For centuries, Indigenous children were removed from their families and sent to boarding schools or placed in adoptive non-Indigenous families. Hundreds of thousands of American Indian, Alaska Native, Canadian First Nations, Native Hawaiian, and Aboriginal children in Australia were forced to attend Catholic mission schools, where many experienced hunger, violence, forced labor, and sexual abuse. Indigenous parents and children who resisted child-family separation were harshly punished. The goal of forcible removals was to assimilate Indigenous children into Western society, erasing Indigenous identity, languages, cultures, and religious practices. This was a legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery and a series of papal bulls that had been used since the fifteenth century to justify colonization by European powers and missionaries. Forced child-family separation was endorsed by the governments of Australia, Canada, and the United States, a history which each country continues to reckon with today.
During this webinar, participants explored the role of the Catholic Church in the separation of Indigenous children from their families and the long-lasting effect on Indigenous communities. How has this history been felt and experienced by those who were separated and their descendants? How did the Catholic Church justify the separation of Indigenous children from their families at the time? How are the Catholic Church and governments addressing this history now? What is necessary to move towards a future grounded in truth, justice, restoration, and healing?
The forum on Faith and the Family: Propagating and Preventing Child-Family Separation across Time and Context is convened by Catholic Relief Services and Georgetown University’s Collaborative on Global Children’s Issues, in coordination with the Changing the Way We Care initiative and strategic partners. This webinar is co-sponsored by the Georgetown University Indigenous Studies Working Group.
English, French, and Spanish interpretation are available.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay user mojzagrebinfo.