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There’s more public information about the truth of Indian boarding schools with newly published research.
The path ahead for many Native communities includes more truth telling and reconciliation efforts.
South Dakota Pubic Broadcasting’s C.J. Keene has more.
Across the nation, including in dozens of South Dakota communities, Native American children were forcibly removed from their homes and placed in boarding schools as part of a larger effort to assimilate them into wider American culture – often with tragic outcomes.
It’s recent enough history boarding school survivors are still alive and sharing their stories today.
New research published by the Catholic Truth & Healing website now tallies 87 Catholic-led institutions nationwide – including nine in South Dakota.
Maka Black Elk is executive director of truth and healing at the Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Reservation – a former boarding school.
He serves as a consultant for that group.
“The thing that people don’t understand often about the Catholic Church is that it’s not a single institution. It’s not all located in one single place like the federal government. So, this effort was really needed in order to bring some clarity as to where all those schools were, who ran them, and where those records might be and how tribes can access them.”
Black Elk says there are many pathways to healing these wounds.
“We have to do what we can to support people in their healing effort. While that might not mean a day in court for example on this issue, it could mean other things. Other ways of finding healing. Certainly, all of our Catholic former boarding schools which exist in this state should all be engaged in this effort.”
But for real reconciliation to happen, Black Elk says the church itself must be present.
“Anything that the Catholic Church can do to assist in these efforts is their responsibility to – and I say that as a Catholic person myself.”
Both the Sioux Falls and Rapid City Dioceses did not return request for comment.
The list of Catholic-operated boarding schools can be found here.
Fans of the TV drama Alaska Daily will never know if Eileen Fitzgerald, a hotshot reporter, will fall in love with a Bush pilot and put down roots in Alaska.
ABC has cancelled the series after only one season, as Rhonda McBride from our flagship station KNBA reports.
Hilary Swank played Fitzgerald, who went to Alaska to redeem her reputation, after she left a New York City newspaper in disgrace.
A former editor recruited her to help investigate a series of cold cases involving missing and murdered Indigenous women.
Eileen was neither impressed with the Alaska Daily, nor the reporter she was paired up with — Roz Friendly, an Alaska Native and one of the newspaper’s rising stars, played by Grace Dove.
Roz and Eileen eventually work together to solve the murder of a young Native woman — and learn from each other in the process.
Vera Starbard, an Alaska Native and one of the writers for the series, says she had hoped to expand Roz’s role, to reveal more about her culture and family background.
“Honestly. She’s the reason I signed onto the show. Like, OK, here’s a real Alaska Native character. This isn’t some silent nobody, who is going to get two lines, but fight for her own space and fight for her right to be there.”
Starbard says Roz and Eileen were pivotal characters, who helped to raise awareness about the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous people.
“Literally the millions of people who saw this show, now have to know this is an issue. And many of them are a little bit more educated about exactly why that’s an issue.”
Starbard says the true crime element was an important undercurrent in the show, though she and one of her co-writers, Andrew MacLean a filmmaker from Utgiaqvik, worked to keep Alaska Daily from becoming too sensational.
Starbard says they also tried hard to make the show as authentically Alaskan as possible and one of their big successes was getting Native languages incorporated into the script.
Also, the Alaska Native characters wore clothing, jewelry and regalia made by Alaska Natives.
Starbard says she’s disappointed but not surprised ABC cancelled the program.
It was an expensive show to produce and did not draw the ratings the network had hoped for.
Starbard says she wrote the eleventh and final episode, leaving the show with a feeling that there was so much more to share about the richness and beauty of Alaska’s Indigenous cultures.
Listen to Rhonda McBride’s full conversation with Vera Starbard here or in the NNN podcast feed:
The mother of the first Alaska Native person elected to Congress has died.
APRN’s Liz Ruskin has more.
LizAnn Williams was the mother of U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola (Yup’ik/D-AK).
Williams was 76 and Yup’ik, from the Kuskokwim River delta in Western Alaska.
She died Friday in Bethel.
Williams was a retired medical records clerk.
Until she was 6, she lived with her parents at the mouth of the Gweek River, a tributary to the Kuskokwim.
Then, according to Rep. Peltola, a Bureau of Indian Affairs official asked the family to move to a village so LizAnn could attend school.
They moved upriver to the village of Kwethluk.
Services are planned for Wednesday and Thursday at St. Sophia Orthodox Church in Bethel.
The predominantly Alaska Native city of 6,000 is also hosting Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and First Lady Jill Biden Wednesday evening.
It’s the first ever visit by a first lady to Bethel and the aim is to highlight broadband expansion in tribal areas.
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