Tiny Horrors: A Chilling Reminder of How Cruel Assimilation Was—And Is
For such small objects, the child’s handcuffs are surprisingly heavy when cradled in the palms of one’s hand. Although now rusted from years of disuse, they still convey the horror of their brutal purpose, which was to restrain Native children who were being brought to boarding schools. “I felt the weight of their metal on my heart,” said Jessica Lackey of the Cherokee tribe as she described holding the handcuffs for the first time.
It needs to be pointed out that, when we talk about things like this, forced assimilation, we aren’t talking about some far-off time in history. This wasn’t confined to early colonization. It was still happening in the 1970s. The larger Native boarding schools didn’t start closing until the 1980s, and the reports of physical, sexual, emotional, and mental abuse were still very much alive and well then.
And are still alive NOW
Gordon Residential School, located in Treaty #4 territory, only closed 17 years ago. Less than a generation. There are kids who went to that school who are the same age as I am, and I’m still not even 30.