Dr. Crystal Lee stopped by New York City today to share Navajo history, culture, and family stories.
Lee, a public health postdoc at UCLA, is also the founder of a nonprofit organization that offers mentoring to young Native students, and she regularly advocates for Native youth and young women at the United Nations.
She prefers to be addressed simply as Crystal.
As part of her presentation, Crystal shared a video from the Montana Historical Society on the legacy of last century’s Indian boarding schools. White Americans literally rounded up Native children around the United States and treated them to a thorough and thoroughly abusive program of “civilization,” or cultural assimilation.
“To change a people, you change their children,” a participant tells the interviewer.
The Native boarding schools were explicitly designed to strip Native children of their languages and cultural customs, to reshape them in the image of White Christian Americans.
From the pronouncement of the Doctrine of Discovery in mid-15th Century Spain clear through the mid-20th Century, the European relationship with Native people in this hemisphere included infection, warfare, and what Lee calls “cultural genocide.”
The Doctrine of Discovery has been institutionalized in law and policy, on national and international levels, and lies at the root of the violations of indigenous peoples’ human rights, both individual and collective.” —Tonya Frichner, Special Rapporteur to the United Nations’ Economic and Social Council
This history can be challenging to digest, and it’s worth watching and sharing with others.