National Native Children’s Trauma Center Essays

The NNCTC is publishing a series of essays on Native child welfare, ICWA, and boarding schools. They are all available here.

In the most recent, Patrice Kunesh reflects on her own family history during this time of boarding school listening sessions and investigation by the federal government.

In January 1888, the year before North Dakota would become a state, their middle daughter Josephine, my great-aunt, was born on Battle Creek in Dakota Territory. When she was nine years old, Josephine was sent to Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania, where she was trained in domestic skills. Upon her graduation in 1909 at the age of twenty-one, her mother Nellie presented her with a beaded valise, a small suitcase, depicting the 1863 Battle of Whitestone Hill on one side and the Lakota’s last buffalo hunt in 1882, two momentous losses of life and livelihood for the Lakota people that Nellie had witnessed.

The Assistant Secretary Releases the Boarding School Report



Assistant Secretary Newland makes eight recommendations to the Secretary of the Interior to fulfill the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative, including producing a list of marked and unmarked burial sites at Federal Indian boarding schools and an approximation of the total amount of Federal funding used to support the Federal Indian boarding school system, including any monies that may have come from Tribal and individual Indian trust accounts held in trust by the United States. Assistant Secretary Newland ultimately concludes that further investigation is required to determine the legacy impacts of the Federal Indian boarding school system on American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians today.

Alternative Reports A and B to the UN CERD Regarding Violation of Indigenous Children’s Right to Culture

Speaking of ICWA placement preferences, Here are the reports submitted to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination by the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, the International Indian Treaty Council, and the National Indian Child Welfare Association:

Alternative Report A: Indigenous Children and the Legacy and Current Impacts of the Boarding School Policies in the United States and the Lack of Redress, Restitution and Restoration by the United States to Address these Impacts or to Acknowledge Responsibility for Them
Alternative Report B: The Continued Removal of Indigenous Children from Their Families and Communities and its Impact on The Right to Culture

Update — a blurb from the authors:

During last week’s two-day dialogue with the United States, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination members asked questions of the US delegation relying on the information provided to it by the United States as well as reports submitted by non-governmental organizations and stakeholders.  The National Indian Child Welfare Association submitted such a report voicing concerns over the problematic implementation of the Indian Child Welfare Act. The report on “The Continued Removal of Indigenous Children from Their Families and Communities and its Impact on the Right to Culture (Alternative Report B)” was drafted in partnership with Suffolk Law’s Indigenous Peoples Rights Clinic, and can be viewed at hhere. During the session, Committee members asked the United States to comment on the over- representation of indigenous children in foster care and the bias in private adoptions. The Committee’s Concluding Observations report should be released next month.

NYTs: Article on Arapaho Language Preservation

From the NYTs:

RIVERTON, Wyo. — At 69, her eyes soft and creased with age, Alvena Oldman remembers how the teachers at St. Stephens boarding school on the Wind River Reservation would strike students with rulers if they dared to talk in their native Arapaho language.

“We were afraid to speak it,” she said. “We knew we would be punished.”

More than a half-century later, only about 200 Arapaho speakers are still alive, and tribal leaders at Wind River, Wyoming’s only Indian reservation, fear their language will not survive. As part of an intensifying effort to save that language, this tribe of 8,791, known as the Northern Arapaho, recently opened a new school where students will be taught in Arapaho. Elders and educators say they hope it will create a new generation of native speakers.

Continue reading

NPR on Boarding Schools

NPR’s Morning Edition is running a two-part piece on boarding schools.

For the government, it was a possible solution to the so-called Indian problem. For the tens of thousands of Indians who went to boarding schools, it’s largely remembered as a time of abuse and desecration of culture.

The government still operates a handful of off-reservation boarding schools, but funding is in decline. Now many Native Americans are fighting to keep the schools open.

‘Kill the Indian … Save the Man’

The late performer and Indian activist Floyd Red Crow Westerman was haunted by his memories of boarding school. As a child, he left his reservation in South Dakota for the Wahpeton Indian Boarding School in North Dakota. Sixty years later, he still remembers watching his mother through the window as he left.

At first, he thought he was on the bus because his mother didn’t want him anymore. But then he noticed she was crying.

“It was hurting her, too. It was hurting me to see that,” Westerman says. “I’ll never forget. All the mothers were crying.”

Read, or listen, to the rest here.

Holy Childhood Oral Histories

Here and here are two audio links from recent interviews with survivors of the Holy Childhood boarding school in Harbor Springs, Michigan.

From Interlochen Public Radio:

Keeping the history of Holy Childhood

Linda Stephan



A Michigan historic site in Harbor Springs is expected to be demolished next month despite a last-minute effort to save the building. It was built in 1913 to house an Indian Boarding School run by the Catholic Church.

The church owns the building, but members of tribes all over Michigan, and even beyond, have some claim to its history.

Plans for the new building have been in the works for years. But this summer the impending demolition dug up old wounds for some former students, and while some welcomed the wrecking ball, others felt the building’s demise would also erase the building’s history.

IPR’s Linda Stephan visited Harbor Springs, and filed this report.