America is surprised. Native America is not surprised.
Bodies of children buried in unmarked graves? Native America has known this for years.
But that’s Saskatchewan. That’s Canada, you say. That’s Residential schools, not Boarding schools.
Residential school, boarding school. That’s just a word. Canada, the United States. That’s just a line.
Just wait. Coming soon to a neighborhood near you. Right here in the good ol’ US of A. 350 schools. Maybe 100,000 children over the years. Not all dead, but all taken from their families. All shorn of their hair, their culture, their families and their way of life. All dedicated to boarding school founder, Richard Henry Pratt’s, vision to “Kill the Indian. Save the man.” Oops. Sometimes they got it wrong. Killed the man, too. And the woman. Or, they would have grown up to be men and women. But they never got there. Little kids. Kids who got sick. Kids who died alone. Little babies, the result of rapes by staff, burned in stoves. (Oh no, that couldn’t have happened. We’re a civilized and caring nation). Buried in unmarked graves. Solve the problem. Destroy the evidence.
How many? Where are they? Did you know? Do you care?
Listen. The whispers are getting louder. The bones are beginning to rattle. They’re here. They’re under your feet. They’re under your consciousness. Little children. Like your son, your daughter, your little brother and sister. That’s what you need to do: no ragamuffins in torn dresses and little military uniforms. Look at your children. Look at your little brother, your little sister. Look past their blond hair and blue eyes, past their little league games, past their play dates. Look at them scared, taken away from your home, their dolls and teddy bears. Look at them crying when they are pulled from your arms. Look at them taken to a place where they can’t contact you, beaten if they spoke their own language, made to eat strange food, never hugged or held, crying themselves to sleep at night. Look at them dying. And look at them being thrown in an unmarked grave.
This is not a joke, my friends. This is not a story or a fantasy. This is us. This is America. This is what we did. This is who we are. And the truth is just beginning to speak. The earth is just beginning to whisper.
It’s time to listen. Time to hear. Time to care. Time to apologize.
Do you want to know more? Do you dare stare it in the face?
Boarding School Seasons by Brenda Child. My book, The Wolf at Twilight. The Canadian documentary, Unrepentant , Steven Heape’s film, Our Spirits Don’t Speak English, Wellbriety’s Journey to Forgiveness. And there is more. So much more.
Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland, has spoken up. Her family lived the boarding school experience. She knows. She speaks the truth. Things get only a microsecond of time in the American consciousness. She has brought the story forward. It is up to all of us to see that it doesn’t get buried again along with the forgotten children. The bones are whispering.
I am writing this on my blog post, www.kentnerburn.com, with a feed to facebook. So if you are reading it on facebook, go to the blog page where we can gather and make comments as well as on facebook.
With your help, we have made amazing progress in raising awareness of the boarding school horrors. With luck we will get to Deb Haaland — good and influential people are assisting in the effort to get her a copy of The Wolf at Twilight. She doesn’t need it; her knowledge is deep, personal, and profound But that book can open the eyes and, with luck, the hearts, of people who previously have neither known nor cared about the tragedy of the boarding schools and the lingering effects on people and families today.
So now comes the next step — the step I don’t know how to make. What do we do to move the issue forward? More specifically, what do you Native readers want to see happen? This is where we non-Natives move back and become allies. Our job is to listen and help, and to use our White privilege and status to amplify your voices and turn the concern to action.
One of you readers — sadly, I can’t find the comment to give you credit — said, “When Native people raise an issue, it is a complaint. When White people raise that issue, it becomes a cause.” This needs to become a cause. But it needs to have a desired outcome. Awareness is great, and, if that’s all the comes of this, it is enough. But a specific purpose — a legislative goal or some specific action — focuses energy and becomes the tip of the spear. That’s what we should be seeking.
What would you Native readers like to see happen to help the healing? I can speak, I can write, but I can’t organize my way out of a paper bag. We need a common purpose to come out of this moment and this engagement of good people, and that means the Native voice must be heard and must articulate a specific goal.
What would you like to see happen around the issue of the boarding schools? For the grandparents, for the children, for the children yet unborn? For awareness but also for healing? We are all listening and ready to help.