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Democrats Introduce Bill Addressing Cultural Genocide Against Native Americans

Politics
Democrats Introduce Bill Addressing Cultural Genocide Against Native Americans
Native American girls from the Omaha tribe attending the Carlisle School in Pennsylvania, the first government-run boarding school for Native American children. © CORBIS / Corbis / Getty Images

Two lawmakers introduced a bill Tuesday addressing previous actions the U.S. government inflicted upon Native Americans.

The bill, authored by Rep. Deb Haaland from New Mexico and Sen. Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts, specifically addresses the "intergenerational trauma" caused by policies that tore Native American children away from their families and sent them to boarding schools to be educated in white culture, HuffPost reported.


The bill, called The Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policy in the United States Act, would create a formal inquiry to document how the government's Indian boarding school policy amounted to cultural genocide as children were prevented from learning Indigenous traditions. Instead, the government forced them to assimilate into mainstream American culture.

According to HuffPost, the first-of-its-kind commission would be asked to find ways to improve the public's awareness and incorporate that into public education. That way, future generations of Americans would have a better understanding of the government's former policy and how its consequences continue to affect Native Americans.

"The Indian Boarding School Policy is a stain in America's history, and it's long overdue that justice is sought for victims of this policy who suffered unimaginable harm and thousands of Native families who remain impacted by this policy," Warren said in a statement. "This is why I'm joining Congresswoman Deb Haaland in introducing legislation to formally investigate the past wrongs of the federal government's practices of cultural genocide and assimilation and to respond to ongoing historical and intergenerational trauma devastating tribal communities today," she added.

The issue hits close to home for Haaland, whose grandparents were separated from their family by the policy, HuffPost reports. She is one of only two Native American women that have ever been elected to Congress.

"Native people are resilient and strong, but the painful and traumatic history of genocide and forced assimilation by the federal government lives on in our communities and our people have never been able to fully heal," Haaland said in a statement. "I know not many people are aware of the history of Indian boarding schools, and I know it's not taught in schools — but our country must do better to acknowledge our real history and push for truth and reconciliation."

The policy removed hundreds of thousands of Native American children from their families between 1869 and the 1960s — about 83 percent by 1926. The purpose of the policy was to "Kill the Indian, save the man," according to The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition.

The children were sent to one of 367 boarding schools across 30 states, which resulted in "human rights violations including spiritual, physical, psychological, and sexual abuse and violence," Haaland and Warren said in their statements.

The timing of the bill is meant to coincide with President Trump's recent announcement that he would sign an executive order encouraging educators to teach America's greatness instead of its misdeeds and cruelty, HuffPost reported.

The bill does have bipartisan support, with two Republicans from Oklahoma co-sponsoring the bill. However, the bill's future is uncertain as Congress focuses on a new stimulus package and the upcoming election, HuffPost reported.


A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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