I’m sure many of you have had the experience listening to you car radio and getting caught up in an interesting MPR story; you get to your destination and regret missing the rest of the piece.
That was my experience recently, listing to: ‘Stolen Childhoods’: a documentary about the Indian Adoption Project. It is available online, and I just finished listening. It is a powerful way to understand the impact of federal assimilation policies and the tremendous trauma they created in the lives of children — and how that trauma got passed on to the next generation.
It is not surprising that a historical reenactment of a Native man’s public hanging would spark outrage, what is surprising is that those organizing the event wouldn’t see it coming and ask for a dialogue with Native peoples before moving ahead.
This incident comes from Pennsylvania, but it raises larger questions of who gets to say what is offensive and what is not.
In this case, where white people might see a benign history lesson, Native people can see and experience trauma. The reenactment sent a message that Native people are “less than” and gave permission to yell racial slurs.
This incident echoes the debate we have had here in Minnesota about whether or not to remove offensive art in the Capitol. In both cases, the challenge is the same: How do those people in the majority put down their defenses, open their hearts, and listen to and honor the pain suffered by those with little power or voice?
Suicide looks very different in Native communities than it does in the general population. Nationally, suicide tends to skew middle-aged (and white); but among Native Americans, 40 percent of those who die by suicide are between the ages of 15 and 24. And among young adults ages 18 to 24, Native American have higher rates of suicide than any other ethnicity, and higher than the general population.
The issue got high profile attention last fall when the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) issued a report with new data. Coverage included the Huffington Post, Time magazine and Medical Daily. The reports included heart-wrenching stories, such as this one from the PBS News Hour:
When Joaquin Gallegos was 5-years-old, his uncle took his own life.
For two decades, more than 30 of his family members and friends did the same, part of a trend sweeping Indian Country where suicide among people age 18 to 24 far outpaces the national rate, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Consider the impact it would have had on you as a youth if even two of your friends and family members had committed suicide. It would have been devastating
On March 7, the All Nations Indigenous Center in Duluth and Churches United in Ministry (CHUM) held an event called “Living our Resiliency Symposium,” that brought together the city’s Indigenous people and people from the mostly white religious communities to discuss the historical and ongoing trauma that exists in Native American communities. Event Coordinator Christina Woods (Anishinaabe) was invited to write a guest blog to share about the event and follow up. It offers a powerful model for us to consider replicating in the metro area.
“As a life-long Catholic, I was certain my moral grounding through Catholicism was the compass I could rely on to guide all my decisions,” said a community leader who attended the Living Our ResiliencySymposium. “But now, my eyes are open.”
The March event brought together 100 members of the Duluth community, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to view and discuss the Sheldon Wolfchild documentary, Doctrine of Discovery. The documentary is making its way into many communities through Christian faith venues. I believe these opportunities are to enlighten non-Indigenous people about the systemic oppression that has followed Indigenous peoples around the world. For us, it was important to use the documentary to help reveal eye-opening issues that plague the Indigenous community in Duluth.
The Symposium was unique in many ways. It was led by Indigenous elders and leaders. The parallel development model was used as a means to include religious leaders to participate in this important dialog. Continue reading →
An article in Indian Country Today tells an important story of Rosebud Reservation youth learning about historical trauma and becoming stronger from it. The story is headlined: ‘Bring Them Home’: Rosebud Sioux Seeking Return of Relatives Buried at Carlisle. It tells how youth are taking a leadership role to bring home the remains of their young relatives who died in a boarding school. According to the story:
… the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Council of Rosebud, South Dakota, passed a resolution to bring home the remains of several Lakota children buried at Carlisle after hearing an impassioned presentation by the members of the Defending Childhood Initiative Youth Council …