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Haaland, Interior Department gather boarding school stories from Mission

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland speaks to Russel Eagle Bear at the third Road To Healing stop in Mission, SD.
Lee Strubinger
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland speaks to Russel Eagle Bear at the third Road To Healing stop in Mission, SD.

The Department of Interior held its third stop on a tour to hear from Indian Boarding school survivors.

One of the department's goals is to create a permanent oral history of what occurred.

Rosalie Quick Bear attended one of the 31 boarding schools located in South Dakota. The 78-year-old Sicangu Lakota describes being powdered with the pesticide DDT, spending weeks with an untreated broken leg, and getting locked in a dark cement cellar for days.

Quick Bear describes her experience like this to her grandkids.

“You see all this horror stuff on TV? Real bad? That’s how we grew up. That why we are like we are.”

Quick Bear says her experience at St. Francis Indian Boarding school still affects her.

“I thought there was no God, just torture and hatred. Sometimes I’m—still to this day—I’m quiet. I’m off away from people. I still can’t really feel that love that we’re supposed to know as human beings.”

Another survivor says every boarding school story is similar.

“We were treated inhumanely," Cheryl Angel said.

It’s stories like this the Department of Interior is collecting as part of the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative. The initiative hopes to identify marked and unmarked burial sites across the boarding school system and the total amount of spending and federal support for the schools.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland says the tour is one step among many.

“That we will take to strengthen and rebuild the bonds within native communities that the federal Indian boarding school policies set out to break,” Haaland said.

The Road To Healing is a year-long tour.

Click play below to hear two hours from The Road To Healing stop in Mission, SD.

101522 Road To Healing Mission SD.mp3

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.
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