Motives at Lake Mohonk | Mahpíya Lúta Red Cloud

“The early leaders of the Indian Rights Association (IRA) had a twofold purpose: to protect the interests and general welfare for the Indians, and to initiate, support, or oppose government legislation and policies designed to ‘civilize’ the American Indian.  By the term ‘civilize,’ the IRA in 1882 meant measures designed to educate, Christianize, make economically independent, and absorb the Indians as individuals into American society.” (Indian Rights Association Papers: A Guide to the Microfilm Edition 1864-1973, 1975, page 1.)

By Lara Trace (still doing historical research) (my Lakota name is Winyan Ohmanisa Waste La ke)

Motives. I do wonder about that.  If I give you something, what will you give me or expect in return.

The Indian Rights Association had a motive.  A big one.  Indians had no right to exist as they had for thousands of years.  Indians were in the way, an impediment to progress and westward expansion.  Back then Indians were supposed to just blend in and disappear.  How convenient.

President Thomas Jefferson, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, December 29, 1813
“This unfortunate race, whom we had been taking so much pains to save and to civilize, have by their unexpected desertion and ferocious barbarities justified extermination and now await our decision on their fate.”

In 1851, the United States paid out more than $1 million in bounties for Indian scalps. (You’d be dead Indians then.)

Dark History…

But the violence didn’t stop with the assassination of tribal chiefs.

“In southern what is now Ohio, (Mohicans) set up an ideal Mohican community near the Pennsylvania border. These people had their own frame houses, picket fences, cattle herds, school houses in their language,” he said. “A hundred miles away, the frontiersmen in a Pennsylvania village decided the Mohicans were hostile.

“Now, these (Mohicans) were fundamentalist Christians, they were Moravian pacifists. The frontiersmen came in upon them suddenly and seized 96 of them and put them in a big barn. And while the Indians sang Christian hymns in their language and prayed for the souls of their captors, they were taken one by one to a blacksmith’s anvil and the Americans smashed their heads in with a maul. All 96 of them,” Wrone said.

For many years I wondered how “they” (presidents and others) came to decide what to do with the Indians, other than collecting scalps of dead Indians or smashing their heads, or massacres, of which there were many.  By the way, the IRA were not friends of the Indians, not even close.

Lake Mohonk, upstate NY where they met

The Lake Mohonk Conference is often where they came up with their plans:

The Lake Mohonk Conference 1883-1916

Wealthy people often feel that they know what is best for poor people.  From 1883 through 1916, a small group of wealthy philanthropists, who referred to themselves as Friends of the Indian, met annually to discuss American Indian policies.  As wealthy men, they had access to Congress, to the President, and to high ranking members of the government.  This meant that their recommendations carried more weight than that of the Indian leaders.**

The idea of having an annual meeting to discuss Indian affairs and then make recommendations to the government was initially the idea of Albert K. Smiley, a member of the Board of Indian Commissioners and a part owner of the Lake Mohonk Lodge (in upstate New York).  The annual meeting took the name of its meeting place and was called the Lake Mohonk Conference.

In general, the conferences envisioned the transformation of Indians from savages to citizens by three means: (1) breaking up the reservations, (2) making Indians citizens and subject to the laws of the states, and (3) education of the young to make them self-reliant.

The men who gathered each year tended to be well educated, financially secure (most were considered wealthy) and had been born into the upper classes of eastern U.S. society.  They often viewed their participation in the conference as a part of their larger Christian obligation to bestow the blessings of Christianity upon all of the under-developed people of the world.  While these reformers were genuinely concerned about justice for Native Americans, they were unremittingly ethnocentric.  To them, the Indian cultures-the tribal languages, values, religion, social models, communal ownership of the land, the aboriginal lifestyle-was an anathema to modern civilization.

The eastern philanthropists who met at Lake Mohonk had rather mystical faith in the value of private ownership.  They felt that private ownership of property had the power to transform the Indians into people more like themselves.  Believing in the sanctity of the private ownership of land, they had little understanding of Indian culture and little concern for the actual living conditions of Indians.

In their 1884 meeting, the Lake Mohonk Conference recommended that Indian education must teach the English language; that it must provide practical industrial training; and that it must be a Christian education.

The following year, Lyman Abbot, a well-known Congregational clergyman, called for the end to the reservation system.  He told the Lake Mohonk Conference:

“It is sometimes said that the Indians occupied this country and that we took it away from them; that the country belonged to them.  This is not true. The Indians did not occupy this land.  A people do not occupy a country simply because they roam over it.”

Like most Americans at this time, he was apparently unaware that Indians had been farmers and had developed their land long before the arrival of the Europeans.

Speaking at the Lake Mohonk Conference in 1886, Philip C. Garret, a member of the executive committee of the Indian Rights Association, called for the destruction of the distinctions between Indians and non-Indians.  This destruction is stopped by treaties and he asked that the treaties be set aside:

“If an act of emancipation will buy them life, manhood, civilization, and Christianity, at the sacrifice of a few chieftain’s feathers, a few worthless bits of parchment, the cohesion of the tribal relation, and the traditions of their races; then, in the name of all that is really worth having, let us shed the few tears necessary to embalm these relics of the past, and have done with them; and, with fraternal cordiality, let us welcome to the bosom of the nation this brother whom we have wronged long enough.”

In 1890, a group of Indian policemen had gone to arrest the Sioux Sitting Bull because of rumors that he had intended to attend the Ghost Dance at the Pine Ridge Reservation.  After a short skirmish, Sitting Bull was killed by Little Eagle (on December 15, 1890).  At the next Lake Mohonk Conference it was reported that all of the policemen were Christian and Sitting Bull was pagan.  According to the Conference:

It was the supreme struggle of Paganism against Christianity, and Paganism went down.  That is the second reason why there is this wonderful progress in this religious movement.

The 1896 Lake Mohonk Conference called for the abolition of the tribal system and for Indians to become citizens.  At this time, many Indians were not citizens and the only way that they could become citizens was to accept an allotment of land and to be eventually deemed “competent” by the Indian agent.

Occasionally, the Friends of the Indians did more than just talk about Indian issues.  In 1902, the Mohonk Lodge was opened in Oklahoma to stimulate the art of the women in the surrounding tribes – primarily Kiowa, Comanche, and Apache.  The store, first proposed by Christian missionaries at the Lake Mohonk Conference, provided the women with hides, beads, paints, and other materials at cost.  When the items were completed, they were sold back to the store to provide the women with cash.  In addition to new art items, some family heirlooms, such as cradles, were also sold to the Mohonk Lodge.

At their 1903 conference at Lake Mohonk in New York, they discussed: (1) the abolition of the Indian Bureau and all Indian agencies; (2) the extinction of all Indian tribal governments; and (3) the division of communal tribal land holdings among individual Indians.

While the philanthropists who met at Lake Mohonk strongly believed in the breaking up of the reservations through the allotment of the tribal lands to individual Indians, most Indians actively opposed allotment.  In 1906, for example, the White River Ute expressed their displeasure with allotment by attempting to leave the reservation.  The army made a strong show of force and “persuaded” them to return to the reservation under military escort.  Speaking about the Ute situation at the Lake Mohonk Conference, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs recommended not feeding them:

“It was not the government’s fault that they took the course they did in order to get into a place where they could live in idleness and eat the bread of charity. If they persist in that course they will be made to understand what the word ‘must’ means.”

His words were met with a round of applause…

Toward the end of its existence, the Lake Mohonk Conference began to turn its attention to the Indian situation in Oklahoma. With allotment and statehood, the tribal governments were now powerless and the utopia envisioned as coming about through privatization had not materialized. Instead, the non-Indians’ greed had no limits.  In 1914, Indian reformer Kate Barnard spoke to the group.  As a result both the Lake Mohonk Conference and the Board of Indian Commissioners began to work for increased federal protection for the Oklahoma tribes.

At the same time, the Lake Mohonk Conference embarked upon an anti-peyote campaign.  They suggested that the federal prohibition of intoxicating liquors be expanded to include peyote.  In this way more sanctions could be brought against the new Indian religious movement without the appearance of suppressing religion.

The last annual meeting of the Lake Mohonk Conference of the Friends of the Indian was held in 1916.  The conference organizer and resort owner, Albert Smiley, had died in 1912.  SOURCE

[[[Toward the end of the nineteenth century, the United States began to break up Indian reservations and open them up for non-Indian settlement. This was formalized with 1887 General Allotment Act (also known as the Dawes Act).  The idea of holding land in common was seen as uncivilized, un-Christian, and a barrier to civilization.  Indians were first encouraged and then required to obtain individual ownership of land.  The idea of owning land in severalty became almost an obsession of the late nineteenth century Christian reformers (such as the IRA).  They were convinced that such a policy would force the Indians to become more American.  Historian Clifford Trafzer, in his introduction to American Indians/American Presidents: A History, reports:  “By dividing tribal reservation lands into small parcels for individual Indians, reformers believed that allotment would imbue Native people with respect for private—rather the tribal—property, and help Indians assimilate into mainstream American culture.”  The result of this policy was to force American Indians into poverty and to create wealth for non-Indians. American capitalists and large corporations acquired Indian resources. LINK]]]

Thomas and Cora Bland with Red Cloud and interpreter named Randall***UPDATE:

I am still working on the paper about (my blood relative/distant cousin) Dr. Thomas Augustus Bland who published the COUNCIL FIRE and ARBITRATOR newsletter for Indians; his subscribers included Sitting Bull and Red Cloud, and other supporters of the Indian cause.  Drs. Thomas and Cora Bland, Alfred B. Meacham and others disagreed strongly with the IRA motives and instead created the National Indian Defense Association (NIDA) formed in 1885.  

Under the Blands guidance, The Council Fire became a much more radical publication meant for Indian people themselves.  Alfred B. Meacham and the Bland’s held to a radical minority position that was essentially in accord with the proposals brought to President Grant in 1869.   

The IRA approach to assimilation was grounded in the ideal of making good citizens of the so-called “undesirable” or “savage” class.  To these “friends of the indians” as a writer for The Council Fire sarcastically called them, “. . . the Indian was an obstacle . . . he must be got out of the way.” [1]

[1] George Manypenny, “How the Delawares Were Disinherited,” The Council Fire 9 (June 1886).

By way of a miracle, back in 2006 I had posted on rootsweb that I was doing research on Dr. Thomas A. Bland, and (SHOCK) on June 11, 2016 (ten years later) I was contacted by Daniel G., who lives in California, who sent me this stunning photo of Cora Bland (back left), Randall, the interpreter (back right), and seated Dr. Thomas Augustus Bland with Oglala Chief Red Cloud.  It is a BIG miracle because Dr. Charles Bland and I had never seen this photo before!

I knew it had to exist and viola, here it is! Dr. Bland did take Red Cloud to meet the Presidents of the United States! (Thank you Daniel)


Lakota chief Red Cloud was an important figure in the 19th century land battle between Native Americans and the U.S. government. He successfully resisted developments of the Bozeman trail through Montana territory, and led the opposition against the development of a road through Wyoming and Montana for two years—a period that came to be known as Red Cloud’s War.  Red Cloud died in South Dakota in 1909.
Born in 1822 in what is now north-central Nebraska, Red Cloud (known in Lakota as Mahpíya Lúta) was an important Native American leader who fought to save his people’s lands.  His parents named him after an unusual weather event.  His mother, Walks as She Thinks, was a member of the Oglala Sioux and his father, Lone Man, was Brule Sioux. When he was around 5 years old, Red Cloud lost his father. Following his father’s death, Red Cloud was raised by his mother’s uncle, an Oglala Sioux leader named Smoke.  At a young age, Red Cloud sought to distinguish himself as a warrior. He demonstrated great bravery in the Oglalas’ battles with other tribes, including the Pawnees….Keep Reading

(Fancy Lake Mohonk Lodge) Finding more common ground with educators and religious leaders, Bishop Whipple lectured at national meetings, especially the Lake Mohonk Conference of Friends of the American Indian in upstate New York, where he met with leaders in the “Indian movement”.  Beginning in 1883, this annual meeting drew together philanthropists, educators, politicians, and others interested in the welfare of American Indians. Decisions made by conferees, who favored the assimilation of American Indians into mainstream society, influenced government policy, shaped the attitudes of many Americans, and drastically effected American Indian communities. New Paltz, NY, 19th Century Voices

(HA– these FRIENDS OF THE INDIANS really? They more like destroyed Indian culture, eroded sovereignty, wrote treaties they broke, created poverty culture, started the residential boarding schools where children died in the thousands, and created Third World death camps called Indian Reservations. With friends like that, who needs enemies?)

As soon as we get our paper done, I’ll post a link… xoxox

In my neck of the woods: Abenaki Captivity Narrative I found interesting here





Burning of the Colored Orphan Asylum, NYC

It’s shocking…Laramie

“Riots in New York: Destruction of the Colored Orphan Asylum,” Illustrated London News, August 15, 1863. Reproduced collection. New-York Historical Society.



Orphans in USA Orphanages (1653-1900)

New York Orphans Records (click)

As early as 1653, New York City (formerly called New Amsterdam) recognized that it needed to care for the city’s minor children, widows, and orphans. In February of that year, the Deacons of the Reformed Dutch Church were appointed to act as Orphan Masters. Their duties were to “keep their eyes open and look as Orphanmasters after widows and orphans…” They were to report to city officials who would appoint cuators if necessary to take care of the estates and effects of these widows and orphaned children.

On February 10, 1653, two men were appointed to act, not as Orphanmasters as originally intended, but as Overseers of Orphans. City officials continued to rule in the Orphan’s Court, which had been created by Stuyvesant to “attend to orphans and minor children within the jurisdiction of this city [New York City]”

The Records of this Orphans’ Court have been published as “Minutes of the Orphan Masters of New Amsterdam 1655-1663” by Berthold Fernow and “The Minutes of the Orphan Masters of New Amsterdam 1663-1668” translated by Edmund B. O’Callaghan. Genealogists can also consult The Records of New Amsterdam : From 1653 to 1674 Anno Domini by Berthold Fernow

There were may orphanages and orphan asylums in the 19th century. I have begun transcribing records for as many of these as possible

Some New York early orphanages were

  • Half Orphan Asylum for Destitute and Abandoned Children
  • Leake and Watts Orphan House
  • Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum (I have been transcribing these records)
  • Hebrew Orphan Asylum, Brooklyn
  • Old Schuler Mansion, Albany
  • Westchester-Temporary Home for Destitute Children in White Plains opened in 1885

Many of these institutions were founded in New York City to care for destitute children of immigrants from Ireland and Russia, Germany and other eastern European countries. Many immigrants found themselves unable to work and thus were unable feed their children. Women died during childbirth leaving a number of uncared for children. Many women also had illegitimate children that they could not provide for. Husbands died, living behind widows with large families. Some parents were addicted to alcohol or committed crimes and wound up in prison.

By 1850, New York state had 27 orphanages run by public and private funds but the problem of orphaned or abandoned children left behind roaming the streets begging for food was growing.

Reform groups and wealthy benefactors set up orphanages in large buildings in lower Manhattan and provided food, clothing and shelter to children. Many were run by churches and there was an emphasis on moral training and discipline. The children also learned vocational skills from mechanics to tailoring.

The Children’s Aid Society, founded in 1854, shipped some of these children to homes in the South and West on Orphan Trains. Boys and girls were give a train ticket and sent to the mid-west. Other charities – the Children’s Mission to the Children of the Destitute (Boston), the New York Juvenile Asylum, the New England Home for Little Wanderers (Boston), and the New York Foundling Hospital also followed the Children’s Aid Society’s example, using Orphan Trains to relocate destititute and abandoned children.

Westchester began housing destitute children in its Almshouse in Eastview. Opened in 1828, the Almshouse cared for impoverished adults and the elderly, and children shared space with them. Dating back to the colonial era, New York City assumed responsibility for its citizens who were destitute, sick, homeless, or otherwise unable to care for themselves. The city maintained an almshouse, various hospitals, and a workhouse on Blackwell’s Island (now called Roosevelt Island) for the poor.

In 1880, New York state passed a law that ended the practice of housing children in Almshouses with adults, unless they were born there.

Orphanage Stenography Graduates 1906Orphanage Stenography Graduates 1906

Photo courtesy of Family Tree Connection.

Choose from the list of Almshouses and Orphanages below:

Before 1850

Almshouse children (orphans) sent to New Netherland (New York) from Amsterdam Holland on the ship De Waegh (The Weigh-House), August 1655 [An Olive Tree Genealogy free database]

Palatine (German) Orphaned Children Apprenticed by Gov. Hunter in New York 1710-1714 [An Olive Tree Genealogy free database]

Almshouse Records New York 1819-1840 [An Olive Tree Genealogy free database]


It’s not an orphanage but I didn’t know where else to put this incredible database – a List of those who died while in Staten Island Quarantine May 1849 – Dec. 1850 [An Olive Tree Genealogy free database]

Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum Rochester, Monroe Co., New York in 1850 [An Olive Tree Genealogy free database]


Almshouse Records New York City 1855-1858 [An Olive Tree Genealogy free database]


Orphans in the Sisters of Charity Orphan Asylum New York City, New York 1860 [An Olive Tree Genealogy free database]

Half-Orphans in the Sisters of Charity Orphan Asylum New York City, New York 1860 [An Olive Tree Genealogy free database]


History of Various Orphan Homes in Board of State Commissioners of Public Charities of the State of New York, 1870; Argus Company, Printers, Albany. transcribed & submitted by Linda Conpenelis Schmidt, July 2007

* Albany Orphan Asylum
* Davenport Female Orphan Asylum, Bath
* Society for the Relief of Half-Orphan and Destitute Children, New York
* Colored Orphan Asylum, New York
* Southern Tier Orphans’ Home, Elmira
* … more orphanage records to come!


Orphans in St. Patrick’s Orphan Asylum Rochester, Monroe County, New York 1880 [An Olive Tree Genealogy free database]

St. Vincent’s Female Orphan Asylum Albany, Albany County, New York 1880 [An Olive Tree Genealogy free database]

St. Patrick’s Male Orphan Asylum Cortlandt, Westchester County, New York 1880 [An Olive Tree Genealogy free database]

Troy Catholic Orphan (Male) Asylum Troy, Rensalaer County New York 1880 [An Olive Tree Genealogy free database]

St. Vincent’s Orphan Protectory (Male) Uitca Oneida County, New York 1880 [An Olive Tree Genealogy free database]

St. Joseph’s Female Orphan Asylum Brooklyn, Kings County New York 1880 [An Olive Tree Genealogy free database]


Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum Manhattan New York 1900 [An Olive Tree Genealogy free database]

Hebrew Orphan Asylum Amsterdam Avenue & 137 Street, Manhattan New York 1900 [An Olive Tree Genealogy free database]

Hebrew Sheltering Guardian Society of New York, Manhattan New York 1900 [An Olive Tree Genealogy free database]

Jewish Home for Children aka Jewish Foster Home and Orphan Asylum of Philadelphia, Church Lane (Mill Street), Philadelphia Pennsylvania, 1900

Orphan Asylum Society Manhattan New York 1900 [An Olive Tree Genealogy free database]

Society for Relief of Half-Orphans & Destitute Children 1900, Manhattan New York [An Olive Tree Genealogy free database]

Albany Orphan Asylum Albany City, New York, Tenth Ward.; 1900 [An Olive Tree Genealogy free database]

Fordham Heights, NY: Catholic Orphan Asylum

Catholic Orphan Asylum, New York:

 “Catholic Orphan Asylum. A New Extensive Site Is Selected on Fordham Heights,” The New York Times (Nov. 22, 1898).

Roman Catholic Orphans’ Asylum – Bronx, NY

Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum, 301 West Kingsbridge Road at Sedgwick Avenue
The Bronx, N.Y. 10468

5th Ave

St. Patrick’s Boys Asylum (Manhattan)
Fifth Avenue at 51st and 52nd Streets (1851-1902)
(c.1851) – Boys’ Chapel
Prince and Mott Streets (1826-1851)

St. Patrick’s Girls Asylum (Manhattan)
461 Madison Avenue at 51st Street (1886-1902) & Prince and Mott Streets (1826-1886)

The Roman Catholic Benevolent Society, established in 1817, was the oldest charitable institution in the Archdiocese of New York. At that time, parentless Catholic children were lost to the faith if they were taken in by Protestant orphan societies. From the beginning, the society was administered by the Sisters of Charity. The first building, located at Prince and Mulberry Streets, opened with 30 inmates, but within a few years was overcrowded. In 1826, a new building was erected on Prince and Mott Streets, but by the 1840s, it, too, was badly overcrowded as was St. Joseph’s Half-Orphan Asylum on West 11th Street. In 1845, Archbishop John Hughes appealed to the city for land on which to build a larger facility, and was offered the entire block between Fifth and Madison Avenues from 51st to 52nd Streets. The deed, signed on August 1, 1846, directed that the rent would be one dollar per year as long as the property was used to house orphans. At that time, Fifth Avenue was not paved and the area was relatively uninhabited. A few years later, in 1852, Archbishop Hughes would purchase the block directly to the south for a new cathedal that was begun in 1858 but not consecrated until 1879.

In 1851, the boys were moved into the new facility on Fifth Avenue. The first building had accommodations for five hundred boys, and a trade school wing, built in 1893, provided accommodations for two hundred more. The girls’ wing, completed in 1870, held eight hundred. There was every facility for religious, moral and social training.

A separate building for girls was built on Madison Avenue. Designed by Renwick & Sands, the five-story building was completed in 1886. At this time, the last of the girls were moved from Prince Street and the old orphanage there was converted into a parish school.

By the 1890s, the midtown area had been developed and land values had increased enormously. Private institutions were enticed to sell their lucrative property and use the proceeds to relocate farther north. Nearby St. Luke’s Protestant Episcopal Hospital, located since 1846 at Fifth Avenue between 53rd and 54th Streets, sold its property and built a new facility on Morningside Heights in 1896. Columbia College, which built a new campus at Madison Avenue and 49th Street in 1857, moved to its present Morningside Heights site in 1897. About that time, a committee was formed to select a new site for the Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum.

In November 1898, the committee met at the Archbishop’s residence and decided to acquire from the Bailey estate a tract of about 28 acres, most of which was between Sedgwick Avenue and the Harlem River in the Fordham Heights section of The Bronx. Located on the highest point in New York City, the site served as a strategic vantage point during the Revolutionary War. In 1847, William H. Bailey, who was partners with P.T. Barnum of the Barnum and Bailey Circus fame, bought 26 acres of land as a country home for his bride. In 1899, the land was purchased for $290,000, and erection of the buildings began. The next year, in 1900, Archbishop Corrigan was given permission by the city and state to sell most of the asylum’s midtown property to developers for $2,100,000, although he retained the Boland Trade School that fronted Madison Avenue for his proposed minor seminary, Cathedral College. The proceeds from the sale paid for the new orphanage in the Bronx and provided a $1 million endowment for the orphans

The new Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum was built atop the summit of the high ridge immediately east of the Harlem River, about 140 to 190 feet above tidewater. There were two buildings—one for boys, the other for girls—besides the old Bailey mansion. Each building was five stories high with a basement, measured 385 long by 50 feet deep, and had two wings 50 feet by 125, and a chapel. The new buildings provided accomodations for 1,600 inmates and were occupied in April, 1902, although they and the grounds were not completed until the next year.

With the passage of the Widows’ Compensation law in 1918, the number of orphans at the asylum was reduced to about 700, which was less than half of the capacity. In 1921, the Archdiocese sold the property to the Treasury Department, who planned to convert the facilities into a a hospital for ex-service patients suffering from mental and nervous disorders, and arranged for the transfer of remaining orphans to other facilities. The purchase was turned over to the newly formed U.S. Veterans’ Bureau by Executive Order on April 20, 1922. By adding several buildings throughout the years, the Bureau made the Bronx hospital the second largest V.A. facility in the nation, with a total of 1,663 beds, and the first veterans hospital in New York City.

More reading:

Jenkins, Stephen. The Story of the Bronx from the Purchase Made by the Dutch from the Indians in 1639 to the Present Day. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1912

The Manhattan Guide – Greater New York Red Book. New York: The Manhattan Guide Company, 1901.

Nelson, George. Organs in the United States and Canada Database. Seattle, Wash.
“St. Patrick’s Day Parade in NY Dedicated to Sisters of Charity,” Vincentian Family News (Feb. 25, 2009).

Shelley, Thomas J. The Bicentennial History of the Archdiocese of New York 1808-2008. Strasbourg: Éditions du Signe, 2007.

“Soldiers to Give Up Polyclinic Hospital for Home in Bronx,” The New York Times (Oct. 6, 1921).


St. John’s Lutheran Orphanage: Cemetery Plots: New York

In Memory of the Orphans

St. John’s Lutheran Orphanage: Cemetery Plots

Saint John Cemetery  is located in Cheektowaga Erie County New York, USA

Brooklyn Orphan Asylum and Angel Guardian Home for Orphans (1914)

From website

More Brooklyn images: HERE

Angel Guardian Home (Brooklyn)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Angel Guardian Home for Little Children in 1914.

The Angel Guardian Home, formerly the Angel Guardian Home for Little Children is a Catholic orphanage in the Bay Ridge area of Brooklyn, New York.


The Angel Guardian Home for Little Children was started in 1899[1] by the Sisters of Mercy,[2] as a sister facility to the order’s other New York orphanage, St. Mary’s of the Angels Home, which had opened five years earlier in Syosset, New York.[3]

The Angel Guardian Home, on 12th Avenue and 64th Street in Brooklyn, served as a further extension of the Convent of Mercy, which was then at 237 Willougby Avenue, and had been taking in orphans since 1863. The first child intakes of the Angel Guardian home were 60 young girls aged two to five. In 1903, the Home began accepting young boys as well, and in 1906, a nursery was built so the Home could begin accepting infants. In 1906 the Angel Guardian Home also began foster care placements for their residents. In 1946, a formal adoption program was started. In 1975, the Home opened its first off-site group residence home for teenage mothers and their children.[4]

In 2003, the administrations of Angel Guardian Home and St. Mary’s of the Angels Home merged to form the MercyFirst network of agencies.


In 1977, New York City Comptroller Harrison Goldin performed an audit of New York City’s private foster-care agencies based on a random sampling of five, of which the Angel Guardian Home was one, and issued a stinging report summarizing the findings, alleging that the agencies were essentially warehousing children, and making little if any effort to find permanent homes for them. The report, titled “The Children Are Waiting: The Failure to Achieve Permanent Homes for Foster Children in New York City”, detailed how none of the five foster-care agencies, including Angel Guardian, provided services to biological parents to reclaim their children after they had been placed in foster custody, none put children up for adoption in a reasonable time frame after they had been legally certified as adoptable, and none made prompt moves to have children certified as adoptable even though they had been obviously abandoned by their parents, in some cases for years.[5]

In the 1990s, other criticisms surfaced that the Angel Guardian Home was indifferent to the individual needs of children in its custody. Dorothy E. Roberts, professor at Northwestern University School of Law, detailed a case of Gladys S., who had had her five children taken into foster care for reasons of poverty, only met with opposition and hostility when she attempted to fulfill the testing obligations required for her to reclaim her children from foster care at Angel Guardian.[6]


  1. Roberts, Dorothy E. (2002). Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare. New York City: Basic Books. p. 152. ISBN 978-0-465-07059-6. OCLC 47696562. – official website

Orphan Trains: Minnesota


A carload of babies for adoption by Catholic families in the West was sent out last week from an Orphan Asylum conducted by the Sisters of Charity in New York.  Forty-five of the sixty-five babies found foster parents in Minnesota.  The ease in which suitable orphans speaks volumes for the charity of our people.  It shows that there are many Catholic families in the state willing to adopt children, and give them all the  advantages of a home.
While we have no intention of discouraging those who may be planning to take a child from the Orphans Home, we suggest that, before communicating with those in charge, they assure themselves that they cannot be supplied with one nearer home.
In St Paul and Minneapolis, for example, there are three orphan asylums conducted by Sisters, and in other towns of the state there are Catholic children who have been deprived of their natural guardians.  Very often it happens that these institutions have boys and girls for whom suitable homes in Catholic families are desired and there is no reason why preference should not be given to them by the Catholics of Minnesota and of the Northwest.  Even if the dioceasan orphanages cannot supply the demand made upon them by families anxious to adopt children, it does not necessarily follow that applications must be made to orphanages in the East.
Frequently priests and others who are interested in social work know of children for whom suitable homes are desired, and they would be glad to get in touch with people who may wish to adopt a child.   If your pastor cannot help you in this matter, why not make an application to the City Missionary of St Paul or Minneapolis who may be
able to help you in this matter. Write to the Rev. L.F. Ryan, 239 Selby Avenue
St Paul, Minnesota or to the Rev. M.A. McGrath, 1623 Laurel Avenue, Minneapolis, Minnesota – who will gladly aid you in your laudable and charitable purpose.

St Cloud Visitor
Sept 27, 1979
Peterson, the child of a Norwegian mother and came to Minnesota in an
Orphan Train in 1912, the year she was born.  Her new parents were Mary and
John Bieganek of Polish descent.  They brought her into their home as their ninth
child, but her new mother These Minnesota Reunions began through the efforts of two orphans: Mrs Mary Buscher of Breckenridge and Mrs. J.B. Lenzmeier of Wahpeton North Dakota, who discovered each other Sister Justina was born Edith Peterson, the child of a Norwegian mother and came to Minnesota in an Orphan Train in 1912,
the year she was born.  Her new parents were Mary and John Bieganek of Polish
descent.  They brought her into their home as their ninth child, but her new mother These Minnesota Reunions began through the efforts of two orphans:
Mrs Mary Buscher of Breckenridge and Mrs. J.B. Lenzmeier of Wahpeton North
Dakota, who discovered each other through an article in a local newspaper.
They were able to make contact with a few others and to begin the yearly meetings which have grown each year as more of the orphans become aware of the organization.
Guy DeLeo came for the first time this year, only learning about the group a
week before the reunion.  Many want to get together more often than once a year.
Mrs. Carmella Keaveny, the parish housekeeper for Father Robert Schmainda in Tintah, Minn., has invited the orphans to come to Tintah on October 28 for a day together, which will begin with 10:30 Mass.  She will be assisted by Father Schmainda’s mother from Avon Minn., who is also an orphan from New York Foundling Hospital.  All “Orphan
Train” orphans are invited to attend whether or not they have ever been to a meeting before.

Helen Schmainda is the orphan and mother of
Father Schmainda

By Anna Remper – Daily News Intern – Daily News, Wahpeton, ND  August 3, 2009
A train whistle blowing to most people may be a disturbance, but for a rider on the
Orphan Train it can resurface personal memories.
Jeanne Putnam, an aftercare coordinator at Joseph Vertin and Sons Funeral
Home, said whenever her mother heard a train whistle, she  felt like she had to
get on the train.  Putnam’s mother, Carmella Keaveny, nee Schend, was a rider
on the Orphan Train.
“We were talking about adoption one day at work and I brought up the Orphan
Train and almost no one had heard of it,” Putnam said.
Countless trains carried orphaned children from New York and Boston across
forty-seven states and Canada between the years of 1854 and 1929.  An
estimated 200,000 orphans were “placed out” during the Orphan Train Movement.
Carmella Keaveny was born Carmela Caputo to a 30-year-old Italian immigrant
in New York City in 1912. The actual date of her birth was never clarified, some
documents read April 6 and others read April 16, said Putnam.
“She never knew which day was her birthday so we had two birthdays for her,”
Putnam said.
Carmella’s biological mother left her in the care of what is known as the New
York Foundling Hospital (NYFH), just ten days after birth.  The Sisters of Charity of
St. Vincent ran the NYFH and placed the children into Catholic families.
It was customary for a priest from the NYFH to visit Catholic communities before
the arrival of the train and scout the interest of families adopting another child.  In
1914 a NYFH priest visited St. Gall’s Catholic Church in Tintah, Minn and was put
in contact with a couple, Peter and Mary Schend, who had lost their baby not long
after their marriage.  When Carmella arrived on June 14, 1914, it became an
occasion for the whole town.
“The whole town was at the train station for my mother’s arrival.  She was
two-and-a-half years old when she made the journey from New York to Tintah,”
Putnam said.  ‘She was so sick when she arrived.  She had contracted
pneumonia on the train.”
One of the first members of the community who came to congratulate the
Schend’s was  Ellen Keaveny, who later became Carmella’s mother-in-law.
Although Carmella was placed in the Schend home in 1914 she wasn’t legally
adopted until Dec. 9, 1922, said Putnam.  An agent from the NYFH would perform
follow up visits to check on the family to ensure the welfare of the placed child.
“There were so many children on the trains, it’s hard to believe all of these visits
happened,” Putnam said.
Carmella began her education at the local Catholic school and went on to be a
teacher.  Not all of the children were placed in homes that were concerned about
“My mother knew she was fortunate to be in such a loving home.   Some of the
older children were selected by families because they could work on the farm,”
Putnam said.
Later; Carmella with the help of two other Orphan Train survivors, Mary Buscher
and Marie Lenzmeier, started the Orphan Train Reunion. The event still goes on
today in Little Falls, Minn. “We go every year, the children of the survivors are
taking over the reunions.”
One fellow survivor, 96 year old Sister Justina Bieganek, annually hosts the
In 1933 Carmella married Ray Keaveny and continued to live in Tinah.
Carmella Keaveny’s memories of the Orphan Train are also documented in a
book, “By Train They Came”, by Charlotte Endorf and Sarah M. Endorf.

Star Tribune July 31, 1994 | Variety

Desperate families put kids on Orphan Trains
Q: I understand that for several years trains from New York carrying orphans would stop at various Minnesota towns where couples would pick out children to take home and raise.  I was told that the term “up for adoption” came from the practice of putting the children up on the station platform for the prospective parents to view.  Why did this happen?  Who ran these  trains and what happened to these adopted children?
A: The Orphan Trains, as they were called, ran from 1854 to 1929.

One of those Orphan Train riders, now a nun at St Francis Convent in Little Falls, Sister Justina Bieganek, O.S.B., writes of this time and provided the following story.
Conflict in Europe in the mid-1800’s caused many families to come to the United States.  Lax immigration laws allowed people to pour into New York, where there was a lack of adequate housing, few jobs, poor medical care and no family to help. Many families were in desperate situations.  Times were hard, food sparse and communication among nationalities difficult.  Crime was uncontrollable. When disease, hunger, overwork, and later World War I, took their toll on these new Americans, many children became  orphans and went to the streets. One report estimates that 10,000 homeless children roamed the streets of New York in the late 1800’s. In 1853, Charles Brace, a minister and social work in New York, co founded the Children’s Aid Society, hoping to take children off the streets and into homes out West.
Children filled train coaches, which took them to wherever anyone would accept them.  No previous arrangements were made, so children weren’t guaranteed a home by the end of this journey.
The selection of a child was not a legal adoption.  Instead, it was a non-legal agreement that the child would work in exchange for an upbringing in a family environment until he or she was of age.  In that way, people in Minnesota and other Midwestern states, became the sponsors, employers and foster parents of this homeless throng.
Infants were special cases.  The Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, who ran a hospital and orphanage for abandoned infants, chartered several baby trains.
During this time, infants were abandoned everywhere – in alleys,  church pews or doorsteps.  The fortunate ones ended up in warehouse-like orphanages.   In one year,  more than 200 foundlings and 100 dead infants were discovered on New York pavements.
Notes were found pinned on some of the babies, for example, “This is the child of Mrs. Sheridan, who was murdered by her husband,” but most abandoned infants had nothing to identify them.
There was a placement program for infants.  Numbers were assigned to willing parents, and when the trains arrived, the nurses on board would bring the babies, who had corresponding numbers stitched to their clothes, out on the platform where numbers were matched.  The clergy arranged these “adoptions.”
How each child fared in the new environment depended on many factors, including the attitude of the adoptive families and the child’s ability to adjust.
Some children were treated like slaves or pariahs, but others were given love and were made family members.
Scholars have concluded that the outcome for most of the children was better than if they had stayed in New York.  Their findings show that about 87 percent fared well, 8 percent were returned and 5 percent were arrested, ran away or died.
Eventually, federal and state governments intervened with compulsory education, child labor restrictions and foster care.  The last Orphan Train made its run in 1929.
Since then, the one-time orphans have organized yearly reunions in Minnesota.  This year’s OrphanTrain Reunion will be Sept 8 and 9 at the Holiday Inn in Alexandria.  For more information, call Bieganek at 218-632-2981 or Mary Buscher in Breckenridge, Minn, 1-218-643-4926.

Lost Sparrow solves mystery but leaves wounds exposed


lost sparrow
Four Native American children adopted by the Billing family

I think of this important documentary LOST SPARROW all the time and wanted to share the links with you again. The earlier review I wrote is on this blog here and I’ve included it in TWO WORLDS: Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects.

Review by Lara/Trace

On November 16, 2010, the documentary “Lost Sparrow” premiered on PBS Independent Lens.  Based on a true incident in 1978, two Crow Indian brothers (both adoptees) ran away from home and were found dead on railroad tracks the next day. Chris Billing’s film takes a closer look at what killed these two boys and what truth shattered his entire family.

The filmmaker is one of four biological children. His parents adopted six, with four of them from the Crow tribe. Billing was 16 when the boys died. The family buries them in New York and moves on with their lives. His parents eventually divorce.

The filmmaker narrates how his little brothers Bobby (13) and Tyler (11) were trying to help their sister Lana (who is also Crow). Lana told her brothers she was being sexually molested by their adoptive father. The two boys were going to Montana to get help. They knew who they were and knew their tribe.

As the film unfolds, Billings’ story becomes more about the despondent quiet Lana, and how she didn’t survive the sexual abuse or find peace after her brother’s heroic gesture and unfortunate deaths.  Lana runs far away from the adopters to North Carolina. Her pain is so deep the alcohol abuse seems the only antidote she can afford.

There are no signs of wealth where Lana lives; unlike the Billings and their homes in New Jersey and the summer mansion in upstate New York. Journalist-turned-filmmaker Chris Billing said it took three years to make the film. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Billing, agree to see Lana on film but neither managed an appropriate response to her troubled past. Dysfunctional denial, which Mr. Billing’s exhibited while filming, seems inappropriate and not an apology, considering the facts revealed during the course of filming. The man at the center of the conflict, the adoptive father, an all-controlling philanderer, rich businessman, acts like nothing happened, like he did nothing wrong. What you hope is he was charged as a pedophile and sent to prison. This didn’t happen.

What does happen is the filmmaker and his siblings repatriate the two boys to the Crow tribe and have them interned on tribal land.

Chris films the boys’ father and tribal family who knew the boys were adopted by a rich East coast family but could do nothing to stop the adoption. Their grief leaves the viewer tormented. After revealing the entire truth, the filmmaker said it did little to bond their family or cure old wounds, “If it was good for Lana, then making the film was worth it.”

Wounds this egregious and deep are not healed by a 78-minute film.

From the Lost Sparrow PR:  On June 27, 1978, a 44-car Conrail freight train struck and killed two Crow Indian brothers near the town of Little Falls, New York — a day after Bobby, 13, and Tyler, 11, had disappeared. The two boys had run away without warning from the white, Baptist family that had adopted them and their biological sisters seven years earlier, spiriting them from a troubled Montana reservation family to an idyllic Victorian castle across the country. Lost Sparrow recounts award-winning filmmaker Chris Billing’s investigation, three decades later, into the dark family secret that prompted his adopted brothers to flee.

Trace A. DeMeyer (Lara) is the author of One Small Sacrifice and Two Worlds: Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects… She lives in Massachusetts.


before woodstock

English: Old Cahokia Courthouse, Cahokia, Illinois
English: Old Cahokia Courthouse, Cahokia, Illinois (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is not a town in upstate New York that achieved immortality with a rock festival. It is not a town in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley that achieved immortality when its Lutheran minister threw off his robe to reveal a Continental officer’s uniform.  This Woodstock is located just south of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Metropolitan Atlanta.  It achieved immortality by giving its name to a Native American culture that folks just can’t quite figure out….

The artifacts that Caldwell uncovered at a Native village site on the Little River did not match any known prehistoric culture. The rectangular houses encircled a round plaza. There was no evidence of any mound. These people were serious corn farmers, but the village seemed to be as old as or older than Cahokia, Illinois, which was then assumed to be the first place where Native Americans grew Indian corn and beans.

The village had a timber palisade along its periphery. Invention of radiocarbon dating would not occur until 1949. Two years after the archaeologists were finished at Lake Allatoona.  Caldwell didn’t realize it at the time, but he had discovered the oldest known palisaded community in North America.  Some of the Woodland Period towns in the Southeast were quite large and contained huge mounds, but they were not fortified with timber palisades and gates.

Iran calls on int’l community to combat human trafficking

Iran’s Deputy Ambassador to the UN Gholam-Hossein Dehqani

Iran’s Deputy Ambassador to the UN Gholam-Hossein Dehqani
Wed May 15, 2013

Iran has a 900-kilometer border with Afghanistan and has frequently been used as the main conduit for the smuggling of Afghan drugs to narcotics kingpins in Europe.

The Islamic Republic has spent more than USD 700 million to seal the borders and prevent the transit of narcotics destined for European, Arab and Central Asian countries.”

An Iranian UN envoy has called on the international community to take effective measures against different types of smuggling, particularly human trafficking. Addressing a UN General Assembly meeting on human trafficking in New York on May 14, Iran’s Deputy Ambassador to the world body Gholam-Hossein Dehqani underlined the necessity to support the victims of human trafficking, especially women and children.
He expressed Iran’s misgivings over the increasing number of people who fall prey to the international gangs involved in the smuggling of body organs.
Poverty, unemployment, discrimination, a lack of social and economic opportunities, and global financial crises are among the factors making individuals vulnerable to human trafficking, Dehqani said, urging the international community to address the issue.
He further stressed the responsibility of wealthy countries in that regard.
Elsewhere in his remarks, the top diplomat pointed to the measures adopted by Iran in fighting human trafficking, saying Iranian police have dismantled dozens of international human smuggling rings in recent months alone.
Iran is determined to fight drug trafficking, he underlined.
Iran has a 900-kilometer border with Afghanistan and has frequently been used as the main conduit for the smuggling of Afghan drugs to narcotics kingpins in Europe.
The Islamic Republic has spent more than USD 700 million to seal the borders and prevent the transit of narcotics destined for European, Arab and Central Asian countries.
The war on drug trade originating from Afghanistan has claimed the lives of nearly 4,000 Iranian police officers over the past 33 years.

Amerika Is Addicted And Dependent On Slavery: 62,000 prison inmates


285265_331941813589240_296081482_n+ Midyear 2009 Incarceration Rates by Race and...

The prison industry in the United States: big business or a new form of slavery?

by Vicky Pelaez

Human rights organizations, as well as political and social ones, are condemning what they are calling a new form of inhumane exploitation in the United States, where they say a prison population of up to 2 million – mostly Black and Hispanic – are working for various industries for a pittance. For the tycoons who have invested in the prison industry, it has been like finding a pot of gold. They don’t have to worry about strikes or paying unemployment insurance, vacations or comp time. All of their workers are full-time, and never arrive late or are absent because of family problems; moreover, if they don’t like the pay of 25 cents an hour and refuse to work, they are locked up in isolation cells.

There are approximately 2 million inmates in state, federal and private prisons throughout the country. According to California Prison Focus, “no other society in human history has imprisoned so many of its own citizens.” The figures show that the United States has locked up more people than any other country: a half million more than China, which has a population five times greater than the U.S. Statistics reveal that the United States holds 25% of the world’s prison population, but only 5% of the world’s people. From less than 300,000 inmates in 1972, the jail population grew to 2 million by the year 2000. In 1990 it was one million. Ten years ago there were only five private prisons in the country, with a population of 2,000 inmates; now, there are 100, with 62,000 inmates. It is expected that by the coming decade, the number will hit 360,000, according to reports.

What has happened over the last 10 years? Why are there so many prisoners? “The private contracting of prisoners for work fosters incentives to lock people up. Prisons depend on this income. Corporate stockholders who make money off prisoners’ work lobby for longer sentences, in order to expand their workforce. The system feeds itself,” says a study by the Progressive Labor Party, which accuses the prison industry of being “an imitation of Nazi Germany with respect to forced slave labor and concentration camps.” The prison industry complex is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States and its investors are on Wall Street. “This multimillion-dollar industry has its own trade exhibitions, conventions, websites, and mail-order/Internet catalogs. It also has direct advertising campaigns, architecture companies, construction companies, investment houses on Wall Street, plumbing supply companies, food supply companies, armed security, and padded cells in a large variety of colors.”

According to the Left Business Observer, the federal prison industry produces 100% of all military helmets, ammunition belts, bullet-proof vests, ID tags, shirts, pants, tents, bags, and canteens. Along with war supplies, prison workers supply 98% of the entire market for equipment assembly services; 93% of paints and paintbrushes; 92% of stove assembly; 46% of body armor; 36% of home appliances; 30% of headphones/microphones/speakers; and 21% of office furniture. Airplane parts, medical supplies, and much more: prisoners are even raising seeing-eye dogs for blind people.


According to reports by human rights organizations, these are the factors that increase the profit potential for those who invest in the prison industry complex:

  •  Jailing persons convicted of non-violent crimes, and long prison sentences for possession of microscopic quantities of illegal drugs. Federal law stipulates five years’ imprisonment without possibility of parole for possession of 5 grams of crack or 3.5 ounces of heroin, and 10 years for possession of less than 2 ounces of rock-cocaine or crack. A sentence of 5 years for cocaine powder requires possession of 500 grams – 100 times more than the quantity of rock cocaine for the same sentence. Most of those who use cocaine powder are white, middle-class or rich people, while mostly Blacks and Latinos use rock cocaine. In Texas, a person may be sentenced for up to two years’ imprisonment for possessing 4 ounces of marijuana. Here in New York, the 1973 Nelson Rockefeller anti-drug law provides for a mandatory prison sentence of 15 years to life for possession of 4 ounces of any illegal drug.
  • The passage in 13 states of the “three strikes” laws (life in prison after being convicted of three felonies), made it necessary to build 20 new federal prisons. One of the most disturbing cases resulting from this measure was that of a prisoner who for stealing a car and two bicycles received three 25-year sentences.
  • Longer sentences.
  • The passage of laws that require minimum sentencing, without regard for circumstances.
  • A large expansion of work by prisoners creating profits that motivate the incarceration of more people for longer periods of time.
  • More punishment of prisoners, so as to lengthen their sentences.


Prison labor has its roots in slavery. After the 1861-1865 Civil War, a system of “hiring out prisoners” was introduced in order to continue the slavery tradition. Freed slaves were charged with not carrying out their sharecropping commitments (cultivating someone else’s land in exchange for part of the harvest) or petty thievery – which were almost never proven – and were then “hired out” for cotton picking, working in mines and building railroads. From 1870 until 1910 in the state of Georgia, 88% of hired-out convicts were Black. In Alabama, 93% of “hired-out” miners were Black. In Mississippi, a huge prison farm similar to the old slave plantations replaced the system of hiring out convicts. The notorious Parchman plantation existed until 1972. During the post-Civil War period, Jim Crow racial segregation laws were imposed on every state, with legal segregation in schools, housing, marriages and many other aspects of daily life. “Today, a new set of markedly racist laws is imposing slave labor and sweatshops on the criminal justice system, now known as the prison industry complex,” comments the Left Business Observer.

Who is investing?

At least 37 states have legalized the contracting of prison labor by private corporations that mount their operations inside state prisons. The list of such companies contains the cream of U.S. corporate society: IBM, Boeing, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Wireless, Texas Instrument, Dell, Compaq, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, Nortel, Lucent Technologies, 3Com, Intel, Northern Telecom, TWA, Nordstrom’s, Revlon, Macy’s, Pierre Cardin, Target Stores, and many more. All of these businesses are excited about the economic boom generation by prison labor. Just between 1980 and 1994, profits went up from $392 million to $1.31 billion. Inmates in state penitentiaries generally receive the minimum wage for their work, but not all; in Colorado, they get about $2 per hour, well under the minimum. And in privately-run prisons, they receive as little as 17 cents per hour for a maximum of six hours a day, the equivalent of $20 per month. The highest-paying private prison is CCA in Tennessee, where prisoners receive 50 cents per hour for what they call “highly skilled positions.” At those rates, it is no surprise that inmates find the pay in federal prisons to be very generous. There, they can earn $1.25 an hour and work eight hours a day, and sometimes overtime. They can send home $200-$300 per month. Thanks to prison labor, the United States is once again an attractive location for investment in work that was designed for Third World labor markets.

A company that operated a maquiladora (assembly plant in Mexico near the border) closed down its operations there and relocated to San Quentin State Prison in California. In Texas, a factory fired its 150 workers and contracted the services of prisoner-workers from the private Lockhart Texas prison, where circuit boards are assembled for companies like IBM and Compaq. [Former] Oregon State Representative Kevin Mannix recently urged Nike to cut its production in Indonesia and bring it to his state, telling the shoe manufacturer that “there won’t be any transportation costs; we’re offering you competitive prison labor (here).”


The prison privatization boom began in the 1980s, under the governments of Ronald Reagan and Bush Sr., but reached its height in 1990 under William Clinton, when Wall Street stocks were selling like hotcakes. Clinton’s program for cutting the federal workforce resulted in the Justice Departments contracting of private prison corporations for the incarceration of undocumented workers and high-security inmates. Private prisons are the biggest business in the prison industry complex. About 18 corporations guard 10,000 prisoners in 27 states. The two largest are Correctional Corporation of America (CCA) and Wackenhut, which together control 75%. Private prisons receive a guaranteed amount of money for each prisoner, independent of what it costs to maintain each one. According to Russell Boraas, a private prison administrator in Virginia, “the secret to low operating costs is having a minimal number of guards for the maximum number of prisoners.” The CCA has an ultra-modern prison in Lawrenceville, Virginia, where five guards on dayshift and two at night watch over 750 prisoners. In these prisons, inmates may get their sentences reduced for “good behavior,” but for any infraction, they get 30 days added – which means more profits for CCA. According to a study of New Mexico prisons, it was found that CCA inmates lost “good behavior time” at a rate eight times higher than those in state prisons.




Native American Rights Fund: Native Prisoners Study (pdf):

Coming Out of the Shadows in Union Square

Aura Bogado on March 29, 2013

Francisco Gutierrez speaks at Union Square, March 28, 2013. (Photo: Aura Bogado)

One by one, some twenty people—mostly youth—stood under a canopy of butterflies in front of the George Washington statue in New York’s Union Square yesterday, and came out as undocumented. Despite some rain, their allies in the crowd gathered for the fourth annual Coming Out of the Shadows event, a nationwide, month-long push to create a space for people to share their stories with one another. The event took place as undocumented youth have also taken to the internet this week, generating critical conversations about representation in the media, the arts and activism.

On Tuesday, Angy Rivera, the person behind the first and only advice column for undocumented youth, AskAngy, countered artist Faviana Rodriguez’s popular “Migration is Beautiful” image. On her Tumblr, Rivera stated she wasn’t criticizing Rodriguez’s art in general, but that certain narratives “romanticize immigration,” and that there is nothing beautiful about the circumstances that undocumented people face daily.

On Thursday, the Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project (QUIP), an arm of United We Dream, demanded an apology from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). QUIP’s Jerssay Arredondo says he was invited by HRC to speak at the demonstration in front of the Supreme Court this week to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act—but that his speech was censured when he was told by HRC not to reveal his undocumented status. HRC did not respond to a request for an interview about the matter.

Prerna Lal and Tania Unzueta published a piece in The Huffington Post on Thursday, responding to Frank Sharry’s recent essay in The Washington Post. Sharry, a longtime immigrant rights activist who founded America’s Voice, wrote that the immigrant movement was modeled after the mainstream LGBT movement. Lal and Unzueta, however, point out that Sharry’s essay “marginalizes the work and existence of queer immigrants.” The two provide a detailed outline of the ways in which queer undocumented youth have created spaces in which to come out of the shadows—even when their actions were rejected by mainstream activists and politicians.

Undocumented people spoke one by one yesterday, and each story was unique. Some proudly grabbed the megaphone and spoke out about the liberation they felt identifying as undocumented. Others were more timid, fighting tears and nervousness through their stories of depression and suicidal thoughts, brought on by their undocumented status. All garnered the audience’s unwavering understanding and support.

As the muggy sky began to darken on Union Square, 21-year-old Francisco Gutierrez took to the makeshift stage and shared his story. He explained his frustration and embarrassment upon learning he was undocumented when he realized he had no Social Security number with which to apply for a summer course while attended high school in Brooklyn. With the guidance of his school’s counselor, Gutierrez applied and was accepted at Georgetown, where he’s now a senior and continues to work around immigrant rights. Gutierrez explained that as difficult as it was for him to come out as undocumented some years ago, he also came out as gay to his parents last year. “It is in our collective stories that we can make a difference,” Gutierrez told the cheering crowd.

Sonia Guinansaca, who works with the New York State Youth Leadership Council, coordinated yesterday’s event, part of the nationwide call put forward by the Immigrant Youth Justice League. Guinansaca, 23, says that people like Gutierrez and others are deconstructing narratives created by media makers, artists, activists and politicians who are not undocumented. “We are the ones who are experts,” she explained, “because we are the ones who are going through it.”

Read Nan Hunter’s latest update on marriage equality at the Supreme Court.

To Brooklyn and Back: A Mohawk Journey

MOHAWKIn parallel stories, Mohawk filmmaker Reaghan Tarbell follows the steps of her late grandmother and interviews Mohawk women who helped build Little Caughnawaga, the legendary Mohawk ironworking community that lived in Brooklyn in the mid 1900s.

Program Length: 57 minutes $29.95
Production Staff: Reaghan Tarbell (Mohawk), Paul Rickard (Omuskego Cree) & George Hargrove
Production Company: Mushkeg Productions
Format: DVD
Website for To Brooklyn and Back
Additional Resources: Viewer Guide
Public Broadcast Release: November 2009, Closed Captioning Included

For over 50 years, the Kahnawake Mohawks of Quebec, Canada occupied a 10 square block hub in the North Gowanus section of Brooklyn, which became known as Little Caughnawaga. The men, skilled ironworkers, came to New York in search of work and brought their wives, children and often, extended family with them.

Little Caughnawaga: To Brooklyn and Back is the personal story of Mohawk filmmaker Reaghan Tarbell from Kahnawake, Quebec as she explores her roots and traces the connections of her family to the once legendary Mohawk community through the stories of the women who lived there.

To order:

#Human trafficking in NY: The rescue of a Pinay nanny

By CRISTINA DC PASTOR, The FilAm February 1, 2013

Rina Hernandez was grateful to October superstorm Sandy. Somewhat.
If not for the widespread destruction and chaos the hurricane brought on Staten Island, this nanny would not be able to plan her escape from her allegedly abusive Egyptian employers.
“Nagpapasalamat po talaga ako sa Sandy,” Rina, 52, told reporters at a press conference arranged by the Filipino American Legal and Education Defense Fund (Faldef).
Rina, a school teacher in Qatar for six years, found herself working as a nanny for the family of an Egyptian businessman in New York. “Sino po ba ayaw mag-trabaho sa New York,” she explained to The FilAm why she left a decent teaching job in the Middle East working with school children.
In Staten Island, where the family settled, she looked after six children and worked long hours with very little sleep and food. Her passport was held by the Egyptian housewife, and she and two other Filipino maids lived reportedly in deplorable conditions.