engagement, and democracy reflect Indigenous practices and values, such as reciprocity, relationships, and responsibility. Prior to colonization and the influence of individualism, community care and contribution were encouraged. Indigenous people knew the importance of contributing to their community; practices that improved social well-being, cohesion, collaboration, consensus building, and positive decision-making were widespread. It is time to revive and strengthen these practices to rebuild our Native nations in a positive way for the next seven generations.

Native Governance Center

The guide’s goals are to revitalize Indigenous knowledge, restore hope and pride, and to teach how to be a good relative.

Finding language that affirms kinship with the natural world

In her 2017 essay “Speaking of Nature,” Robin Kimmerer, professor of Environmental and Forest Biology and author of Braiding Sweetgrass, writes about her Potawatomi grandfather, who was taken to the Carlisle Boarding School and forced to speak English.

The language that my grandfather was forbidden to speak is composed primarily of verbs, ways to describe the vital beingness of the world. … Birds, bugs, and berries are spoken of with the same respectful grammar as humans are, as if we were all members of the same family. Because we are.”

It’s no wonder that our language was forbidden. The language we speak is an affront to the ears of the colonist in every way, because it is a language that challenges the fundamental tenets of Western thinking—that humans alone are possessed of rights and all the rest of the living world exists for human use. Those whom my ancestors called relatives were renamed natural resources. In contrast to verb-based Potawatomi, the English language is made up primarily of nouns, somehow appropriate for a culture so obsessed with things.”

Speaking of Nature

She suggests creating a new pronoun other than “it” to describe nature. In her grandfather’s language, Aakibmaadiziiwin means “a being of the earth.” She suggests shortening it to “ki,” a pronoun signifying “a being of the living earth,” such as “ki howls at the moon.”

That short description doesn’t do the essay justice. It’s a great read.

State court in India makes ‘Rights of Nature’ ruling

Continuing on the theme above, the Rights of Nature movement keeps growing.

India’s Madras Court ruled last month that “’Mother Nature’ has the same legal status as a human being, which includes ‘all corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person,’” according to Inside Climate News. The article continued explaining the ruling, saying “the natural environment is part of the human right to life, and that humans have an environmental duty to future generations.”

Madras is the largest of India’s 28 states.

The case is the latest in a series of so-called “rights of nature” laws and court rulings that aim to give ecosystems, animals and elements of the natural world legal rights similar to those of humans, corporations and trusts. Countries including Ecuador, Bolivia, Panama and New Zealand have enacted variations of rights of nature laws, as have over 30 communities and local governments within the United States.

Inside Climate News

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