Wellbriety Journey for Forgiveness
A Good Day in Albuquerque
The Albuquerque Indian School was in existence from 1881 until 1982. When it came to an end, its students were transferred to the Santa Fe Indian school just 60 miles north of Albuquerque. In 2006, a U.S. Department of the Interior office complex was built at the site of the former Albuquerque Indian School. But a handful of earth from there was brought to the Forgiveness Journey gathering in Albuquerque so that the spirit of the former school could be present. Who brought it? A Jewish Rabbi who had been invited to take part in the day.
“He understands what the Native Americans are going through,” said Terri Clah, one of the organizers who helped make the gathering happen. “He brought a message to our gathering to relate to Native Americans. He went to the former Albuquerque Indian School location and brought back dirt with him. He spoke to us and he lifted it before the Creator and asked the Creator to heal the Native Americans that were mistreated on those grounds. It was powerful,” she said with awe in her voice.
The Albuquerque gathering took place at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center through the good work of local people with only three weeks notice. Sometimes it happens that way. About 50 people took part. Sam English, the well-known Indian artist who was at the gathering thanked everyone for coming and said he was grateful to see the crowd that did show up on a moment’s notice. The artist donated prints, cards and books for fund raising. It is acts of kindness like this that help us get from coast to coast on this Journey.
During Grand Entry, Sam English carried in the Eagle Staff. Waylon Paul, Joseph Brophy, Joann F. Henry and Lupe Bryan brought in the Sacred Hoop. And nine year-old Autumn LeValdo, Teri Clah’s granddaughter, carried in Brandy Jo. Grandmother Teri says that the honor of carrying in the Red Silhouette meant a lot to Autumn. “She understood the story that the little girl went through,” Ms. Clah remembered. “When she got home she was sharing it with her sisters. She stayed through whole event. She asked, why are they doing this, why are they doing that? She understood the boarding school issue. The kids haven’t been told what really happened,” she reflected.
Hoop Carriers in Albuquerque.
Why don’t many of our children know what happened? The visit in Albuquerque was indeed honored to have Dr. Mary Belgarde of the University of New Mexico speak to us about Indian history at the Albuquerque event. Ms. Belgarde has been a professor specializing in Indian education for 35 years. Some of her comments relate to this big gap in education for both Indian and non-Indian people.
“The boarding school era should be recognized and approved as part of social studies in language arts curricula in all schools, both Indian and non-Indian,” Ms. Belgarde said later. “Most histories start in 1492 in text books but they have very little information, a short paragraph, a page at best, on the boarding school era. It’s not in state standards or benchmarks and it’s not in teacher education programs so teachers don’t know how to address it. As a result, we never learned it in school. Even Native students didn’t learn it in school. They knew their parents went to boarding school, but as we know, they couldn’t probe too deeply about what experiences they had.”
Panel participants: L to R,
Dr. Mary Belgarde, Evelyn Blanchard,
and Jessie Weahku
Jessie Weahku, a young participant in the panel discussion was also upset about the lack of information out there about what really happened in the boarding schools. Ms. Weahku is a Charter Student at the Native American Academy. Jessie did a school investigation, a project on boarding schools. She said she was extremely angry about the fact that you could not look in a text book to find out this information. It is not taught.
The sharing in Albuquerque also revealed more information about the boarding schools by way of peoples’ recollections. Evelyn Blanchard called it a “complex phenomenon” and said many children go to boarding schools to get away from racism and just to get away from their current situations. The boarding schools are often better than what they have at home. She told us her father went to Carlisle in 1921 and Pratt’s philosophy was carried on by the all superintendents of that day. She mentioned the Outing Program at Carlisle, where kids didn’t go home but stayed and worked on farms or other places arranged for them during the summer. That was adventurous, but it further separated the children from their homes and families.
Jake Skye play traditional flute.
Mabel Herrera’s father went to boarding school in 1914. He did not complete the 6th grade. He had a lot of problems with alcohol. Her mother also went to boarding school. Mabel is one of ten children, and eight were in the home while she was growing up. She learned survival in the home. At 11 she left her mom. She went to live with sister. Mabel never understood until today this is why her mom couldn’t hug her and love her. Mabel had a lot of anger towards her mom because she couldn’t love her.
She tells a story about her father before his passing. Mabel cared for him for the last 5 years of his life. One day she told her father that she loved him. He explained to her that no one had ever told him that before. No one had ever told her father that they loved him but her. Mabel was able to forgive her mother and father before they died. “There is relief today to be able to say that I understand. I believe today is a day for me as well as everyone else. It takes one person to make a difference and I am going to make a difference,” she said from the podium.
Rae Anne Brophy with her family.
Change begins in bits and pieces and in fits and starts. “All positive and lasting change starts on the inside and works its way out,” it is said. Is change happening? Yes it is. We heard from more than one person in Albuquerque that they finally realized some of why they and their families are the way they are. There were non-Native Christians present who prayed with us in their own way. We heard each other. And books with the truth about the boarding schools from a Native viewpoint are starting to appear. Please visit www.coyhispublishing.com and look for Understanding Native American Culture by Don Coyhis. We especially want to thank the coordinators of these events all across the nation for their hard work in allowing the Journey to take place. We honor you.
~ Forgiveness Journey Team
Click here to read an interview with Dr. Mary Belgarde ... >