Buried Secrets: America’s Indian Boarding Schools Part 2

Buried Secrets: America’s Indian Boarding Schools Part 2

By The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX

In the second half of our two-part collaboration with ICT (formerly Indian Country Today), members of the Pine Ridge community put pressure on the Catholic Church to share information about the boarding school it ran on the reservation.  Listen to part 1 here.

ICT reporter Mary Annette Pember, a citizen of the Red Cliff Band of Ojibwe, visits Red Cloud Indian School, which has launched a truth and healing initiative for former students and their descendants. A youth-led activist group called the International Indigenous Youth Council has created a list of demands that includes financial reparations and the return of tribal land. The group also wants the Catholic Church to open up its records about the school’s past, especially information about children who may have died there. 

Pember travels to the archives of the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions, which administered boarding schools like Red Cloud. She discovers that many records are redacted or off-limits entirely, but then comes across a nuns’ diary that ends up containing important information. Buried in the diary entries is information about the school’s finances, the massacre at Wounded Knee and children who died at the school more than a century ago. 

Pember then returns to Red Cloud and attends the graduation ceremony for the class of 2022. In its early years, the school tried to strip students of their culture, but these days, it teaches the Lakota language and boasts a high graduation rate and rigorous academics. Pember presents what she’s learned about the school’s history to the head of the Jesuit community in western South Dakota and to the school’s president. 

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