Sad Chapter in History
I look forward to watching filmmaker Jennifer Podemski’s PBS “Little Bird” documentary based, in part, on her family story of forcible separation at birth from her Indigenous mother and placement in the Canadian foster care system (“In PBS Series ‘Little Bird,’ a Jewish Woman Uncovers Her Traumatic Indigenous Past,” Nov. 3). Sadly, this represents a worldwide problem for Indigenous peoples. In Australia, mixed-race Aboriginal children, known as the Stolen Generations, were forcibly taken from their families by the government and placed in training camps in an attempt to assimilate them. An escape by three stolen children is dramatically captured in the 2002 film, “Rabbit-Proof Fence.” There was also the “uplifting” of Maori children in New Zealand and the forcible separation of Mapuche children in Chile.
Across Canada, during the 20th century, more than 150,000 children, such as Little Bird, in Indigenous communities were forcibly taken from their parents by the government and placed in residential schools in an attempt to assimilate and Christianize them. The last school closed in 1998.
In the United States, throughout much of the 20th century, Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families and sent to off-reservation boarding schools away from their families and communities in a misguided effort to “civilize” them. It is estimated that even into the 1960s, 25% to 35% of all Indigenous American children had been placed in adoptive homes, foster care or institutions. The closest institution to Baltimore was the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, which opened in 1879 as the first government-run boarding school for Native American children. This represented an incredibly sad chapter in our nation’s history.
Beryl Rosenstein, M.D.