The legacy of boarding schools

From “The Land is Not Empty: Following Jesus in Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery” by Sarah Augustine

The legacy of boarding schools has made a particular impact on my life, as it has for so many Native people in the United States and Canada. In Canada, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission estimated that 3,200 Native children died in residential schools over a span of 120 years. At the time of the commission’s final report in 2015, among the 70,000 former residential school students still alive, there were 31,907 verified cases of sexual abuse or assault. We do not have current records in the United States documenting deaths and cases of abuse in our boarding schools. But boarding school survivors recount stories of hunger, abuse, neglect, and death.

My father, a Pueblo (Tewa), never knew his mother – he was removed from his people at birth in 1943. He grew up in a home for Native American boys and was subject to habitual abuse, forced labor, and malnutrition. He was not one of the exceptions who was able to rise above his conditions. As his daughter, I grew up subject to abuse, homelessness, and hunger. Like many Indigenous People in my generation, I came to understand my own story in middle age, through the truth and reconciliation process that took place in Canada.