The Stolen

by Dave Schuler on April 20, 2014

Doris Pilkington Garimara, who wrote the book, Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence which inspired the movie Rabbit-Proof Fence, has died:

When she was 4, Doris Pilkington Garimara was uprooted from her home in western Australia and sent to a camp for “half-caste” aboriginals, where she grew up believing she had been abandoned and forgotten by her mother.

Decades passed before she learned the full story – one that would not only answer painful questions about her past but help Australians understand one of the ugliest chapters in theirs.

Pilkington Garimara and her mother belonged to “the stolen generations”—the estimated 100,000 children of mixed aboriginal and white ancestry who by government edict were snatched from their homes and reared in desolate settlements. By separating them from their darker-skinned relatives, the policy aimed to assimilate them into white society.

The forced removals occurred through most of the last century, ending in the 1970s but kept hidden far longer, in part because those who had been the targets accepted what the government told them: that aboriginal people were dirty and evil.

The Australian aboriginal people were not alone. Native Americans in the United States had their children stolen as did Canadian Inuits.

I think it’s important to recognize that the officials and private citizens who engaged in these acts which we now recognize as heinous thought of themselves as enlightened and forward-thinking. They weren’t acting out of simple hatred for indigenous peoples but in all likelihood thought they were acting in the best interest of the children. People with the very best of intentions can be just bad as those with evil ones. Good intentions are not enough.

I recommend Rabbit-Proof Fence, streamable via NetFlix. It’s well-made, well-acted, and engaging and casts some light over a shameful period of history.

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