Margaret Jacobs is the Director of the Center for Great Plains Studies and the Chancellor's Professor of History at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She held a Carnegie Corporation of New York fellowship from 2018-2020 and was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2019. In 2015-16 she served as the Pitt Professor of American History and Institutions at Cambridge University. Her research and teaching focuses on women, gender, indigenous peoples, and colonialism in the American West and other settler colonial contexts. She has published over a dozen articles and two award-winning books, Engendered Encounters: Feminism and Pueblo Cultures, 1879-1934 (1999) and White Mother to a Dark Race: Settler Colonialism, Maternalism, and the Removal of Indigenous Children in the American West and Australia, 1880-1940 (2009), which won the Bancroft Prize. Most recently, she is the author of A Generation Removed: The Fostering and Adoption of Indigenous Children in the Postwar World (2014), which examines why indigenous children came to be over-represented in the child welfare systems of the United States, Australia, and Canada, and how indigenous women activists mobilized to confront this crisis. She has launched a new digital history project on the Genoa Indian Boarding School in Genoa, Nebraska and cofounded a new multimedia project called Reconciliation Rising. She is also writing a new book about history, truth, and reconciliation in relation to indigenous peoples in Australia, Canada, and the United States.
This lecture examines recent fraught efforts to acknowledge the painful history of Indigenous child removal and to promote reconciliation in Australia, Canada, and the United States. From 2009 to 2015 the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission gathered testimony from Indigenous people who as small children had suffered separation from their families, often forcibly, to attend Indian residential schools. In the 1990s, during its Decade of Reconciliation, Australia launched an Inquiry into the “Stolen Generations,” Aboriginal children who had experienced a similar forcible removal from their families. The United States has its own Stolen Generations, but there is little public awareness of them, let alone official inquiries or truth and reconciliation commissions. This lecture contemplates why the U.S. has willfully forgotten its history of Indigenous child removal while Australia and Canada have engaged in collective remembrance of these historical practices.