TRIBE@ISU (Teaching, Reviving, Indigenizing, Beautifying, and Equalizing, Illinois State University Chapter) will host a vigil at 7 p.m. September 30 on the Quad. Titled Honoring Life: Vigil for Residential and Boarding School Victims and Survivors, is free and open to the campus community. The event will be an evening of healing, solidarity, and community building.
Also known as “Indian Residential Schools,” the Residential and Board School system took millions of Indigenous youth between the ages of 3 and 16 from their homes. Reaching across what is now the United States and Canada, the schools were sanctioned and funded by their governments, running until the 1970s in the United States and the 1990s in Canada.
“There are many first-, second-, and third-generations still dealing with the aftermath,” said TRIBE President Nitakechi “Nate” Muckintubbee (Choctaw and Chickasaw).
The schools stripped children of any Indigenous identity, with punishments that included being severely beaten for wearing traditional clothing or speaking any language but English. “The number of children killed at these schools is countless,” said Muckintubbee, whose family lost children to the residential school in Hugo, Oklahoma.
Along with the toll on human lives and families, the cultural trauma echoes through the loss of language, noted Muckintubbee. “The land knows these languages. They were designed around the lands that we traditionally inhabit. To speak them is liberating,” he said. “The boarding schools took that away from a lot of people, with our elders too scarred to speak them or relive those days of abuse. We need to heal from that.”
TRIBE member Darcy Allred (Wyandotte) said many tribes are working to rebuild their languages and cultural heritage which were decimated by the schools. “A lot of our history disappears without elders sharing their tales that their parents told them. It leaves such plot holes within our existence,” she said. “But we are still here, working to find ways to heal.”