On April 11, 2018, the New York Times broke a story that would cause fear and panic to those parents who were seeking to escape war, violence, political unrest and hunger in South America, and Mexico and hoping for a better life for their children. The headline for the story read, “Hundreds of Immigrant Children Taken from Parents at US Mexico border. According to the story goes on to say that 700 children had been removed from their parents by US. Immigration officials at the US Mexican Border.* As I followed the stories of these children and their distraught parents, I was amazed and confused at the shock and disbelief by the majority of the American people. Most Americans thought this could not be happening in America. This could only happen in some third world country, this could not happen in the United States of America.
Personally I was in a state of disbelief. Not because children could be take away form their parents without due process of law. What I was have a hard time understanding was how the majority of Americans were reacting. After all this is not the first time that the US Government has taken children away from their families, far from it. And in many cases, some of the families never saw their loved one again.
Cultural Assimilation of the American Indian
After the end of World War II, military intelligence, historians and scholars from around the world began to sift through warehouses full of Nazi documents, records and personal papers of high ranking German officials and the German High Command. Over years of study a clear picture began to develop on what Hitler referred to as “The Jewish Question.” What was found was disturbing to everyone. For years before the war Hitler studied how, as early as 1790, the United States had tried unsuccessfully to assimilate the America Indian into the white culture. Hitler saw that after many attempts at assimilation there was little success, but also saw how the United States slowly began on a road of extermination of the Indians through using many different tactics such as taking away their long held tribal lands and placing them on reservations where they could not grow crops for food, removing their leaders, not allowing them to hunt, slowly starving them by withholding their monthly allotments for food, and forcing the Indian children to attend boarding schools far away form their families. Hitler saw how the United States had failed in most of their attempts to assimilate Indians into the white culture and used these failures as a blueprint for solving the “Jewish Question” by use of concentration camps and the infamous gas chambers to eliminate the jew from Europe.
The assimilation of American Indian was, in the beginning, an effort made by the United States to convert the Indians into accepting European–American culture between the years of 1790 and 1860. President George Washington and his Secretary of State, Henry Knox, were the first to propose the slow but steady cultural transformation of the American Indian into the white society. The two men started a policy to “encourage” the civilizing process of what they saw as the “red savage.” There was at the time a growing public support for education to encourage cultural values and practices to be held in common by the majority of citizens. Education was viewed as the primary method in the acculturation (the process of social, psychological, and cultural change that stems from blending between cultures) of the Indians.
This “idea” was tried with little or no real success until the early 19th century.
“Kill the Indian in Him, and Save the Man.”
This was the idea by which the United States government forced tens of thousands of American Indian children to attend boarding schools run by various religious sects, either by threat of or by use of force, in the late 19th century. Many years later, those were the words used in a speech by a former United States Army (Calvary) Captain named Richard Henry Pratt. Captain Pratt opened the first (and probably the most infamous) Indian Boarding school in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. His words, “Kill the Indian in him, and save the man” have come to symbolize the brutality and inhumane of the Indian Boarding School system. Those words are no less vile to American Indians that those of General Philip Sherman who said, “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.”