Sometimes, the present provides an opportunity to right a wrong from the past that has plenty of tragedy and suffering. 

Finally, after well over one hundred years in unmarked graves in southwest Minnesota, six Native American women have their own memorial: a tribute to Lucy Walters, Mary Josephine Bordeaux, Mary Xavier Tasunka, Alma Parient, Bertha Tapatinwin, and Inez Brugier.

The six women died at a boarding school in Avoca, Minnesota between 1886 and 1889. There’s now a grave marker, and on Sunday a dedication in a windy cemetery on the prairie remembered them.

Theresa Henry of Sioux Falls is a member of the Nakota, Dakota, Ojibwa, and Cree tribes. She was at the dedication for the past and the present.

“I’m here to pay my respects to these Native American women that passed away here at this school and to show the love and dedication that we have for our people,” Henry said. 

A people who experienced, and in some cases, were able to survive a difficult past.

“Our ancestors went through a lot of hardships and a lot of trauma to help us survive, and we are still here today, and we are still holding on to our culture,” Henry said. 

This ceremony brought her different feelings.

“Emotional. I felt sadness, love, you know a lot of emotions, I thought about the women that were taken far from their home,” Henry said. 

“They got here as part of a program that the American federal government had in place at that time, whereby Native Americans were taken from the reservations and placed in boarding schools,” Sister Roseanne McDougall said.

McDougall, who lives in Pennsylvania, is the archivist for the Society of the Holy Child Jesus. The sisters who taught the six Native American women honored Sunday were from the same group. 

“The archives of the Sisters helped because we provided names and dates of death,” McDougall said.

She was there on Sunday for the past and the present, too.

“I am here because I want to recognize the importance of what I think the Catholic Daughters are sponsoring here today, of honoring these native women,” McDougall said. 

“It’s about respect, healing, and about fellowship. And working together,” Henry said.