Settlers and Assimilation

— Attempting to Erase Indigenous Peoples

In Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words, “We are perhaps the only nation which tried as a matter of national policy to wipe out its indigenous population.” 

Child Removal

The Quaker Indian Boarding Schools: Facing our History and Ourselves:  Native American organizations are asking the Christian churches to learn about their roles in the forced assimilation of Native children by means of Indian boarding schools. As Pendle Hill’s 2016 Cadbury Scholar, Paula Palmer researched the Quaker Indian Boarding Schools.  The research is described in a 2016  Friends Journal article and more details and images are provided in a one-hour slide presentation, available on Vimeo.

The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition lays out a clear call to the U.S. government and to churches to learn about and acknowledge the truth about Indian boarding schools. Research and surveys are beginning to document the stories, the impact of historic trauma, and historical summaries.

A comprehensive press release provides a brief and very useful overview of boarding school history in the U.S. It also announces a national project of the Boarding School Healing Coalition to gather data on the removal of Indigenous children from their homes and communities – either to boarding schools or to adoptions in non-Native homes. This survey-based study will create the first Comprehensive Study on Child Removal in Native Communities.

National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) offers brief  fact sheets and a summary of “myths and facts” that succinctly tell the story of child removal from Native families and communities and the Indian Child Welfare Act.  Check out their 5-minute videos as well, such as Becky’s and Fawn’s stories.

Maine-Wabanaki REACH is a cross-cultural collaboration that supported the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission.   REACH stands for Reconciliation-Engagement-Advocacy-Change-Healing.  Check their website (above) to learn about their beginnings, and their current work.

Blood Memory – A story of Removal and Return – a feature length documentary about the removal of Native children from their homes and communities, and the work of Sandy White Hawk to gather in scattered adoptees from the Rosebud reservation, and to welcome them home. The producers of the film are taking it on tour around North America. See the website (above) for news of presentations near you.

The Life and Adventures of a Quaker Among the Indians,  Thomas Battey. This book (first published in 1876) is based on Thomas’s journal about his time spent as a teacher, largely among the Caddoes and Kiowa, and his sense of calling to find a peaceful way forward for the settlers and the native peoples. Available for Kindle at

The Boarding School Plan:  In this short (10 minute) film, Bill Means (Oglala) describes the experience of children taken to the government and Christian boarding schools, and Albert White Hat describes the enduring trauma of the boarding school era.

Unsettling the Settler Within: Indian Residential Schools, Truth Telling, and Reconciliation in Canada, by Paulette Regan. In her book, Regan addresses a central question that non-Indigenous Canadians and Americans share: How can we, as non-Indigenous people, unsettle ourselves to name and then transform the settler – the colonizer who lurks within – not just in words but by our actions, as we confront the history of colonization, violence, racism, and injustice that remains part of the IRS [Indian Residential Schools] legacy today?” The book examines critically Canada’s history and current challenges with the Truth and Reconciliation Process – a very helpful guide from our neighbors to the North. The book is available as a .pdf through the link above.