TRAVERSE CITY — Earlier this month, Pope Francis issued an apology on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church for abuses that occurred at Catholic boarding schools for Indigenous children in Canada.
During his April 1 meeting with Indigenous delegations from Canada, Francis asked for forgiveness in a statement, “for the deplorable conduct of these members of the Catholic Church.”
While the action is aimed at Indigenous communities in Canada, it has also been long sought after by survivors and communities impacted by residential schools south of the border in the United States.
Many Native American communities are calling on the Roman Catholic Church and other religious denominations involved in the operation of institutions of assimilation to turn their attention now to the atrocities committed in the United States during the era of residential school policy.
American churches have an unprecedented account with their own legacy of operating such schools, local tribal members said.
“Our communities today face disparities directly related to this genocidal era,” said Leora Tadgerson, a citizen of Gnoozhikaaning-Bay Mills and Wiikwemkong First Nation.
She is Chair of the Board of the Native Justice Coalition and Acting Director of the Student Equity & Engagement Center at Northern Michigan University.
The Pope’s apology is a first step “for many” in addressing the centuries of trauma inflicted on Native American communities, she said.
“But without any action directly related to that, it’s just words,” she said.
Tadgerson explained that the pope has the power to affirm the authentic truth in each territory by funding the recording, transcription and preservation of archives.
“Following this initiative, they (the church) must abandon all documentation not only in the Vatican archives but in localized churches across America.”
Tadgerson is also part of an organization that educates on Michigan’s long and painful history of boarding schools and orphanages through the “Walking Together to Find Common Ground: Traveling Exhibit” project.
The project has just completed interviewing Michigan boarding school survivors about their experience – testimonials will be put into the exhibit along with the pictures, quotes, history and updates on Truth and Reconciliation from Native American boarding schools .
To date, the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition has identified 367 boarding schools in the United States, including 156 associated with the Catholic Church.
Michigan’s last boarding school, Holy Childhood in Harbor Springs, did not close until the 1980s.
Faith-based schools are expected to feature prominently in a report from the US Department of the Interior, led by Laguna Pueblo citizen and cabinet secretary Deb Haaland, expected to be released later this month.
The report will focus on the loss of life and lasting trauma that the American system inflicted on Indigenous children from the 19th to mid-20th centuries through government policy and legislation.
NABS signed an agreement with the Home Office in December to share its independent and ongoing research, but noted that the Home Office’s authority is limited.
In a statement released by NABS CEO and citizen of the Tulalip Tribes, Deborah Parker, the organization calls on the Roman Catholic Church, its associated religious orders and who operate these assimilative institutions “to make openly available and freely accessible all boarding and records of Mission to any Tribal Nation, Tribal Citizen, Boarding School Survivor or Descendant, or Native American-run organization seeking to review, digitize, or retrieve these records.
The statement reads: “The Roman Catholic Church must also revoke the Doctrine of Discovery,” which established spiritual, political and legal justification for the settlement and seizure of lands not inhabited by Christians.
Parker in the statement asks all religious institutions to approve the bill currently in Congress for the United States to create a Truth and Healing Commission on the policies of Indian Residential Schools in the United States (S. 2907 and HR 5444) .
Waganakising Odawa Meredith Kennedy, a citizen of the Odawa Indian Band of Little Traverse Bay, attended Holy Childhood in the early 1980s. She said she was the last in her family to attend residential school.
As the Record-Eagle previously reported, Kennedy also leads Zagaswe’iwe, a council responsible for addressing the Holy Childhood with Anishinaabek elders and community members.
She was directly involved in drafting Senate Bill 876, which would encourage the State Board of Education to include the history of Indian boarding schools in the state’s recommended curriculum standards for eighth through twelfth graders. year.
She is among other Anishinaabek communities and political leaders such as LTBB, Little River Band of Odawa Indians and Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians who have spoken out in recent years for the work that needs to be done no only to recognize the truth, but to lead to reconciliation.
“I am grateful that the Pope has verbally acknowledged and apologized for the genocide created by the residential schools of our First Nations relationships in Canada,” Kennedy said, “but apologies are empty words with no action following them. .”
The Zagaswe’iwe Council is currently working on a bill with the support of the Michigan State Senate and House that would officially recognize September 30 as Indian Boarding School Appreciation Day in the state.
Anishinaabek delegates, along with the council, will testify at the committee to discuss the bill.
Kennedy said community-led organizations and individuals continue to push for policies that recognize and seek to address the generational trauma and cultural erasure of Indigenous peoples.
The council will resume in-person meetings in May, outside Holy Childhood Church in Harbor Springs on the first Sunday of the month to continue to speak to the community.
“I hope that the advocacy made here in the United States will lead the Pope to recognize that Canada is not alone in being ashamed of these policies and practices, that the United States also shares this shame, and with these countries across Turtle Island and South America.”