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‘Still going through that trauma’: Boarding school survivors share their experiences

Mount Pleasant Industrial Boarding School
Wikimedia commons
The Mount Pleasant Industrial Boarding School is one of five schools in Michigan that forced assimilation.

The Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians hosted the Michigan-based segment of the “Road to Healing'' Tour this weekend.

The listening session is part of the Department of Interior’s initiative to raise awareness of federal Indian boarding schools.

Michigan was home to five Indian boarding schools. The schools were part of an institutional effort to eradicate Indigenous cultures across the country.

At the Pellston session, survivors and their families shared their experiences with inter-generational trauma and physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, at the schools.

One speaker shared how she was constantly ridiculed and shamed by a nun at Holy Childhood boarding school in Harbor Springs.

“I still can’t get over that day, what she did to me," she said. "I’m 78 years old, and I’m still going through that trauma… That was not a good school.”

For some speakers, this was the first time they had ever shared their stories.

The Department of Interior says the next step in the “road to healing” is to find unmarked graves of the children of boarding schools.

“Federal Indian boarding school policies have touched every Indigenous person I know," Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland said. "Some are survivors, some are descendants, but we all carry the trauma in our hearts.”

Teresa Homsi is an environmental reporter and Report for America Corps Member based in northern Michigan for WCMU. She covers rural environmental issues, focused on contamination, conservation, and climate change.