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Girls’ basketball teams are seen taking part in the Tri-State Indian School basketball tournament at the former Rapid City Indian School in Rapid City, South Dakota, in 1929. Photo: Office of Indian Affairs / Department of the Interior
Indian boarding school legislation comes up short
Tuesday, March 16, 2021

PIERRE — In a nod to historical injustice, the South Dakota State House of Representatives passed a resolution on March 2 acknowledging and honoring the survivors of American Indian boarding schools.

House Concurrent Resolution 6014 was introduced and sponsored by State Rep. Peri Pourier, D-Pine Ridge, who is an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe.

“This passage from the House of Representatives speaks volumes towards reconciliation,” Pourier told the Native Sun News Today. “The acknowledgement of the suffering and abuse while honoring survivors’ resiliency is long overdue.”

However, Native Sun News Today owner Tim Giago, author of the 2006 non-fiction Children Left Behind: The Dark Legacy of Indian Mission Boarding Schools, objected.

“I want our legislators to rescind the law that prevents me and thousands of other former boarding school students from suing the schools where the abuse took place,” Giago immediately responded in a social media post.

“We would rather have that freedom than to be falsely honored,” he said.

Previously in 2019, the South Dakota House Judiciary Committee killed a bill that could have opened the window for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to pursue civil suits against entities, such as the Catholic Church, which ran the boarding school Giago was forced to attend.

One of the 2019 bill’s opponents was a lobbyist for the St. Joseph Indian School, which is affiliated with the Catholic church, arguing that schools that are currently doing good work for American Indian children and communities may be “bogged down” with civil actions against them, according to an article in the Rapid City Journal on February 12, 2019.

“As a granddaughter, I felt it was my duty to bring this issue forward,” said Rep. Pourier. “This is the first acknowledgment from the South Dakota State Legislature on this very difficult issue.”

Her resolution was adopted on a vote of 52-17.


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