Every day some important news events push previous, shocking happenings aside. This past week the President of Haiti was assassinated, the US officially pulled out of Afghanistan after a 20 year war and repercussions are anticipated, and the number of people who have died from COVID passed 4 million. Anything that happened before suddenly seemed like unworthy, old news. On Friday, June 25, for example, I read a news article that informed me that the remains of 751 people, many of them children, were found at the site of a former school about 87 miles east of Regina, Saskatchewan. This shocking event occurred shortly after the remains of 215 children were found in unmarked graves on the grounds of a similar school in Kamloops, BC. In Carson City, NV recently Ruth and I visited the Stewart Indian School. I wrote about our experience on May 31, 2021, under the title “Stewart Indian School Cultural Center and Museum”. I clipped both news articles about the events in Canada and wondered if similar unearthing events might occur in the US indigenous schools of the last century. I had a devil of a time finding both articles about the events in Canada but eventually did. I have started a file and probably won’t misplace these articles again.
There were once 300 federal boarding schools built to culturally integrate Native American children into the different culture that was beginning to predominate. Stewart has opened as an attraction because it’s the only school of its era to still be culturally intact. The idea of finding Native American remains is viable because 64 of these schools are still educating students in 5 states. The very honest museum at Stewart reported on the unpleasant aspects of this and similar schools. For example, students were forbidden to speak their native languages. Many were kidnapped. What was not discussed at Stewart when we were there was any church-related affiliation. Both Canadian schools were operated by the Catholic Church as were 70% of such schools. The rest were run by Protestant denominations. Oh, oh. In Canada, natives are referred to as First Nation folks. One male student at the Saskatchewan school vividly remembered the nuns immediately shaving off his braids and washing his mouth out with soap if he spoke in his native language.
I went back to the first article about the Canadian school expecting the worst. In doing so, I discovered a companion article under it with the headline “Search for Burial Sites in U.S. Is to Be Conducted At Former ‘Indian Schools’ “. Oh, oh. This other article says, “The Cherokee Nation identifies the boarding schools as the biggest factor in the loss of the Cherokee language.” This companion article was accompanied by a photo taken in 1901 at the Carson Indian Training School in Nevada. I didn’t have to read on but, of course, I did. This school was later renamed the Stewart Indian School. Stay tuned.