Looking into the history of Tekakwitha Boarding School and Orphanage

Eye on KELOLAND

SISSESTON, S.D. (KELO) — It’s a sordid history that’s been coming to light recently in the United States — the history of government and Catholic-ran boarding schools for Native Americans.

The land that this park on the Lake Traverse Reservation sits on has a dark history that dates back only to the early to mid 1900’s. And only just about ten years ago is when the land was refocused from something that holds traumatic memories for many people.

The Catholic-ran Tekakwitha Boarding School and Orphanage used to sit on this land. It was ran by Father John Pohlen from the 1940s to 70s. This boarding school has a similar story to many others across the country with reports of alleged physical, emotional and sexual abuse to Native American children. This land has now been refocused into a park.

“I know that when they did that, it was former Chairman Shepard that really took the lead on that and really wanted to make it into, he wanted, my understanding is that he wanted to change the, memorialize those individuals who are survivors. But also take what it was, this painful, awful place and turn it into a place that could be enjoyed,” Dionne Crawford, Lake Traverse Council Representative said.

In Monday night’s Eye on KELOLAND, we’ll take a closer look at the experiences children in the Tekakwitha boarding school and orphanage had and we look at how that dark history still impacts the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate today.

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