(This story’s original headline read “The Road to Healing tour wraps up its year-long journey”. That headline was incorrect because the tour has added dates to its schedule. The story has been updated to reflect the changes.)
MILLE LACS COUNTY, Minnesota – The U.S. Department of the Interior is continuing the Road to Healing Tour. The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe hosted an event on June 3, making it the seventh stop along the tour.
Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland and Assistant Secretary Bryan Newland started the journey on July 9, 2022 at Riverside Indian School in Anadarko, Okla.
The school first opened its doors to Native American students in 1875 and is still open to Native American students today. Riverside is intertribal, meaning multiple tribes attend.
Previous stops have included Pellston, Michigan, the Rosebud Indian Reservation, the Gila River Indian Community and Navajo Nation in Arizona, and the Tulalip Reservation in Washington.
The tour is part of the Department of the Interior’s Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative. In the initiative report, it was determined that the best way to collect data and promote healing was to visit with the communities personally.
These schools operated between 1819 through the 1970s, forcibly taking children from their families to assimilate them.
The survivors and their descendants have shown up to tell their stories.
At times, Haaland and the rooms were moved to tears when they heard about the abuse and trauma Native American children went through. Some carry life-long scars without the chance to heal.
In an interview with NPR, Haaland said the lack of Native Americans in leadership roles has deterred the issue. “Representation matters,” Haaland said. “And that’s one of the reasons why I felt it was important for me to raise this issue.”
The trauma that has been passed down generationally in Native American families still linger, according to Haaland.
She claimed the trauma is present when they looked at the family dynamics, addiction, poverty, health disparities, and lack of economic development in these communities.
“We should care about every single community in this country,” she said. “So bringing all of these things to light; it will make us become a better country.”
The oral stories have been collected and will be stored and used in further research under the initiative.
Those who tell their stories will be historically documented.
Native communities often remember those who never came home from boarding schools with vigils and remembrance walks. So far, burial sites have been discovered at approximately 53 former boarding schools.
The initiative will investigate that issue further.
Mvskoke Media will continue to follow the Department of Interiors’ Federal Boarding School Initiative.
The U.S. Department of Interior claims there are several more stops planned in the future.
Personal stories and accounts of Native American families with boarding school survivors can still be submitted by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.