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Evolution of the Indigenous Peoples Task Force

Sharon Day tells us more about her grassroots organization and our Associate Editor Vincent Schilling has more details about his story on India's factory schools

Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe citizen Sharon Day of the Indigenous Peoples Task Force joins us today to talk more about the work this grassroots group does and how they've evolved in their 30 plus years of programming.

Plus Associate Editor of Indian Country Today Vincent Schilling is on the newscast, he'll be giving us more details about on forced assimilation and labor of India's children.

Some quotes from today's show.

Sharon Day:

"Well there were no services, first of all for Native people. And so in 1987 to two Native people Carole LaFavor and my younger brother Mike came to me and said they had AIDS and what was I going to do about it? And at the time I was working for the chemical dependency program division for the state. And so we got together a group of people and we formed a task force and started to educate the community. But I have to say, there was a lot of fear, a lot of denial, similar to what's happening today."

"There was a lot of that. And there were the people who were the most affected. Gay Native men, lesbians, people who were IV drug users. Now, they were already alienated from the community. And so when we started the task force, it was a place for them to reconnect to the community, a place to call home. And it was so sad back in those early days because we lost so many people immediately, some of our most talented artists and people in academia and they were just gone. And so it was a very frightening, very devastating time."

"Because of COVID right now, it's a little bit more difficult, but somebody calls our office and makes an appointment. They come in and we follow all of the safety precautions. It's a little finger prick, it takes seconds. And then you get a result. If the person tests positive, then we're able to get them to see a doctor and into care and treatment right away. So today our HIV program consists of a syringe exchange and counseling and testing. Navigation services, if you're positive also navigation services for the syringe exchange folks, case management and housing navigators. And we have a housing complex. 14 units for people with disabilities. And today we're getting ready to distribute food boxes to many people in our community, our youth, families, our elders, and people who are unsheltered. And so we just continue to try to meet the needs of the community."

Vincent Schilling:

"My wife and I scour social media all the time and things and something had come up about it a year or so ago where we had seen some folks using the hashtag terminology factory schools and saw the connection to Indian students and when I say Indian, I mean from India, young students, it's the terminology of the Indigenous culture in India. And there are about 62 tribes specifically that are called Adivasi, similar to saying Native American people or Adivasi people or the Indigenous kids."

"And these kids are being taken in massive numbers to what they call factory schools or these large schools in India, where they are taken from their tribal territories or Indigenous territories and families to massive schools and taught a kind of structured schooling. And it's getting a lot of criticism for essentially being accused of removing culture, removing language and forcibly teaching other things."

"There was one student who said that after meals, which feed like 30,000 students for each meal, so many kids afterwards were complaining of horrible stomach problems, stomach pains. And even though he was a graduate student, he's like, look, I have the wherewithal to speak up for myself but these young kids don't. And even he said he was treated really condescendingly. And he says here I am, older and I have the ability to say, look, I'm not going to do this. He threw his food away one time and they just read him the riot act. And he was like, wow this is really terrible. He says that a lot of these kids have no choice but to eat what's in front of them because when their families do come and try and visit and they have something special like their berries that they have from their tribes they bring, the instructors were like, give me that. And they were taking it from the students."

Patty Talahongva, Hopi, is executive producer of Indian Country Today. She is also the anchor of the weekday newscast. Follow her on Twitter: @WiteSpider. 

Vincent Schilling, Akwesasne Mohawk, is associate editor of Indian Country Today who enjoys creating media, technology, computers, comics and movies. He is a film critic and writes the #NativeNerd column. Twitter @VinceSchilling. Email: vschilling@indiancountrytoday.com he is also the opinions’ editor, opinion@indincountrytoday.com.

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