The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, First Nations Repatriation Institute, and the University of Minnesota are pleased to announce the launch of our study: Child Removal in Native Communities. This is an anonymous survey about American Indian and Alaskan Native experiences and impacts of child removal to #BreakTheSilence and #BeginTheHealing.
Between the 1879 and the 1960s, tens of thousands of Native children were forced to attend boarding school against their parents’ and tribes’ wishes. The goal of these schools was to eliminate the “Indian problem” that the U.S. had to its westward expansion by removing all traces of tribal existence—language, culture, spiritual traditions, communal and family ties, etc. and replacing them with European Christian ideals of civilization, religion, and culture. Today, Native communities continue to live with the impacts of the cultural genocide that was carried out in these schools. Impacts such as high rates of PTSD, depression, and sexual violence are directly linked to the historical trauma caused by colonization and forced assimilation.
The era of assimilative U.S. Indian boarding schools started to wane and eventually came to a close after government reports like the Meriam Report (1928) and the Kennedy Report (1969) found mistreatment and abuse to be rampant at the costly institutions. During this time, the federal government shifted its assimilative methods, using the Indian Adoption Project to transfer Native children from their homes and place them directly with white adoptive and foster families.
In full swing in the 1960s and 1970s, the adoption era saw (usually white) social workers deem huge proportions of Native families unfit for children. In fact, by 1978, as many as one-quarter to one-third of children were taken by social workers or other coercive means and either adopted out of the tribe or placed in the non-tribal foster care system. Although the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA) was designed to address this form of cultural genocide, Native families continue to face very high levels of child removal. For example, in Alaska, where Native children make up 20% of the general child population, they represent 50.9% of children in Foster Care. In Nebraska, Native children make up just 1% of the general child population, but 9% of the children in foster care (National Indian Child Welfare Association and The Pew Charitable Trusts, 2007).
The trauma of family and community separation as well as the violently assimilative strategies of boarding schools and adoption affected these children, their families, and their communities so deeply that the effects of trauma can be seen intergenerationally.
Through this first of its kind study, we aim to learn more about:
- The correlation between Indian boarding schools, adoption, and foster care in later generations,
- The intergenerational impacts of child removal on behavioral, mental, and physical health, as well as parenting and child welfare, and
- How American Indian and Alaskan Native people are healing from historical and intergenerational trauma related to child removal.
If you are a boarding school survivor, have boarding school history in your family, or have you ever been adopted or placed in foster care, we need your help! You can take the survey now at: z.umn.edu/child-removal-study
NABS’s mission is to understand and address the ongoing trauma caused by Indian boarding schools. The study will be an important part of our efforts to learn more about how boarding schools impacted rates of adoption and foster care in our communities and how these instances of child removal impacted health and well-being. The data we collect will be an important part of our efforts to spark a national conversation on these issues and cultivate opportunities for healing. It will help us continue to inform policy reform, best practices in social work and healthcare fields, and community-led healing initiatives.
The survey asks some personal questions about your life experiences, but it is completely anonymous and does not collect any identifying information (such as your name, address, or email address). It will take an average of 30 minutes of your time, and your participation will benefit boarding school survivors/descendants and adoptees/formerly fostered individuals, their families, and Native communities for generations to come!
If you have any questions about the study before you begin, please contact members of our research team at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. You may also contact us to request a paper copy of the survey. If you are interested in receiving copies of research reports that come from this study, please let us know.