"For 100 years, Native Alaskans went to a school where their own language was forbidden, their history and culture benignly ignored or violently demeaned, denigrated, even persecuted. Teachers were given no orientation to the language or culture of their students or the communities in which they taught. The curriculum was the same course of studies as anywhere else in the U.S. And after 8th grade, the best and brightest students were recruited to attend boarding schools hundreds, even thousands, of miles from home.
Those BIA institutions were operated, in my estimation, with controls that rival today's correctional centers. We locked up three generations of Alaska Natives for the crime of being born Native. We inferred not too subtly that their parents were incapable of raising their own children. The state had to remove them in order to civilize them and make "real Americans" of them.
Then came the famous lawsuit with Molly Hootch's name attached and the state was ordered to end the boarding school system. High schools have been built at great expense but the "success" of the students has not much improved as we hoped. This is not because Molly Hootch was a mistake. It was because the assimilationist "melting pot" philosophy of 19th century schooling has never been challenged. We are attempting in the name of "education" the same cultural genocide as the missionary-teachers of 150 years ago. Teacher orientation has hardly changed. The curriculum remains the same. The system is still focused on destroying traditional Alaska Native society, now at the local instead of the national or state level."
Get the Story:
Father Michael Oleksa: Village schools are in urgent need of radical reform
(The Anchorage Daily News 12/8)
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