Red Cloud Indian School: Can the wrongs ever be righted?
By Joseph Budd,
Native Sun News Today Staff Writer
Lakota immersion class at Red Cloud school outside of pine ridge. Photo by Joseph Budd
Much news has been made regarding the boarding schools, from the discoveries at Canadian schools and the bodies found, numbering in hundreds and thousands. For some, it was several generations that would be wiped out in an effort to kill the Indian and save the man. In some cases, it was worse, given the idea was being pushed on kids, of school age children, to rip their languages, their way of life from them. It wasn’t just Canada either. Some of these school, like Carlisle Boarding school, which was run by a military officer. They’d cut hair, forbid to be allowed to speak their native language, and even dress like the white man.
Probably the hardest thing, was when these children, or young adults would return to their reservations…they looked like the people that oppressed them. They had lost their identity, their language, and their way of life. To a degree, there was a few good things about how Red Cloud had set up their boarding school, the Holy Rosary Mission back in the day. For one, it wasn’t thousands of miles, across a country. Students, from Pine Ridge were less than 20 miles from home. Likewise, if a child perished, at this distance, a child would be returned to their respective family. However, this summer, Red Cloud School is taking an added precaution.
One open field, it was surmised, will be tested with the latest technology, in ground-penetrating radar. With the technology, the ground can be looked into, and see if any remains exist underground without disturbing said soil. That way, should a discovery be made, therein efforts can be made to either properly identify and bury the remains as the family would request…or allow them to remain in place. If none are found, it does close locally a chapter of this event, while other questions will need to be addressed.
Other aspects, touched on in the visit, was how this program, via boarding schools, was used to try and assimilate the Indian children to “civilized” standards. The idea existed, that if you provided the Native Americans the same items the white man had in the same area, they would be able to take up farming, or ranching, and live off government aid until their farms took hold.
Two items that would prove this system foolish, was that the dust bowl years would come through, and everyone’s crops would fail, off and on the reservation. The other problem, is the Lakota had experienced a number of failed promises and broken treaties, and as the generations moved forward, they grew distrustful of the white man, with good reason. At least now, strides are being made to reintroduce the language to the younger generation, to keep it active and thriving. At Red Cloud, kids as young as in kindergarten are learning it, and excelling at school. From the visit, it was learned it had also seen other schools are trying to teach this immersion learning method. Given the number of Lakota that still know the Lakota language grows smaller every year, this program will help keep the language alive, growing forward.
One former Red Cloud student said, “Are they looking for reconciliation or what? If they have a plan they should share it with the students who endured their attempted conversion.”