Indian Boarding Schools: Cultural Destruction - Catholic Bishops in Canada Apologized 


Canadian Catholic bishops apologize for residential schools 

OTTAWA, Ontario — Catholic bishops in Canada apologized Friday “unequivocally” to Indigenous peoples for the suffering endured in residential schools, just as Pope Francis prepares to meet with Indigenous leaders at the Vatican later this fall. 

The institutions held children taken from families across the nation. From the 19th century until the 1970s, more than 150,000 First Nations children were required to attend state-funded Christian schools as part of a program to assimilate them into Canadian society. They were forced to convert to Christianity and not allowed to speak their Native languages. Many were beaten and verbally abused, and up to 6,000 are said to have died. 

The Catholic bishops in Canada are promising to provide documents that may help “memorialize” students buried in unmarked graves, work on getting the Pope to visit Canada, and raise money to help fund initiatives recommended by local Indigenous partners. 


   What happened inside of the walls of the Indian Boarding School that was to the right here? 


Let’s look to history for some feasible answers. 

(all bold mine) 


The Social Welfare Forum: Official Proceedings [of The] Annual Forum 

As we have taken into our national family seven millions of Negroes, and as we receive foreigners at the rate of more than five hundred thousand a year, and assimilate them, it would seem that the time may have arrived when we can very properly make at least the attempt to assimilate our two hundred and fifty thousand Indians, using this proven potent line, and see if that will not end this vexed question and remove them from public attention, where they occupy so much more space than they are entitled to either by numbers or worth. 

 Children are educated to become responsible and free thinking adults in the future; however, those were not Elazor Wheelock’s goals when he began Dartmouth College in 1769. To the contrary of genuine educational goals, Indian Boarding Schools used forced assimilation and cultural destruction with a military regimen to “at least the attempt to assimilate our two hundred and fifty thousand Indians.” 

Indian boarding schools usually imitated military life. Children were forced to cut their hair, wear uniforms, and march in formations. Rules were very strict and discipline was often harsh when rules were broken. 

 Just how did the “schools” come into reality? Christian denominations were given power to build them on reservations as the result of Ulysses S. Grant’s “peace policy.” 

(photo added) 

Source The policy pursued toward the Indians has resulted favorably, so far as can be judged from the limited time during which it has been in operation. Through the exertions of the various societies of Christians to whom has been entrusted the execution of the policy, and the board of commissioners authorized by the law of April 10, 1869, many tribes of Indians have been induced to settle upon reservations, to cultivate the soil, to perform productive labor of various kinds, and to partially accept civilization.They are being cared for in such a way, it is hoped, as to induce those still pursuing their old habits of life to embrace the only opportunity which is left them to avoid extermination. 
I recommend liberal appropriations to carry out the Indian peace policy, 
not only because it is humane, Christian like, and economical, but because it is right. 


Those Christian denominations also had leverage with the B.I.A., yet only in terms of carrying out the “peace policy” on reservations. 

Now that the general historical context has been set with specifics, what were the means to the “cultural destruction and forced assimilation?” Clearly put, it’s categorized into the following: physical abuse, mental abuse, emotional abuse, spiritual abuse, sexual abuse, willful negligence resulting in illness and death; and murder. Ironically, Friends of the American Indian and Thomas Morgan believed those were merely the lesser evils. (photo added) 

Source The choices seemed simple and stark to the reformer movement — either kill all the Indians or assimilate them into white civilization through education 


Source "We must either fight Indians, feed them, or else educate them. To fight them is cruel, to feed them is wasteful, while to educate them is humane, economic, and Christian." 

 Some examples of extremely poor sanitation conditions, dietary deficiency, extraordinary abuse, death in the Indian Boarding Schools; and overall context preceding Indian Boarding Schools are: 

extremely poor sanitation conditions (pg.13), 

They are in themselves reasonably satisfactory, but they shut off light and air from the inside rooms, which are still filled.with beds beyond their capacity. The toilet facilities have in many cases not been increased proportionately to the increase in pupils, and they are fairly frequently not properly maintained or conveniently. located. The supply of soap and towels has been inadequate. 

dietary deficiency, 

THE PROBLEM OF INDIAN ADMINISTRATION Report of a Survey made at the request of Honorable Hubert Work, Secretary of the Interior, and submitted to him, February 21, 1928. Pg.3 

The survey staff finds itself obliged to say frankly and unequivo- cally that the provisions for the care of the Indian children in boarding schools are grossly inadequate. The outstanding deficiency is in the diet furnished the Indian children, many of whom are below normal health. The diet is deficient in quantity, quality, and variety. The effort has been made to feed the children on a per capita of eleven cents a clay. plus what can be produced on the schoolfarm, including the dairy. 

extraordinary abuse, cultural genocide, 

Source When they got to Carlisle, the students were extremely homesick. Their long hair was cut. One boarding school student, Lone Wolf of the Blackfoot tribe, remembered: "[Long hair] was the pride of all Indians. The boys, one by one, would break down and cry when they saw their braids thrown on the floor. All of the buckskin clothes had to go and we had to put on the clothes of the White Man. If we thought the days were bad, the nights were much worse. This is when the loneliness set in, for it was when we knew that we were all alone. Many boys ran away from the school because the treatment was so bad, but most of them were caught and brought back by the police." 


Source They were forbidden to practice their religion and were forced to memorize Bible verses and the Lord’s Prayer. 

extraordinary physical, mental, emotional, sexual, and spiritual abuse; 

Source Rose was strapped for speaking her language. This is a common practice in schools all over the place at the time. Her open hands were hit with a large thick leather strap, many times. 
I received the strap on several occasions, although not as harshly as Rose did in my story. I did see many native children whose hands were strapped so long and hard that they were blistered for days, as though they had been burned with fire. 

Source Indian Boarding School Abuse – Including Child Molestation In the late 19th century, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (in conjunction with various churches) placed thousands of Native American children into Indian Boarding Schools. At the boarding schools, the children were forced to give up their Indian heritage and were forbidden from speaking their native languages. They were routinely beaten and sexually abused, and some even died. 

 Death in the Indian Boarding Schools is what we’ll learn about next. Here is a letter that author and professor of American Studies at the University of Minnesota, Brenda J. Child posted, Boarding School Seasons: American Indian Families, 1900-1940 (North American Indian Prose Award Series) (Paperback) by Brenda J. Child,that informs a parent of the death of its child from an Indian Boarding School.                


(Italics mine) 

Source (letter is no longer up, this is the old address) Dear Sir, It is with a feeling of sorrow that I write you telling of the death of your daughter Lizzie. She was sick but a short time and we did not think her so near her end. Last Wednesday I was called away to Minneapolis and I was very much surprised upon my return Saturday evening to find she was dead, as they had given us no information except she might live for a number of months. Those that were with her say she did not suffer, but passed away as one asleep. I am very sorry that you could not have seen your daughter alive, for she had grown quite a little and improved very much since you let her come here with me. If we had known she was going to live but so short a time, we would have made a great effort to have gotten you here before she died. So wrote the superintendent of Flandreau Indian School to the father of a student who died of tuberculosis in a government boarding school in 1907. ...Hundreds of children like Lizzie died at boarding school, never to return to their families and communities. 

"Please remember me when I'm in the grave" 

Unmarked graves shed light on 'America's best kept secret' of abuse towards Native communities. 

Small, 56, conducted the survey using ground penetrating radar as part of her master's thesis research at Montana State University. 

In the school's historical records, she had found autograph books from the 1890s in which children wrote private messages to each other. 

"Please remember me when I'm in the grave," one boy who was re-named Danny Boone by the school staff, had written to a friend. 

and lastly, the overall context preceding Indian Boarding Schools.  

(1)Kurt Kaltreider, PH.D. "American Indian Prophecies," p.44: 

...It is estimated that 100 million Indians from the Caribbean, Central, South, and North America perished at the hands of the European invaders. Sadly, unbelievably, really, much of that wholesale destruction was sanctioned and carried out by the Roman Catholic Church and various Protestant denominations.(1: p.37) 

   What is just one devastating consequence of all this? Boarding School Intergenerational Trauma, which is being addressed by indigenous people who still suffer from its devastating effects. 


Source Working to heal the wounds of boarding school United Nations panel hopes to undo the damage caused by U.S. government's Indian boarding school policies By Karen Lynch 
“People in Indian country are still becoming aware of the effects of boarding school trauma,” said Dr. Eulynda Toledo-Benalli, Dine’, currently performing boarding school healing project research with the Navajo people. “This is something about our history that is not being talked about in a way that encourages healing from its intergenerational trauma...” 
As a panelist, Dr. Toledo-Benalli said the pain she suffered as a second-generation survivor affected not only herself but her children, as well. “Many times I have said to my children that I’m sorry for the way I treat them. This is so, because parents learn parenting skills from their parents. It is said that the oppressed become the oppressors. 
As Dr. Toledo-Benalli talked about the painful memories as a survivor, the memory of her father who was “snatched and taken to Colorado, to a place that he did not know even existed. My mother who was herding sheep was also snatched. 

Additionally, the Wellbriety Movement helps with boarding school intergenerational trauma as well. 

Source The Healing Forest Model 
The unhealed forest (community, left) transforms itself into a healed forest (right) by participating in and utilizing Wellbriety Movement activities, programs, and learning resources. The destructive roots of anger, guilt, shame and fear of the unhealed forest become the four gifts of the Sacred Hoop: Forgiving the Unforgivable, Healing, Unity and Hope. The wounded trees become healthy trees and the community participates in wellness involvements, such as, sober powwows, tradition, culture and spirituality. These are some of the gifts of the Wellbriety Movement. 

​Medicine Bluffs 

  I hope with all my heart that those relatives, known and unknown, who still suffer are able to find the peace and resolution they need for themselves and their loved ones. Peace. 

See also Children Left Behind: The Dark Legacy of Indian Mission Boarding Schools by Tim Giago

Forced Sterilizations of Indigenous Women. Holmes said “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” 

  "A 1970 Law Led to the Mass Sterilization of Native American Women. That History Still Matters 



Marie Sanchez, chief tribal judge on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, arrived in Geneva in 1977 with a clear message to deliver to the United Nations Convention on Indigenous Rights. American Indian women, she argued, were targets of the “modern form” of genocide—sterilization 

Over the six-year period that had followed the passage of the Family Planning Services and Population Research Act of 1970, physicians sterilized perhaps 25% of Native American women of childbearing age, and there is evidence suggesting that the numbers were actually even higher. Some of these procedures were performed under pressure or duress, or without the women’s knowledge or understanding. The law subsidized sterilizations for patients who received their health care through the Indian Health Service and for Medicaid patients, and black and Latina women were also targets of coercive sterilization in these years. 

But while Sanchez and the Native women with whom she organized responded to the results of that 1970 law, they also recognized that the fight against involuntary sterilization was one of many intertwined injustices rooted—as was their resistance—in a much longer history of U.S. colonialism. And that history continues to this day. "


"First Nations women forced to be sterilized before they could see newborns 

Sixty Indigenous women are filing a class-action lawsuit alleging forced sterilizations over the past nearly three decades, According to a CBC radio report. 

A large group of Indigenous women are seeking a class-action lawsuit for alleged forced sterilizations that took place over the past twenty-five years in Saskatchewan. The women are each claiming 7 million dollars in damages. 

According to the report, the sterilizations occurred as early as 2017, and the women are alleging they were told the procedure was reversible according to Alisa Lombard, who works with Maurice Law, the first indigenous owned law firm in Canada. 

The Current Transcript for November 13, 2018"


VOICE: I'm laying there, scared enough, not wanting this done. Been telling her I didn't want it done. Then all of a sudden, I smelled something burning. If I could've moved my legs, I probably would have kicked her or something. 

See also: Now There is a Film about Forced Sterilizations of Indigenous Women by Mary Annette Pember 


  The Forced Sterilizations of indigenous women were covert means of the continuation of extermination policy against Indian Nations. At least three indigenous generations from 3,406 women are not in existence now as the result. The sterilizations were not unintentional or negligible. They were genocide. What would the indigenous culture and political landscape be now? One can only imagine, but the sterilizations like the relocations - were forced. 

First, the forced sterilizations must be seen in historical and modern context. 

"Leonard Crow Dog and Richard Erdoes. “Crow Dog.” pp. 6-7. Only when we saw them building roads through our land, wagons at first, and then the railroad, when we watched them building forts, killing off all the game, committing buffalo genocide, and we saw them ripping up our Black Hills for gold, our sacred Paha Sapa, the home of the wakinyan, the thunderbirds, only then did we realize what they wanted was our land. Then we began to fight. For our earth. For our children. That started what the whites call the Great Indian Wars of the West. I call it the Great Indian Holocaust. "

"Maze Of Injustice - Amnesty International 

Sexual violence against Indigenous women in the USA is widespread. According to US government statistics, Native American and Alaska Native women are more than 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than other women in the USA. 

- snip - 

According to the US Department of Justice, in at least 86 per cent of the reported cases of rape or sexual assault against American Indian and Alaska Native women, survivors report that the perpetrators are non-Native men. 

Here’s a historical example of violence against Native American women during this general time, to complete laying the foundation. "

"Commemorating Anna Mae 

AIM firrst came to South Dakota when a call was made for outside help get serious convictions against white men responsible for a racially motivated murder that took place in a Nebraska border town. A Lakota man had been publicly humiliated and later murdered by 2 white brothers. 

- big snip - 

When her body was discovered in February of 1976, law officials and FBI agents including David Price investigated the cause of her death. They cut off her hands for "fingerprint analysis", and despite the visible bullet hole in the back of her head, they determined her cause of death to be from frostbite. They quickly arranged for her to be buried as a Jane Doe. A second autopsy was ordered by the Wounded Knee Legal Offense Defense Committee, and Anna Mae's family, when her identity was revealed by the FBI. Her body was re-dug up, and an independent pathologist discovered a gaping bullet wound in the back of her head. It was easy for him to locate and remove the .32 calibre bullet lodged her head. 

Anna Mae Aquash 

The first autopsy, conducted by Pine Ridge Public Health Service, listed exposure as the cause of death. The hands of the unidentified corpse were cut off and sent to the FBI for identification. On March 3,1976, the fingerprints from the severed hands were identified by the FBI as those of Aquash. Her family obtained another autopsy, which was conducted by the same agency on March 10. That time investigators noted a .32-caliber bullet hole at the back of the skull, making clear that her death had been a homicide. "

The general historical foundation being laid, I ask what would the population of indigenous people be now, approximately three generations after the forced sterilizations? 

According to the GAO report, 3406 Native American women between the ages of fifteen and forty-four were sterilized between 1973 and 1976. 

Eugenics: The Scalpel and the Sword: The Sterilization Campaign Targeting Native Americans in the 1970s.. 

In the old days, genocide used to be so simple. Such things as biological warfare used to keep Indians warm with small pox infested blankets furnished by the United States government, and the only thing barren and infertile was the land set aside for reservations. In the 1970s, genocide became a little more complex. Biological warfare invaded the reproductive rights of Native American women, making their wombs as barren and infertile as reservation land. The sterilization policies during this time perpetuated the genocidal tendencies that have made the eugenics movement a viable legacy of terror in the biological history of Native Americans 

Next, the specifics of who uncovered the forced sterilizations and why that conclusion was reached are vital. The dark moment of discovery came from a Choctaw- Cherokee physician named Connie Uri. 

Kurt Kaltreider, PH.D. “American Indian Prophecies.” p. 71. A Choctaw-Cherokee physician, Connie Uri, uncovered this program (large-scale sterilization) when she was asked by a young Indian woman for a womb transplant. 

The Indian Health Service and the Sterilization of Native American Women 

Kurt Kaltreider, PH.D. “American Indian Prophecies.” p. 71. She (Connie Uri) scoured the records of the BIA-run Indian Health Service Hospital in Claremont, Oklahoma, and discovered that 75% of the sterilizations were nontherapeutic. Many of the women did not understand the true nature of the surgery, thought it was a kind of reversible birth control, or even signed the consent forms while groggy from sedation after childbirth. 

A Look at the Indian Health Service Policy of Sterilization, 1972-1976 by Charles R. England The hospital records show that both tubal ligation and hysterectomies were used in sterilization. Dr. Uri commented: "In normal medical practice, hysterectomies are rare in women of child bearing age unless there is cancer or other medical problems" (Akwesasne Notes, 1974: 22). Besides the questionable surgery techniques being allowed to take place, there was also the charge of harassment in obtaining consent forms. 


Kutr Kaltreider, PH.D. “American Indian Prophecies.” pp. 71-72. Following Dr. Uri’s lead, Senator James Abourezk initiated a federal investigation of the General Accounting office. The resulting report gave the results of a survey from four out of twelve regions with Indian Health Services hospitals. In a three-tear period, over 3,400 sterilizations were performed; 3,000 of them on Indian women under the age of 44. In not one instance were the women offered consent forms that met the federal guidelines and requirements. About 5% of Indian women were being sterilized - studies revealed that the Indian Health Service sterilized between 25 and 50 percent of Native American women between 1970 and 1976. Dr. Connie Pinkerton-Uri conducted a study that revealed that IHs physicians sterilized at least 25 percent of American Indian women between the ages of fifteen and forty-four. Cheyenne tribal judge Marie Sanchez questioned fifty Cheyenne women and discovered that IHS doctors had sterilized twenty-six of them. She announced her belief that the number of women the GAO reported sterilized was too low and that the percentage was much higher than 25 percent. Mary AnnBear Comes Out, a member of the Northern Cheyenne tribe, conducted a survey on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation and Labre Mission grounds. She found that in a three-year period, the IHs sterilized fifty-six out of 165 women between the ages of thirty and forty-four in the survey area. She wrote that "the data indicate that the same rate of sterilizations would reduce births among this group by more than half over a five-year period." The sterilization of Indian women affected their families and friends; many marriages ended in divorce, and numerous friendships became estranged or dissolved completely. The women had to deal with higher rates of marital problems, alcoholism, drug abuse, psychological difficulties, shame, and guilt. Sterilization abuse affected the entire Indian community in the United States.31 

What would the population of indigenous people be now? What would indigenous culture and political landscape be? I don’t know, but the sterilizations like the relocations – were forced. 

Source "And...if ever we are constrained to lift the hatchet against any tribe, " he wrote, "we will never lay it down till that tribe is exterminated, or is driven beyond the Mississippi." Jefferson, the slave owner, continued, "in war, they will kill some of us; we shall destroy all of them". (Ibid) 

(below link and article can not be found on internet any longer, but it was there years ago) 

sterilizations in the 70's The following is a copy of an article by Joan Burnes which appeared in the Lakota Times last August 24th (1994). - snip - Emery A. Johnson, then-director of the IHS, told a congressional committee in 1975 that IHS "considered non-therapeutic sterilization a legitimate method of family planning... We are not aware of any instance in which such services have been abused." 

To conclude, one day before his passing Carter Camp shared with us his direct experience with stopping Forced Sterilizations. 

This is one of the issues I've worked on in my life that sincerly pissed me off. Dr. Connie Uri was a surgeon and AIM member who worked with us on several issues. In 1971 I organized Oklahoma AIM and we did organizing work around Claremore Indian Hospital in NE Oklahoma. In 1972 a group of Indian nurses there came to AIM and asked that we get involved in this case of forced sterilizations. We did and tried to help the nurses who knew what was going on but were fired when they asked questions. We kept running into walls and the nurses were being weeded out one by one. I should say IHS employees as some were not nurses but the nurses led them in this struggle. After some work it became obvious that we needed an expert on the inside so I called Connie and asked for her help. Connie came to Oklahoma and went to the hospital prentending she was going to move to Ok and was looking for work. Since she was a highly qualified surgeon and over qualified for the IHS they began to recruit her. In doing so they open their books to her to show her their workload etc. Connie spent a few days familiarizing herself with the place (and secretly copying the pertinent material) by the time she informed them she couldn't go to work there we had our evidence and Connie became our main witness! We won the cases and put a stop to the horrible bullshit going down. Along with the brave ndn nurses, Dr.Connie Uri was truly a hero in exposing one of the worst atrocities in IHS history. 

   Personally, I believe there were a lot more than 3,406. And the history never stopped repeating. 

(Bold mine) 

The recent news of a whistleblower’s allegations that a for-profit ICE detention center forced sterilization procedures on immigrant women shocked many people and drew comparisons to Nazi sterilization campaigns. The ICE detention story reflects a long pattern in the United States of the coerced sterilization of marginalized populations, particularly of Black, Latinx, and Indigenous peoples. In fact, the Nazi’s borrowed ideas for their sterilization regimen from eugenic sterilization laws adopted in the U.S. in the early 20th century. 

Over the course of this long history, both public and private actors in the U.S. targeted the poor, the disabled, immigrants, and racial minorities for forced sterilization. Spurred by the eugenics movement popular at the turn of the century, states enacted laws beginning in 1907 that authorized the sterilization of the “feebleminded.” More than 60,000 coercive sterilizations were performed throughout the U.S. pursuant to these eugenics laws. In Buck v. Bell, the Supreme Court legitimized early 20th century eugenic sterilization practices with Oliver Wendell Holmes’ notorious declaration: “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” 


Author is a member of the Metis Nation of the United States