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Pansch discusses U.S.-American Indian policy as related to historical trauma

Some themes exist in U.S.-American Indian policy history, Deonne Pansch said Friday morning in Bemidji.

Pansch presented "A Beginner's Guide to Native American History" during the one-day "Historical Trauma and the American Indian Experience" conference at the American Indian Resource Center at Bemidji State University.

The conference was sponsored by the AIRC, BSU Department of Social Work and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Office of Diversity.

"Historical trauma is a huge Indian issue within Indian culture," said Don Day, executive director of the AIRC.

Pansch, the program manager and therapist in the Family Preservation Unit for the Leech Lake Child Welfare Program and a member of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, reviewed U.S.-American Indian policy history in periods of time starting from 1776.

Pansch said the theme of the first period, starting in 1776, was "nation-to-nation policy."

During this period, federal jurisdiction was established, she said.

In 1802, Pansch noted, federal law prohibited the sale of liquor to American Indians. She said alcoholism and high rates of substance abuse are aspects of the American Indian community today related to historical trauma.

The theme of the next period, which was from 1820 to 1850, is "removal and relocation," Pansch said.

During this period, she said, the federal government forcibly relocated tribes to west of the Mississippi River and American Indians became "domestic dependent nations."

In 1823, the Supreme Court ruled that tribes couldn't grant or sell land to anyone besides the federal government, Pansch said.

In 1829, former President Andrew Jackson passed the Indian Removal Act.

The "reservation policy" period was from 1850 to 1870, Pansch said.

During this period, she said, the subsistence base for American Indians was destroyed. While an estimated 200 million buffalo roamed the Plains in 1850, nearly the entire buffalo population was gone by 1870, she said.

Also during this period, American Indians were forcibly relocated away from ancestral land, and the Bureau of Indian Affiars was transferred to the Department of the Interior.

During the "assimilation policy" period starting in 1870, the federal government abolished treaty making with tribal nations and large scale unilateral assimilation policies were adopted, Pansch said.

During this time, American Indian children entered boarding schools, where, among other things, their hair was cut, they wore "itchy" wool clothing and they couldn't speak their own language, she said.

"This is really frightening because this was the time where families were torn apart," Pansch said.

The "reorganization" period, she said, was from 1920 to 1950.

During this period, western forms of government replaced traditional organizations and structures, she said.

In 1924, she noted, American Indians became U.S. citizens.

During the "termination and relocation" period from 1950 to 1960, she said, Congress terminated federal trusteeship and programs were established to relocate 100,000 American Indians to urban areas.

As she moved into discussion of the next period, Pansch said, "There is sort of a silver lining to this."

She said the "self-determination" period that followed the "termination and relocation" period included the American Indian Movement, Religious Freedom Act and Indian Child Welfare Act.