The history of Indian boarding schools in Iowa

TOLEDO, Iowa – Marian Wanatee said her mother, Adeline, had said little about her experiences at the Flandreau Indian School in South Dakota and the Haskell Institute in Lawrence, Kansas.
“For me you know it was terrible [that] they would be kicked out of their tribe like that, ”Wanatee said.
Wanatee is a citizen of the Meskwaki Nation, a sovereign government of the indigenous Meskwaki people based in a colony in Tama County, Iowa. Her mother Adeline attended a federal boarding school system that was created to assimilate Indigenous peoples into the United States and Canada.
According to the 1928 Meriam report prepared for the Home Secretary, the diets of Indian boarders were “lacking in quantity, quality and variety”, dormitories were overcrowded, disease was widespread, and students were receiving education and support. substandard medical care. The report also said that students above the fourth grade spent half their day maintaining their schools.
Like many other Indigenous residential school students, Adeline Wanatee was forbidden to speak her mother tongue, according to a 1978 book she contributed to and the book Seasons of the boarding school by Brenda Child, professor at the University of Minnesota.
“And, where the Indian people are involved, Anglo-controlled schools, Indian Office schools, and missionary and public schools have openly and systematically sought to destroy indigenous tribal cultures and have tried to impose the culture. anglo “, Adeline Wanatee writes for the book The worlds between two rivers.
Adeline Wanatee continued to advocate for Indigenous rights at the state and national levels, and she became the first woman elected to the Meskwaki Tribal Council and the first American Indian to be inducted into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame, according to University of Iowa Press.
“These painful experiences that persist”
On May 27, the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation announcement that a ground radar scan at the Kamloops Indian Residential School site in British Columbia, Canada, revealed the remains of 215 students who had never returned to their families. Indigenous News Online reported that over the next two months, other First Nations announcement the detection of an estimated total of 1,093 additional unmarked graves in residential schools across Canada.
“The Kamloops tragedy is a painful reminder of the human rights violations that have occurred in hundreds of US government-run Indian residential schools and churches across the United States,” said the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (NABS) in a June press release. 7 Press release.
In 1920, the Indian Act of Canada made it compulsory for Native students to attend residential schools, according to the Indigenous Foundations Project from the University of British Columbia. After a thorough investigation, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada concluded in 2015 that the residential school policy from 1867 to the late 1990s had suppressed Indigenous languages ​​and cultures, ‘institutionalized’ child neglect and created educational goals that “generally reflected low esteem” for the intelligence of students.
“The door had been opened early to an appalling level of physical and sexual abuse of students, and it has remained open throughout the existence of the system,” the commission said. final report said.
Levi Rickert, Founder of Digital Publishing Indigenous News Online, says he thinks there was a calculation in response to the Kamloops news. Rickert said a new awareness of racial issues that followed George Floyd’s murder has helped revive interest in Indian boarding systems.
Rickert added that accepting these experiences has been traumatic for Indigenous communities.
“Suddenly people are saying it may be healthier to talk about these situations,” Rickert said. “If we are to achieve long-term healing, we need to come out and start discussing some of these painful experiences that still persist. “
“A necessary first step”
On June 22, U.S. Home Secretary Deb Haaland announced the opening of a federal investigation into former residential schools.
Haaland said the investigation would identify known or potential boarding schools and burial sites near schools, as well as the identities and tribal affiliations of the students who were taken there. On September 30, the Ministry of the Interior announcement that he had invited tribal governments, Alaska Native societies and Hawaiian Native organizations to provide feedback for the final report of the investigation and to help the department protect burial sites and other sensitive information.
“Beginning with the Indian Civilization Act of 1819, the United States enacted laws and implemented policies establishing and supporting residential schools across the country,” the Home Office said in a statement. June 22. Press release. “The purpose of the Indian Residential Schools was to culturally assimilate Indigenous children by forcibly moving them from their families and communities to remote residential settlements where their Native American, Alaskan Native and Hawaiian identities, languages ​​and beliefs were to be forcibly removed. . For more than 150 years, hundreds of thousands of Indigenous children have been removed from their communities.
On September 30, a invoice that would create a Truth and Healing Commission on Residential School Policies in the United States has been reintroduced in Congress, according to a Press release from Senator Elizabeth Warren’s office. The proposed commission would investigate and document the experiences, impact and continuing effects of the federal boarding system.
“The work of a commission will be a necessary first step in the healing journey of many generations of Indigenous people who have suffered losses from residential schools,” NABS CEO Diindiisi McCleave said in a statement. Press release of September 30.
Indian training school in Toledo
According to NABS, 367 residential schools were operating in the United States between 1869 and the 1960s. The Toledo Indian Training School was established in the late 1890s about four or five miles from the settlement of Meskwaki, according to Judge John R. Caldwell history of 1910 from Tama County.
As a result of various small-scale attempts to establish schooling for the Meskwaki between 1875 and 1898, demand for assimilation increased around the turn of the century, according to MacBurnie Allinson. 1974 thesis on “Education and Mesquakie”.
In 1895, Federal Indian Agent Horace Rebok organized an “Indian Rights Association”, which argued that “the problem of [the Mesquakies’] civilization is in line with Christianization and education ”, according to Rebok, Caldwell and EC Ebersole report on the association and the Indian Training School of Toledo Boarding School.
“We must break the power and influence of the chiefs and healers before there is any notable progress in the tribe,” Rebok wrote in 1895, according to the report.
In a meeting with Chief Pushetonequa of the Meskwaki, Rebok attempted to convince the chief that placing the Meskwaki children in the Indian training school at Toledo Residential School would be to their advantage, the report said.
“My friend, the Musquakies have always been friends of the Whites, but they will not accept your school,” Pushetonequa replied, according to the Rebok report. “You can come and kill us, but we won’t give you our children. I’m not going to say anything more. “
Despite this, the chief was eventually persuaded to accept the school in open council at the end of 1898, and by June 30, 1899, the total number of students had climbed to 50 students, according to Rebok’s report. According to Johnathan Buffalo, the current director of historic preservation for the Meskwaki Nation, the children had to go to school.
To get more children to attend school, Rebok went to Tama District Court, according to Caldwell. The court transferred guardianship of 20 Mesquakie children to, in most cases, Federal Indian Agent WG Malin, according to the Rebok and Caldwell report. Rebok’s report states that these children were neglected orphans, although Buffalo said the government did not understand the family structure of the tribe.
“Well, when you live in a tribe you always have mother and father figures,” Buffalo said. “They might not be your birth parents, but you still have a grandmother, a grandfather these kids lived with.”
One of Malin’s defendants, a Meskwaki girl named Le-lah-puc-ka-chee, left school without permission, according to Caldwell. Caldwell wrote that an attempt had been made to obtain an arrest warrant against her. On December 29, 1899, a judge ruled that Le-lah-puc-ka-chee could not be compelled to attend school, according to Buffalo and Caldwell.
“The effect of this decision has been disastrous for the school,” Caldwell wrote in his Tama County story. “The older Indians had been intensely hostile to it… When news of the above ruling reached the Indians, the school had practically been depopulated in a day and very few Mesquakie children have attended since then.
Buffalo said Native Americans from other tribes were then brought in to complete the Indian training school at Toledo Boarding School. He said that after the school closed in 1911, the government began sending Meskwaki children to residential schools in other states, including Adeline Wanatee.
“We won the battle, but in a way we lost the war,” Buffalo said. “Because our children ended up being taken away. “


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