Intergenerational trauma among Indians in the US and Canada due to 20th century boarding school abuses is not difficult to understand. When children are beaten, berated and molested by authorities — be they state or religious employees — they grow up with problems. Many did not survive, but those that did had long hard struggles with such things as substance abuse and residual racism in the dominant society that ruled every aspect of their impoverished lives.
In an attempt to end this abuse, in 1978, the Indian Child Welfare Act was passed in the US to prevent the removal of Indian children from their families, communities and tribes. Yet, as US agencies continued to collaborate with extraction industries in defrauding Indian tribes of royalties and other revenues, widespread poverty continued to generate problems for Indian children and their families.
One of the problems with state-run child welfare systems today is the perpetual prejudice toward Indian peoples. Another is the inherent financial conflicts of interest that keep the system running, often against the interests of Indian child welfare. In a process where Indian parents often lose their children without legal representation, one has to wonder how far we’ve progressed toward the stated goals of the 1978 act.
In her articles on Indian Country Today, Stephanie Woodard observes that culturally sound options used by Indian communities — such as placing children with grandmas and aunties while parents resolve their issues with the state, is a vastly preferred option when compared with placement in a system where children are looked at as income generators and worse.
The historical repercussions of Indian child abuse by the governments of the US and its states is all around us; bringing it to an end is one of our most urgent tasks.
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