Today it was announced that the remains of four Native American children were returned to their Tribes from Carlisle Indian Boarding School from 100 years ago. The picture you see above is the cemetery at the old boarding school in Carlisle, Pennsylvania which is no longer there. It looks like Arlington cemetary and is one of the saddest sights you will ever see. My grandmother went there about this time but she was fortunate enough to make it back home and is now buried in Green Grass, South Dakota which is a traditional community on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Agency.
William Pratt who came up with the idea for the mass boarding schools for our people was the one who stated the infamous saying: “Kill the man, save the Indian.” They did not literally mean kill us but rather destroy our culture and every last trace of who we are as Tribal people. This meant punishing us severely for speaking our language, making our ancestors wear clothing to conform to the dominant society mores, and forbidden us to sing our songs or participate in our ceremonies. Of course the major trauma was being separated from their parents and their entire family system. The ages of the children who went there were 6 to 18. They were gone 9 months out of the year and some stayed there year round. This dehumanizing experience was what Dr. Edward Duran calls The Soul Wound of our people. The devastating effects of it live on and the boarding school syndrome continues to impact every aspect of our way of life. I have the utmost empathy for our brothers and sisters whose families are being separated at the border as I write this as this is the same kind of trauma our people went through for so many years. We must remember we are all related.
Fortunately many Tribal communities are aware of this and so a number of our people have begun their healing journey so they can undo the cultural oppression that the government and religious institutions inflicted upon us. We are a very resilient people and many have returned to walking the Red Road which includes speaking our language, wearing our hair long again, participating in our ceremonies and holding our heads high as proud Native Americans.