FW: When Poor and Native = "Feeble Minded" : Hiding in Plain Sight

Craven, Jim jcraven at SPAMclark.edu
Tue Jun 19 16:17:47 MDT 2001

> Re:
>  > When Poor and Native = "Feeble Minded"
>  > Jack Lessenberry: A 'feebleminded' man waits for an
> apology
>  >
>  > January 9, 2000
>       Thanks for posting this clip. The University of Vermont
> Eugenics
> project administered by Henry Perkins, as you probably
> know, wreaked
> havoc with my mother's and grandmother's generation in
> upstate Vermont,
> New York, and New Hampshire. The random
> institutionalization of
> "marginal people" (which all too often translates to
> Native American,
> mixed-blood, African American, and poor white), the
> forced
> sterilizations in institutions and jails, and the coerced
> sterilizations
> by government "clinics" delivering "free health care" to
> marginal
> communities. . . all these procedures and programs
> contributed in large
> part to the isolation, assimilation, disappearance,  and
> lack of
> genealogical records for Abenaki, Mahican, and other
> Native peoples
> within range of "the Perkins Project." It caused several
> generations to
> change their names, move, hide, and refuse to be publicly
> identified as
> "Indian." Perkins was not the only Indian hunter - the Ku
> Klux Klan and
> other vigilantes also targeted prominent Indian families.
> My grandfather
> lost one of his brothers to racial violence.
>       The irony is, our survival is still in question, only
> now the attackers
> are states, the federal government, and federally
> recognized Indians who
> question our existence, and our Indian identity. We held
> on to an
> astonishing amount of our history and traditions, even in
> the face of
> these threats, often by remaining close to our original
> homelands, and
> our original lifestyles, basket making, hunting, fishing,
> traveling.
> When Indian families throughout this region now work to
> document their
> blood lines, we have oral histories and the testimony of
> family and
> neighbors, many of whom are now dead, but few written
> records.  Many of
> our relatives were very careful to register as "white" or
> "French
> Canadian"  or even "colored" at every opportunity, or not
>  to register
> births, deaths, and marriages at all. Many moved every
> time the census
> taker came along. If we were lucky, our ancestors moved
> to one of the
> safe zones, like the St. Francis mission village of
> Odanak - but then
> they lost not only residence in our homeland, but the
> right to be
> identified as "Americans."
>       Our long histories in this region, as indigenous
> inhabitants,
> basket makers, guides, soldiers,  itinerant laborers,
> neighbors to white
> settlers,  and explicitly as Indians, are extensively
> documented in
> local histories, in French and Indian war correspondence,
> in mission and
> church records, in Revolutionary War and Civil War
> records, throughout
> 19th century newspapers and court documents. . . but
> there is a curious
> gap in information during the eugenics years. A few
> families who
> remained in Indian enclaves, fully identified to their
> neighbors, took
> the brunt of prejudice during the 1920's - 1970's, before
> national
> movements raised awareness in general. Some were
> documented by
> historians who marveled at the persistent presence of
> indigenous peoples
> in the region, long after the "Indian Wars" were over.
> But many, many
> others quietly carried on their lives, "hiding in plain
> sight."
>       Kathleen Gallagher just came out with a book on the
> Vermont Eugenics
> project, titled "Breeding Better Vermonters." But even
> her documentation
> of this project is missing family names - Perkins chose
> to identify the
> sterilized generically as "gypsies" and "pirates," to
> spare them the
> shame of being identified as "Indians." Please see the
> following article
> from the Boston Globe for more information on this story,
> which is still
> unfolding even as we speak.
> Thanks for listening.
> Wlibomkanni - travel well,
> Marge Bruchac
> Note: I've included a transcript of the text, since the
> Boston Globe has
> removed the article from its web site as "out of date."
>  > Eugenics victims are heard at last
>  > Outrage voiced over state sterilization
>  >
>  > By Ellen Barry, Globe Correspondent, 08/15/99
>  >
>  >    State-sanctioned sterilization, which has sparked new
> outrage in the wake of advance
>  > publicity for a book on Vermont's eugenics program,
> was never a secret in the middle
>  > decades of the century, when states from California to
> Maine allowed the sterilization of
>  > people whose genetic material was considered inferior.
>  >    But while historians have established that at least
> 60,000 Americans were sterilized -
>  > some who had been coerced, and others who had not
> given their consent - the voices of
>  > people who fell victim to these programs have not been
> heard.
>  >    In the last week, however, three people have
> contacted the Vermont historian Nancy
>  > Gallagher, the author of ''Breeding Better Vermonters:
> The Eugenics Project in the
>  > Green Mountain State,'' saying that they were
> sterilized and that they never expected to
>  > read about what happened to them in the newspaper.
>  >    The new witnesses could add to historians'
> understanding of the scope of sterilization
>  > efforts this century in the United States, in Vermont
> and beyond.
>  >    Moreover, the publicity surrounding Gallagher's book
> has shed new light on the
>  > largely forgotten story of Vermont's sterilization
> program. Some in the state are calling
>  > for an official inquiry; others, especially those from
> Abenaki Indian families singled
>  > out by the eugenicists,  are asking questions about
> their family histories.
>  >    'Vermont is abuzz'' over the long-dormant issue of
> sterilization policy, said Fred
>  > Wiseman, a professor of humanities at Johnson State
> College and the director of the
>  > Abenaki Tribal Museum. ''People in the governor's
> office are thinking about it. I've
>  > gotten all kinds of calls about it. Just about
> everybody in the [Abenaki] Nation that has
>  > ever had this happen is thinking about it.''
>  >    The idea of a government response may not be
> farfetched. In other countries that have
>  > had sterilization programs, victims have demanded
> reparations. Canada and Sweden,
>  > which had their own race-purifying programs at work
> through the 1970s, have both
>  > recently paid millions of dollars in compensation to
> people who were sterilized by
>  > government order.
>  >    But there have never been cash settlements in the
> United States, where even the process
>  > of gathering information on what happened - mostly
> behind the closed doors of state
>  > institutions - has been tortuous.
>  >    Now, as the majority of those sterilized move into
> their late 70s and 80s, it may be too
>  > late. They do not have much longer to live, and, as
> researchers on the topic point out, they
>  > leave no descendants to demand historical vindication.
>  >    ''I can tell you this - the clock is ticking,'' said
> Dr. Philip R. Reilly, who is director of
>  > the Shriver Center for Mental Retardation and author
> of ''The Surgical Solution,'' a 1991
>  > history of involuntary sterilization. ''It won't be
> long before you won't be able to find
>  > anyone alive who was sterilized.'' But the response to
> Gallagher's Vermont research has
>  > raised the possibility of a breakthrough, and shows
> that information about eugenic history
>  > still has the power to shock. After her series of
> telephone conversations, Gallagher is
>  > increasingly certain that sterilization is a topic
> worth addressing - if not by her, then by
>  > the victims themselves.
>  >    ''I think they ought to redress that type of thing. I
> mean, what kind of country are we
>  > if we can't do that?,'' said Gallagher, who began her
> research for a master's thesis.
>  > ''Sometimes  I think I've opened Pandora's Box. And
> other times I think, there are stories
>  > out there ... That's a pain that we need to look at.''
>  >    Vermont's sterilization law came within the context
> of an international push for
>  > eugenics - the idea that traits such as poor health
> and bad character could be bred out of the
>  > race by  preventing ''inferior'' genetic material from
> being passed on.
>  >    Starting with the passage of a series of laws,
> beginning in Indiana in 1907 and
>  > continuing until mid-1970s, some states provided for
> the sterilization of upwards of 60,000
>  > epileptics, alcoholics, those considered discipline
> problems, and retarded people. Some
>  > subjects consented, and others were coerced or had no
> knowledge of what was being done
>  > to them.
>  >    In 1931, Vermont became the 24th state to pass a
> sterilization law, according to
>  > Gallagher, and the number of sterilizations performed
> there was a fraction of those
>  > performed nationwide. The only official data on
> sterilization - a report by the eugenics
>  > survey mastermind, Henry Perkins, in the late 1940s -
> put the number of procedures at
>  > around 200. John Moody, an independent ethnohistorian
> from Sharon, Vt., says the real
>  > number is much higher, perhaps in the thousands.
>  >    In the United States, unlike Sweden and Canada, the
> policy was upheld by the Supreme
>  > Court, Reilly said. The court sided with Virginia
> state law in the 1927 case of Buck
>  > v. Bell, which permitted the Virginia State Colony for
> Epileptics and the Feebleminded to
>  > sterilize 18-year-old inmate Carrie Buck.
>  >    In his written opinion on the case, Justice Oliver
> Wendell Holmes wrote, ''It is better
>  > for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute
> degenerate offspring for crime, or letting
>  > them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent
> those who are manifestly unfit from
>  > continuing their kind.'' Since then, there has been
> only one attempt in this country to
>  > secure compensation for forced sterilization.
>  >    In 1980, the American Civil Liberties Union filed
> suit in Lynchburg, V a., on behalf of
>  > 7,200 state mental patients who were sterilized
> without their knowledge until the practice
>  > was ended in 1973. The suit sought damages and
> notification of people who had been
>  > sterilized, as well as a ruling that the
> sterilizations were unconstitutional. The ACLU
>  > and the state settled the case.
>  >    But the settlements in Canada and Sweden suggest that
> the public mood may have
>  > changed. Moody, who has worked extensively with the
> Abenaki, has pressed the state to
>  > open up records from the eugenics survey and from two
> ''training schools'' that
>  > frequently sterilized young inmates. He would like to
> see the state begin to contact
>  > families and inform them what occurred. Referring to
> Vermont Governor Howard Dean,
>  > he said, ''I'd love to see the Dean administration
> take a proactive stance.'' Failing that,
>  > Moody said, he could imagine filing a class-action
> lawsuit. Informing those who have
>  > been sterilized is an initiative that has never been
> undertaken on a national scale, said
>  > Reilly, and probably never will be.
>  >    ''Now many of them are very old people, and there is
> the ethical issue of letting
>  > sleeping dogs lie,'' Reilly said. And among the more
> angry of the Abenaki, sterilization
>  > simply seems like another aspect of a multi-faceted
> campaign to destroy them.
>  >    Homer St. Francis, a longtime chief of the Abenaki,
> reels off the names of childless
>  > family members who he assumes were sterilized. He sees
> sterilization as part of a larger
>  > government conspiracy to eliminate his family - a
> campaign that he said includes
>  > generations of abduction and outright murder. When
> historians in Vermont first
>  > discovered crates of Henry Perkins's eugenic surveys,
> St. Francis said he found names
>  > of people he knew on the list of research subjects,
> people who had been singled out as
>  > ''degenerate'' by Perkins's researchers.
>  > It confirmed everything he had already believed about
> the state and the Abenaki.
>  >    ''It made me sick,'' he said. ''How would you feel if
> people were trying to kill you?''
>  > And while there was some talk about seeking a legal
> remedy, it faded among the tribe's
>  > long list of grievances. ''We don't have any money for
> attorneys, so we just grit our teeth
>  > and bear it,'' he said.
>  >
>  > This story ran on page B01 of the Boston Globe on
> 08/15/99.
>  > © Copyright 1999 Globe Newspaper Company.

Comment: All Tribes of the Pikanii Nation will be conducting Tribunals
related to atrocities committed against Pikanii People including
forced/coerced/deceptive sterilizations of Pikanii boys and girls and
murders, rapes, sexual/physical abuses, forced deleterious diets, denial of
medical care, incompetent education, profiling of Indian children as
"feebleminded" and cover-ups in Indian Residential/Boarding Schools etc. The
Tribunals will be conducted according to principles of Aboriginal Law and
have more standing and legal authority under international law than the
allies ever had at Nuremberg.

>From "Hitler and His Secret Partners: Contributions, Loot and Rewards,
1933-1945" by James Pool, Pocket Books, N.Y. 1997:

"Always contemptuous of the Russians, Hitler said: ' For them the word
'liberty' means the right to wash only on feast-days. If we arrive bringing
soft soap, we'll obtain no sympathy...There's only one duty: To Germanize
this country by the immigration of Germans, and to look upon the natives as
Redskins.' [Hitler, "Secret Conversations p. 57] Having been a devoted
reader of Karl May's books on the American West as a youth, Hitler
frequently referred to the Russians as 'Redskins'. He saw a parallel between
his effort to conquer and colonize land in Russia with the conquest of the
American West by the white man and the subjugation of the Indians or
'Redskins.' 'I don't see why', he said, 'a German who easts a piece of bread
should torment himself with the idea that the soil that produces this bread
has been won by the sword. When we eat wheat from Canada, we don't think
about the despoiled Indians.' [Ibid. p. 57] " (Pool, pp 254-55)

More information about the Marxism mailing list