Stephanie Woodard: Indian abuse victim shares her story

"From the late 1800s until the 1970s, the federal government compelled Native parents nationwide to send their children to boarding schools designed to assimilate them. Many of the institutions were run by the Catholic Church, which the government paid to "kill the Indian, save the man," in the parlance of the day. To date, more than 100 ex-students of the half-dozen boarding schools in South Dakota have sued the Catholic Dioceses of Sioux Falls and Rapid City, as well as the religious orders that ran the institutions, charging that priests, nuns, and lay employees raped, sodomized, molested, and brutalized them. For more on the lawsuits, see this post.

Here is one woman's story; her case is still pending:

A 64-year-old member of the Dakota tribe Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, she was taken from her family as an infant and placed in Tekakwitha Orphanage, a Catholic-run institution established in Sisseton, South Dakota, for the children of her people. Few youngsters there were orphans but had been, like her, removed from their families.

"All I remember about life in the first building I was in at Tekakwitha -- the Papoose House for babies -- was being hungry and a punishment that consisted of being placed in a dark crawl space of some sort. Other than that, I was generally alone in my crib or bed.

"When I was 6, they moved me to the main building to start school. The nuns there would take us to their private quarters and do things to our bodies that even at that young age I knew were not right. The next year, a boy who was 17 or 18 raped me. He said if I told, he'd bring other boys and they'd all rape me. I was so frightened, I never said anything to anyone.

"When I was 8 or 9, Father Pohlen, the priest in charge, placed me with a family in Michigan. I understood it was a tryout for being adopted by them. There were boys in the family, and they and the men would partake of sex with me. I have a memory of being told to go get Vaseline, then returning to the room to find them waiting for me. This lasted for a summer."

Get the Story:
Stephanie Woodard: South Dakota Church-Abuse Chronicles, Part 1: 'I Want Everyone To Know What Happened To Us' (The Huffington Post 4/27)

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Stephanie Woodard: Abuses at schools for Indian children (4/20)

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