Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

October 26, 2014

Day 3 Boarding School Tribunal!


Day 3 Live at the Boarding School Tribunal in Green Bay, Wisconsin
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Bill Means: "We are rebuilding our nations, because we have treaties"

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News
More testimony from Day 3:

GREEN BAY, Wisconsin -- The Boarding School Tribunal began its third and final day with speakers on Language Revitalization and the testimony of Bill Means, Lakota. Madonna Thunder Hawk shared the story of a Lakota elder from Cheyenne River in South Dakota. At four years old, he was thrown against the wall repeatedly until his bones were broken for wetting the bed in boarding school. His back is still scared from the beatings there.
Bill Miller center photo Brenda Norrell
Bill Means, the brother of Russell Means, said the boarding school concept began in prison. It was Fort Marion in Florida where they kept Indian leaders who fought against the US.
Richard Henry Pratt began to teach the prisoners and transform them. He later created Carlisle, and the concept, "Kill the Indian and save the man."
In the Dakotas was the boarding schools where Means parents met.
One of the common punishments was for speaking your language.
"The most severe punishment was if they heard you singing songs in public."
Means said his mother didn't talk about it until she was older.

Means parents were at Flandreau Indian Boarding School.
Means said of the punishment, "They tied sacks of marbles on their knees and made them scrub the basement with a scrub brush on their knees for speaking their language."
Means' father worked with the horses at boarding school. Then, once the horse got spooked that his father and his friend were trying to catch. The horse and into barbed wire and received cuts. It was a prize horse of one of the staff at boarding school.
"He ended up beating my father's friend to death."
"He wasn't charged, he was just moved to another boarding school."
It was corporal punishment.
There was a conspiracy between the US military and the churches. Because of the boarding schools, they could identify the people by name that were still singing the songs and speaking the language.
The boarding schools changed his family names: "Feather Necklace" became Feather and "To Train the Horse," or "to make the horse become between two markers" was changed to Means. The boarding school translator said, instead of training horses, that his name meant that he was mean to his horses.
In the book, The Killing of Crazy Horse, reveals the history of the Means family.
His great-grandfather was one of three brothers: Grey Bear, Swift Hawk, and Means.
Like Crazy Horse, Means ancestors were considered hostiles. "They could be shot on sight."
"My grandfathers were part of that." 
They rode into Fort Robinson with Crazy Horse.
In boarding schools, one of his grandfathers learned harness making. But it was another failed policy, people were now driving cars and didn't need harnesses, Means said.
The Catholic Church used Indian people as slaves in Latin America. "Our people didn't accept that."
"They were more suppressed in Central and South America," Means said.
Means said "Indio" is now rising as a word of identity and power in the south.
Means said it has been ethnocide, the theft of Indian culture. The governments engaged in this conspiracy with the military and churches in the Americas.
Speaking on human rights, Means described the efforts of Eleanor Roosevelt.
"We are speaking about human rights of our Indigenous People."
Means said, "We are rebuilding our nations, because we have treaties."
"We are not going to stop until we get there."

Madonna Thunderhawk shared her interview with an elder about his boarding school experience. His last name came from a newspaper, Victor Herald.
Victor is from Cheyenne River Tribe in South Dakota. He was four years old when he was taken. 
"All he remembers was the trucks coming. It was a dump truck. He had no idea what was going on."
"Of course he didn't know English."
It was the late 1940s. The children in the family, all taken, had already cut their hair, because the boarding schools were still using DDT on the children when they arrived at those schools. Later they used kerosene on them.
Victor at four years old, was like a lot of the children, wet their beds. They were so traumatized.
Because he wet the bed, he was thrown against the wall by the dormitory attendant until his bones were broken at four years old.
Madonna said, "The dormitory attendant kept throwing him against the wall. He broke several of his ribs, broke his nose." The school never gave him medical treatment.
"He learned right off that you get beat up for not knowing what is going on."
Even though he was four years old, Victor at four would stay awake at night so he wouldn't wet the bed.
After that, it was the bullying that terrified the children.
"There was a lot of bullying and beatings that went on from the older children."
Victor was kept there for two years and forgot what his parents and relatives looked like. When he finally went home, he spoke English and it separated him from his family. "It separated him from his family because he was so different."
Now at 70 years old, Madonna said of Victor, "He still has scars on his back."
Those scars are from beatings and injuries that were never taken care of in the boarding school.
Madonna told the Boarding School Tribunal here in Green Bay, "He was very happy to have his story told."
Before coming here, Victor had told Madonna, "When you go there, you tell those people."

Melinda Young, Lac de Flambeau Tribal Historic Preservation officer spoke at the Boarding School Tribunal.
Melinda discovered there was an old boarding school on their land. It was a painful reminder. Some people wanted to burn down the building, but others wanted to preserve it as part of the painful history, so the United States government would never forget.
Melinda said she could not imagine the US government coming to her home and taking her child away.
Melinda described the restoration of the turn of the century boarding school's boy dormitory.
"We do this to remember them," Melinda said as she shared stories of the survivors children and grandchildren who come and visit the restored building.
During the restoration, they found a doll. The elders said the dolls were given to the children when they were taken away so they could re-enact the culture, like traditional dances, with those dolls.
The day began with a Pipe Ceremony.

Day 3 Preliminary conclusions and testimony
More Testimony from Day 3:
Day 2
Day 1
Peltier's statement
Livestream videos
French translation by Christine Prat
Leonard Peltier’s testimony
Dutch translation by Alice Holemans NAIS

Language Revitalization photo by Blue Skies Foundation

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