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So you want to be an Indian too?? « Native American Sublime


Along my twittering I’ve been coming across many, many images of the “culturally appropriated” aka the stereotyped version of the “American Indian.” Recently someone tweeted me this about it: “I would say that ‘the highest form of flattery is imitation’ but that Would be backwards” And that it’s hard for “them” to see the world from a different perspective. Which is true but, for me anyways, it’s a lot more than imitating me (per se), they are imitating and perpetuating a stereotype of my people. The age old Hollywood image of who a Native American is. Every time I look at your indianized Aubrey O’Day’s and your Gwen Stafani’s I half expect John Wayne and the Calvary to come over the ridge and a bunch of over tanned Italians with their black wigs and headbands to start running in the opposite direction. Westerns……. Let me share with you something about westerns. Both my parents are Residential School Survivors. As kids the nuns would, from time to time, gather all the kids and take them to the movie theater in town. My parents told me that these were treats to them. They were all loaded on to trucks with stock racks, just like cattle. All the white town folk would come out to watch the little spectacle, “the big parade” (my dad’s words) of all these caged little Indian kids, who would get unloaded in front of the movie house. (this is hard to write btw) The kids would get to have things like candy, popcorn and soda to enjoy their movie with. The movies, westerns. On big screens they would watch John Wayne as he battled the Indians. The Hollywood Stereotyped Indian, dressed in buckskin and feathers with tipi’s and drums, just like our own people the Blackfoot. The kids were made to cheer when the Calvary came to kill those Indians, you know where one shot would kill five Indians, yah… My mom once told me that she knew that these were images of her but at the same time she found it hard to identify with those Hollywood Stereotyped Indians. But that they, those images, at the time made her feel embarrassed and ashamed…

It wasn’t until a few years ago that I actually watched a John Wayne western. I laughed at the Indians in that movie, found the ridiculousness as one shot killed five Indians, laughed as they said “how” hand raised. But my parents and other like them, didn’t get to see the Indians the same way. You know what the nuns also told my parents, that they weren’t humans, that they grew out of the ground like plants. Given all this, my parents made sure that I knew who I was, that I wasn’t this manufactured Hollywood image, that I was Blackfoot and a human being. So when I see these people in their hipster headdresses, dressed “Indian,” perpetuating that Hollywood Indian image, It. Enrages. Me. It makes my blood boil with anger and hatred. Because this is not who we are, it will never be who we are. We are greater than your painted face, fake buckskin and cheap feathers. We are more than your sexualized version of the Indian maiden. But as these images continue, as more and more people find it acceptable to “dress indian” they maintain that we are not real people. They continue the idea that we are a caricature of the past. To not say anything would mean that I accept that I grew out of the ground, that the Calvary is suppose to ride over the ridge and kill us all, that we all raise our hand and say “how”. And I just can’t. My parents gave me one thing more, a voice. They always taught me to speak up when I see something wrong and to not be afraid. So all you Hollywood Stereotyped Indians, I’m coming for you. 500 years it’s time they learned about our history and diversity, our uniqueness. We are still here and we are not just a costume.


In closing I’ll leave you with a poem I read when I was like 11, one of my all time favorites.

trying harder ~ by Annharte

In the movies I spent my childhood for 15c

on a dream for a day that most will admit

they cheered for the troops to wipe out

Indians I know I wanted Geronimo to win

Cochise to kick ass & they did it for me

to yell all by myself at the show but

I scream when I see the Indian dancing fast

forward which the old movies speeded up

to look like jumping I recall trying to be

Indian at day camp was disgusting our leader

told us kids make tipis, play Indian

I made an African hut, a long house

weaved of twigs & leaves, a basket house

to be proud of my Native-Land left overs

Geronimo, Cochise taught me to fight

(via rematiration-deactivated2013111)

about american indian residential schools


Pretty much the best introduction to this is Oyate’s review of “My Heart Is On The Ground,” a book in scholastic’s “Dear America” series about a Lakota child taken to the Carlisle Indian School.

The book is an utter mess, and Oyate’s reviewers do a good job of explaining what is so terribly wrong with the book within the context of what actually happened in those schools and the history of how they were started.

In 1879, Pratt founded the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, which he ruled with an iron hand, his stated philosophy being “Kill the Indian and save the man.” Carlisle, and the Indian boarding schools which followed, were set up to break spirits, to destroy traditional extended families and cultures, to obliterate memories and languages, and especially to make the children deny their Indianness, inside and out.

(via deluxvivens-deactivated20130417)

Children of the Dragonfly Excerpt - Black Robes


 The importance of language in the replacement of Indian culture “cannot be overstated,” according to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples: “The entire residential school project was balanced on the proposition that the gate to assimilation was unlocked only by the progressive destruction of Aboriginal languages” (Canada, Report 1.10.1). Yet in “Black Robes” (1996), her grandmother will not let the young Lee Maracle speak her own language. Her advice to the girl is to “Master their language, daughter; hidden within it is the way we are to live among them.” From that directive the writer’s work grows.

[ADR Warning: ableist language ahead]

Black Robes

By Lee Maracle

            The children of our people must seek knowledge wherever life presents it. Black Robe was a new thing: thus, she was there in the green meadow where Mexica horses lolled about, clipping grass and enjoying the soft warmth of mother sun. Here, indeed, was something different. Wordlessly, she absorbed its newness.

            Black Robe seemed agitated. He spoke fast, and later the girl learned from her father’s account to her mother that he never repeated his listeners’ words as we do (very rude). She heard everything Black Robe said only because her father spoke in the old way. He was careful to repeat Black Robe’s words verbatim, to show respect for the speaker’s vision of truth and to ensure that no misunderstanding or distortion of his words occurred. Then, her father answered him.

            “There is only learning and knowledge, Black Robe. We do not deny our children knowledge. You say that you have teachers who will show my children how to live. Can you not see? Behind me sits my daughter, who is neither blind nor deaf no imprisoned. She is free to seek knowledge among whomever she chooses to learn from. Her presence among adults indicates her desire to know. Hence, are we not obligated to give her our knowledge whenever she walks among us? You see her. She will have no need of interpreters if we continue to counsel, you and I. What need, then, has she of this place called ‘school’?

            “Her brothers and she can learn things that we cannot teach them, like medicine, sanitation, housekeeping and flight, you say.” Her old father laughed. “When she grows wings and learns to fly, will she also acquire the beauty and sense of freedom of the eagle, the brazenness and wit of raven? Will her eyes see at night like owl? Black Robe, show me how you fly and my daughter will fly tomorrow; then, she will have no need of canoes. It takes a long time to build a bridal canoe.

“You say she will learn not flying, but different things than her brothers; that her brothers will learn about flying in something of their own making, not by themselves. In a glider, you say. That they will not actually make such a thing but only know of its existence. Of what use is such knowledge? You will fill my young men’s minds with useless knowledge, Black Robe. You say my daughter will learn how to be a good Christian wife, to do a thing called read from deadwood leaves. What need has she to be a woman different than what she is? To kill trees and put marks on deadwood leaves o remind her of how she must conduct herself? She is not lazy, nor is she forgetful. She is a good girl and will become a good woman. She will make a good wife –maybe Pierre’s wife,” he teased. She blushed and looked at the ground. Her old father chuckled sensuously.

            Black Robe sucked in his breath. (I should not say this, nor even think it, but written on his face was exasperation, like when a young girl weaves her first basket and her fingers disobey the heart and will not weave it right.) The interpreter interjected, trying to bring depth to Black Robe’s shallow vision of life. He tried to make the father and Black Robe see each other’s point of view; to make them understand hat there is no disagreement over the value of different (new) knowledge, but only a difference in how to learn –at home, or far away, with children from many different villages.

            The interpreter is not speaker or listener, so neither Black Robe nor the father responded. But his words stayed with the young woman. She looked hard at the interpreter. She knew that her father would not relent. Her eyes tried to tell the interpreter that Black Robe was wasting his time. She wanted to save him more embarrassment. Soon the father would look upon his pleas as begging. No woman should sit and watch a man reduce himself to a beggar without first warning him. Black Robe was blind to the young woman’s eyes and the interpreter dared not say what he thought he saw in the young woman’s eyes.

            Black Robe did not stop talking.

            In the end, the father did not relent, but he invited Black Robe to counsel whomever he pleased. “Turn anyone around that you may, Black Robe.” It was for her father a great and generous concession.

            His prophecy about the young woman and the interpreter came to be. Pierre Deneuve, a man whose father came from a place called France and his mother from her own people, came to be her partner.

            Partner. Husband in English. She learned to understand his immodest and mean language which has so many names for the same man; as though they were the land, not men from-such-and-such a land. She never bothered to speak the language much, and by the time I came to be it was hard for her to speak English.

            In the warmth of her kitchen the soft tones of her voice toughed my ears and gentled my raucous spirit. She brought me sadness but once in the multitude of after-school days I spent in her kitchen. I had learned not to query uselessly before I learned to speak. This day I mentioned all my great-grandmothers and how I would like to see them. She could not give me their presence; instead she gave me her story.

            “Pierre tried to teach me all the new things he knew, but they never made sense.” She winced and laughed mischievously. “He said that he was a Christian, a Catholic, an interpreter, a Half-breed, a worker, and not just Pierre. To me, he was always Pierre. The funniest thing he said was that he was a Roman Catholic. Rome is in a place called Italy –far away. How could he be from here and from Italy?”

            She stopped laughing. Silent, gentle tears flowed from her tired eyes. “He made me send my children to school. All my babies, I knew them only while they were small. They came home men and women. So different were they from me. So many of their words grated on my being, foreign words, like Pierre’s. So little did they speak their own language. Today, I am surrounded by the faces of our people speaking as the Black Robes spoke. IN the faces of the children are written the characters of the people of the Black Robes. The laughter of my ancients died in the house that Pierre built.

            “ ‘My brothers, my sisters are all dead from the Black Robes’ disease or killed in their wars. How can you ask me to send my little ones to grace their presence and not shorten my own life with their smiles and their growth? Will you call me wife, yet deny me motherhood’ I asked him.”

            She said that Pierre had said a lot of nice things to ease her pain, but he sent the children. “Of what use were nice words? Was he standing at the precipice of our son’s grave –my son–alcohol-crazed, screaming insane words at a room with deaf walls, in a dirty hotel, while alcohol ate the life from his body? No. The Black Robes’ disease had already taken his life and it was I who had to bury my son. All mothers ever ask of life is to die before their children. I have buried four of mine. Worse, now I must bury my tiny little grandchildren.”

            She whispered in the language of the old people, a language she forbade me to speak lest the craziness of her sons and daughters who had died overtake me. Lest I have no one language but become a crippled two-tongue.

            “Master their language, daughter; hidden within it is the way we are to live among them. It is clear that they will never go away. Every year more of them come. England, France, Wales –all must be terrible places, for they keep coming here to get away from there. I do not begrudge them a place here, but why do they have to bequeath to us the very things they escape from?”

            It was like that in the 1950s in the wood-smoked kitchens of our grannies. I thought then that I would join the lonely march of six-year-old children going to grow up in the convent, missing my mom and unable to speak to my brothers. What a shock when school arrived and I was thrown not among Native children, but Europeans. The teacher was not a nun, but an ordinary white woman.

            Back in my granny’s kitchen I was in tears, complaining about not being with the other children. She watched me weep until a deep sense of foolishness overtook me and I stopped the flow of my tears. “You are fortunate. How else will we master the language and keep our ways unless we can learn among them and still live with our mothers and grandmothers? You are fortunate. How else will we learn to master their ways and still master the ancient art of motherhood unless we are schooled by them and our mothers too? Further, it is not our way to bring misery to others. Better to teach them to treat you as a human being ought to be treated than to come here making gifts of misery to an old woman who has done you no harm.” Her silence spelled dismissal.

            At age ten I stood at the edge of my granny’s grave, surrounded by Europeans, and witnessed the burial of our ancient ways. I wondered if the birth of a new world founded on the coming together of both our histories was really possible. Would Europeans ever look at me and see an equal, not an aborted cripple but a human being with all my frailties, my separate history, and our common future? I would not have had such thoughts if the grandmothers of this land had not battered themselves with the question, mused aloud in the presence of their granddaughters.

            Had mass death, tuberculosis, and the loss of our grandmothers’ right to raise their young not have accompanied the development of Canada, the settlers would not have though thus. Should we have been invited not as inferior sub-humans, but as people with a great contribution to make the creation of a next nation, death would not haunt us as it does. More, our disappearance from the realm of history –the lingering realization that to most Canadians we do not exist –would not be our intimate agony.

            Racism is an essential by-product of colonialism. That Europeans came her to escape something may be true, but it was not the real reason for erecting a colonial colossus all over the world. It was not the reason for he enslavement and importation of millions of African citizens to work our lands and build a meaner system than the world had ever known.

            Europeans today see Natives without being able to imagine our grandmothers. They never see the old woman who shaped our lives: the ankle-length flowered and paisley cotton skirts; the warm earth colours of their clothes; the kerchiefs and laughing eyes are lost to Europeans. They can never hear the soft tones of our grandmothers’ ancient languages.

            Europeans are blinded by Hollywood images. How sad. Not for me, but for them, as humanity is forever lost to those who would object to the colours and voices of the people of the past that have left their mark on the hearts and minds of the people of the present.

            As a child I was humiliated by a string of teachers wearing brothel-tinted sunglasses. I was accused of sluttish behavior by a moralizing principal whose assessment of me was guided by the colour of my skin rather than my character. Now that line of teachers look pathetic and the poetry of T.S. Eliot burns new meaning into the pages of my own book: “We are the hollow men / stuffed men…”

            I no longer weep for myself or the lost Europeans, but rather insist on writing myself into a new book that counts all of humanity on its tender warm and colourful pages.

            We are not integrated people. We do not even co-exist peacefully. The reality of death still mangles our existence.

            Black Widow-maker

            Death hangs over us

            like a black widow-maker

            on a treeless mountainside.

            A beleaguered army

            caught in a valley

            we thought green, lush

            and teaming with life

                        suddenly becomes a swamp

                        full of alligators

                        leeches, filth and disease


            Caused more by the shame

            of being fooled one more time.

            In the darkness of our own

            confusion we have forgotten

            our reason for being.

In our grannies’ kitchens, where the scent of wood smoke and sumptuous meals cooked over a thousand fires lingered in the unpainted walls and cupboards, that is where I learned he laws which enabled me to love my children. In my granny’s kitchen, the sweet smells and gentle words soothed the aches and pains of a six-year-old growing up in a schizophrenic situation. Unlike in school, in my granny’s kitchen I as not made to memorize or even contemplate the meaning of her words.

            “You will remember what you need to know when the time comes.”

            Right then, it was he sunshine of her presence that I needed. Her radiance was neither finite nor momentary. It was this shower that I bequeath to my children.

            Her love was not without discipline, but it did preclude violence. I searched her story for some parable, but after many years realized there was none. She could not give me my ancestors. I would have to find them myself. Not to let me walk away empty-handed, she gave me herself. She must have known I was desperate, for she never shamed me for begging. I was desperate, so desperate.

            Before the fires of maddened Blacks burned their anger into the face of a frightened white America and made it forever impossible to erase African-Americans, there was sleep. The sleep of fools who know what they do but don’t think of the consequences of their actions. It was the sleep of an insipid historical continuum that repeated its idiocy, not just by force of habit, bt because no one raised any objections.

            Force is the midwife of historical change.

            “I was the best of times and the worst of times…” We need only add, “and the stupidest of times,” and we will have painted the prosperous ‘50s in the bleak colours of mass insensitivity and righteous, red-neck practice. In the ‘50s there was no challenge. The Red “man” was vanquished –cosigned to a kind of living purgatory in curio shops and tourist-trap trading posts. The Black “man” was reduced to a toe-tapping bundle of rhythm. (Black and Red women did not exist for anyone, yet.) All Natives were happy, and working-class European-cum-CanAmerica was movin’ up.

            Before Rusty and Alexander Street,

            skid row and my children

            there was my grandmother.

            On the shore by the lakes

            and in the hills of our heritage,

            our grannies sat on dead wood logs

            behind the Black Robes

            and their fathers.

(via rematiration-deactivated2013111)

Children of the Dragonfly Excerpt - Who Am I?


Introduction by Robert Bensen

Stiya’s promise of “untold satisfaction and happiness” for Carlisle boarding-school graduates was not kept for Black Bear (“Who Am I?”). His account creates a different portrait of the graduate, of one who suffers extreme emotional, physical, and spiritual damage, and whose identity and life are determined by the efforts he or she makes to over come that damage.

[Adailyriot disclaimer- Trigger Warning: TW for domestic violence, rape, abuse]

Who Am I?

By Black Bear

            Who am I? I am a Blackfeet Indian from Montana. I am more Cree than Blackfeet, and I hardly look Indian, but I am enrolled Blackfeet. I am not quiet half Indian- some French, Irish, and Scottish too. I was my Grandpa’s Blackfeet Indian boy. That is all I ever knew.

            I am a little boy who grew up with drinking and fighting all around him. I remember the sounds of beer bottles hitting the wall. I remember my father thrusting his fist through a glass door in a drunken rage because my mother tried to lock him out –shattered glass and blood where all over the floor. I remember loud angry voices and the terror of silence, waiting, for the next act of violence. My mother was beautiful with dark brown hair and hazel eyes. She liked laughter, hot jazz, and good times. She dressed in expensive clothes and preferred Chanel #5 –most say she was a very classy lady. My father was good looking and a star basketball player. He liked pretty women and he lived fast and fought hard. My mother and father drank and partied all the time. Pretty soon they drank and fought each other. Then I had many stepfathers and stepmothers. Drinking and fighting is what I remember most about growing up. That is all I ever knew.

            I developed a bone disease in my right hip when I was six. I was in and out of hospitals, on crutches and braces. I spent two years in hospital in Helena, Montana. I wasn’t sick; I had all the energy of any six-year-old. They strapped me to the metal frame with a canvas covering to keep the weight off my hip. The nurses were mostly kind, but they could not nurture me. I don’t remember my mother coming to visit very often, and I never remember my father coming at all. I remember looking out the window, watching other kids play, and crying. Dying cancer and tuberculosis patients were in the next wing. I remember the screams at night. I remember being scared, and my skin yearned for a comforting, loving, nurturing touch. I remember going inside to entertain myself, for eternity. That is all I ever knew.

            I am a boarding school Indian. When I say this, you know something about me already. I had to work details, slopped dishes, mopped and polished floors. I scrubbed toilet bowls and scoured sinks. Memories of nights on hard bunks still haunt me –a scared little kid, eyes wide open in the dark. One night a big boy came to my bed. He told me that if I told, he would hurt me good. He did –pain of penetration, stifled screams, and “lost innocence.” The dorm attended kicked our asses up the stairs if we didn’t move fast enough. The kind war vet with the slow mind used to take us upriver and show us how to make fire and boil coffee –the best I ever tasted. That is all I ever knew.

            I survived on the streets of Portland, Spokane, Cut Bank, and Browning. My parents still drank. I lost count of how many stepfathers and stepmothers I had. I lived in foster homes, mostly with white folk. Some were good to me, and some were not. They needed money, and a few needed an extra hand with work. They did not teach me about being a good Indian boy, but they did teach me how to survive in the cities among non-Indians. Once my father came home drunk and beat up a woman he was with. She whacked him with a vacuum cleaner hose. I knocked on the ceiling with my crutches to signal the neighbors upstairs to call the police. The police came. They took my father away to jail. The woman took off. The neighbors went home. The social workers put me in a detention home for six months, because they didn’t know what else to do with me. My father came to see me once. He was drunk. I told him that I didn’t want to see him anymore when he was drunk. That is all I ever knew.

            I went back to boarding school in Montana. I was older now, but it was the same old stuff. Only now the fights were over whether I could speak Blackfeet or whether I knew my Indian ways –and I was teased because I did not. The ones who did know were called blanket-asses and teased or beat up anyway. You weren’t supposed to know your ways or speak your language in those days. I went to high school in Browning. I began to drink and party and found I liked women just like my father did. I stayed in town on the weekends with my dad at the old Yeagan Hotel. He was still drinking. He slapped me once when I told him that I hadn’t been drinking that night. “Don’t lie to me, boy!” he said with stale booze breath. During my sophomore year I met a pretty girl at a river party in Cut Bank. We got real interested in each other. When I told my dad, he said “No. No. She is your sister!” “Oh!” I sad, “you never told me about my sister.” That is all I ever knew.

            I left Browning and went to Haskell when it was still a high school. It was pretty good: three squares and a roof over my head for more than a year at a time were new to me. There were over a thousand students from many different tribes at Haskell. Today I have relatives anywhere I go. It feels good. I received a full National Merit Scholarship to the University of Kansas. I felt lucky as I had no other hope of going to college. My father had a years sobriety when he came down to my graduation. I was very happy and proud that he was there, but he got drunk and thrown in jail. He didn’t come to the graduation. That is all I ever knew.

            At Kansas, they gave me all of my scholarship money at the beginning of each semester! I learned how to shoot pool pretty well, and I learned how to play a good hand of cards. I liked to party, and I still liked women. I ran out of money before I flunked out. After I left school and worked for a while, I came back to Kansas and played even harder. Then I got a rancher’s daughter pregnant. That is all I ever knew.

            As a father, I tried to be responsible for the first time in my life. I worked at whatever I could find for eight years before returning to Kansas. This time I worked for my degree during the day and worked at night to support a family. I graduated –first in the family! I became a bureaucrat with the federal government. I had muttonchop sideburns and wore wingtip shoes and pinstripe suits. That was the American dream, wasn’t it? I drank more and more and ran around on my wife. For me, “Indian Affairs” wasn’t about politics or the BIA. I played and drank hard. I hurt people and lost wives number one and number two and three wonderful children. Now I was just like my parents. That is all I ever knew.

            I quit drinking in Tucson, many years later. I had gone to a four-day Indian golf tournament in Phoenix. Stayed drunk the whole time. When I drove home, my bones ached. I quit cold. They call me a dry-drunk because I never went to treatment. I was sober, but not healed. I looked around me. I didn’t like my job. I didn’t like my friends; we just drank together. I didn’t like myself. I knew that I had hurt many people and was not a responsible person –to myself, to my family, as an Indian person, or to my community. I realized that the world would be a sorry place to live in if everyone was like me. That is all I ever knew.

            I quit a promising career and good money and left Tucson to start over in life –sober. I consulted for different tribal groups for several years. I married a Pueblo woman and went back to school. Also, I learned how to make pottery. I sat on the plaza in Santa Fe for four years selling my wares and paying my dues. But I still had not dealt with my addictive behaviors. I lost wife number three. This time I felt the loss. That is all I ever knew.

            I met some Lakota friends who began taking me to sweats and teaching me about spirituality and responsibility. I stopped toking and got clean. I went home to Montana to learn about my own ways. It is not easy to humble yourself in your mid-forties and tell “elders” who are fifteen years younger, “I am ignorant but I want to learn!” I learned about Blackfeet teachings, language, and songs. I was brought out from behind the barrier at Sun Dance and given my Blackfeet name in ceremony. I now had a Blackfeet identity. The name was given to my father by his father. I have the right to give the name Black Bear to my son, and it has dignity. Today I have a good relationship, a garden, and a home. Yes, I know what the Gallup drunk tank smells like. I experienced and survived boarding school. I understand the pain of abandonment. I know the terror of sexual abuse. I understand the shame of not being a good parent. However, now I try to be a good person and use my experience and understanding to help others. Now I know what I never knew. I know who I am, and it is all I ever knew.

Thank you, Creator.

(via rematiration-deactivated2013111)

Children of the Dragonfly Excerpt: From Stiya: or, a Carlisle Indian Girl at Home


Introduction by Robert Bensen

The assimilated boarding-school graduate is epitomized in Stiya: or, a Carlisle Indian Girl Home (1891), a work of fiction that provided Carlise graduates with model attitudes and behaviors for returning home as educated young people. The novel also reveals what Leslie Marmon Silko (Laguna) called the “white perspective of Pueblo people” and the author’s “projected […] fears and prejudices.” At first disgusted with her parents and home and everything Indian (chapters 1 and 2), Stiya decides to change them (chapter 3). Her project meets with success, as her father ges a job with the new railroad that brings tourists and business to the Southwest (chapters 15 and 16)

[ADailyRiot disclaimer: Though these excerpts of Stiya, found in Children of the Dragonfly, do speak well of the boarding school Carlisle and the experience there, I would encourage people to read this critically and/or as they said in school “read between the lines” to see the devastating effects that the boarding school’s assimilation process had on people whom were forced to attend those schools and the communities of the people whom went to them in turning native/first nations people from their traditional ways and rejecting their own culture. Remember while reading this, that this is literature that a non-Native person wrote and that this was the literature that was being given out to people graduating Carlise to encourage them in further assimilating their culture to that of the Euro-American dominate culture. This document does not provide an accurate representation of the Pueblo Native cultures and people. It holds racist stereotypes of Pueblo and Native people in general. I would encourage folks reading this, perhaps those of you browsing the #Native American tag whom have never heard of Carlisle or other Boarding/Residential Schools or the general Boarding/Residential School Era to go to research it.. google, youtube, or books are good resources for that.] 

by Embe (Marinna Burgess)

Chapter 1: Disappointment


            When I was told at Carlisle that I could go to my home in the West –a place I had not seen for five years –I was truly delighted; and all the time I was packing my trunk, and all the way while we, a merry party of forty Indian girls and boys, all going home, were laughing and having a good time, at every thought of home and mother and father and he friends I should find on my arrival, my heart gave a great thump of joy.

            After five days and nights of travel, every mile of which I enjoyed, for we were so very comfortable in the cars, and we saw so many interesting things which then I could understand about, in the middle of one hot afternoon the train stopped at the station at which I was to get off, and I realized that I was at the end of my railroad journey.

            My father and mother, who were at the station waiting for their daughter, rushed in my direction as soon as they saw me, and talking Indian as fast as they could tried to help me from the train.

            My father took my valise, and my mother, seizing me by the arm, throw her head upon my shoulder and cried for joy.

            Was I as glad to see them as I thought I would be?

            I must confess that instead I was shocked and surprised at the sight that met my eyes.

            My father? My mother?” cried I desperately within. “No, never!” I thought, I actually turned my back upon them.

            I had forgotten hat home Indians had such grimy faces.

            I had forgotten that my mother’s hair had always looked as though it had never seen a comb.

            I had forgotten that she wore such a short, [strange]-looking black bag for a dress, fastened over one shoulder only, and such buckskin wrappings for shoes and leggings.

            My mother?” I cried, this time aloud.

            I could not help it, and at the same time I rushed frantically into the arms of my school-mother, who had taken me home, and I remembered then as I had never before how kind she had always been to us. I threw my arms around her neck and cried bitterly, and begged of her to let me go n the train again.

            “I cannot go with that woman,” I pleaded.

            My school-mother, in a voice so tender I shall never forget, said, “My dear girl, you must stop crying. You u must not feel in this way towards your own parents. This is your mother. She loves you. You will get used to her and her ways by and by. Come, now,” she continued, trying to withdraw from my embrace, “be a woman! Make the best of these people, and go to your mother. Go, now, to your mother. Shake hands with her as a dutiful daughter should.”

            Almost broken hearted, I did as I was bid, for I knew nothing else than to obey my school-mother.

            I also took my father’s hand, and through my tears smiled as best I could; but he never shall know how I suffered with mortification and regret that he was such an Indian.

            Somehow, I had my mind made up that my parents would be different, and it was hard for me to realize that they had been going backward while I had been going forward for five years.

            By this time the locomotive been began to ring, and my school-mother stepped aboard the train.

            Soon she and the coach full of school companions I had left passed out of sight, and as I gazed after them, my eyes thoroughly blinded with ears, my heart felt heavy with sadness.

            “Oh, my! Oh, my!” I sighed; “what have I come to?”


Chapter 2: My Home

            The landing at the op of the ladder was the flat roof of the house underneath ours.

            This roof had been covered with dirt, which had in time become thoroughly packed and almost as hard as flagging, so it really formed a stone-like balcony to our house.

            There was no railing around it, and I don’t see how the Indians manage to keep their babies from falling from the tops of these houses. There are many in the village just like ours, and in many there are more children than at our house.

            There were only six of us children, everyone of whom, except myself, died when quite small of the small-pox and diphtheria, and at the time of which I am writing I wish I had gone with the rest.


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Excerpts from Children of the Dragonfly: Native American Voices on Child Custody and Education


So, If I haven’t already, I will be posting excerpts from Children of the Dragonfly: Native American Voices on Child Custody and Education.

As I said before, the adopting out of Native American and First Nations children into non-native homes was and is (in some areas) a very large epidemic. It’s an issue that doesn’t get talked about too often. I’ll be posting excerpts from this book as a means to promote discussion around this topic (once again) and for folks to learn about it.

I will begin with posting information about specific points in and about Native American/First Nations history to bring focus and a background understanding to the stories that will follow. ‘Children of Nature, Children of the State’, ‘Education’ (Boarding School/Residential School), and ‘Indian Child Welfare’ will be the first three excepts. They will build upon each other and will shed light to a history folks may not know. I encourage everyone to read these excerpts along with the stories written as personal accounts, or stories based off of personal accounts that Native people from all over North America have written.

Not all of these stories are light hearted as the history of both Boarding/Residential Schools and the Indian Adoption Project era that followed (as part of the continuation of genocide) are not light-hearted subjects.

However, I hope that you will read these as a means to learn more history, see the perspective of Native folks, and perhaps gain a deeper understanding of why stereotypes of native people and cultural appropriation is a big deal (though these will not directly speak to that, however it’s good to know this info to ‘connect the dots’ on that sort of thing).

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Toronto Star » Aboriginal residential school survivors share stories

Today, at 72, [Shirley] Williams is a professor at Trent University and one of a number of survivors of Canada’s notorious residential schools for native children who will tell her story Wednesday at a special panel at Queen’s Park, part of a cross-cultural dialogue hosted by Lt.-Gov. David Onley.

“It was like living in jail in a foreign land,” said Williams, who attended St. Joseph’s Girls’ School in Spanish, Ont., until she quit at 16, an act she called “liberation.” “We were always hungry and we couldn’t talk to the older girls, even our own sisters — but if parents didn’t send us they could go to jail for up to a year.”

But beyond the hardship and the homesickness, what these schools took away were the pillars of a person’s identity, she said.

“Your spirituality — the beliefs you follow — and your language. You can’t treat other people like that.

“We’re telling our stories so it will never happen again to any child.”