More than 120 people in Fargo and around 150 in Bismarck gathered on Thursday to commemorate boarding school survivors, victims and those living with generational trauma caused by schools – National Day of Remembrance for American Indian Boarding Schools.
The trauma and abuse suffered by many Indigenous children when they were forced into residential schools across the United States and Canada from the 19th century onwards remained mostly unspoken or ignored until the beginning. of this year.
Widespread attention to residential schools, which many say is long overdue, was spurred in June when the bodies of hundreds of children were found on the properties of several disused residential schools across Canada.
Residential schools, known as residential schools in Canada, removed Indigenous children from their families and tribes against their will and forcibly assimilated into white society.
There were at least 367 residential schools in the United States, of which 12 were located in North Dakota, according to the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition. However, these are only the known schools, and more research needs to be done to determine exactly how many were operating nationwide.
The first boarding school, the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania, was founded by former Civil War general Richard H. Pratt, who established the government-run school with the aim, in his words, of ” kill the Indian, save the man. “
Walkers including Tracie Wilkie (center), Tayna RedRoad and Denise Lajimodiere walk along Broadway in downtown Fargo on Thursday, September 30, 2021, in the Remembrance and Healing Walk to honor children’s memory of the First Nations in the boarding schools of the United States and Canada. David Samson / The Forum
Denise Lajimodiere, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa and acclaimed author who wrote a book on Native American Indian Residential Schools called “Stringing Rosaries,” attended the Fargo March which passed through downtown Fargo and ended in Veterans Memorial Bridge.
“It’s America’s best kept secret,” Lajimodière said. “And we are as healthy as our secrets. We haven’t started telling the truth here in the United States. It’s telling the truth, but we have a long way to go.
Before the march began in Fargo, Steven Greywind beat a native drum and sang ceremonial prayer songs that were once banned in America as organizers smeared those in attendance with searing sage.
Steven Greywind beats an Aboriginal drum before the Remembrance and Healing Walk in Downtown Fargo on Thursday, September 30, 2021. The event honored the memory of First Nations children in residential schools David Samson / The Forum
Residents of Fargo and Bismarck, including Lajimodière, wore orange shirts, which she says reminds of a survivor’s story of how her parents bought her a cute orange dress before she was sent to boarding school . Once there, however, a nun took him away and she never saw him again.
While in these schools, many Indigenous children were sexually, spiritually and emotionally abused. Residential schools forced children to cut their hair, stop speaking their mother tongue, and learn English. Many children have been severely punished and placed in solitary confinement.
Schools were underfunded and many children contracted diseases and suffered from malnutrition.
Younger generations are now experiencing the trauma their loved ones suffered in residential schools decades ago, said Melanie Moniz, a citizen of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation and organizer of the Bismarck March.
“We are the product of what happened to our people,” Moniz said. “Along with a lot of tragedy, there is also a lot of resilience and beauty.”
About 100 of the Bismarck attendees walked from Custer Park to the Capitol. Dozens of children’s shoes, stuffed animals and signs adorned its steps in memory of the children at the boarding school.
Works of art displayed on the steps of the Capitol in Bismarck to honor the survivors and victims of the residential school on Thursday. September 30. Michelle Griffith / The Forum
After the discovery of mass graves in residential schools, Home Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American cabinet member in the United States, launched the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative to examine the role of government in eradicating indigenous culture.
“It is time for the United States to recognize the atrocities and genocide committed against us. We are the seeds. They couldn’t bury us, and we’re still here fighting for our ancestors, ”said Tracie Wilkie, a Fargo resident and registered member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.
“There are so many people every day who don’t know it and then wonder why our native population is in this state. Generations of trauma, everything, our loss of language, our traditions, our ceremonies. It was not until 1974 that we were able to practice them. A lot has been lost, but a lot has also gone underground, ”said Wilkie.
Over the decades, the United States has attempted to eliminate tribal nations and Native Americans, Moniz said. But the indigenous peoples came together.
“There can be no more silence,” Moniz said. “We must come together and be united. “
Readers can contact Forum reporters Michelle Griffith, a member of the Report for America body, at [email protected] and CS Hagen at 701-241-5535.