This month, World Channel’s “America Reframed” series celebrates and spotlights Indigenous communities with several films, one of which is “blood memorywhich looks at the era of Indian adoption in America, the historical injustices done to Indigenous peoples, and how they preserve their culture today. “City Lights” producer Summer Evans was joined by the film’s director Drew Nicholas to talk about the practices of family separation and the harms suffered by Native American children for more than a century.
An era of indigenous displacement and cultural erasure:
“The era of ‘boarding schools’ became kind of a designated period… You’re basically talking about the late 1800s through the 1960s, 1970s, where the majority of these schools were actually taking place. And basically through boarding schools, thousands of children were put on trains, taken across the country from where their families were, and they were placed in…military-style schools or Catholic schools. or Christians where they would have their hair cut, change their name. If they spoke their language, they would have soap in their mouths or pins in their tongues – whatever happened that might indoctrinate white society.
“At that time, it was actually seen as a progressive idea in American politics,” Nicholas said. “American society was like, ‘Oh, instead of just killing and slaughtering Native American people, let’s bring them into the bath of American citizenship,’ like [Richard Henry Pratt] said so, the founder of Carlisle [Indian School] … The unofficial slogan of these schools was: “Kill the Indian and save the man” or “Save the child”.
How boarding schools led to adoption plans and backlash from Indigenous communities:
“The idea started to become, ‘Oh, we should just put the kids in these white houses,’ and that’s when the spring of the adoption era starts to materialize,” Nicholas explained. “You have this explosion of interest in Native children, because they were ‘more exotic’ and there were marketing campaigns by the government-funded Child Welfare League of America, [who] created the Indo-American Adoption Project, and in the 1960s they just started publishing numbers and promoting; “Adopt an Indian child. »
“In the late 70s there was a study, a group of mothers from a tribe in North Dakota… It used to be called ‘Devil’s Lake.’ And a group of mothers there noticed that whenever they talked with other older women about the loss of children and realized, “It’s not just our community…” They highlighted place an effort to obtain information, an effort to research. , and the research found that approximately 25-35% of the children had been removed from their tribal communities.
Discovering a community of indigenous adoptees far from land and family:
“The first time I met Sandy in 2010 was in Minneapolis at the American Indian Center there. It was an urban indoor powwow for kids and those who had been displaced. So precisely what that day I was able to attend the talking circle for the first time,” Nicholas recounted. “Upstairs there is a reunification room where those who have been estranged, adopted or placed in foster care, they get together and have a talking circle.”
He continued, “For many people who participate in this circle, it is also their first time. It’s the first time they’ll try to retrace their steps, or they’ve made an important decision to drive from Canada to Minnesota to try and meet a cousin. And the depth of trauma, emotion, and vulnerability of a space this film would enter was there from day one.
“Blood Memory,” part of World Channel’s “America Reframed” film series, is available to stream now on worldchannel.org/episode/arf-blood-memory.
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