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An Online Resource Library on Gender-Based Violence.

Survivors say trauma from abusive Native American boarding schools stretches across generations

Sunday, November 05, 2023

"Donovan Archambault was 11 years old in 1950 when he was sent from the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation in Montana to a government-backed Native American boarding school in Pierre, South Dakota, where abusive staff forced him to abandon his community’s language and customs.

Archambault emerged bitter from the experience and said he drank alcohol for more than two decades before he finally pulled his life together, earning a master’s degree in education and serving as chairman of the Fort Belknap tribes.

'It was probably the most brutal time of my whole life,' Archambault recalled Sunday, 'and it all stemmed from the trauma we suffered in the Pierre Indian School.'

...The effects of the trauma have rippled through generations, fueling alcoholism, drug addiction and sexual abuse on reservations, said Jennifer Finley, a council member for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes whose grandparents went to one of the boarding schools.

'When we talk about historical trauma I always think, ‘If only that’s all we had.’ But we have fresh traumas piled on top of it every single day,' she said

...The coalition’s deputy chief executive, Samuel Torres, said Haaland’s tour was a positive first step in addressing the schools’ legacy. Next, he said, Congress must approve proposals to establish a truth and reconciliation commission, where survivors could continue airing their stories and the federal government’s role in the abuse could be further documented.

'Boarding schools lasted over 150 years. It’s going to take more than a couple of years of investigation,' Torres said. 'It’s going to require generations. But this is where it has to start.'”

Read the full article here.