Tribal elders recall painful boarding school memories

We want to take a moment to pause here and let you know this post will be about the hardships Native peoples have faced in the boarding schools. If this type of information and news is upsetting to you, we encourage you to click out now and come back when you are ready.

This story is from Anadarko, Oklahoma where tribal leaders testified about the hardships they endured at the boarding schools such as beatings, whippings, sexual assaults, forced haircuts, and painful nicknames.

The event took place at the Riverside Indian School with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland who quietly listened as the elders spoke. This was the first stop on a yearlong nationwide tour to hear about the painful experiences of the Native Americans who were sent to government-backed boarding schools.

Haaland’s agency recently released a report that has identified more than 400 schools that sought to assimilate Native children into society from the late 18th century to the late 1960s. The report from the Interior Department also included a list of boarding schools that operated between 1819-1969 that received support from the federal government and had a housing component.

From this list it was discovered that Oklahoma had the most at 76 boarding schools, followed by Arizona with 47, and New Mexico with 43 boarding schools and all three of these states still have a significant Native American population.

84-year-old Donald Neconie, a former U.S. Marine who still lives in Anadarko, spoke on the beatings he would receive if he cried or spoke his native Kiowa language in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

“Every time I tried to talk Kiowa, they put lye in my mouth,” he said. “It was 12 years of hell.”

Brought Plenty, a Standing Rock Sioux tribal member who was at the boarding schools in South Dakota, said, “What they did to us makes you feel so inferior. You never get past this. You never forget it.”

Haaland stated, “Federal Indian boarding school policies have touched every Indigenous person I know. Some are survivors. Some are descendants. But we all carry the trauma in our hearts.”

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Source: AP news. “Tribal elders recall painful boarding school memories.” July, 9 2022.