Immigrants’ whitewashing Native American history is history

Nov 15, 2018

With November being National American Indian Heritage Month, sadly what I now know about our government’s process of whitewashing these Pure Americans is not the story the nuns wanted me to know.

It was field trip day for our 7th and 8th grade classes, and most of us 20 students were happy to get out of class and do some “hands on” history stuff.

Outside of Portland, Oregon, we were all singing and goofing around as our bus driver was driving us on our historical sites outing. One place we were going to visit was the Chemawa Indian School, which was located about one-quarter mile east of Interstate-5 and just south of Salem.

According to Ward Churchill’s book “Kill the Indian, Save the Man,” from the 1870s to 1970 (Yes, 1970) our country’s Native American “educational system” ideally intended that every single “aboriginal child” would be removed from his/her home, family, community and culture on or before their 7th birthday.

During those informative years these “aboriginals” were held for years in “educational” boarding schools so these “savages” could be de-cultured by our government to give “the barbarians” a better chance of being repatriated into the immigrant white man’s superior culture.

The white man’s educating for extinction program was bluntly stated in 1895 by Captain Richard Henry Pratt, who proudly said; “We will kill the Indian, save the man in every pupil.”

Then, in 1903, the U.S. Indian Commissioner, William A. Jones, said the re-educational programs were developed to “exterminate the Indian but develop a man.”

My religious teachers had nothing but glorious praises for the Indian boarding schools, so I didn’t hear anything negative about the Chemawa entrapped students; therefore some of what I know now comes from Mary J. Mitchell’s 1959 article, “Notes on Chemawa Indiana School, which I have bulleted below.

• Our government forcefully moved 7-year-old Native Americans from the Alaska Territory (Alaska became a state in 1959), California, Montana, Puyallup, Puget Sound, and their Nesqually homes.

• The majority of these re-education institutions were run as military citadels, which included dress, disciple, marching, obedience to orders and other indoctrinations that would lead these less than human beings into the civilized white man’s religion, values and rules-of-order lifestyle.

• Our government’s ultimate goal “… was to place the ‘student’ under the entire control of their teachers, thereby preventing any backsliding from the students.” After arriving at Chemawa, all boys and girls were disinfected with alcohol and kerosene. Boy’s haircuts were of a military style “since very long hair was symbolic of ‘savagism’ and this was one of many steps to destroy their identity as an Indian.”

• “…both sexes were stripped naked and then given white men uniforms, and their personal identity was stripped away too since their ‘savage names’ were reformed into a respectable white Christian American name.”

• “When first brought from their native woods and wilds, the Indians showed a decided dislike for all the white men’s rules by … force they are (were) led little by little to ‘fall in line.’ And they took readily to the military drill and the call of a bugle.”

• A “foreign” speaking person (Indian) could not … become a white citizen if they could not speak the white man’s language nor if they continued to practice their godless religions. So Indians were forbidden to use their native tongue or practice their pagan-devilish religious rituals.”

• On a daily basis these incarcerated pupils were taught the white man’s version of American history which included “…how the U.S. government’s benevolent policies has improved the lives of the poor savages.”

We can call this the “cultural-cide” of the American Indian lifestyles, and our government’s despicable actions have often been in my thoughts, so on our 2018 trip to Ashland, Oregon, Karen and I visited Chemawa Indian School.

After visiting with Lora Braucher, superintendent of the school, Karen and I were pleased to learn this historical school’s focus is now on encouraging these diverse Indian youth to cherished and honor their ancestors’ unique tribal heritage.

Darn right, and especially during this Thanksgiving time of year, all American nationalities can be thankful that the whitewashing of the Native Americans is now just page after page in the darker side of the immigrant European white man and Native Americans’ history books.

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