by Natalie DeFord, News Writer
“The story of this crisis is not just an American Indian story,” the Chancellor’s Professor of History at the University of Nebraska said to an audience of more than 100 people Feb. 25.
Margaret Jacobs spoke on the removal of Native American children from their families at this year’s Walter C. Schnackenberg Memorial Lecture.
This was the 41st lecture honoring Schnackenberg, who was a professor of history at Pacific Lutheran University. He was also chairman of the department of history and served the Board of Regents.
In 2010, she won the Bancroft Prize for her book “White Mother to a Dark Race: Settler Colonialism, Maternalism and the Removal of Indigenous Children in the American West and Australia, 1880-1940.”
Jacobs talked about the many injustices Native Americans faced throughout history. Specifically, she spoke of the forced removal of children from their families.
During the 19th and 20th centuries, United States citizens thought that a potential answer to the supposed “Indian problem” would be the termination and relocation of the American Indians.
They also viewed American Indian children as innocent and malleable so these children were offered a “second chance.” The idea was that Native American children could be “rescued” from their “Native-ness.”
Thousands were taken and forced into boarding schools or even adopted into white families.
Their real families had no choice in the matter. They were coerced or tricked.
These white families often thought they were helping because of how Native Americans were portrayed in U.S. culture. Indian life was said to be a dead-end and adoption was seen as a benevolent cause.
Thousands of Native American children were forced to grow up without their families, without their culture and without their native language. These injustices continue to have lasting effects today.
Jacobs said that the most touching moment for her was during the Question and Answer portion of her lecture. Several Native American women were present in the audience and shared their stories. They spoke of what happened to their parents and grandparents and how different their own lives are as a result.
“It was brave of them to share, and it was very moving to me and very powerful,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs also said she enjoyed meeting PLU students and answering their questions both earlier that day and at the event.
If there was one thing students could learn from the lecture, Jacobs said she would want it to be the issue’s universality.
“This is not just something that is the problem of American Indian people,” Jacobs said. “It’s a human rights abuse – sometimes people think they’re helping but they don’t consult, respect or ask and they instead end up damaging.”