In the U.S., some of the ugly realities of our history continue to unfold, but there is always hope when we push back. We’re seeing this now in the continued struggle for racial justice, a movement that is playing out not only on the streets but in the halls of Congress. We’re grateful that last week, U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced a new bill in the House of Representatives to bring to light the injustices suffered by my people at the hands of the federal government.
The Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policy in the United States Act aims to establish a formal commission to expose the atrocities committed by the federal boarding school policy, and give a voice to the descendants dealing with the resulting trauma. It is co-sponsored by a long list of congressional reps, including Rep. Sharice L. Davids (D-Kan.), a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation. Davids and Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) were recently the first two Native women elected to the House.
Between 1879 and 1918, more than 10,000 Native American children from 140 tribes attended the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. 158 graduated.
As you may know, the Indian boarding school era is one of the darkest chapters in the history of American Indian policy. Under a government-approved goal to “Kill the Indian, Save the Man,” our children were taken and forcibly assimilated into colonized ways of thinking. Their braids cut and the speaking of their languages prohibited, these children were subjected to repeated physical, sexual, and mental abuse — and too many never made it back home. The horrible reality is that hundreds, if not thousands, of these children still lie in boarding school graveyards around the country instead of resting in their homelands with their ancestors.
This history is not removed from modern day, either. My sister and I were sent to boarding school back in the 1940s, and this awful practice didn’t end until the ‘60s. I witnessed this genocidal policy firsthand.
Here at LPLP, we’ve long been proponents of Truth and Healing. Back in 2015-’16, about 50 Native nations signed onto our petition for a congressional committee modeled after Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation effort. We stand with the many other tribal leaders supporting the creation of this commission under Haaland and Warren’s bill.
In these days of deception and disease — when our rights are once again being violated by officials who seek to limit our power at the polls — a new way forward must be found. Truth and healing is exactly what we need.
Wopila tanka — In solidarity!
Madonna Thunder Hawk
Cheyenne River Organizer
The Lakota People’s Law Project
Lakota People’s Law Project
547 South 7th Street #149
Bismarck, ND 58504-5859