Survivors Are Preserving the Dark History of Native Boarding Schools

Six-year-old Phyllis Webstand wore an orange shirt to her first day of school. It was shiny, she remembers, and laced up the front—more importantly, it was a gift from her granny.

At the St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School in Williams Lake, British Columbia, it was taken from her, as were all the personal belongings she had known and loved. None were ever returned. That year, 1973, Webstand became one of hundreds of thousands of Indigenous children in Canada and the US to suffer at state-run and religious boarding schools designed to assimilate by force. In the words of Richard Henry Pratt, the first superintendent of the infamous Carlisle Indian School, it was possible to “kill the Indian in him, and save the man,” often by coercive conversion to Christianity and the forbidding of Native language. Physical and sexual abuse were common.

In the United States, such schools operated for 150 years, the last closing in 1969. They have had a lasting impact on Native communities, from cultural and linguistic loss to intergenerational trauma. Children of people who attended the “residential schools” are more likely to have poor health outcomes, experience depression, and encounter abuse. Their story isn’t widely taught in schools. With “critical race theory” serving as grounds to ban works from Maus to a picture book by Ruby Bridges, the fight to change that may

— source motherjones.com | Emily Hofstaedter | Oct 1, 2022

Nullius in verba


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