“Indian children are forced to attend government schools. Children in communities without local schools are sent away to boarding schools. White educators hope still that separating children from their families will make it easier to teach them to reject Indian ways.
“I believe in immersing the Indians in our civilization, and when we get them under, holding them there until they are thoroughly soaked.”
-Richard Henry Pratt, head of the Carlisle Institute
I must read from books instead of from Nature. I must learn of the birds and the animals and the trees from books instead of from daily contact with them. This was what the white man said I should do, and I could do nothing but obey. Again I would forget the language of my people and speak in the tongue of the school.”
-Way-quah-gishig was six years old when he was sent away to a boarding school in South Dakota and given the name John Rogers. During the next six years, he and his sisters were not able to see or write their family.” *
Father, I don’t understand Your ways. I don’t understand why You tolerate events that pit one people versus another. I do believe that part of the answer is that You allow us to choose our actions, inactions, and how we order our lives in the context of place and time.
Help me observe this event with you Holy Spirit. I invite Your reflections, insights, and direction as I write. Will you lead me? As I wait, the question arose of requiring immersion education for Native American students. If immersion education was simply offered rather than required, wouldn’t that have been more consistent with our Constitutional principals, and with Your word?
As Washington once said, “Government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”
If a student is placed in a servant-master relationship, where is the room for the joy of discovery? Can curiosity be born in an atmosphere of mandatory compliance?
Lord, will You forgive the offense of required immersion to the Native people of Minnesota? Will You forgive the offense of wanting to mold others into our image? Will You forgive this zeal to change others by force, rather than persuasion, and real relationship? Will You forgive the impatience of this event? We separated children from their families instead of meeting them family to family?
Conversely, will You free Native Minnesotans’ from the temptation to hold onto this offense? American Indians were natural “homeschoolers” or “unschoolers”** during this era, will you forgive them their judgments against the State-defined modes of education? Will You remove this curse, and bring a blessing in its place? May we unlearn force, and learn to offer freedom to each other in this state!
**Learn more about homeschooling and unschooling? http://www.homeschool.com/new/difstyles.asp#unschooling
***Peruse a brief history of U.S. government policies regarding the education of Native children? http://www.edweek.org/ew/projects/2013/native-american-education/history-of-american-indian-education.html