It’s time to pay attention. Now.

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.

Posted on: June 26, 2021knerburn

14 thoughts on “It’s time to pay attention. Now.

  1. Well said. We are all responsible for bringing the story forward. For making reparations. Thank you.

  2. I learned of these schools and policies mostly from you. It makes me sad but I’m glad it is now being briught to everyone’s attention.

  3. I enjoy listening to Minnesota Public Radio as I work outdoors, until programming becomes an on-the-hour litany of repetition, but yesterday evening, repetition of another sort, caught my attention when the discovery of 751 more unmarked graves of First Nations residential school children were discovered at a cemetery at the former site of the Marieval residential school on the Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan, 140 kilometers east of Regina, was announced. “This is not a mass grave site; these are unmarked graves.”

    Unmarked graves … seven hundred and fifty-one graves of mostly children, torn from their families, never to be seen again …

    Marieval Residential School operated for one hundred years, 1898-1996, (living up to the ‘eval’ part of its name.)

    https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/history-of-marieval-indian-residential-school-1.6078473

    I suspect the numbers will grow in Canada, but will sadly pale against the numbers to be discovered in unmarked and mass graves here in the Unites States at our boarding school sites, for our vicious ‘foreign’ policy toward Native/Indigenous people here has been historically parallel to theirs, if not greater.

    Attempting to find a list of the locations of Minnesota’s Native American Boarding Schools this very afternoon is frustrating, as one site after another contains, almost verbatim, the same information; there were sixteen schools covering the eleven reservations across the state, listing only ten: White Earth, Red Lake, Cross Lake, Morris, Vermilion Lake, Cass/Leech, Pipestone, Clontarf; and St. Joseph’s and St. Mary’s.

    It’s not an adequate answer for me. It says sixteen existed but lists only ten, why?

  4. Thank you Kent…I am aware of these atrocities…
    I backed Deb Haaland all the way…

  5. Thanks you Kent
    Need I say more, you have said it all.We ask how is it possible??? For me I wonder how much I need to take time to reflect on how we violate each other, every living thing and the planet by our exceptionalism, superiority and arrogance. All I can ask myself for, is humility and forgiveness,

  6. As a Canadian I thank you for this. Your trilogy, and particularly Yellow Bird, have made a tremendous, and lasting impression on me.

  7. Thank you for informing the world of this issue. I was not aware until I read your book. Please continue keeping us up to date on this issue.

  8. Here in Uk we are beginning to hear the rattle of undiscovered bones of children. It is prelude of similar happenings in another land over the sea, which we in UK did not know about until late 1940’s and 1950’s. This still goes on in many lands. Keep writing Kent we want to know the truth.

  9. The information of the horrors of the boarding schools is readily available with a simple Google search. Academic and Native sources..the atrocities and the Indian Outings programs, sanctioned servitude. And, most important, stories such as Dan’s. Thank you Kent and please keep pushing awareness.

  10. We just read “ Wolf At Twilight “ for our book club book . We are cabin ladies over on Pike Bay in the Chippewa National Forest on Leech Lake Reservation. Everybody ( 10 of us present that day ) who read the book enjoyed it and those that had not read it yet want to read it . How timely it was to have read it . With the graves just having been discovered at Kamloops then Saskatchewan . I led the discussion . Everyone wanted to discuss all the questions I had from a review or study questions guide . We were discussing the book until 12:30 and what is happening now with the discovery of the graves and also there were three of us who had taught at Native Boarding Schools . We had started at 9:30 . So there was quite an interest . And your book was the fodder for the discussion . Thank you for it . I myself really enjoy your books too and enjoyed this one too. I taught at a Navajo Boarding and day school in northern New Mexico : Dzilth-Na-O-Dith-Hle Community School . 50 miles south of Farmington , NM. To my knowledge we did not have any kids die there or mistreated . Or I was not aware of it . Some of the kids stayed at the school and some lived close enough that they could ride the bus to school. Then when I came back to MN because this is where I lived I taught at Ponemah ! I loved it there . I could go on and on . Would like to visit with you someday . Somehow we became friends on Facebook . You are friends with some of my friends : Vicki and Steve Ross and others . Well all for now . I am glad you wrote this piece . Very good . Thank you .
    Jean Kelley

  11. I’m not a Tweeter. Brevity has never been my best suit. Publish what you will, Kent.

    More Tragedy Reported Every Day; the Lasting Horrors of The Boarding Schools

    Yesterday morning, after reading in Indian Country Today: https://indiancountrytoday.com/news/182-unmarked-graves-found-at-3rd-former-residential-school/ I found this article in Paper Bridges: https://www.paper-bridges.org/post/the-road-after-indian-residential-schools-a-part-of-u-s-history.

    Further on-line, I found a 2018 article that had been re-published that very day, of June 30th, 2021, by The Journal in New Ulm, Minnesota: https://www.nujournal.com/opinion/columns/2018/03/28/weeds-no-regrets-over-golf-course-battle/ about the closing of the Fort Ridgely Minnesota Golf Course.

    Although the two events are seemingly totally unrelated, the latter’s mention of Fort Ridgley and the Dakota Uprising of 1862 reminded me that the single mind-numbing entity that ruined the site experience for me, beginning in 1974, was the existence of a golf course and obtrusive golfers on golf carts only a few yards from the Fort Ridgely Visitors Center where the Dakota, White settlers, and soldiers died, and how the golfer’s presence had seemed so disrespectful to the site. I left a comment to that extent in the fort’s Visitors book, but what did I know? I knew nothing of Minnesota history really, at that time; I was never taught anything about it in school in Iowa, where I was from. Who knew that in sleepy Minnesota, of all places, such a gigantic historical event had occurred in 1862 that became the powder-keg explosion for the proposed total annihilation of the Dakota people?

    http://reviewcanada.ca/magazine/2012/12/a-tale-of-two-massacres

    I immediately recalled the 2009 video titled,“The Dakota 38 +2,” about the first Dakota 38 +2 Reconciliation Ride from Crow Creek, South Dakota to Mankato, Minnesota, in 2008, by Jim Miller, commemorating the thirty-eight plus two Dakota men who were hanged on December 26, 1862 for their alleged part in the Dakota Uprising. The “plus two” remembers two additional Sioux leaders who managed to flee to Canada and were later caught, brought back to the United States and executed in 1865.
    https://vimeo.com/45619690

    Crow Creek was where the Mdewakanton Dakota Tribe of south and central Minnesota, who were defeated in the Dakota Uprising of 1862 were exiled. These were same people who had been held in a stockaded concentration camp in the Minnesota River bottoms at Fort Snelling for over two years in insufferable conditions, where close to 300 people died of disease, before being literally shipped out of the state on steam boats via the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers all the way to and from St. Louis. Crow Creek was where more than 1,300 more people died of malnutrition and exposure over a three-year period in the 1860s following their arrival to this reservation.

    The late Jim Miller, a Mdewakanton Dakota descendant of one of the Dakota 38, and Vietnam War army veteran, who was the main organizer, described over the course of the ride how his boarding school days and PTSD kicked-in during the ride and how he had to deal with them both, poignantly paralleling the two as equal evils. “We can’t blame the wasichus anymore. We’re doing it to ourselves. We’re selling drugs. We’re killing our own people. That’s what this ride is about, is healing.”

    At 55:25 in the video, a Crow Creek Marine veteran talks about when during a particularly negative time on the reservation, he asked an elder, “Why do these bad things always happen to us? Why do we do bad things to each other?”

    And at long length, she replied in Lakota, “[We suffer] a deep embedded genetic depression.”

    “Intergenerational Trauma: Understanding Natives’ Inherited Pain” By Mary Annette Pember.

    https://www.brainerddispatch.com/news/4839706-Memorial-ride-to-honor-38-Dakota-hanged-in-1862-concludes-in-Mankato (2019)

  12. Yes, as an African American, descendant of “unknown Indigenous peoples on both sides” Irish (love or rape), and unknown peoples from the Motherland, I hurt. The rattling bones of all of my ancestors will not rest until Justice is done. I believe love and light will eventually get us there. I will not be around to experience it. I will become a part of the rattling bones.

  13. Faraway

    Waves lap the beach
    in endless cadence
    even now,
    ascending the beach
    falling back.
    Leaving the sand glistening
    under sun and star.

    Cold water on your feet
    its gripping froth and pulsing splash
    How could the world so timeless
    change so fast?

    Wrenched
    from your lifelong home,
    on Gichigami.
    .

    The coolness of nibi
    on your ankles
    in your mind,
    in your heart,

    just yesterday

    Stiff shoes,
    cut hair, silenced words,
    And fear

    today,

    faraway.

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