Government policies that forcibly separate children from families are not new, as noted in this article by Deann Gayman of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln:
Near the end of the 19th century, the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs decided that the indigenous American people should be assimilated into Euro-American culture.
The best way to do so, they reasoned, was by educating Native American youths in boarding schools, where the students had to use English, were taught Christianity and were called European names. School administrators often tried to force the youths to abandon their culture.
By 1900, more than 150 of these schools had opened with more than 21,000 students enrolled — sometimes through force or coercion.
One of the schools was built in Nebraska. The Genoa Indian Industrial School opened in 1884 and enrolled students from more than 40 Native tribal nations. When the school closed in 1934 — much like the other American Indian boarding schools — little care was taken to keep records and materials together.
Now, through funding from the Council on Library and Information Resources, Margaret Jacobs, professor of history and director of women and gender studies, and Elizabeth Lorang, associate professor of University Libraries, have launched a project to compile, digitize and make accessible records and other materials from the Genoa school. They are working closely with Nancy Carlson and the Genoa U.S. Indian School Foundation in Genoa. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Center for Digital Research in the Humanities will host the Genoa Indian School Digital Reconciliation Project.
“Genoa was one of the largest American Indian boarding schools,” Jacobs said. “The records are dispersed all over the United States and are very difficult even for a trained historian and archivist to find. We want to recover that history.
"Finding materials that help us to understand and learn from what happened to children in the boarding school and the long-term implications of those experiences, is the first step in a truth and reconciliation project."
The project presents unique research questions for Jacobs and Lorang.
“Some of the records are of a very sensitive nature,” Jacobs said. “The student files might talk about disease and death or describe the student without the needed context.”
Deann Gayman's story continues HERE.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the one remaining building serves as an interpretive museum operated by a foundation as the Genoa U.S. Indian School Museum. It is located at 209 East Webster, Genoa, Nebraska. It is open Thursday through Monday 1pm-5pm, Memorial Day through Labor Day. Click HERE for more information.
A segment of Lost Nation: The Ioway 2 features Ioway Tribe members Lyle Kirlin, Annie Assefa, and Sarah James visiting Genoa Indian School. They discuss the life-changing and lingering effects of a U.S. government policy that separated children from their families--Assefa and James' mother was forcibly removed from her family and home to attend the boarding school.