The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 12, 2001


Rick St. Germaine, Ph.D, of Carlisle, will speak on the topic: "The American Indian Struggle for Survival: An Underground Movement to Preserve a Heritage" at the Concord-Carlisle Human Rights Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration at 2 p.m. on January 21 at the First Parish, 20 Lexington Road, Concord. This celebration is free and the public is urged to attend. Refreshments will be served. Below is St. Germaine's description of the thrust of his talk:

"During the early 1900s, the federal government unleashed a series of policy experiments in Indian Affairs to bring to a conclusion the responsibility of caring for the native people in America. Dozens of remote boarding schools were constructed, Indian children were forcefully removed from their homes, and military regime was used to acculturate the young into the dominant society.

"On the Indian reservations, the civil rights of American Indians were denied by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Native religion was banned, tribal languages were outlawed, and marshall law was enforced to regulate community behavior to unreasonable standards.

"Tribal people reacted to the stringent rules by taking their traditional spiritual ceremonies underground. Thousands tried to hide their children from federal Indian agents. School children whispered their languages to one another when dormitory officials were not looking.

"Eventually a backlash of protest reared in the 1960s among younger American Indians who were inspired by the highly visible African American civil rights movement. The American Indian civil right movement in America was engineered by urban Indians with demonstrations and early acts of civil disobedience.

"Today, in western states, tribal languages are languishing and many Indian people have converted to Christianity. But there are steadfast attempts to preserve the heritage of North American tribes. Many schools are now teaching tribal languages as a part of their core curriculum. Tribal ceremonials, pow wows, and spiritual rituals are still actively performed. In 1978, the U.S. Congress passed into law the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. However, despite new laws to halt the harrassment, tribal people continue to conduct their spiritual activities in great secrecy, in remote areas of the country, hidden from the attention of the mainstream society."

Rick St. Germaine, Ph.D., is a Visiting Senior Scholar with the JFK School of Government at Harvard University. A professor of history and education at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, St. Germaine was formerly a tribal government leader of an Ojibwa Indian tribe in northern Wisconsin. Prior to completing his graduate education at Arizona State University, he participated as a civil rights leader in the Indian protest movement in the midwest, California, and Arizona. He is an active member of the Chideweigan Ogitchidasug Society of the western Great Lakes Ojibwa Indians.

2001 The Carlisle Mosquito