SOU’s Native American Student Union and Native American Studies program are working together to honor and recognize the victims of 150 years of residential and boarding school assimilation and erasure practices by hosting an interactive art display at various campus locations. The display – currently inside the Stevenson Union – is intended to bring awareness and education to the Boarding School Healing project.
The display of keepsakes and artifacts is available for viewing from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays through the summer. It will be installed at other locations around campus through fall and winter terms.
Chance White Eyes, an assistant professor of Native American Studies at SOU, will also teach a fall term course (NAS 360) on “Boarding School Legacies.” The class will offer Native American perspectives on the practices of Indian Boarding Schools in the U.S. and Canada, along with current practices in Indian education.
“The community is encouraged to add their own prayers, keepsake or item,” said an announcement of the display from the Native American Student Union.
“This is a first step in healing for the indigenous, Native American and Alaskan Native communities.”
A memo in June from U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland described the federal government’s attempts to forcibly assimilate indigenous cultures beginning with the Indian Civilization Act of 1819 and continuing through the 1960s. Indigenous children were taken from their families and relocated to distant residential facilities, where their Native identities, languages and beliefs were suppressed and parents could not visit. Many died of abuse and were buried in unmarked graves.
Resources for those who are struggling with recent disclosures about the practices of former Native American boarding schools are available through the Native American Student Union, which is part of SOU’s Multicultural Coalition, or the Native American Studies program.