Today is Native American Day, and to honor the legacy and courage of the Native peoples, we wanted to share an excerpt from Issue 15: A Native Story.
This story was written by Meredith Schramm and Brooktynn Blood, members of the Umónhon Nation.
INDIAN BOARDING SCHOOLS
In the late 1800s, government leaders in the U.S. began noticing that Native American families and communities were not teaching their children the same way that others were. These government leaders thought that Native American children should be in school to learn English, read classic novels, and train how to be farmers. Instead, they were being taught the history of their people, their Native language, and how to contribute to their own communities.
Rather than understanding that the Native American families were just teaching their children differently, the government thought they were not doing a good job of taking care of their children. The government leaders tried to fix this by passing a law to create special schools for Native American students. These schools were called Indian boarding schools. They were very different from the day schools children attend today.
Children were taken away from their parents and sent to live at the school for the entire year. The schools had large locked gates around the buildings so the students couldn't run away. The children could only come home for the summer when school was not in session. Sometimes the boarding schools were very far away, and children would have to travel many days on a train to get there.
Most Indian boarding schools closed in the 1960s, but some remained open until 1996. Only a handful are still operating today, but these boarding schools do not follow the same rules as they did years before. Native American children no longer have to attend boarding schools. But the years of being forced to go have had a lasting effect on Native communities. Many still struggle, trying to heal from the trauma they experienced. Sadly, some students died while away at boarding school; they never got to return home to see their homes and families. We hope to never forget those children who had to live through this sad time.
Meredith Schramm and Brooktynn Blood are both educators who hope to keep alive the memories of their ancestors who went through boarding school by talking about them and teaching them what really happened. Irving T. Gates, an Umónhonway child who was forced to attend one of these schools, was their Great Grandfather. Irving, along with other family members, we remember.