"Indigenous students are vital and active participants in our society —not a vanished population."
No student can have a full understanding of U.S. history and contemporary society, nor can educators understand the inherited trauma Indigenous students still experience, as a result of this denial. From the colonial period to the nation's founding to the 20th century, Indigenous people have endured torture, sexual abuse, massacres, systematic military occupations, removals from their ancestral territories, and forced attendance at military-style boarding schools. Both the U.S. Army and the federal government experimented with residential schools during the 19th century. In 1879, Richard H. Pratt established and became the superintendent of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania—the prototype for the many militaristic federal schools that would soon crop up across the continent. And dozens of Christian missionary boarding schools augmented this landscape.
The stated goal of the boarding schools was assimilation into the dominant culture, but the intent was cultural genocide. Indigenous children were prohibited from and beaten for speaking their mother tongues or practicing their religions, among other infractions that expressed their humanity. This while being indoctrinated in the beliefs of Christianity. Generations of Native students, stripped of the languages and skills of their communities, were traumatized—an effect that has contributed significantly to the family and social dysfunction still found in Native communities.