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  • Writer's pictureLonnie Jeffries

Shadows of the Past: The Legacy of Native American Boarding School

The history of Native American boarding schools in the United States is a dark chapter that casts a long shadow over the cultural heritage of Indigenous peoples. These schools, which operated from the late 19th century well into the 20th century, were established with the intention of assimilating Native American children into mainstream American society.

Under the guise of education, Native American children were forcibly removed from their families and communities and sent to these boarding schools, often far from their ancestral lands. The curriculum emphasized the English language, Christianity, and European-American customs while denigrating Indigenous languages, cultures, and traditions.

The experience of Native American children in these schools was often traumatic. They were subjected to harsh discipline, physical abuse, and neglect. Their hair, clothing, and names were forcibly changed to erase their cultural identity. The goal was to "kill the Indian, save the man," as advocated by Captain Richard Henry Pratt, founder of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School.

Despite the hardships endured, many Native American children and their communities resisted assimilation efforts. They found ways to preserve their languages, traditions, and spirituality, often in secret. Over time, as the injustices of the boarding school system came to light, Native American activism and advocacy led to its eventual decline.

Today, the legacy of Native American boarding schools looms large, leaving a lasting impact on Indigenous communities. Many survivors and their descendants continue to grapple with intergenerational trauma, loss of cultural knowledge, and systemic inequalities. Efforts to address this painful history, seek healing, and preserve Indigenous cultures are ongoing.

As we confront the shadows of the past, it is essential to acknowledge the resilience and strength of Native American peoples. By honoring their stories, reclaiming cultural heritage, and advocating for justice, we can work towards healing the wounds inflicted by the legacy of boarding schools and move towards a future of reconciliation and empowerment.

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