Dispossession Essay

1158 words - 5 pages

The word possession is be defined by Merriam online dictionary as “control or occupancy of property without regard to ownership” (Merriam Online Dictionary). When Professor Andrea Smith refers to the term dispossession, she is speaking about the mass relinquishment of identity by Native American peoples through a structural enforcement of subservience. The learning of “ones proper place” for Native Americans was instilled in boarding schools which served to eradicate the former matriarchic roles women played in Tribal hierarchies (Lomawaima quoted by Smith pg. 37). Essentially, United States policy regarding Native American education sought to assimilate young Natives into American society, ...view middle of the document...

These schools were ran more like a business (which during the time period were regulated far less than they are today) and held harsh conditions for children attending such schools. “Children were given inadequate food and medical care, and were overcrowded in these schools. As a result, they routinely died from starvation and disease” (Smith pg. 38).
These conditions above show the lack of care for the human beings attending these poorly ran boarding schools, but the atrocities the children faced while in attendance were not limited to conditions of poverty. “Sexual, physical, and emotional abuse has been rampant (in these institutions), but boarding schools have refused to investigate, even when teachers were publicly accused by their students” (Smith pg. 38). Crimes against Native American children had been considered so rampant, that in the year 1990, the Indian Child Protection Act was passed to register sexual offenders in all Indian counties, and mandated a system, which would report previous offenders in the community. “However, the law was never sufficiently funded or implemented, and child sexual abuse rates have been dramatically increasing in Indian country while they have remained stable for the general population” (Smith pg. 39).
The United States, being a former extension of the Empire of Great Britain, may well have gained these imperialistic educational policies from its old Colonizer. Willinsky writes on the educational policy of the British Crown with regard to implementation of schooling within British colonies. He states that “reduced scholarships and increased tuition in Egypt, was being driven by fears that any surplus education above the immediate demands of the job market for technical skills would risk creating the sort of unemployed, well-educated agitators for nationalism found in India” (Willinsky pg. 101). This quote refers to the leaders Mohandas Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, both of which were (Asian) Indian revolutionaries and were educated under the British Crown.
In trying to explain these paternalistic and subservient messages enforced through imperialistic education structures, Willinsky states “education can always be cast as an act of power, however benevolent in its exercise, between teacher and student” (Willinsky pg. 107). Although we do not live in a world where colonization in its historical meaning can legally exist, the United States and other Western nations use education as a colonizer of social and economic structure (Willinsky pg. 107). By implementing Caucasian cultural norms and historical perspectives into accepted academic curriculum, the Western world has placed Whites into the position of teachers and non-whites into the...

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