I grew up in a native family where there was no such things as beautiful beaded moccasins or other traditional items passed down. All the photos from the reservation show people dressed in modern "white man's" clothing. All I knew about being Indian was the alcoholism I saw from the time I was very little. I also never heard anything about boarding schools, not until I was well into adulthood. I went back to the rez to reestablish family connections and to try to understand what happened to my family, to find my own healing. That's when my 75 year old great uncle told me all about him and his siblings being sent away to the Chemawa boarding school when they were little, and the things he described to me were beyond belief...the torture, the abuse, all the things we know about now. It was the early 90's, still before the elders were talking as openly about it as they are now. I was shocked. It was hard to believe, but he had no reason to lie and ever since then I've heard countless stories that echo his. The knowledge of what happened to him and his brothers and my grandmother made everything make sense in terms of how our family became so dysfunctional. I am sure there was sexual abuse because it explains some of the horrible things that happened in the family. The one thing he said that I never forgot was this: "don't blame your mother for not loving you the way she should have. She was not taught love. None of us were taught how to love." It also made sense why they grew up and became so assimilated. It was about survival. Survival is not necessarily about being fit (as Darwinists are so fond of saying), but about being adaptable. It was a psychological war that was inflicted on our ancestors in the boarding schools, and the multigenerational PTSD that resulted is what we are still healing from. It, too, is a generational issue, and we do the work by truth-telling. Thank you for your good work Ruth.
Saturday, March 30, 2013 - 11:23