As Pope’s Apology Reverberates, US Indigenous Boarding School probe follows Canada’s lead – World News



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On the heels of a historic moment of healing for indigenous peoples in Canada, their counterparts in the United States anxiously anticipate a federal report on residential schools — commissioned by one of their own — that fuels hopes for the beginning of a similar reckoning.

Deb Haaland ordered the Indian Boarding School Initiative last June, shortly after becoming the first Native Secretary of the Interior in US history, and just days after a BC First Nation announced the grim discovery of human remains in a former residential school.

The results of that study, which is expected to detail the scope and depth of the program in the US, are expected to be released any time now. When it lands, Pope Francis’ striking words – “I want to say to you with all my heart, I am very sorry” – will still reverberate.

Indigenous leaders in Canada had long sought the Pope’s personal apology as a gesture of reconciliation for the generations of harm done to children forced to attend schools run by the Roman Catholic Church for more than a century. were led all over the country.

Following his meetings with indigenous representatives at the Vatican earlier this month, Pope Francis also promised to make a personal visit to Canada.

That cathartic moment and the imminent release of Haaland’s report have combined to alert Church leaders in the US as they prepare for what they hope will be a period of their own reconciliation.

“While the Holy Father specifically addressed history in Canada last week, U.S. bishops are similarly committed to bringing genuine and honest dialogue about the boarding school period in the United States,” said Chieko Noguchi of the United States Conference of America. Catholic Bishops.

Noguchi said the conference has encouraged dioceses and Catholic state conferences across the country to reach out to indigenous communities to begin talks pending the report.

“We recognized that we must approach the history that is being brought to light with sensitivity and humility. We hope these are steps on that path to healing and heightened awareness so that this history is never repeated.”

Haaland’s research sought to identify all schools that were part of the program, with a particular emphasis on “any data related to cemeteries or potential burial sites that can later be used to help locate unidentified human remains.”

The department will also liaise with indigenous communities in the US, including in Alaska and Hawaii, about how best to handle such remains.

It’s not just a matter of policy, but a personal one for Haaland, a member of New Mexico’s Laguna Pueblo tribe.

“My great-grandfather was taken to the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania,” she wrote in a touching column in the Washington Post last year. “The founder coined the phrase ‘Kill the Indian and save the man,’ which really reflects the influences that shaped this policy at the time.”

It’s a chilling echo of words often attributed to Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald — “take the Indian out of the child” — in his 19th-century defense of Canada’s residential school system.

In November last year, Haaland’s investigation led Archbishop Paul Oakley of Oklahoma City and James Wall, Bishop of Gallup, NM, to notify their fellow bishops of an upcoming “Kairos” — an ancient Greek word to describe a ​appropriate moment to describe.

“A Kairos moment is both a crisis and an opportunity,” the bishops wrote in their letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Canadian Press.

“Confronting the history of the Church in the United States honestly with regard to Indigenous peoples will present challenges, but it is also an opportunity to reach out and connect, to have an honest dialogue about our shared histories, and discern how best we can come closer together and move forward together.”

The report, scheduled for release in April, is expected to serve as the starting point for a host of reconciliation efforts, Interior Department spokesman Tyler Cherry said in a statement.

“The analysis that has been conducted is expected to provide the foundation for future efforts aimed at honoring Tribal Nations and the families of the indigenous children who may be buried in boarding schools,” Cherry said.

The report will also “provide a foundation for ongoing research, site visits and stakeholder engagement to address the intergenerational impact of these assimilation policies.”

What’s unlikely, though, is an odyssey similar to the one in Canada that culminated in the Pope’s long-sought apology earlier this month, said Joseph Gone, a decorated psychologist and anthropology professor at Harvard who specializes in Indigenous mental health.

Not only is Indigenous history dramatically different in the two countries, but so is the scope and scale of the residential schools saga — known in the US as boarding schools, Gone said in an interview. And while Indigenous issues have long been a driving force in Canadian racial politics, in the US those same issues have been largely overshadowed by what he called the “black-and-white” dynamic.

In Canada, an estimated 150,000 Indigenous children are said to have attended one of approximately 150 residential schools that opened between 1880 and when the last one closed in 1996.

For decades, “Indigenous peoples have identified residential schooling as a prime or primary indicator of their colonial subjugation in Canada,” Gone said.

“American Indians, Native Alaskans and Native Hawaiian people are often completely invisible in the United States in a way that just isn’t the case in Canada, so our issues don’t get the same attention.”

Indeed, any American awareness of traumas such as residential schools or missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is largely the result of the long, arduous conversations and controversies that have developed north of the border since at least the 1990s, he said.

As a result, Gone expects the report to “engage and consternate and, in terms of Indigenous peoples here in the United States, articulate this history, talk about its meaning in a way of trying to get the word out, pick up the microphone.” suit and make our presence known in a way that matters.

“But I don’t think it will result in any kind of great truth and reconciliation like we see in Canada.”

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