By Theda New Breast
On Dec. 30, while on vacation with my mother, Betty Cooper, and my daughter, Amanda Old Crow, we discovered the headstones of two Piegan (Blackfeet) children who lie buried in the Carlisle Indian Industrial School graveyard -- Launy Shorty, Feb. 16, 1882, and George Ell, April 7, 1891.
We were brought to our knees with grief when we saw the rows of headstones marking the deaths of 186 Native children who had died while attending the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. Carlisle, Pa., is the site of the first boarding school to be opened in 1879. Policymakers sought to use the schoolhouse - specifically the boarding schools - as an instrument for acculturating Indian youth to "American" ways of thinking and living. By 1899, after some 3,800 students had attended Carlisle, only 209 had actually graduated.
Richard Henry Pratt, headmaster of Carlisle for 25 years, subscribed to the principle, "Kill the Indian in him and save the man."There is a national effort mounting among Tribes to ask President Obama for an apology from the United States for Indian children who were tortured in U.S. Boarding Schools. On June 11, 2008, the Canadian government apologized to Native people for the thousands who were traumatized at Canadian boarding schools. Elder Ozzie Williamson, elder Betty Cooper and White Bison Advisor Theda New Breast are announcing the Wellbriety Journey for Forgiveness.
The Wellbriety Journey for Forgiveness will begin May 16 at the Chemawa, Ore., Boarding school. It will continue as a 40-day, 6,800 mile cross-country journey to present and former Indian school sites, ending June 21 at the American Indian Museum in Washington, D.C.
The goal is to promote awareness, dialogue and forgiveness among Native people for the historical trauma carried home from these schools. This intergenerational trauma is believed to be at the root of substance abuse, suicides and domestic violence plaguing our reservation today.
For more information about the journey you can go to the website: http://www.wellbrietyjourney.org/
At each of the 23 sites there will be "Talking Circles" and Forgiveness and "Letting Go" ceremonies.