Forum to Document The Boarding School Experiences of American Indians

cropped-boarding-school1ONEIDA, WISCONSIN — The Blue Skies Foundation will host a forum for and about Indian boarding school survivors – the first event of its kind in the United States – on October 22-25, 2014 at the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center, Oneida, Wisconsin. The event is open to the public and admission is free.

“Our purpose is to raise awareness of the treatment of Native children while in boarding schools and further our understanding of the effects of this treatment. By bringing this issue into the open, healing can begin. And while we have the ability to capture the first hand accounts from our people, it is vitally important that we do so,” said Dorothy Ninham, Director.

American Indian boarding schools were established in the U.S. during the late 19th and early 20th centuries to educate American Indian children and youth according to mainstream standards. They were first established by Christian missionaries of various denominations, who often started schools on reservations and founded boarding schools for children who did not have schools nearby, especially in the lightly populated areas of the West.

spokane-schoolgirls-1-150x150Eventually, the United States government paid religious societies to provide education to American Indian children on reservations. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Bureau of Indian Affairs founded additional boarding schools based on the assimilation model of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania. The number of Native American children in the boarding schools reached a peak in the 1970s, with an estimated enrollment of 60,000 in 1973.

The boarding schools caused untold damage to the fabric of American Indian families and communities. In numerous ways, the children were forced to abandon their American Indian identities and cultures. Children were forced to change their appearance, forbidden to speak their native languages, and given names to replace their traditional names.  In recent years, investigations have revealed the occurrence of sexual, physical, and mental abuse at the schools.

Co-sponsored by the University of Minnesota Human Rights Center; Human Rights Action Center, Washington, DC; and others the forum will examine the government’s residential school program and provide to survivors the opportunity to share their stories with the public, as well as a panel of distinguished judges who will provide conclusions and recommendations. Testimony also will be filmed to create a permanent record of survivors’ accounts. The Foundation will host a live stream of the forum from its Web site.

Those interested in attending and/or providing testimony may register at www.blueskiesfoundation.info.

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