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Biden Admin to Investigate Federal Role in Indigenous Boarding Schools, Forced Assimilation

Haaland, a member of New Mexico’s Laguna Pueblo tribe and the first Native American to hold a White House cabinet position, made the announcement at a conference of the National Congress of American Indians. 

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Deb Haaland/Stock Photo

The Biden administration is launching an investigation into the federal government’s past role in overseeing boarding schools for indigenous children aimed at forced assimilation, Deb Haaland, Secretary of the US Department of Interior, announced recently.

Haaland, a member of New Mexico’s Laguna Pueblo tribe and the first Native American to hold a White House cabinet position, made the announcement at a conference of the National Congress of American Indians. 

Her announcement comes amid renewed interest in the legacy of the boarding schools in Canada and the US, after more than 200 bodies of Indigenous children were found in a mass grave last month on the site of what was once the largest Indigenous boarding school in Canada last.

The federal investigation will include reviewing records to identify old boarding schools, locate burials sites for children forced into the schools and determine the names and tribal affiliations of students. The goal is to “uncover the truth about the loss of human life and the lasting consequences” of anti-Indigenous policies, Haaland said. 

A final report on the investigation is due from agency staff by April 1, 2022.

Beginning with the Indian Civilization Act of 1819, according to NBC News, the US established and supported boarding schools across the country to forcibly assimilate Indigenous children. The children were taken from their homes and families and sent to the schools where they were forbidden from speaking their native languages, forced to wear European clothing, and punished, including with physical violence, for practicing any aspect of their tribal culture. 

The schools operated for more than 100 years, and Indigenous peoples have long considered them tools of cultural genocide. Survivors of these schools and descendants of survivors have reported physical and emotional abuse at the schools, violence and neglect inflicted on the children.

Haaland penned an op-ed for the Washington Post on June 11 in which she recounted the history of indigenous boarding schools — including the experience of her maternal grandparents, who were forced into a school in Pennsylvania from ages 8 to 13. Some studies indicate that nearly 83% of all Indigenous school-age children were in boarding schools by 1926, according to Haaland’s op-ed.

“My family’s story is not unlike that of many other Native American families in this country,” she wrote. “We have a generation of lost or injured children who are now the lost or injured aunts, uncles, parents and grandparents of those who live today.”

“Many of the boarding schools were maintained by the Interior Department, which I now lead. I believe that I — and the Biden-Harris administration — have an important responsibility to bring this trauma to light,” she continued.

Navajo Nation president Nez [no last name] told NBC News he supports the initiative. “From my perspective as a Navajo person, there are so many atrocities and injustices that have been inflicted upon Native Americans dating back hundreds of years to the present day that also require national attention, so that the American society in general is more knowledgeable and capable of understanding the challenges that we face today.”

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Trustees of Mills College Approve Merger with Northeastern University    

Mills College in Oakland is merging with Northeastern University following approval Tuesday by the Mills College board of trustees.

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Mills College/Britannica

Mills College in Oakland is merging with Northeastern University following approval Tuesday by the Mills College board of trustees.

The merger is subject to regulatory and other approvals but is expected to be effective July 1 of next year. Mills College, once an all-women’s college, will then be gender-inclusive and known as Mills College at Northeastern University. 

The merger was prompted by financial troubles brought on by declining student enrollment, Mills College President Beth Hillman said. She said the merger provides excitement, relief, and a sense of hope for what’s going to come next. 

“This gives us short-term solutions, medium-term solutions and long-term solutions,” Hillman said of the merger. 

Faculty and staff will as a next step work together to develop the curriculum for undergraduate and graduate studies at Mills. Mills officials said the graduate and undergraduate programs will be relevant to employers and students.

Faculty and staff will also be collaborating on the development of a Mills Institute, which will promote women’s leadership and empower first-generation students, among others. 

College officials said until the merger is complete, Mills will continue to be an accredited degree-granting college led by the current administrators. They said Mills in the coming weeks will answer questions and provide more information about the merger. 

Northeastern and Mills will be working to tend to the financial needs of Mills, which may now be able to pay more competitive wages to faculty and staff.  

Students who finish at Mills before June 30, 2022, will be granted a degree from Mills College. Students who finish after that date will receive a degree from Mills College at Northeastern University. 

Faculty members who have tenure at Mills College will have tenure with Mills College at Northeastern University and the merged institution will be offering tenure-track and adjunct faculty positions. 

Staff who are employed at Mills College on June 30, 2022, will become employees of Northeastern University following that date.  

A judge last month blocked the merger between the two institutions and granted a Mills College alum and voting member of the board of trustees Viji Nakka-Cammauf access to information on the college’s financial condition. 

At a hearing Monday, the judge ruled Mills College complied with the court’s ruling and allowed the board of trustees to vote on the proposed merger. 

“Northeastern has consistently demonstrated that it respects and values the vital contributions that Mills offers, voicing strong support for integrating the powerful mission of Mills through the Northeastern network,” Board of Trustees Chair Katie Sanborn said in a statement. “The Board sees the merger as a positive step forward that will enable the legacy of Mills to endure.”

But Alexa Pagonas, vice president of the Board of Governors for the Alumnae Association of Mills College, said not everybody is happy with the decision. 

“Many Alumnae and those in the Mills community are disheartened that the trustees decided to forego their fiduciary duties by blindly voting to approve this merger without a full and clear picture of Mills’ financial situation or a finalized term sheet as it relates to the deal,” Pagonas said. 

“Dr. Viji Nakka-Cammauf will continue to do everything in her power to uphold her fiduciary duties to the entire Mills community and protect the legacy of the College,” Pagonas said.

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Longtime Landlords to Pay City $3.9 Million for Tenants’ Rights Violations

Parker’s office said the Manns subjected tenants at the six properties to serious health and safety risks. The defendants rented properties in substandard condition, including properties neither intended nor approved for housing, the city attorney’s office said.  

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Permanent Supportive Housing for former homeless people in San Francisco.

Two rental property owners and/or their companies will pay the city of Oakland more than $3.9 million for violating the rights of tenants, Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker’s Office announced Monday.

The city of Oakland sued Baljit Singh Mann and Surinder Mann and two of their companies Dodg Corporation and Sbmann2, LLC, according to court documents in the matter.

An Alameda County Superior Court decision September 1 following a trial, forces the defendants to also provide relocation payments to tenants displaced unlawfully from six rental properties, which were at issue in the case brought by the city.

Parker’s office said the Manns subjected tenants at the six properties to serious health and safety risks. The defendants rented properties in substandard condition, including properties neither intended nor approved for housing, the city attorney’s office said.

The defendants rented the six properties to people who were predominantly low-income immigrants and some who did not speak English as their first language, according to Parker’s office.

But following a trial that started in April and the judge’s September 1 decision, the Manns now must comply with health, safety, and tenant protection laws regarding all their properties and pay the city and former tenants, Parker’s office said.

“Victory in this case means that tenants in Oakland do not have to choose between their fundamental rights and having a roof over their head at any cost,” City Attorney Barbara Parker said in a statement.

“Tenants’ rights do matter–to the city, to the people, and to the courts,” Parker said. “No longer will businesses like Dodg. Corporation be able to run roughshod over the people relying on them for shelter, and no longer will landlords feel the same impunity to outright ignore their legal obligations under our local laws.”

The Manns for years owned and operated about 60 residential rental properties in Oakland and owned 70 or more other properties in the city, according to Parker’s office.

City attorneys said the model used by the Manns and at least two of their companies allowed them to profit through renting dilapidated and uninhabitable units to people who were desperate for affordable housing and would be unable to defend their rights as tenants.

The fire risk in some units was severe and imminent, according to the City Attorney’s office.
Parker’s office said the Manns violated the law even further by failing to make relocation payments to tenants who were displaced because their units were unsafe to live in.

Judge Brad Seligman held in his State of Decision, that the Manns and their companies named in the lawsuit, violated Oakland’s Tenant Protection Ordinance, did so in bad faith, and created a public nuisance, according to Parker’s office.

Three attempts to reach Baljit Singh Mann on Tuesday were unsuccessful.

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City Wins Case Against Local Real Estate Empire for Systemic Tenants’ Rights Violations

The September 1 decision represents a significant triumph for the city in a case brought several years ago against the owners of a prominent local real estate empire for systematically violating the rights of tenants at buildings their family companies own. 

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Barbara Parker

Alameda County Superior Court issued its final Statement of Decision and Permanent Injunction After Trial in People of the State of California and the City of Oakland v. Dodg Corporation, et al., a major win for the city in a case against a local real estate empire for systemic tenants’ rights violations.

The September 1 decision represents a significant triumph for the city in a case brought several years ago against the owners of a prominent local real estate empire for systematically violating the rights of tenants at buildings their family companies own. 

Not only must the defendants now comply with tenant protection and health and safety laws at all of their properties, but they owe the city and their former tenants significant redress, including financial penalties to the city and compensation to tenants, for their years of unlawful activity.

Said City Attorney Barbara Parker, “Victory in this case means that tenants in Oakland do not have to choose between their fundamental rights and having a roof over their head at any cost. No longer will businesses like Dodg Corporation be able to run roughshod over the people relying on them for shelter, and no longer will landlords feel the same impunity to outright ignore their legal obligations under our local laws.”

When the City Attorney’s Office brought the Dodg Corp. case in 2019, Oakland had long been facing an unprecedented housing crisis. By 2019, the housing crisis was disproportionately impacting low-income households, with nearly half of rental households in Oakland being rent-burdened (i.e., the household spends over 30% of its gross monthly income on rent).

Because of the skyrocketing rents, many low- and middle-income Oakland residents lived and still live under threat of displacement.

Prior to filing the case, the City Attorney’s Office had already worked with members of the City Council and the Mayor’s Office to pass various important laws focusing on protecting Oakland residents, particularly low- and middle-income residents. 

The City Attorney’s Office worked closely with the Council to adopt the Tenant Protection Ordinance (TPO) in 2014, which was amended in 2020 to strengthen the TPO’s protections. But for some abusive landlords, neither the 2014 TPO nor its recent amendments were enough to stop their illegal activities.

For years, the defendants in the Dodg Corp. case owned and operated approximately 60 residential rental properties in the City of Oakland (and owned at least 70 more properties in the city). The lawsuit addressed their flagrant disregard for the letter and spirit of the law with respect to six specific rental properties, where the defendants subjected Oakland residents to grave health and safety risks. 

The owners’ activities included renting units in substandard conditions — including units never intended or approved for residential use — to tenants who were predominantly low-income immigrants, among them tenants whose primary language is not English. 

This predatory business model allowed the owners to profit from renting uninhabitable or dilapidated units, including units that posed severe and imminent fire risks, to tenants who were desperate to find affordable housing and who often lacked the resources to take legal action to defend their rights. 

When tenants were displaced from their homes because their units were so unsafe, the owners further violated the law by neglecting to make relocation payments required by local law, according to a media release from the City Attorney’s Office. 

The case went to trial in early April of this year. In its September 1 decision, the court held that the defendant corporate entities and individual defendants Baljit Singh Mann and Surinder K. Mann exhibited a pattern and practice of violating the Tenant Protection Ordinance, and did so in bad faith, and that they created a public nuisance.

The verdict requires that defendants pay the City over $3.9 million in civil penalties for their egregious violations of tenants’ rights. Defendants must also provide long-overdue relocation payments to the dozens of tenants unlawfully displaced from the six properties at issue in this case. 

Going forward, defendants also may not operate any of their Oakland-owned residential properties in violation of local or state laws. This means the owners must promptly and competently address existing and future violations that jeopardize the well-being of their tenants.

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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