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Los estudiantes de la Escuela India de Génova parecían ansiosos en una foto tomada en 1910. Foto: Escuela Industrial India de Génova / Wikimedia

Search continues for dead Indigenous children at U.S. boarding schools

15 July, 2023 | Ricardo Changala

“I came today to witness the dig because I had an aunt who died here, Mildred Lowe, in 1930, and she never came home. So I’m here to find out if they find any bones and how we’re going to go about identifying and all of that,” said Carolyn Fiscus, a female member of the Winnebago tribe of Nebraska, as reported by the Washington Post in its July 11, 2023 issue.

The search is carried out in a school, 145 kilometers from Omaha, which opened in 1884 and had about 600 indigenous students from different parts of the country and closed in the 1930s and was later demolished.

So far, investigators have identified 49 of the murdered children, but they have not been able to find the names of the other 37.

This is not an isolated case.

In May 2022, the U.S. government. USA. from North America released the report of the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative, the result of the investigation into the loss of human lives and the consequences caused by the federal Indian boarding school system.

The investigation was ordered in 2021 by the Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland belonging to the Laguna People of New Mexico, the first Indigenous to be part of the cabinet in the USA.

The report notes that, between 1819 and 1969, the federal boarding school system for indigenous children consisted of 408 federal schools in 37 states (formerly indigenous territories).

This system deployed militarization and identity alteration methodologies to try to assimilate American Indian children. Its consequences have been undeniable and heartbreaking, including intergenerational traumas and cultural eradication inflicted on generations of indigenous children.

In July 2022, Pope Francis made a multi-day visit to the province of Alberta, Canada, where the former Ermineskin residential school is located, one of the many places where burials of indigenous children were discovered.

There, before representatives of First Nations, mestizos and the Inuit people, Francis asked for forgiveness for the role of the Catholic Church in the “catastrophic” abuses committed in residential schools for indigenous people in Canada for almost a century.

In reality, the church was not the only one responsible for what happened: it was a Colonial Program designed to strip the indigenous nations of their history and culture.

The plan was not to kill children, the plan was to kill the Indian inside the child.

When Brigadier General Richard Henry Pratt of the U.S. Army founded the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania for Native Americans in 1879, located outside the reservation, his motto was: “Kill the Indian, save the man.”

In April 2022, the Argentine justice began a trial that seeks to bring to light what happened in the so-called Napalpí Massacre, which occurred in 1924. It was about the shooting of between 300 and 500 indigenous people of the Qom and Nokoit ethnic groups, in that town in northwestern Argentina.

It is a trial for the truth, since there are no living defendants, but if descendants of the victims some of whom left recorded testimonies years ago that were heard at the beginning of the trial that takes place in Resistencia, the capital of the Chaco.

The aforementioned facts are just some recently disclosed examples of situations that, in one way or another, have been repeated throughout the continent and also in other parts of the world.

The 500 million indigenous people who inhabit the planet today are survivors of a sustained and extensive strategy that has gone through several stages (from physical extermination, through assimilation and integration), whose constant aim has been to target ethnocide, that is, the disappearance of indigenous Peoples as cultures different from the hegemonic ones.

But families and communities neither forget nor abandon their loved ones, their ancestors, their own history, because they are part of their present.