Documenting ethnic cleansing in North America: Creating unseen tears
Douglas, Ronald James
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Unseen Tears: The Impact of Native American Residential/Boarding Schools in Western New York addresses unresolved issues stemming from centuries of genocidal policy. Southern Ontario's Mohawk Institute and New York's Thomas Indian School functioned for over a century as a tool of assimilation. Unseen Tears shows testimonials of Haudenosaunee boarding school survivors and their families from both sides of the U.S. Canadian border. Native American families continue to feel the impact of the Thomas Indian School, The Mohawk Institute, and The Carlisle Industrial School. Survivors speak of traumatic separation from their families, abuse, and an assault on their language. Native social service providers and the families of survivors talk of the symptoms; identity problems, alcoholism, and domestic violence, that continue in the wake of a systematic assault on Native American culture. The schools sought to erase indigenous identities and replace them with the values of Anglo-American culture. I discovered, as I searched for material to incorporate into the video, how filmmakers and photographers collaborated with policy makers to assimilate Native Americans. The media produced about residential schools, until recently, was part of a policy of programmatic cultural extermination. The films and photos show what type of citizens the governments of the United States and Canada hoped to mold through the Native American boarding schools. I address how I used this material in Unseen Tears. I discuss the meaning of these works in relation to the larger campaign undertaken by the United States and Canada to assimilate Native people.