MAZON Responds to Report Documenting Brutality at Government Schools toward Native American Children

May 11, 2022

Today, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American cabinet secretary in United States history, released a report describing the abuse Native American children suffered at the hands of the U.S. government at more than 400 boarding schools they were forced to attend between 1819 and 1969. These schools employed tactics that were the tools of colonial genocide, engaging in the destruction of Indigenous food systems and weaponizing hunger against children. Leaders from MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger pledged their support for Secretary Haaland’s plan to conduct a listening tour among survivors and their families.

“The appalling treatment of Native American children must never be forgotten, nor is this ancient history,” said Abby J. Leibman, MAZON’s President & CEO. “A majority of U.S. Senators in office right now were alive while their predecessors in Congress oversaw these reprehensible policies. The repercussions of these indignities and atrocities are deeply woven into the fabric of our institutions to this day. I can only hope this report prompts lawmakers to reckon with — and correct — a ruinous legacy of undermining food sovereignty within Tribal communities.”

“Food is meant to be a symbol of prosperity, health, and community, not a tool of oppression, destruction, and genocide,” said Mia Hubbard, MAZON’s Vice President of Programs. “By separating children from their communities and land, our government deliberately cut off the transmission of traditional food knowledge from one generation to the next. The government deprived Indigenous people from learning about traditional foodways, using food to control communities and keep them unwell. That’s why the Indigenous food sovereignty movement is so important — it offers a corrective to the historical and ongoing legacies of colonial policies. This dark era of our history will continue to echo into the future unless lawmakers today follow Secretary Haaland in listening to those who are most impacted, and then translating that into action.”

Last year, MAZON invested nearly $2.5 million in efforts in the U.S. and Israel to stem the tide in persistent food insecurity that was exacerbated by pandemic-related shutdowns, including three grant recipients from Indian Country: the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative of Fayetteville, Arkansas, the Intertribal Agriculture Council, of Billings, Montana, and the Native Food and Nutrition Resource Alliance of Los Alamos, New Mexico. Furthermore, a recent MAZON webinar explored food insecurity in Indian Country and how colonial legacies continue to impose barriers for Tribal communities.