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BOZEMAN, Mont. — The Road to Healing tour that begin in July 2022 in Anadarko, Oklahoma came to an end at Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana on Sunday, November 5, 2023. The session was the 12th stop of The Road to Healing tour. Sunday's listening session was led by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) and Principal Deputry Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Wizipan Little Elk Garriott (Rosebud Sioux Tribe).

The final listening session was one more piece of the Interior Departments collaborative efforts to address the intergenerational impact of federal Indian boarding schools and to promote spiritual and emotional healing in tribal communities across Indian Country.

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The Interior Department’s Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative Investigative Report (May 11, 2022), authored by Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Bryan Newland (Bay Mills Indian Community), reported there were 16 Indian boarding schools operated in Montana prior to 1969.

"Federal Indian boarding school policies have impacted every single Indigenous person I know. Some are survivors, some are descendants, but we all carry this painful legacy in our hearts regardless of who we are. And how we got here. deeply ingrained in so many of us is the trauma that these policies and these places have inflicted on our people," Secretary Haaland told the crowd of some 250 people assembled on Sunday morning.

Indian Health Service (IHS) Director Roselyn Tso (Navajo), who has attended several Road to Healing tour sessions previously, was present Sunday to hear the testimony.

“I am humbled by the opportunity to have participated in the Road to Healing listening sessions held throughout Indian Country.  The stories from tribal citizens describing their experiences has been heart wrenching at times and reflects the challenges that still continue today for Indian communities," Tso said to Native News Online. "The Indian Health Service as an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services is supportive of the initiative and look forward to the final guidance for continued mental and behavioral healing from boarding school, historical and generational traumas for all indigenous people.”

Also in attendance for her eighth Road to Healing session was Shelly Lowe (Navajo), chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Starting with the listening session on the Navajo Nation on January 22, 2023, Lowe has attended every session since.

"My biggest takeaway is how many individuals have come forward and said, 'I've never once ever talked about this experience before. I've never told my wife. I've never told my children, I've never told anybody'. And how many of them then said, 'I am here to tell my story. I'm here because you asked me to and I'm here now to say how important it is that I need to tell this story and they're difficult stories to tell.' I'm sure because they're difficult stories to hear. But it amazes me how many years individuals have lived with this experience, and have never once ever spoken about it." Lowe told Native News Online.

Testimony was heard from several elders who attended Indian boarding schools in Montana. Their testimony was consistent with testimonies made during all previous Road to Healing tour listening sessions. They told of physical, emotional, and sexual abuses they experienced while attending boarding schools in Montana during the 1950s and 1960s.

Donovan Archambault recounted his experiences while attending a boarding school. (Photo/Levi Rickert)

An elder is consoled after she made testimony on Sunday. (Photo/Levi Rickert)

 

With the end of the listening sessions, a Road to Healing report will be released by the Interior Department in the early part of 2024.

The Road to Healing Tour Listening Sessions

July 9, 2022                    Anadarko, Oklahoma

August 13, 2022            Pellston, Michigan

October 15, 2022          Rosebud, South Dakota

January 20, 2023          Gila River Indian Reservation, Arizona

January 22, 2023          Navajo Nation, Many Farms, Arizona

April 23, 2023              Tulalip Indian Reservation

June 3, 2023                  Mille Lacs Indian Reservation, Onamia, Minnesota

August 4, 2023             Riverside, California

August 6,2023              Rohnert, California

October 22, 2023         Anchorage, Alaska

October 29, 2023         Albuquerque, New Mexico

November 5, 2023       Bozeman, Montana

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These stories must be heard.

This May, we are highlighting our coverage of Indian boarding schools and their generational impact on Native families and Native communities. Giving survivors of boarding schools and their descendants the opportunity to share their stories is an important step toward healing — not just because they are speaking, but because they are being heard. Their stories must be heard. Help our efforts to make sure Native stories and Native voices are heard in 2024. Please consider a recurring donation to help fund our ongoing coverage of Indian boarding schools. Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous-centered journalism. Thank you.

About The Author
Levi Rickert
Author: Levi RickertEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Levi "Calm Before the Storm" Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is the founder, publisher and editor of Native News Online. Rickert was awarded Best Column 2021 Native Media Award for the print/online category by the Native American Journalists Association. He serves on the advisory board of the Multicultural Media Correspondents Association. He can be reached at [email protected].