Chief Shawnee Ben Barnes talks about residential school survivors (VIDEO)
By Allison Herrera
July 13, 2022
The Department of the Interior released a report admitting that the intent of residential schools was to deprive Indigenous communities of their children and their land.
Chief Ben Barnes of the Shawnee Tribe testified about his people’s experiences in boarding schools.
“This is not an academic discussion,” Barnes said. “Terrible things happen to people.”
The Shawnee Tribe has been investigating the Shawnee Indian Handicraft School in Fairway, Kansas for over a year.
Now Barnes’ research into how many Shawnee children attended the school and whether there are any unmarked graves is part of a larger movement.
In 2021, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland launched the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative to account for the number of boarding schools in the United States, the total cost of operating them, and the search for marked and unmarked graves.
There is still so much to learn.
“It’s so, so prevalent, this boarding school experience, and how it affects every Indigenous person,” Barnes said. “Every one of us is affected by it, whether we recognize it or not.”
Last May, the Ministry of the Interior published its first report.
He found a total of 400 boarding schools operated in 37 states between 1819 and 1969, and the boarding school system was funded by selling land that was supposed to be held in trust for native people.
“…It was the Indian extermination policy,” Barnes said. “It was part of a genocidal policy. It was, you know, stealing the wealth of tribal nations, trying to destroy them as a people, destroying them as a cohesive community. See this in writing was really important, I think, to all of us. I think the whole Indian country needed to see that in writing.
Seeing it in writing is one thing, but the Department also wants to hear from survivors to put faces to the numbers and statistics in the report.
“I remember seeing my mother as she watched six of her eight children being placed on a large green bus and taken to Fort Totten Indian Residential School in Fort Totten, North Dakota,” said Dr. Ramona Klein , residential school survivor and citizen. of the Chippewa turtle band. “This image is forever etched in my mind and in my heart.”
“I quickly suppressed my desire to speak Inupiaq after seeing others badly beaten when they spoke their language,” said James LaBelle, a residential school survivor and vice president of the National Native American Boarding School. Healing Coalition.
Secretary Haaland wants to hear from more survivors, as she travels across the country on what is called the road to healing.
Barnes and the department are also pushing for federal legislation known as the Truth and Healing Commission on boarding school policies. They want to investigate schools run by religious institutions, with the power to subpoena witnesses.
“What becomes more real and more present every day is that now our own survivors are coming forward and wanting to talk about Chilocco,” Barnes said. “They want to talk about the schools they went to. They want to talk even when they were there…kids were looking at those windows and seeing that graveyard there. Can you imagine looking at your elementary school window and know there’s a graveyard there for you?”
Barnes’ great-grandfather ran away from the Shawnee Indian Handicraft School. The trauma that his loved ones have experienced and that other Indigenous peoples have experienced is one that is passed down from generation to generation.
The Department of the Interior will continue its Road to Healing listening tour, pushing for more money for language revitalization programs for tribal nations and a federal memorial, not an apology, that recognizes the experiences of those who have experienced this system and of those who have not. .