When we first began to work on this COVID timeline, we were early in the pandemic. We wanted to build something tracking the terrifying and unsurprising evidence that shows the continued shaping of healthcare by racism and white supremacy, ableism, and more.
We gathered the stories and then, when we were ready, we merged the content we had gathered, the stories of real people that is called data, onto the timeline software and put it up on the website. By the time we did this, we already had too much information.
Our goal had been to keep updating this timeline of COVID so that folks could see what is happening as we live it. We are currently previewing digital sources that are more user-friendly for large political timelines such as this one. In the meantime, we will continue to gather data so that we can come back with a bigger and better timeline that shows the breadth of impact on our communities.
We hope that you and yours stay safe, protected and powerful during these times. We hope to launch the next iteration in Summer/Early Fall. Thank you for your patience and stay tuned!!
Deepest Gratitude to Our Community As HHP Shifts, Expands and Grows
Eleven years ago, the three of us came together to study, learn, research and dream across spheres and practices of medicine, healing and justice to vision new formations of collective care and safety. We have worked together and independent of each other in our commitment to social justice, change and abolition.
As you know, all of our lives have shifted in response to COVID-19 and the Uprisings. Anjali’s work as the Executive Director of Casa de Salud, an innovative integrative primary care clinic and advocacy center – integrating traditional healing, healthcare, workforce development, harm reduction, and community organizing – has grown significantly during the pandemic. Casa de Salud continues to gain more national attention as it continues to serve as an anti-racist, creative model of community-based healing and healthcare that works to build power with community.
The pandemic has also prompted a need to revive CureThis, an online network that existed from 2007-2013 to connect health workers and healers and community members around surviving, thriving, and transforming the medical industrial complex in their settings. Because of these pulls towards Casa de Salud’s growth and towards the redevelopment of CureThis, Anjali has decided she needs to shift off of the growing Healing Histories Project, while incredibly excited about its growth and success and next steps.
We want to lift up the work and legacy of Anjali as part of our trio as she charts her path to build new models of care – and build networks to connect folks around the country doing the same. She has brought so much innovation, wit, digital savvy and a medicinal/healer mind and deep political practice to our partnership and this work with us. We will truly miss her even as we are thrilled about where she is heading and the path that is unfolding her work and vision.
We will forever be the trio that built the Healing Histories Project. With this change, Cara and Susan are expanding the team as the three of us have always hoped to do. We are excited to welcome two new people to the team to help us deepen and widen the breadth of this critical work.
We welcome Luce Capco Lincoln as our Communications Strategist to help us share stories of the Medical Industrial Complex and to help us build (and release) our full 500+ years of timeline history.
Currently located on lenapehoking, Luce is excited to bring his many years of experience as a cultural worker, filmmaker, political educator and media nerd to Healing Histories Project. Most recently, Luce spent 8 years at Global Action Project working to create social justice films and popular education curriculum to uplift and organize trans, non-binary, queer, immigrant youth and young adults. When not thinking about timelines as a movement tool, Luce collaborates with BIPOC artists to create work that highlights intersectional solidarity, community resilience and a liberated future for all.
We also welcome tae min suh to help us clean and categorize the timeline’s data.
tae min suh is excited to be working with the HHP and digging into its data! They are on lenapehoking and organize within queer/trans communities and with various anti-violence projects. They are building out their community safety/self defense practices which increasingly includes their grappling with the medical industrial complex.We have learned so much over the last year about the kinds of technology and stories needed to hold the amount of data we have gathered in a timeline format. With Luce and tae min on board, we’ll be releasing ongoing updates as we grow closer to the completion of the timeline.
For the last year, the Healing Histories Project has been working in partnership with the Grassroots Organizer Working Group of the Anti-Eugenics Project to co-organize and curate a free six-day virtual public event, Dismantling Eugenics: Legacies, Reckonings & Futures. 100 years after the Second International Eugenics Congress, held in 1921, a collaboration of grassroots organizers, researchers, philanthropists, academic activists, artists & cultural workers are confronting and transforming this historical event by creating a virtual gathering that counters this event, held at the American Museum of Natural History. By centering those communities most impacted by eugenics in programming, cultural work and more we will be working towards building solutions that transform the eugenic foundations of dispossession, enslavement, racial capitalism and white supremacy. This Congress solidified eugenics as a state-sponsored practice and furthered the politics of exclusion that continues to shape our society today.
It matters to bring forward truth-telling about eugenics in 2021 because of all the way these harms and abuses still exist for many of our communities. Eugenicist logic still defines and impacts many of the forms of oppression and supremacy embedded in these pandemic and political times. Anti-eugenics is an intersectional term for anti-racism, anti-ableism, anti-sexism, anti-homophobia, decolonization, anti-ageism, and anti-capitalism. An anti-eugenics approach says that every individual and collective body has the right to determine for ourselves what being in relationship to land, body and spirit can feel and look like. . An anti-eugenics approach is an approach that honors both individual and collective sovereignty, rooted in harm-reduction and radical consent, and looks at supporting and building collective safety and wellbeing as an emergent or evolutionary relational process rather than a diagnostic goal.
Healing Histories Project’s COVID timeline was put together – and continues to be updated – to trace how these eugenicist logics have defined what care does and doesn’t look like for communities impacted by COVID. The timeline shows how the official response to the pandemic too often depends on a eugenics logic that monetizes and capitalizes on our survival or death. There are many many examples of this including how various states make access to necessary medical supplies based upon the money and social status that a care facility has or makes over-run care facilities responsible for finding their own supplies or doing without, in kind of Trumpian survival of the fittest scenario. It’s the eugenic inheritance of generations of inadequate care and the stress of racial violence that allows for Black folks to die at greater numbers than any other community in the US. Or the eugenicist logic that has medical directors tell staff in Christian hospitals that they can act from their anti-gay beliefs when providing COVID care, as happened in April 2020.
The Healing Histories Project has been part of visioning what this six day event will look like with HHP folks helping to curate programming, to craft the conference’s values statement, identify potential speakers and presenters, and help design a Movement Strategies Session on Eugenics that will bring together a small number of people involved in this work to co-design, dream and strategize together.
There is no such thing as a “normal” body, there are only bodies that shift and change in response to experiences and time. Every one of us has been shaped by and continues to be shaped by eugenicist ideologies. These ideologies are already impacting how we pivot towards addressing climate change; including how and when conversations about population control and resource control emerge and who is seen as needing to change and who defines that change. At its base, eugenic violence always confuses care with control and centers punishment as the response to disease rather than valuing all life, whether at its most vulnerable or its most fierce. Eugenic logic sets up a criteria for determining which bodies are expendable and which should be protected, who gets to have care and who does not, and who is vilified for their pain or vulnerabilities and who is allowed to be safe.
A collective uprooting is necessary; a collective transformation and dismantling. Please come and join us in September. It is free! Pre-Registration for the Dismantling Eugenics Virtual Convening will start in early September. Please come and learn alongside us. And please demand, in the smallest and the biggest of ways, a collective commitment to safety and wellness that centers around radical consent and our collective right to experience and name the glory of our own life in our own ways on our own terms.
Before we move into this piece, we wanted to pause here and honor, along with you, the lives of those children. Every Native/First Nations person you know or have read about is either a survivor of these schools, or the child or the grandchild of a survivor. Every single one. By 1926, 83% of Native children were attending boarding schools in the US. The schools began to formally close in the 1960s and early 1970s. This is not history. This is our lifetime, your lifetime. The two of us writing this piece were alive as the boarding schools began to close. Children taken away, stolen, from families, from culture, from tribe and kin. Children who were stolen and disappeared. Their bodies are being reclaimed and honored. Before moving on to the rest of this piece, pause here. Pause. May we never treat the stories of these children as only information but instead, remember them throughout this conversation as living vibrant beings, as our relatives.
According to the Boarding School Healing Project, beginning with the Indian Civilization Act Fund of March 3, 1819 and the Peace Policy of 1869, the United States, in concert with and at the urging of several denominations of the Christian Church, adopted an Indian Boarding School Policy. This policy intended to wage cultural genocide through the removal and reprogramming of American Indian and Alaska Native children to systemically continue the destruction of Native cultures and communities. Residential schools in Canada began at around the same time, with the first established in 1830 in Ontario by the Anglican Church. The stated purpose of these schools was simple: “Kill the Indian, Save the Man.” Attendance was mandatory. No one knows exactly how many children were forcibly or sometimes voluntarily removed from their homes, their families, their tribes, their communities. The rules were strict: no expression of any aspect of tribal culture and identity. This means not speaking your own language including using your own name. It includes not going back home during holidays or when someone you love has died or because you were tired and sad and just wanted to be home again. The curriculum of the schools focused on Christian indoctrination, on reading, writing and speaking English, on something called citizenship training which included learning (and assimilating into) the American political system, Greek and Roman histories of democracy; American farming techniques and the importance of striving to own private property, and Christian monogamous family structures including gender and sexual behavior. Falling within all of these were forced teachings on Euro-Christian ideas of self-control, self-denial, discipline, and order. Children were forced to cut their hair, to wear school uniforms, to learn how to cook and eat European/white foods and to use European/white eating and cooking protocols. School by school, there were hundreds of other protocols, all designed to force Native children to “be civilized.”
Recent online reflections from elders in conversation with Remembering the Children, a project focused on unearthing the truth behind the Rapid City Indian School, remembered the many children who died because they grew ill from diseases they had no natural immunity for or who were killed as a result of beatings and abuse or who tried to run away and were hit by trains or violent weather. They shared stories of children who died because they were starving from the lack of food and, in trying to cook for themselves, died from stoves exploding or water pots boiling over; their small child bodies not able to lift a pan of boiling water safely
Eugenics emerged as a “scientific” belief system alongside the growing popularity of the theory of evolution. Eugenics is based on the idea that if you can control reproduction in order to increase the number of positive factors in a population you can then decrease the negative. Everything about ideas of positive versus negative were – and are – embedded with racism and xenophobia, ableism gender essentialism, Christian supremacy, and more. “Positive” means as-close-as-possible to a Christian, able-bodied, thin, white, male, straight ideal. Eugenics practices include forced sterilization or the prevention of some bodies from reproducing, the institutionalization of categories of people to prevent them from “mingling” with the general population such as through psychiatric institutions and prisons, medical experimentation focused on changing aspects of a person’s physical, mental or emotional state of being to align with the “ideal” standard (often done without consent), and more.
The majority of people targeted by state-sanctioned eugenics practices include those living with a range of types of disabilities, those perceived to be queer or sexually promiscuous or in bodies that do not meet the standard, people of color, indigenous people, Black people, poor people, people living with addictions, and people perceived to exhibit “criminal” behavior. These standards of what is “positive” and what is “negative” came to Turtle Island (North America) along with the settlers. Some of the earliest laws in the British colonies focused on capital offenses, or those acts seen to disrupt the Puritan social order. These early colonial laws included sex crimes, adultry, drunken-ness, sodomy and buggery, criminal behavor, illiteray, “heathenism” and “mental unfitness.” While posing as science, eugenics frameworks were focused primarily on forcing people and communities to fit these early Puritan ideals.
The creation of boarding schools was and is an example of this same strategy. In this case, taking children and force-teaching them to become individuals who are different and separated from their histories, their cultures, their families and communities. Boarding school policies are all about asserting an “ideal” way of being human and, literally, attempting to kill the Indian to save the man. What was hailed as attending to life as sacred in the Christian framework expressed a violent contradiction as children, once they were considered ready, were often stolen and adopted into white families without any chance to return home and without any communication with their families and kin about their final whereabouts. For many families, for many kin, the discovery of the bodies of those children who were buried with ceremony or care at boarding school campuses is the first time finding out if their children are dead or had been adopted out into the white world. As western medical science progressed, it expanded its strategy to continue the destruction of indigenous culture and community: in the 1960s and 70s the United States Indian Health Service forcibly sterilized thousands of Native women.
For over 500 years, medicine as a tool of colonization, of violence, has emerged alongside, and sometimes overtaking, the truth of care work. The language of the schools used the language of health and wellness to justify their existence. This thinking is part of what shaped the white Christian saviorism that these schools depended on:
The work of the school, then, is to build up from the beginning “the whole child,” to expiate the sins of the past by heroic work in the present. Free gymnastic exercises and breathing exercises, introduced into the classroom work, would be very helpful to these students to relieve the tortured muscles unaccustomed to long sitting, to expand the poorly developed chests and to form a habit of quick obedience. From a teacher’s standpoint it might seem a doubtful expenditure of time to introduce a ten minute exercise between recitations, but the drill would be very beneficial, and progressively so, as the students advanced in years, and became able to take more complicated exercises. This would, in a measure, take the place of a military drill, where that is impractical, though I believe that something like a military inspection is always possible and always healthful and should be recommended both for MORAL AND PHYSICAL REASONS.
Martha Waldron, “The Indian in Relation to Health,” read at the Convention of Indian Educational Associations, St. Paul, Minnesota, 1896.
.It was not until 1978 with the passing of the Indian Child Welfare Act that Native American parents gained the legal right to deny their children’s placement in off-reservation schools.
How old are you? How old are your parents, your grandparents? Who of your people were children in 1978? Who were already adults? None of this is just information. We want to pause here, again, to remember and hold those who did not survive these things, those who did survive this, and their descendants. And to listen as they continue to fight back, to mourn and to remember.