The Catholic Church must take responsibility for its anti-Indigenous history
After the remains of 215 Indigenous children were found at what used to be a Catholic residential school for Indigenous children, the Catholic Church needs to take responsibility.
The Catholic Church needs to not only acknowledge the role it played in the torture and genocide of Indigenous people in North America, it also needs to take action and pay reparations to not only the victims of residential schools but the governments themselves.
In 1819, the U.S. Congress passed the Civilization Fund Act, which allowed the president to enact policy that would “civilize” Native Americans. This was a part of America’s plan to expand westward and shrink the Native population.
After having pushed Native Americans as westward as they could after the 1830 Indian Removal Act, residential schools became one of the main ways America tried to get rid of Indigenous people. There were fund financed churches to create schools to teach Native American children Christian American culture, replacing their Native cultures.
Canada had similar policies in order to get rid of Indigenous people, also setting up residential schools.
These schools banned children from engaging in their own culture. The children could not speak their own languages, have long hair, wear Native clothes or see their family very often. The schools punished children if they did anything associated with their Native culture, often physically. Survivors recall rampant sexual and brutal physical abuse.
As shown by the 215 remains that were found, many children died as a result of these schools. Some Canadian schools did nutritional experiments on the children, keeping them at the brink of starvation.
These schools aren’t a thing of the far historic past. The last residential school closed in 1996. There are many survivors who remember the horrors they experienced. No one can use the excuse that it was so long ago that people need to get over it.
The American and Canadian governments are certainly to blame for the deaths and trauma of these children. The governments certainly need to go beyond an apology and invest money into Indigenous tribes for reparations. However, the Catholic Church is definitely one to blame as well.
Christianity supposedly is supposed to be full of love and morality, and yet the Catholic Church played a gigantic role in the colonization of the Americas. Since the beginnings of European exploration in America, the Catholic Church sent missionaries to spread religion to the Indigenous population. The pope did say he felt sad about the news of the 215 children’s remains. He hasn’t even acknowledged the role the Catholic Church played in their deaths.
An apology won’t be enough of course. The Catholic Church is known for its charity, so it should donate heaping amounts to Indigenous tribes across North America. If the Church doesn’t want this tied to their reputation, it’s time to change.
The Catholic Church played a big role in the genocide and assimilation of Native Americans. It’s time to apologize and pay up.
Anna Baker is an English senior who can be reached at [email protected]