Sunday, August 17, 2014

Tribunal on Indian Boarding Schools Oneida, WI, Oct 2014

October 22 -- 25, 2014: Wisconsin event to focus on U.S. Indian boarding schools, promote healing

Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School
More than 200 undocumented deaths of
children including Anishinaabe. 
Blue Skies Foundation has scheduled a Tribunal to focus on the experiences of Native children who were forced at early ages to attend Indian boarding schools. This Tribunal is scheduled for October 22 through the 25, 2014 at the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center, at Oneida, Wisconsin.

Blue Skies Foundation is working with the staff of the Human Rights Action Center, from the University of Minnesota at Minneapolis, Jack Healey of the Human Rights Action Center, Bill Means, co-founder of the International Indian Treaty Council, and with Sheron Leonard, Pele Films, as well as numerous other individuals interested in documenting the history of the Indian boarding schools.

A panel of qualified Native judges will be listening to the witnesses as they provide first hand testimony of the abuse and mistreatment they suffered at the hands of the federal government, and of the Council of Churches, while being forced to live away from their families and Nations. In the words of the founder and superintendent of the Carlisle Indian School, General Richard Henry Pratt, “Transfer the savage born infant to the surroundings of civilization and he will grow to possess a civilized language and habit.”

At the conclusion of the Tribunal the Judges will issue an executive summary with their findings, which will be shared with the Native communities.

This Tribunal will be live-streamed by professionals out of California and the contents will be formatted into DVD form to be used as an educational tool in the schools, especially the Tribal schools. We are trying to provide a clear history while we have some of the witnesses able to tell their stories.

One reason to put together a Tribunal on the boarding school era is to bring an
Haskell, where children were beaten and tortured,
and buried in the marsh.
awareness of the treatment of Native children while in those schools and try to begin to understand the effects this treatment had on the survivors. We are told of the physical punishment the children suffered for speaking the language, and of the sexual assaults, the physical and mental violence that took place in the name of “educating” our children in order to strip them of the “savage upbringing” and introduce them to civilization.

We feel that while we have the ability to capture the first hand documentation from some of our people, it is vitally important because we will have in their own words, the harsh reality of the boarding school experience.

Fort Spokane
There are those of us who feel that as Native people, we are all victims of the boarding school era. Some of our parents entered the boarding schools at ages as young as three to four years of age. In their most formative and impressionable years they weren’t given guidance in a kind and loving way. According to our sources they were raised with military standards in the way they were served meals, the way they made their beds, and in the way they were forced to march from place to place. It had all the makings of a military handbook. Punishment for any infraction such as speaking the Native language was cruel and left a lasting imprint. Some of the forms of punishment carried over and when some of these children grew up to have families, the same kind of punishment was used on their children.

The Tribunal will focus on boarding schools as another form of genocide used against our people. We understand it to be a form of IDENTITY THEFT, with our language, our culture, and our spiritual way of life being taken from us. Although some communities have initiated healing ceremonies to assist in moving on from the past, we feel in order to heal completely we have to first deal with whatever it is that keeps us in limbo emotionally. We are going to attempt to create a bridge so as Nations, we can outline a plan that will come as close as possible to making us whole again. We want the cooperation of the U.S. Government and the World Council of Churches to assist in exploring the possibilities of authenticating our rich and beautiful way of life.

Albuquerque Indian School
This is an invitation to join us, participate by either giving testimony as a witness, or by listening and assisting financially to help make possible the documentation of the stories of truth. This is an undertaking that is deserving of a total community effort in order to have the impact that can initiate the healing process. We know that in order to heal and be able to move forward in a healthy way, we need to confront the issues that we need to heal from. We can no longer bury our heads in the sand and pretend all is well in our communities. The high rates of suicide, the out of control alcohol and drug abuse and now the gang problems cannot be ignored. We can’t wait for someone else to fix our problems. We need to step up and get to the root of all the evil that we are faced with. We are facing many challenges as Native people. We need to start to hold accountable the “Handlers” who were entrusted by force with our children. Our parents went off to these schools as innocent babies and were made to feel ashamed of themselves for the color of their skin and for speaking the language they were born with. They tried to escape reality because they felt they were in a hopeless situation with no way out. Some turned to alcoholism, some committed suicide, and some gave in and adapted to this foreign way of life where nothing is sacred. We want to attempt to honor our ancestors, by letting them know the sacrifices they made, we want to honor all the babies that sleep in the little graves that are marked “unknown” and the parents who wondered for years when their child was coming home. We need to tell our own story with our feet standing proud on our ground.
Carlisle 'The Children Who Never Came Home'
Longest Walk 2 Photo by Brenda Norrell
I will leave you with a reminder of what our parents and grandparents were up against and ask that you join us on our journey towards healing.

“I do not believe that Indians- people who for the most part, speak no English, live in squalor and degradation, make little progress from year to year, who are a perpetual source of expense to the government and a constant menace to thousands of white neighbors, a hindrance to civilization and a clog on our progress have any right to forcibly keep their children out of school to grow up like themselves, a race of barbarians and semi-savages.” --T. J. Morgan- Commissioner of Indian Affairs,,1889-1893

Navajo and Apache children in the prison of Fort Sumner, N.M. Longest Walk 

Blue Skies Foundation, Inc. has a 501C3 federally recognized non-profit status, organized exclusively for charitable, educational and spiritual purposes (ID#45-2364127). Specifically, Blue Skies seeks to represent, uplift and preserve Native American people, culture and spirituality.
Blue Skies Foundation, Inc.
N5679 Skylark Drive
De Pere, Wisconsin 54115

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