- By Levi Rickert
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.
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.
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
More Stories Like ThisNative News Weekly (December 10, 2023): D.C. Briefs
December 10th is the 75th Human Rights Day
Vice President Harris Addresses Indian Boarding Schools at the White House Tribal Nations Summit
Native News Online Reporter Selected for Oxford Climate Reporting Fellowship
'This has Been a Train Wreck for a Long Time' | Fentanyl Trafficking, Underfunded Tribal Enforcement Subject of Senate Committee Hearing
Together, we can educate, enlighten, and empower.November is celebrated as “Native American Heritage Month.” At Native News Online, we amplify Native voices and share our relatives’ unique perspectives every day of the year. We believe every month should celebrate Native American heritage.
If you appreciate our commitment to Native voices and our mission to tell stories that connect us to our roots and inspire understanding and respect, we hope you will consider making a donation this month to support our work. For those who commit to a recurring donation of $12 per month or more, or make a one-time donation of $150 or greater, we're excited to offer you a copy of our upcoming Indian Boarding School publication and access to our quarterly Founder’s Circle meetings and newsletter.