lament

A North American Historical and Contemporary Response to Chinese Boarding Schools 

by Julie and Bill Clark

A full scale genocide is taking place now in Northwest China. Uyghur, Kazakh, Tibetan, and other minority families are being traumatized through the assimilationist policies of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).  These policies include children being forcibly separated from their parents and put in boarding school where they are systematically stripped of their language, culture, and religion. There are estimates of 900,000 children in these schools with a similar number of children in Tibetan regions. However, before we spend the effort to understand the situation in China, it is vital for us, as people of good will in the US and Canada, to examine our own history with Native American boarding schools. 

On May 11, 2022 the US Department of the Interior issued a 106 page comprehensive report on the boarding school era. The era began in 1819 and continued until 1969. The US Federal government was responsible for 408 schools scattered over 37 states. Roughly half of these schools were run by Christian denominations. All the schools had a clear mandate of suppressing the language, culture, and indigenous religion of its students. There are both marked and unmarked burial sites at 53 of these schools. The oral histories of living survivors of these schools are vital for understanding the grief of the children and their families. In this short oral history video, it is possible to see the heartache in the story of Andy Windyboy, a Chipawwa Cree American and a boarding school survivor : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDshQTBh5d4

The Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, herself an enrolled member of the Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico,  goes on to say, “The consequences of federal Indian boarding school policies—including the intergenerational trauma caused by the family separation and cultural eradication inflicted upon generations of children as young as 4 years old—are heartbreaking and undeniable. We continue to see the evidence of this attempt to forcibly assimilate Indigenous people in the disparities that communities face. It is my priority to not only give voice to the survivors and descendants of federal Indian boarding school policies, but also to address the lasting legacies of these policies so Indigenous peoples can continue to grow and heal.” https://nativenewsonline.net/currents/interior-department-releases-indian-boarding-school-report

It is hard to overestimate the power of a US Cabinet official, who is herself Native American, to speak in such clear language acknowledging the genocidal policy of previous administrations. Of note is that 75% of the Canadian schools were run by the Catholic church and 50% of the American schools were run by Catholic and Protestant groups. The church was deeply complicit in an institution that targeted the most vulnerable members of their Native American neighbors, the children. 

The Chinese government spokespersons are already throwing the facts of the historic Native American genocide in our faces, saying we have no moral high ground to criticize their policies towards their indigenous peoples. In this recent China Daily piece the Chinese government spokesperson admonishes the US to heal the trauma caused by the Native American boarding schools: China urges US to adopt serious measures to truly help ethnic minorities get over trauma – People’s Daily Online. Our soul work, as Americans and Canadians, is to first acknowledge our history unflinchingly, and then ask for the Creator’s forgiveness and mercy on us. 

When we acknowledge that we are not innocent then we can advocate with integrity for the children and their families currently suffering under these genocidal policies in China. Survivors of the North American boarding schools say, “the first step of healing is acknowledgement”. Let’s make that healing start together. Below is a prayer of lament we have written to help us get started:

Lament for the Native American Boarding Schools

Creator have mercy on us and hear our prayers

As we become more aware of the sins of our ancestors

Towards the Native Americans of this nation

Help us to acknowledge the harm we have done

Help us to not delay any longer the healing

Native Americans and our nation needs

Creator hear our prayers and have mercy on us

For the harm we have done

For the trauma we have caused to many generations

By forcing Native American children into boarding schools

By trying to erase their language, culture, and religion

We acknowledge and repent of these great wrongs

Forgive us in your great mercy

For snatching children away from their mothers and fathers

From their grandparents and extended families 

From their community and their customs, religion and language

We confess our nation has sinned against Your children

For the physical, sexual, emotional abuse these children endured

For the sickness and deaths that occured

For the generational trauma that continues to this day

Forgive us

Many of these abuses were done in the name of Christ by the church.

We confess we have sinned against these children and families

Using your name

We ask for forgiveness for thinking our English language was better

For thinking our customs and culture was better

For the arrogance we displayed 

For the great harm we have done

We ask for forgiveness

We ask for healing for all those harmed by this practice

Amen

Categories: children, Faith, lament, Peace and Reconciliation, Prayer | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Two Years In

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Two years in

Not normal now 

never will be

Never was

We can’t go back 

Normal was never 

Ever

Normal

For everyone

All we have is

Now

Today

What will we do

With it?

We can’t get our

Dead back

Whether

From disease or

Gun shots

So we must

Grieve and lament

Mental health?

Anyone not 

Been depressed or anxious

Lately?

So we must

Seek peace and community

Two years in

And a million miles away

From what any of us would 

Choose for ourselves, 

Our children

And grandchildren

What choices do we have?

We can choose

Love, kindness, forgiveness 

We can choose a path

Of generosity and peace

We can turn our weapons into

Tools for living, farming, building and

caring for 

One another

It’s time for a new pledge

Not to a flag

But to our Creator

To our common humanity

To the planet we share

A pledge to share our resources

To help those less fortunate 

To make amends

For our wrongs

No more excuses

No more denial

To Restore the earth

To take care of this

Precious planet

We call home

To be makers of peace

Not war

Categories: children, Faith, grief and death, lament, Life, Love, pandemic, Peace and Reconciliation, Poetry, Prayer, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

This War

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Mother’s in labor

Birthing their babies

In the subway stations

Away from the bombs

Exploding above ground

Bombs hitting

Maternity hospitals

Children’s hospitals

The elderly making their way

Across the rubble

Leaning on their canes

The tear streaked cheeks

Of children saying goodbye

To their fathers

Through the train windows

These images

We are seeing

Broken hearts, broken lives

Anger at this waste

Of precious lives

We are angry

I am angry

Trying not to hate

Hate will do no good

For me or those I love

For this world

Already steeped in it

Why this war, this way?

How does this one leader

Live with himself?

Is this how he wants

To be remembered?

The cruelest of tyrants

Inflicting his insanity

On the vulnerable?

Is there a shred 

Of the soul left to appeal to?

To lament and pray for?

He is not the only tyrant

Still alive today

Perhaps, it’s not too late

To hope

To pray

Categories: grief and death, lament, pain, Peace and Reconciliation, Poetry, Prayer | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Ramadan in Memory and Imagination

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In Memory 

I call a few friends

Who used to live in China 

To ask about Ramadan

What foods they shared

For Iftar

And what it meant

It was nutritious and delicious

Huge meals of soup, 

rich and meaty main dishes and

Fresh and dried fruits and nuts

It meant

Love and connection

Solidarity 

With family, friends and neighbors

I find it painful to ask

And painful for them to remember

Since they have left their homeland

Since the lockdown

Since the genocide of their people

They haven’t heard news

Of their families

For too long

They have not heard 

Their voices or their laughter

Or words of hope

That this will end

And life could be normal

And they could celebrate

Ramadan again

With love and connection

Solidarity

With family, friends and neighbors

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In Imagination

(When I lived in a city called Gulja, I remember hearing mothers calling their children to come home. They would sing their names out the doorways or open windows. The children would start making their way home when they heard their names.)

If only I could hear her voice again. She called me from the window, singing my name down the street. The sun had set. I knew it was time to come home and eat the delicious meal she prepared every night for us. I would skip home throwing open the door to find her in her apron serving the food to my father and brother.  She would nudge me to the sink to wash my hands. My father would tussle my hair, my brother would give me a playful punch. We would eat our meal together, savoring the flavors and the love we had for each other. 

In my dreams I hear her calling, singing my name down the street.  I can never find my way home. There is always an ocean to cross or a gate I can’t get through or soldiers blocking my way.

Categories: borderlands, Faith, Hospitality, lament, Love, pain, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who is Waiting for Who

(I came to faith in the 1970’s with the Jesus People, we were sure Jesus was coming back – soon!)

I moan

I groan

I lament

Waiting for you to come

Hoping for you to intervene

To silence evil

To stop oppression

To hear the cry of the poor and needy

When will you 

Remove the evil rulers

When will you come in the clouds

Set things right 

Set up your throne

I long for that day

I long to see your face

In the silence

I hear your invitation

Your call 

To join your work

To speak for the voiceless

To speak and live truth

To feed the hungry

To listen to the oppressed

To push back

Evil, oppression, racism, greed, violence

In my prayers, in my words, in my actions

I realize

I am not the only one waiting

You are waiting for us

© 2020 Julie Clark

Categories: borderlands, Faith, God, Hope, lament, Life, Poetry, Prayer | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Breathe

(This poem written in this intersection of time where people are dying from Covid 19 and dying from police brutality. They can’t breathe.)

Breathe deep

When we can

Because we can.

Remember where our breath comes from

Give thanks.

Remember those

Who cannot breathe.

Remember those

Whose breath has been taken.

Take action

When we can

Because we can.

Categories: Faith, grief and death, lament, Poetry, Prayer | Tags: , | Leave a comment

A Blessing for those Waiting for Justice and Deliverance

A Blessing for those Waiting for Justice and Deliverance

(for those imprisoned in NW China)

In this waiting

Which feels so long, too long

When despair nags at our heels

Bless us with hope, 

Bless us with prayers to pray

With names of precious people we know

And do not know

Names and faces of captives and prisoners

We can hold before you

And honor them and honor you, their creator

Bless the space, the time

Between now and their deliverance

May they know your presence,

Your love, your goodness

May they know you hear

The cry of the afflicted

Even if the cry comes 

Silently from their hearts

Bless them with 

Lifting the heavy burden

With healing their 

Broken bodies

Their broken hearts

Lift their heads

Lift their hearts

To hope, to wait, to know

You are coming

and have not

forgotten them

Categories: borderlands, Faith, God, Hope, lament, pain, Peace and Reconciliation, Poetry, Prayer | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lectio Divina Poem

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Lectio Divina Poem on

Mark 7:24….

Jesus on the move

One place to another

Sent to the lost children 

Of Israel, yet…

Why is he here

Where the Gentiles live?

Like a magnet pulls

He draws the hungry,

The thirsty, the sick

The poor, the desperate

The greater the need

The louder they call

His meal disrupted

A noisy, needy

Foreign woman

With a child

He heard her cry

And turned his attention

Questions and answers

“Even the dogs eat 

The children’s scraps”

For this answer

She is rewarded

Her child is healed

Her faith commended

Do we see these

Women? mothers?

These men, fathers?

They will do anything

To save their child

Do we hear them?

Or do we turn away

From the disruption

And finish our hearty meals?

© 2019 Julie Clark

Categories: Autumn Poems, borderlands, children, Dogs, Faith, God, lament, Peace and Reconciliation, Poetry | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

Locked In and Locked Out

door green closed lock

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(This poem is dedicated to those imprisoned in concentration camps and their families in Northwest China.)

 

What else can I do

But continue to speak up and out

For the ones locked in

And the ones locked out

They are separated from family

From community and their beloved land

From health and safety

Their hearts are tormented

And their bodies are broken

They are in anguish and pain

Can you hear them and lend your voice?

 

What else can I do

But pray and cry out

For the ones locked in

And the ones locked out

For the ones I know and do not know

To ask the One whom death could not hold

Who razor wire and prison gates

Cannot keep out

To walk among these people

Locked in and locked out

To call them by name

To comfort

To give courage

To give hope

To heal

To restore

To lift up

To set free

To rise like the sun

And bring a new day

 

© 2019 Julie Clark

Categories: borderlands, Faith, God, grief and death, Hope, lament, Poetry, Prayer, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Why We are going to the Mosque on Good Friday

art cathedral christ christian

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It is Holy Week. We remember all that Jesus did for us when he went to the cross, died for our sins, was buried, and on the third day rose again. The very depths and heights of our faith. My husband and my calling to follow Jesus in loving those outside our own faith community compels us to go to our local Mosque this Friday night. Don’t get me wrong, I love Good Friday services. The somber reflections of the ultimate sacrifice Christ paid moves me deeply.

 

This friday is especially important that we go to the Mosque. For many years of our adult lives we  have lived in Central Asia, first in Northwest China, then in Kazakhstan. We lived and worked among many different ethnic groups – Chinese, Russian, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, but especially Uyghurs. Our Uyghur friends and neighbors taught us deeply about many things, hospitality, faithful loyalty to family, respect for elders, love of music, dancing and food, to name a few. These very ones who sowed richly into our lives are now struggling for their own lives in their homeland. The government of China is attempting to wipe out their culture and possibly existence by incarcerating over a million people in concentration camps where people are dying daily. They are seperating children from parents and mercilessly controlling every aspect of their lives through extreme measures. We are teaming up with our local Mosque this Good Friday to lend our voices to the voiceless. We are speaking up together to say No to this horrific act of violence.

 

What better way to fight the evil of dehumanization then to join with our Muslim brothers and sisters from around the world. We will not be manipulated into divided camps, but stand together and with one voice cry out to God to deliver the Uyghur people from their oppressors.

Categories: Faith, God, Good Friday, lament, Lent, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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