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Estudiantes de Carlisle en 1885

After 140 Years, Native Youth Lead Return of 10 Children’s Remains from Carlisle Indian School in PA

Democracy Now    19 de julio de 2021

The remains of nine Indigenous children were buried by the Rosebud Sioux in South Dakota after being transferred back from the former Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania, where the children were forcibly sent over 140 years ago. Carlisle was the first government boarding school off reservation land, and it set the standard for other schools with its motto, “Kill the Indian, Save the Man.” The schools were known for their brutal assimilation practices that forced students to change their clothing, language and culture. The Rosebud Sioux Tribe negotiated the return of the children’s remains buried at the school, and a caravan of Rosebud Sioux youth returned them to their tribe this week. Dozens of other Native American and Alaskan Native families have asked Carlisle to return their relatives’ bodies. Knowledge of the boarding schools is still being recovered as many survivors are reluctant to revisit the trauma, says Christopher Eagle Bear, a member of the Sicangu Youth Council. “These schools, they played a key part in trying to sever that connection to who we are as Lakota,” he says. “They took away our language, and they made it impossible for us to be who we really are.”

AMY GOODMAN: In 1879, the first Indigenous children, sons and daughters of Rosebud Sioux chiefs, arrived at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School they were forced to attend in Pennsylvania. This weekend, some of them returned home, after they were ripped from their families more than a century ago.

Carlisle was the first government boarding school run that was off of reservation land, and it set the standard for other schools, with its motto, “Kill the Indian, Save the Man.” The schools were known for their brutal assimilation practices, forcing students to change their clothing, language and culture. More than 10,000 children were taken to the Carlisle school before it closed in 1918.

The remains of Friend Bear Hollow Horn and eight other Native children who died 140 years ago at a Carlisle, Penn., boarding school were returned to the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota on Friday, July 16, 2021. (Dan Gleiter / PennLive)

Los restos Friend  Bear Hollow Horn y otros ocho niños nativos que murieron hace 140 años en un internado de Carlisle, Penn., fueron devueltos a la reserva india Sioux de Rosebud en Dakota del Sur.  (Dan Gleiter / PennLive)

Many of the kids died and were buried in a cemetery on site instead of being returned to their parents. In the past week, 10 of them, their remains were returned home. One was returned to the Alaskan Aleut Tribe. The other nine were returned to representatives of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota. Five of them were among the first students brought to Carlisle.

On Wednesday, Interior Department Secretary Debra Haaland, who is a member of the Laguna Pueblo and whose great-grandfather was sent to Carlisle, spoke at a ceremony at the Carlisle barracks. She recently announced the creation of the Federal Indian Boarding School Truth Initiative to investigate policies that forced children to assimilate. After Wednesday’s ceremony, a caravan of Rosebud Sioux youth left the barracks with the children’s remains and traveled to South Dakota. The caravan made several stops, including a prayer service stop in Sioux City, Iowa.

ROSEBUD SIOUX YOUTH: [singing] Remember me. When the sun comes up in the morning sky, there I will be, soaring with the eagles so high, feeling free.

AMY GOODMAN: Most of the nine children were reburied Saturday morning on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota.

For more, we’re joined by one of the Rosebud Sioux Youth Council who played a key role in all of this: Christopher Eagle Bear, a member of the Sicangu Youth Council, joining us from Sicangu Oyate Nation in South Dakota.

We welcome you to Democracy Now!, Christopher. Thanks so much for being with us. Can you take us on the journey that you have gone on — this wasn’t the first time you went to Carlisle — to bring the remains of your family and the ancestors of others at Rosebud Sioux Reservation?

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Estudiantes ejercitándose en el gimnasio de Carlisle

CHRISTOPHER EAGLE BEAR: Hi. Good morning. Thank you for having me.

Yes, so, when we first started, we were a youth council that was primarily just kids, you know? This is six years ago. A lot of us were still in high school or still in middle school. And so, when we started, we went over there. And for us, it was the first time — for a lot of us, actually, it was the first time we were getting a good understanding of what a boarding school was, because boarding schools aren’t really talked about, growing up, where I come from, you know? There’s a traumatic event — something traumatic happened that made you not want to talk about it, made you not want to recreate the pain, or whatever it was, and your parents just wanted you to be protected from all of that horrificness. And so, when we went to Carlisle, it was very — it was an eye-opener to who we are today as the Lakota people, you know? Everything that makes us who we are was kind of detached from us from these boarding schools.

And so, six years later, when we come back around, to come back again to bring back these kids, it was very, very eye-opening, in the sense of the things we had to learn so that we can move forward. And what that was was the knowledge of our spirituality, our way of life. And these schools, they played a key part in trying to sever that connection to who we are as Lakota. You know, they took away our language, and they made it impossible for us to be who we really are. And so, when the kids that did make it home, they came back with that traumatic experience, and they didn’t want to continue it forward for the next generations to come.

And so, I guess I want to say that, as we moved forward, it was very — it all started with a single question that one of the members, a part of the youth group, said, and that was just a simple “Why don’t we bring them home?” Then, that one question set off a big movement that, six years later, we were able to — not only our tribe, but all the other tribes involved — that we were able to bring a child home, brought them home. And ours was just the first of, you know, what I hope to come, big things some day, you know?

AMY GOODMAN: So, you were there on Wednesday at the ceremony at Carlisle when the remains of the children were handed over. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland spoke there, and then this weekend she appeared on PBS NewsHour, after attending that repatriation ceremony.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Secretary Haaland, you also wrote recently about the challenge of loving your own country, a country that was responsible for committing these acts. How do you explain that to others, to other Native Americans who look at this and question, “How can you love a country that has done this?”

INTERIOR SECRETARY DEB HAALAND: Well, first of all, my ancestral homelands are here, and I can’t go anywhere else. This is my home, and this is where my family is. This is where my history is. We’ve been here for tens of thousands of years, and we want to make sure that we are defending this land for future generations. I believe very strongly in democracy. And if you look at tribes across the country, so many Indian tribes had long-standing historical democracies in their communities. And I am confident that our country can live up to its promise to people, to our citizens, and I want to be a part of that.

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Los miembros de la tribu llevan los restos de nueve niños Rosebud que regresan a casa del internado de Pensilvania al que fueron llevados hace 100 años el viernes 16 de julio de 2021 en Whetstone Landing.
Erin Bormett / Argus Leader

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Interior Secretary Deb Haaland speaking to Judy Woodruff on PBS. Of course, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland is the first Native American cabinet member. This is Deb Haaland speaking last month.

INTERIOR SECRETARY DEB HAALAND: For more than a century, the Interior Department was responsible for operating the Indian boarding schools across the United States and its territories. We are therefore uniquely positioned to assist in the effort to recover the dark history of these institutions that have haunted our families for too long. It’s our responsibility. … Today, I’m announcing and sharing with you all, first, that the department will launch the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative. At no time in history have the records or documentation of this policy been compiled or analyzed to determine the full scope of its reaches and effects. We must uncover the truth about the loss of human life and the lasting consequences of these schools.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, before that, congressmember from New Mexico, first Native cabinet member in U.S. history. Christopher Eagle Bear, take us on that journey that you went — Wednesday, the repatriation ceremony at Carlisle — and where you went from there with the remains of the children.

The disinterred remains of nine Rosebud Sioux children were wrapped in buffalo robes  and placed in cedar boxes for their final trip home to South Dakota, more than 140 years after they were forced to attend the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania. Here, Ione Quigley, left, Rosebud’s tribal historic preservation officer, helps removes the remains from a box for a ceremony to honor their return on Friday, July 16, 2021.  (Photo by Vi Waln for Indian Country Today)

Los restos desenterrados de nueve niños Sioux de Rosebud fueron envueltos en túnicas de búfalo y colocados en cajas de cedro para su último viaje a su hogar en Dakota del Sur, más de 140 años después de que se vieron obligados a asistir a la Escuela Industrial India Carlisle en Pennsylvania. (Foto de Vi Waln para Indian Country Today)

 

CHRISTOPHER EAGLE BEAR: On Wednesday, at the Carlisle industrial military school, which it is now, we were given the right to hold a ceremony, which was a transferring of the spirit ceremony. And when we first went there, we didn’t expect it to be what it was. You know, we were really just thinking it was just going to be a little thing. And so, it was a really big surprise to see Interior Secretary Haaland there, as well as all the other big officials that came along, too.

And so, when we went on, it was very — it was actually very beautiful. The morning was very calm. It was very cool. And whenever the ceremony started, all the emotions came with it. There was this thickness in the room. You know, when you walked in there, you just wanted to — well, essentially, it felt like you just wanted to express through emotion that words cannot put into — that you cannot put into words. And so, the ceremony itself, it took about two hours to commence, so that we can do it properly, in the way it’s supposed to be done by our spiritual leaders, how they told us it should be.

And so, we were really fortunate to know that Secretary Deb Haaland came, because it just shows that, you know, as Native American people, we still have an extension to one another, to where we still want to — if one’s up here, we all want to be up here. And as a Native American, we know that when one of us rises, we all rise. And so, it’s really a good feeling to know that someone in her position is listening to what we’re doing, you know, is paying attention to how we move forward with the Repatriation Act. And hopefully, as we move forward, there will be other ceremonies with other tribes that move forward with their bringing home their children.

AMY GOODMAN: And we will certainly follow them. And I want to thank you, Christopher Eagle Bear, for joining us, a member of the Sicangu Youth Council, speaking to us from South Dakota.

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En la edición de noviembre-diciembre de 2009 de Diálogo –periódico digital de la Universidad de Puerto Rico– aparece publicado un corto ensayo titulado “El molino de piedra” donde su autor, el Profesor Pablo Navarro Rivera, examina una de las instituciones más peculiares del imperialismo norteamericano, la Carlisle Indian Industrial  School (CIIS). La CIIS fue creada en 1879 para lidiar con el llamado problema indio (“Indian problem”).  Qué hacer con las naciones indias despojadas en nombre del progreso fue un problema para los norteamericanos desde el periodo colonial.  Para la década de 1870 el debate giraba en torno a la posibilidad de incorporar a los amerindios a la sociedad norteamericana.   Los creadores de la CIIS creían que era posible convertir a los nativo americanos en ciudadano útiles a través de la educación y  la transculturación forzosa de miles de jóvenes amerindios.

Estudiantes de Carlisle en 1885

Esta escuela ubicada en una antigua base militar,  atendió a 10,700 estudiantes entre 1879 y 1918. Durante ese periodo la CIIS llevó a cabo lo que Navarro Rivera denomina como un genocidio cultural: americanizar a miles de amerindios imponiéndoles el idioma inglés, la vestimenta, la religión y las costumbres anglosajonas. Se buscaba  “matar al salvaje” que habitaba en el indio y dar vida a un “ser civilizado”, es decir, americanizado. Los propulsores de la CIIS creían que los amerindios podrían incorporarse a la sociedad blanca sólo si experimentaban una transformación radical, es decir, si  dejaban de ser lo que eran y se convertían en copias al carbón de los estadounidenses blancos.

El proceso de transculturación comenzaba con la llegada de los estudiantes. Cuando éstos  arribaban a Carlisle, se les tomaba una foto que servía para comparar al salvaje que entraba con el ser civilizado que saldría, se les bañaba, se les cortaba el pelo y se les vestía como “gente civilizada”. El uso del idioma vernáculo estaba totalmente prohibido y los estudiantes eran vigilados para evitar la socialización entre miembros de las misma etnias. El uso del inglés era un requisito indispensable para todos los internos.

La CIIS junto a otras instituciones como el Hampton Institute (Hampton, Virginia) y  la Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (Tuskegee, Alabama) se convirtieron en modelos de cómo lidiar con las minorías étnicas en los Estados Unidos. Según Navarro Rivera, tras la adquisición del imperio insular (Cuba y Puerto Rico), las autoridades norteamericanas aplicaron la experiencia adquirida con los minorías étnicas  norteamericanas a los pueblos conquistados en 1898.  Usando los esquemas raciales de su momento histórico, los  norteamericanos  que llegaron a las islas tras la guerra con España catalogaron a cubanos y puertorriqueños como “colored people” y, por ende, crearon sistemas educativos para educarles como eran educados los negros e indios en los EEUU. Además, crearon becas para enviarles a escuelas en los EEUU como la CIIS.

Según el Dr. Navarro Rivera,   60 niños puertorriqueños fueron enviados a Carlisle, hecho desatendido por  la historiografía puertorriqueña, “a pesar de su importancia para entender los primeros esfuerzos de adecuación colonial de Estados Unidos en Puerto Rico.” Su ensayo busca subsanar en parte ese desconocimiento analizando la experiencia de algunos de los puertorriqueños que fueron enviados a la CIIS.

El primer norteamericano encargado de la educación en Puerto Rico, el General John Eaton, fue también el primero en sugerir el envío de puertorriqueños a Carlisle. El primer Comisionado de Instrucción de Puerto Rico, Martin C. Brumbaugh, convenció en 1900 a la legislatura de la isla a asignar fondos para el envío de estudiantes puertorriqueños a los EEUU bajo la excusa de que  la isla “no contaba con buenas escuelas, no tenía instituciones de educación superior ni existían los recursos para construirlas.” El Comisionado recomendó el envío anual de 45 estudiantes a los Estados Unidos. Según Navarro, “Veinticinco varones irían a escuelas preparatorias y universidades y un segundo grupo de 20 jóvenes, varones y hembras, recibiría becas de $250 anuales del Gobierno para estudiar en lugares como Carlisle, Tuskegee y Hampton. Brumbaugh hizo posible con estas becas la extensión a Estados Unidos del proyecto educativo colonial que iniciaron en la Isla en 1898.”

Residencia de las niñas

Según el autor, solo 600 de los 10,700 alumnos que  estudiaron en Carlisle llegaron a graduarse.  Las fuentes no permiten determinar cuántos regresaron a sus lugares de origen, lo que “obstaculiza el estudio sobre el fenómeno del retorno.” Sí se sabe que   “un número significativo de puertorriqueños, tras irse de Carlisle, se quedaron en Estados Unidos o iniciaron una vida de continua migración entre dicho país y la Isla.”

Navarro   dedica  la parte final de su ensayo a examinar la experiencia de los puertorriqueños que estuvieron en Carlisle a través del estudio de la correspondencia de algunos de éstos. Desafortunadamente, no explica ni el origen ni la localización de estas fuentes. Lo que primero que señala el autor es que a los puertorriqueños que participaron en el programa no se les explicó con toda claridad la naturaleza de la escuela; en otras palabras, éstos no sabían que eran enviados a una escuela para indios. Navarro describe le caso de Juan José Osuna ­– quien llegaría a ser un reconocido educador puertorriqueño. Osuna llegó a Carlisle a los 15 años “bajo la impresión de que recibiría una educación profesional que lo prepararía para el campo del Derecho.” El autor también cita una carta de una estudiante de nombre Providencia Martínez:  “En ocasiones, cuando menciono la escuela para indios pienso que es un sueño. Realmente, no sabíamos que era una escuela regular para indios porque la Srta. Weekly no nos dijo la verdad.” El autor no aclara si este desconocimiento sobre la naturaleza de Carlisle fue producto de mal entendidos o de una estrategia de las autoridades coloniales estadounidenses.

Estudiantes ejercitándose en el gimnasio de Carlisle

Según el autor, en 1901 un grupo de estudiantes y padres le escribió a Luis Muñoz Rivera, uno de los principales líderes políticos puertorriqueños de principios del siglo XX, quejándose de Carlisle. Las cartas hicieron que Muñoz visitara la escuela en agosto de 1901. Según Navarro, Muñoz Rivera  escribió un artículo sobre su visita – artículo que desafortunadamente  el autor no identifica– donde señalaba que le preguntó a los puertorriqueños que encontró en Carlisle si querían regresar a la isla y que éstos le respondieron que querían quedarse en la escuela para aprender ingles.

Es curioso que Navarro señale que poco antes de la visita de Muñoz, tres estudiantes puertorriqueños se escaparon de la escuela. Otros dos estudiantes se escaparon en 1902. Del grupo que llegó en 1900, por lo menos 11 se retiraron de la escuela por solicitud de sus padres y 4 por razones de salud.  ¿Le mintieron los estudiantes puertorriqueños a Muñoz Rivera? Después de 1901, sólo 5 estudiantes puertorriqueños fueron admitidos a la escuela lo que lleva Navarro a concluir que:  “La evidencia sugiere que la experiencia negativa que tuvieron los puertorriqueños en Carlisle llevó al gobierno de Estados Unidos a suspender las becas que ofrecían en Puerto Rico para estudiar allí y, finalmente, ordenar que los puertorriqueños becados abandonaran CIIS en 1905.”

Este  ensayo rebela las intersecciones de la esferas domésticas y externas del imperialismo norteamericano.  Navarro muestra como una institución creada para atender a un sector de los sujetos coloniales domésticos o internos (los amerindios) es  también usada para buscar la americanización de los sujetos coloniales externos adquiridos en 1898. El autor deja claro el papel que jugó la  CIIS como instrumento del imperialismo estadounidense para atender los “problemas” que representaban las nuevas posesiones insulares.

Estudiantes de escuela elemental

Estudiantes de escuela elemental

Este ensayo de Navaro Rivera trabajo también deja claro la necesidad de que la historiografía puertorriqueña –yo añadiría, la latinoamericana en general– preste atención al papel que jugaron instituciones educativas, científicas, artísticas y profesionales estadounidenses en el desarrollo del imperialismo norteamericano en Puerto Rico (y América Latina).

Dos comentarios finales. Primero, extraño la ausencia de los filipinos en este ensayo. Dudo mucho que la avanzada americanizadora se limitara a cubanos y puertorriqueños y me gustaría saber si las fuentes revisadas por Navarro Rivera reflejan la presencia de estudiantes filipinos en la CIIS. Segundo, el autor no identifica de forma clara las fuentes que utiliza. Aunque este no es un ensayo publicado en un revista académica, el autor  y los editores debieron proveer la información básica sobre las fuentes que sustentas los argumentos de Navarro Rivera.

Norberto Barreto Velázquez, Ph. D.

Lima, Perú, 14 de febrero de 2010

Nota: Todas las traducciones del inglés son mi responsabilidad. A los interesados en este tema recomiendo visitar los siguientes:

  1. Pablo Navarro Rivera, “Acculturation Under Duress: The Puerto Rican Experience at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School 1898-1918”
  2. Carlisle Indian Industrial School Research Page
  3. Carlisle Indian Industrial School History

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