In this paper, I will argue that the act of genocide as here defined, has been committed by the United States of America, upon the tribes and cultures of Native Americans, through mass indoctrination of its youths. Primary support will be drawn from Jorge Noriega’s work, “American Indian Education in the United States.” The paper will then culminate with my personal views on the subject, with ideas of if and how the United States might make reparations to its victims.
In lieu of the well known and brutal “Indian Wars,” there is a means of cultural destruction of Native Americans, which began no later than 1611. This method was one of indoctrination. Methods included the forced removal of children from their cultural milieu and enrollment of these children in “educational programs,” which were intended to instill more European beliefs. As the United States was not formally a Nation, until 1776, it would not be fair to use evidence, before this year in building a case against it. The most damaging, to the United States, are parcels of evidence that are drawn from events after 1948, the year of the Convention on Genocide.
Beginning in 1778, the United States Board of War, a product of the Continental Congress appropriated grants for the purpose of, “the maintenance of Indian students at Dartmouth College and the College of New Jersey” The young people who had returned from the schools are described by Seneca leader, Cornplanter as, “ignorant of every means of living in the Woods, unable to bear either Cold or Hunger, they knew neither how to build a Cabin, take a Deer, or kill an Enemy, they spoke our Language imperfectly, were therefore neither fit for Hunters, Warriors, nor Counselors; they were totally good for nothing” (Noriega, 376).
Grants given to other schools was just the beginning. In 1820, the United States made plans for a large scale system of boarding and day schools Noriega, 377). These schools were given the mission to, “instruct its students in ‘letters, labor and mechanical arts, and morals and Christianity;’ ‘training many Indian leaders'” Noriega, 378). In the case of boarding schools, Native American children would be forcibly stripped from their homes as early as five years old. They would then live sequestered from their families and cultures until the age of seventeen or eighteen (Noriega, 381).
In 1886, it was decided, by the United States federal government that Native American tribal groups would no longer be treated as ‘indigenous national governments.’ The decision was made, not by the conjoint efforts of the Native American tribes and Congress; but, by the “powers that be” the United States Legal System. This self-ordained power allowed Congress to pass a variety of other laws, directed towards, assimilating, Native Americans, so that they would become a part of “mainstream white America” (Robbins, 90)
By this time the United States Government, had been funding over a dozen distinct agencies, to provide mandatory ‘education’ to all native children aged six through sixteen. Enrollment was enforced through leverage given by the 1887 General Allotment Act, which made Natives dependent on the Government for Annuities and Rations (Noriega, 382). The practice of indigenous religions by these students was prohibited (Noriega, 380). Students were compelled to undergo daily instruction in Christianity. In addition, only the use of English was accepted within these schools. “The food was not sufficiiently nourishinghealth supervision was generally neglectedA sincere effort was made to develop the type of school that would destroy tribal ways” (Noriega, 382). While being held captive at these schools, the students were forced to learn an idealism completely foreign to them. They would study histories, which had no significance to there lives. “The books talk to him the student of a world which in no way reminds him of his own,” (Noriega, ??). This is exactly how the students must have felt; as if they were in another world.
To compound the torture, the ‘students’ at these institutions were forced to work as maintainers and farmers in order provide for the continued existence of the very establishments, which were destroying them. The methods of forced labor were considered, by the educators to be a “means of ‘developing’ the native ‘character,’ and as a way of financing further expansion of the system itself” (Noriega, 379). The “rigid military style” enforced by the schools contributed to the assimilation of the Native Americans’ culture. The students began to not only “think white” but also to, “work white” (Noriega, 384).
To this point, I have provided enough evidence to make a hypocrite of the United States. However, it is my intent to prove that the United States has performed a criminal act under International law. I will do so by describing genocidal acts committed well after the time of the convention on genocide.
The government was not satisfied with only educating the Native American youths, they wished to implant their victims as “a virus, a medium through which to hurry along a calculated process of sociocultural decay” (Noriega, 379). They turned their victims into witless traitors spreading their insipid ideas, and fracturing the cultural infrastructure.
The apotheosis of this implantation project is clearly delineated in “The Indian Self-Determination and Educational Assistance Act” of 1975. In this act, the United States Government declared that “educated” Native Americans’ should be used to staff the “various programs aimed at them by federal policy makers” (Noriega, 356). These are the same programs which, “the government has always viewed as the ideal vehicles by which to condition Native Americans to accept the values, and thus the domination of Euroamerica” (Noriega, 387). Through the implementation of this act, “nothing really changedthe curriculum taught in Indian schools remained exactly the same, reaching exactly the same conclusions, indoctrinating children with exactly the same values as when the schools were staffed entirely by white people” (Noriega, 387). In this way, the government attempted to mask the face of evil with one of familiar physical origin. It is a classic story of a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
These violent acts have not ended, even with the convention on genocide. Indeed, the United States is guilty of committing a law, which it has promised to not only abide by, but also, to help enforce. Does this represent the “Mainstream American Culture” we so want to instill into the minds of Native Americans? We should begin taking a look at our own culture and worrying about its problems, before we start thinking about spreading it like a dreaded disease.
The fact that Native Americans have arrived at this point with any of its culture left intact, is an astonishing feet in itself. It shows a character, which is ostensibly lacking, or at least not shown, within the “European” and “American” cultures. Perhaps the United States should be more the pupil than the pedagogue.