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'Road to Healing': Little Traverse Bay Bands to host event for boarding school survivors – Lansing State Journal

PELLSTON — Harbor Springs was home to the last school in the Federal Indian Boarding School system to close in the United States.
While the Holy Childhood Boarding School, which closed in 1983, is no longer standing, its dark history of abuse in the name of assimilation continues to have a profound effect on the Native American community.
In an effort to bring awareness and address the U.S. government’s past efforts to assimilate native populations, the Department of Interior is holding a Road to Healing tour, which aims to give survivors of boarding schools and their descendants the opportunity to share their experiences. 
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In June 2021, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announced the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative, which is an effort to recognize the damaging boarding school policies and work to address the generational impacts of the system.
Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland led the department in creating a report laying out the U.S. laws and policies surrounding boarding schools, creating the first official list of federal boarding school sites and identifying marked and unmarked burial sites of students.
The initiative was done in phases. The first phase involved the research and collection of records. The second phase involved formal consultations with Tribal Nations, Alaska Native corporations and Native Hawaiian organizations to discuss how the department will protect identified burial sites and associated information. The final phase was a report on the department’s findings.
Now, the department is taking the information it collected and working to empower tribal nations with the Road to Healing tour. The Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians will host the second event in this tour at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 13 at Pellston Middle/High School.
The first event was held in Oklahoma in July. Haaland will also visit Hawaii, Arizona and South Dakota this year, with additional states being announced later for 2023.
More: A culture eradicated: Michigan Anishinaabe recall abuse, erasure at state boarding schools
“I like the fact that they are acknowledging that this did happen and that they are trying to heal the people that it has affected,” said Regina Gasco-Bentley, tribe chairperson and boarding school survivor.
“The school is torn down at this point, but there’s part of it still there and there’s still a lot of memories. It’s right in the middle of our homelands and there’s people that have not been able to heal from the abuse they took in the school.”
The 35 Tribal Nations from Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa have been invited to participate. There will be on-site, trauma-informed support and privacy rooms available. 
The event is expected to last six to seven hours, depending on how many people stand up to speak. Department of Interior staff will remain present until each individual has finished speaking.
While the event is open to the public, only boarding school survivors and their descendants will be allowed to speak.
“I think it would help some families because there’s families that still have not healed,” Gasco-Bentley said. “Even though the school was closed in 1983, some people have not been able to deal with the abuse that they took there. It will help the children to better understand what their parents or their grandparents or aunties and uncles went through.”
An hourly courtesy shuttle will run between the Tribe’s Government Center and the school. More information, as well as a bus schedule is available on the events page.
Survivors or descendants needing travel assistance like lodging or transportation can contact the tribe at (231) 242-1401.
Contact reporter Tess Ware at Follow her on Twitter, @Tess_Petoskey 


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