Healing from history: The Tekakwitha Boarding School and Orphanage

Local News

SISSETON, S.D. (KELO) – It’s a sordid history that’s coming to light in the United States — government and Catholic-run boarding schools for Native American children. Many of those schools are linked to reports of indoctrination and abuse at the hands of those running the schools.

Decades after the Catholic-run Tekakwitha Boarding School and Orphanage closed, members of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate still feel the impact on the tribe.

“You don’t realize how embedded the fear and the pain and the trauma is with some of our tribal members,” Dionne Crawford, Lake Traverse Council Representative said. “And even being able to have a good relationship with the school, sometimes is hindered because school was used to oppress our people. School was used as a reason and excuse to take children from their families.”

Crawford says many people who grew up in the orphanage were taught their Native American culture was ‘wrong’ and ‘dirty.’

“Like I see people and you know that they went through some stuff and I just think how amazing they are that they’re still able to live and breathe and work and survive after that type of trauma and that pain,” Crawford said. “Our people are absolutely amazing to have gone through that type of oppression as a child and to still be here.”

Bobby GreyEagle is a ministry chaplain enrolled with the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate. He believes a powerful step in beginning to heal is acknowledgement.

“I remember one pastor saying to me, he said, I really feel like our church is cursed because of our failure to not acknowledge,” GreyEagle said. “And I’m like, oh my goodness, this pastor just said this to me. I mean, it was just one-on-one but it was a powerful moment and I was like, I feel like more of that could happen. But we just, all of us humans we give each other the block. So, but I believe there’s power in acknowledgement.”

Experiences at this school and ones like it can vary from person to person.

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