Opinion. A year ago, as we headed into Memorial Day weekend, news from British Columbia reported the discovery of 215 remains of innocent school children at the Kamloops industrial boarding school.

For those of us in Indian Country, the disclosure was a reminder of what most of us had already known for decades about Indian boarding schools, as they were known in the United States.

We have known for decades the stories of physical, emotional and sexual abuse suffered by many of the children who attended these schools. We knew these children were beaten if they tried to speak their tribal languages. We knew that Aboriginal students were dying in these residential schools. We knew that hundreds of graves, some unmarked, existed in these residential schools.

We knew that children attending Indian boarding schools were part of a federal policy that sought to assimilate Native American children under the mantra “Kill the Indian, save the man.”

Even though we were aware of these gross atrocities committed against our ancestors and residential school survivors, most non-natives had little or no knowledge of this federal policy until the end of last May.

Kamloops woke the world up to the atrocities being committed against Indigenous children.

Within three weeks of Kamloops’ announcement, US Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland established the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative to investigate and shed light on this dark era of cultural genocide.

Kamloops has attracted national and international media attention. On an ongoing basis, there is so much news to cover that mainstream media tends to take a “shiny object” approach to news. They cover stories for a short duration and then move on to the next new thing. The story of the children’s deaths in Kamloops has become a shining subject for most of the mainstream media.

Our editorial team at Indigenous News Online decided that as a leading national Native American publication, we would continue to cover Indian boarding schools when the topic was no longer the hot topic of non-Native media.

We knew we had to cover various aspects of residential schools from an aboriginal perspective. We decided to write the articles that needed to be told about boarding schools. The storyline has unfolded over the past year, culminating with the release of the Federal Indian Residential Schools Initiative Inquiry Report on May 11, 2022.

Since the Kamloops story broke, Indigenous News Online has published nearly 100 articles on Indian boarding schools. Additionally, we have hosted several live streams to examine the topic in depth.

In a year of coverage, two stories stick in my mind. The first article is Surviving Kuper Island Residential School: ‘I Hear Little Children Screaming in My Head’, written by Drake University intern Andrew Kennard. The article is about Eddie Charlie who provided vivid memories of his time at Kuper Island residential school, located near Chemainus, British Columbia.

Charlie spoke of physical beatings and even starvation. He told how children disappeared. Years later, he would learn that over 200 children were buried at the Kuper Island boarding school. Charlie’s experiences at Kuper Island led him to attempt suicide. His recollections have led our editorial staff to issue a warning to our readers because of his content.

The second article, titled The Remains of 10 Children at the Carlisle Indian Boarding School are Returning Home, written by our Senior Reporter Jenna Kunze, tells the story of the repatriation of 10 children who died at the famous boarding school located in Pennsylvania.

The story describes the long rigorous process that involved the exhumation of the students’ bodies and their return to their tribal communities.

As we commemorate the first year since the Kamloops announcement, Kunze, who reported from the Rosebud Indian Reservation last week, shares how coverage of residential schools has affected her.

“Listening to survivor stories, reading federal documents, and visiting Carlisle Industrial School in Pennsylvania and the former St. Francis Mission in South Dakota changed most of my understanding of reporting about Indian country: that residential school impacted its survivors on a genetic level, and they passed that trauma on to their children. But in addition to trauma, the survivors also passed on resilience,” Kunze told me.

Kamloops certainly woke the world up about residential schools. The announcement brought to light what many of us already knew, but often didn’t talk about. Now the conversation has started and is getting louder and more insistent. More and more Aboriginal people are talking about the intergenerational impact of residential schools on their families and communities. And, for the first time, many non-natives are learning about this dark period in our nation’s history.

After a year of covering residential schools closely, we are not stopping. Indigenous News Online remains committed to providing coverage of this important issue in a way that informs, inspires and uplifts. We hope you will join us.

More stories like this

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500 Deaths Cited in Indian Residential Schools Report Are Just the Tip of the Iceberg
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About the Author

Levi Rickert
Author: Levi RickertE-mail: This email address is protected from spam. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Levi Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is the founder, publisher and editor of Native News Online. Rickert was awarded the 2021 Native Media Award Best Column for the Print/Online Category by the Native American Journalists Association. He sits on the advisory board of the Multicultural Media Correspondents Association. He can be reached at [email protected]


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