The residential school system

By the late 1800s, most Indians, those whose tribes were recognized by state or federal governments, had disappeared from the American landscape into their reservations. It would not be long before their children would disappear too – taken from those reservations into federally funded and mandated boarding schools.

In 1891, a new law allowed US government officials to forcibly remove Native children from their homes and send them to residential schools. Between 1894 and 1947, Canadian law required Native children to attend these schools. Parents who refused could be jailed, but most often they were simply overpowered and their children taken away.

Every American Indian in the United States and Canada has been touched by the residential school system in one way or another. The generational trauma that resulted from decades of this policy is incalculable. There is the deliberate forgetting of our personal histories to avoid the pain of not forgetting. This destruction of what was ours replaced our languages with French, English, and Spanish; our stories with the Bible; and our systems of kinship with isolated nuclear families. 

These losses have been woven into our existence as Native people, written into our DNA as surely as our ancestors are.

From “Becoming Kin: An Indigenous Call to Unforgetting the Past and Reimagining Our Future” by Patty Krawec – Broadleaf Books