Posted at 7:05 AM on March 7, 2008
by Euan Kerr
The Walker Art Center's 'Women with Vision" series gets off to a great start this evening with the first public screening anywhere of "Older than America" the film shot in late 2006 on the Fond du Lac reservation in northern Minnesota.
It's an uncompromising story about the tragic legacy of the Indian boarding schools. It's believed that more than 100,000 Native American children passed through the hunders of such schools in the U.S. and Canada in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
We will have a piece on MPR this evening based on my interview with director Georgine Lightning.
Congratulations on the film, "Older than America!" I have been studying this issue for a long time and I always try to connect with others who are sensitive to it. There are a couple of points that I would like to add to the historical events you described.
Indian boarding schools continued to grow throughout the 1940s and 50s and doubled in the 1960s. In 1973, the BIA operated 200 schools in 17 states. 60,000 children were attending boarding schools. Some of the most notorious boarding schools operated in this recent time like Concho boarding school in Oklahoma.
Today there are 10,000 American Indian children who live in an Indian boarding school dormitory. This includes 56 boarding schools, 14 peripheral dormitories, and 7 Off-Reservation Indian Boarding Schools: ND, SD, OK, CA, OR. About half of them take kids as young as 6-years-old. You can verify my #s through the Office of Indian Education Programs. See www.oiep.bia.edu.
Many if not most of the children in these programs are high-needs kids who come from struggling families. Indian boarding schools today are often a dumping ground for these high-needs or at-risk kids. While the conditions of Indian boarding schools are much better today than what they were a hundred years ago, these kids still suffer the effects of cultural abuse and institutionalization in understaffed, under-funded dormitories, often a very long way from home.
Another historical event that I would like to highlight are the recent events that have occurred in Canada with residential school survivors. The Aboriginal Healing Foundation manages $400 million for healing programs throughout Canada. See www.ahf.ca/. Will we ever make similar progress in the United States? I hope so.