"A traveling group of Native Americans wants President Obama to apologize for the government-run boarding school system that began in the 1800s. On their way to Washington, the group visited the Lac du Flambeau reservation Sunday (6/14). The event coincides with the start of a major restoration effort of a boarding school dormitory there, which remains shrouded in hard feelings and resentment to this day.
The so-called Wellbriety Journey for Forgiveness began with a drum group performing an honor song outside the rundown, three-story building that first opened in 1906. Since closing ten years ago, many sections have been vandalized, and the main entrance is blackened from when someone tried burning down the dorm.
81-year-old Geraldine Poupart-Brown began attending the school as a toddler. She says none of the teachers were friendly to the children, content to march them across campus and assign them long, back-breaking chores. As a 10-year-old, she had to scrub floors then trek over in the dark to a club house where the “mean teachers” lived. There she’d do their laundry in the basement by herself.
Brian Poupart is Geraldine’s nephew. He says Indian children often got a quick whack with a ruler for speaking their language. Teachers would also cut off the children’s long braids to make them look more “white”. He recalls family stories about how his grandfather often got into trouble, usually by trying to run back home. The schoolmaster would chase always after him with a whip, but one day his great-grandfather saw him and threatened him back with the same whip."
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Boarding school restoration stirs up dust...and difficult memories for tribe
(Wisconsin Public Radio 6/15)
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