How residential schools stripped Native Americans of their identity – The Courier

COD Launches Three-Part Native American Voices Webinar, Beginning with Lecture on Residential Schools and Survivor Experiences

Graphic by Zainab Imam Pictured: Kaila Johnson (top left), Rachel Fernandez (top right), John Paris (bottom left), Joy Tiedemann and Nell-Lee Hawpetoss-Tiedmann (bottom right)

Nell-Lee Hawpetoss-Tiedmann is a member of the Menominee Tribe, located in northeastern Wisconsin. At a very young age, she was enrolled in boarding school – these were schools across the country that sought to eradicate Native American culture. She spent the first part of her life seeing her culture erased and replaced by a new religion. His birth name was stripped from all records and given a government name deemed socially acceptable. Everything from his name to his language was strictly forbidden.

“What happened was that from kindergarten we lost our language,” Hawpetoss-Tiedemann said. “And we received the Latin prayers from the church.”

Hawpewtoss-Tiedemann was the first of four speakers in a three-part webinar series hosted by COD on Native American history, emphasizing that Native American voices are the ones telling that story. The first webinar was held on March 9 and covered the history of boarding and day schools. The event was moderated by John Paris, Associate Professor of History at COD.

Hawpetoss-Tiedemann also spoke at length about the humiliation and public shame she and her peers had to endure because their culture was deemed inappropriate for the school. She said the nuns at the school would bring the students to the front of the class, and the rest of the students would call them names, like “pagan.”

“My best friend would cry,” she said. “She cried because she had to call me a pagan.”

In stark contrast, Hawpetoss-Tiedemann explained how she received an abundance of love and support from her family and community.

“Our culture was not a religion, it was an everyday experience. Above all, you learn respect. That’s how you respect things, that’s how you respect yourself and know yourself and can do,” Hawpetoss-Tiedemann said. “When you’re little, you can’t tell the difference between fear and love. All you know is how you feel. You didn’t know there was something in between.

Hawpetoss-Tiedemann’s daughter, whose government name is Joy Tiedemann, spoke of the experience of growing up with the generational trauma of those residential schools.

“[My mom] went to a day school. My grandmother went to a day school. They didn’t talk about it when I was younger,” Joy Tiedemann said. “I think I was in my thirties before anyone said anything about my grandmother’s school experience, and all they ever said was ‘it was a bad period “.”

Joy Tiedemann said her mother made certain sacrifices for her children to save them from the trauma of day schools.

“[My mom] made choices for us when she had children. She took us away from the reservation because she didn’t want us to go to those schools,” she said. “I still ended up going to Catholic school and had some of the same experiences.”

The next speaker, whose government name is Rachel Fernandez, spoke about the lack of proper education about the dark history of residential school and the general oppression of Native Americans throughout history.

“There are many people today who don’t know the truth behind the genocide, or what genocide is, or what our ancestors endured,” Fernandez said. “From generation to generation, this trauma has been passed on, and sometimes we don’t even recognize it. I did not recognize him in me.

Kaila Johnson was the last speaker to introduce. Johnson is the Education, Outreach and Public Programs Supervisor for the Office of the Canadian National Center for Truth and Reconciliation. She had a short presentation on residential school statistics in Canada, where her company is based.

“It is estimated that during this history there were at least 150,000 students who participated, but this number is probably much larger. Due to loss and destruction of records, we will not know that response,” Johnson said. “Any chart or stat you see is really the lowest estimate.”

She also spoke about the importance of survivor stories in collecting history.

“Abusers don’t create abuse records,” Johnson said. “If we want to know this real experience, the lived experience of residential schools, we have to talk to these survivors and these families.

Johnson provided resources for listeners to follow and learn about residential school history, including National Native American Residential School Healing Coalition and the National Center for Truth and Reconciliation.

Fernandez took the time to remind listeners that even though this story is disturbing and horrifying, it’s still important to learn more.

“I will not apologize for making you feel uncomfortable as I tell the truth, our collective truth. It is not my role or responsibility to fill you in on the stories that have been left out. ‘ve put on you, the listener, to find that story and learn,” she said. “Because when we’re uncomfortable, we have the opportunity to grow. I challenge you all to grow up and accept this uncomfortable feeling.

More information about upcoming events and the full webinar can be found here.

Nohemi M. Moore