by Caro Johnson and Millie Kennedy
On Saturday, July 17, participants in Seattle’s “Every Child Matters — Seattle Rally and March” gathered at Cal Anderson Park. The crowd stood, sat, drummed, and mourned in solidarity with the First Nations tribes who found 160 children on July 12, buried at Penelakut Island Residential School in British Columbia and in remembrance of the nine children’s remains, recovered from the Carlisle Boarding School in Pennsylvania, returning to the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota.
The assimilative policy in Canada and the United States of removing children from their parents is an ongoing form of genocide. From the 1860s until the late 20th century, over 300 American Indian residential schools were a government-funded and church-run national program to “civilize” Native children by coercing them into schools and, once there, forbidding them to speak their languages or learn their traditions. Both Catholic and Protestant churches forced the children to assimilate to Anglo-American culture through brutal means, leaving many maimed for life physically and psychologically. Sexual abuse was common, and manual labor was compulsory for even the youngest children. Thousands of Native children died by suicide, hunger, and abuse at these boarding schools.
Prior to the residential and boarding school policies, hundreds of thousands of Native Americans died by germ warfare through the intentional infection of smallpox. This experience of genocide is so universal for Turtle Island’s Native people that individual members of various American Indian, Alaska Native, and First Nation tribes from near and far were in attendance at the July march in Seattle as well as many non-Native allies seeking justice and solidarity.
At the Seattle Every Child Matters Rally, marchers carefully placed babies’ and children’s shoes outside at St. James Cathedral, directly across from the regional Catholic headquarters Archdiocese of Seattle, to symbolize the dead.
Continue reading OPINION: Every Native Child Matters in Seattle Too