Part Five: Interview with Anishinabe Scholar Elder Carol Hand

outside my window in western Massachusetts
outside my window in western Massachusetts

By Lara/Trace

Hi everyone. Happy Holidays and Welcome to Wintertime. Today is the last chapter of my extended interview with Carol Hand.

The following interview (5 Parts) is with Anishinabe/Ojibwe Elder Carol A. Hand (Voices from the Margins blog) (Professor in Social Work and Sociology, Author, Guest Lecturer). Carol and I have roots in Wisconsin. I’ve been admiring her work and scholarship for quite some time. Please read this entire interview by this extraordinary woman. I am truly humbled and grateful that Carol has agreed to answer questions. Our Elders are to be respected, listened to, and honored, so with that note, let’s read on….and I hope you enjoyed this as much as I have. Learning from our elders is tradition. Learning from all elders is a gift. Telling stories in the winter is tradition, too.

Please tell us about the books you are writing?

Carol Hand:  I am working on two books!

Book One: Indian Child Welfare

My mother, born in 1921 on the Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe reservation in Wisconsin, was a survivor of a Catholic Indian Boarding School. When I was growing up, she only shared a few stories about the years she spent there but it was clear that her treatment there left life-long scars, making her feel inferior to Euro-Americans because she was Ojibwe. Her “teachers” also told her that she was not like other Indians because she was smart and well-behaved, creating a profound sense of alienation from her Ojibwe community. Because she felt inferior and alone, my mother was motivated to succeed in her education and career as a nurse. Although many in the Lac du Flambeau community and elsewhere benefitted from her work and her gentleness, she never felt she really belonged in either world.

It was not my mother’s experience, however, that led me to conduct the study of the Indian child welfare system many decades later on which this book is based. The motivation stemmed from years of trying to overcome policies and practices that undermined the right of Tribal communities to exercise sovereignty over the issues that affected their lives. After serving as the “tribal child welfare training specialist” for a university, it became strikingly clear that Native American children were still disproportionately at risk of removal from their homes and communities. Despite policies that claimed to assert tribal sovereignty over health and children, every detail of state and federal policies was based on Euro-American paradigms. For example, the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA) was passed to end the destruction of tribal cultures by ending the removal of Native children from their families and communities and subsequent placement in Non-Native foster and adoptive homes. In reality, ICWA only granted tribal courts some say in decisions affecting children, and allowed tribal governments an opportunity to place some children who were removed with families on the reservation rather than with Euro-Americans families in other locations. The law did not return total jurisdiction to tribes to design the types of practices they defined as best to promote safe and healthy families. Practices are still largely dictated by federal and state governments.

Shortly after I finished writing about my study (An Ojibwe Perspective on the Welfare of Children: Rescuing Children of Homogenizing America?), I was asked by the director of a child welfare agency if I would be willing to conduct an in-service session on the Indian Child Welfare Act for staff. She added, “They don’t need to know about the law itself – they already know it. They need to know why they should care – why it’s important to follow the law for the sake of Indian children and cultures.” This is what I am trying to do as I transform an academic dissertation study into a book that reads like a story. It’s the only way I can think of to honor the wish of the community members who shared what they lived through and their insights about what would have made a difference in their early lives in order to help others. I posted two draft chapters on my blog to gage readers’ interest and responses. ( , ) As always, I look forward to feedback from any readers who wish to share their feedback and suggestions for the draft chapters I posted.

Book Two: My Mother’s Story

I am also working on expanding the story I complied about my mother’s life. Originally, I wrote it in 2007 when my mother was in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease, living in an assisted-living facility in Minocqua, Wisconsin, more than 1,000 miles away from where I worked at the time. I assembled photos and stories that she had shared with me over the years in hopes it would help her remember who she was. I’m not sure that the stories helped her remember, but the booklet did help the staff and administrators to see my mother as a person worthy of respect. The care she received during the last years of her life by staff was extraordinary. Several draft chapters of this book in process are also posted on my blog. ( , , )

Works Cited:

Carol A. Hand (2003). An Ojibwe Perspective on the Welfare of Children: Rescuing Children of Homogenizing America?). (Doctoral dissertation). Available from ProQuest Dissertation and Thesis database. (UMI No. 3089652)

FOLLOW HER BLOG: Voices from the Margins: [LINK]

Megwetch Carol for your time, writing and wisdom. I am blessed to call you my friend.

Readers: You can read the entire interview here Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4


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