You don’t need to have bad intentions to cause real pain for native people fighting for their culture.
…“Genocide has two phases,” wrote Raphael Lemkin, the lawyer who coined the term in 1944. “One, destruction of the national pattern of the oppressed group; the other, the imposition of the national pattern of the oppressor.”
It’s that second part of the definition, cultural genocide, that needs to be considered as the town of Skowhegan considers dropping the name “Indians” from its sports teams.
…We may not think of it as genocide, but that’s been happening to Indians in Maine – not just in Colonial times but also in our era, while white people were cheering for sports teams with names like “Redskins.”
In 2015, the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth & Reconciliation Commission issued a report after 27 months of fact-finding among the state’s native people, a process that’s the subject of the documentary “Dawnland” (it aired on PBS last year and is scheduled for several screenings around Maine this winter). It describes the lifelong trauma that follows Indian children who were taken away from their homes and brought up in an alien culture.
…They found that in the years leading up to their study, Maine Wabanaki children were being taken into state custody more than five times as often as non-native children. Tribal relationships were not treated with the same deference given to family relationships, even though federal law required the state to do that.
These removals, probably done with good intentions, hurt many children. It also tore the fabric of community and decreased the population of people who could speak native languages and participate in religious practices. In other words, cultural genocide.
…And what’s even more disturbing is the idea that we can participate in cultural genocide without having any bad intent. All it requires of us is blindness.