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.
In the second half of the twentieth century, an estimated 25 to 35% of American Indian children were living apart from their families, and they were vastly over-represented in state child welfare systems. To explain this Indian child welfare crisis, government authorities claimed that Indian children were "forgotten" children, and they promoted their fostering and adoption by non-Indian families. By contrast, Indian families and their advocates charged that many social workers were using ethnocentric and middle-class criteria to unnecessarily remove Indian children from their families and communities. Through creating their own child welfare organizations and legal codes, as well as working for the Indian Child Welfare Act, Indian activists and their allies sought to bring Indian child welfare under the control of Indian nations. This presentation examines the debate that ensued over Indian children in the 1960s and 70s and that continues even up to the present in the recent Supreme Court case involving Baby Veronica.