Skip to main content

A Transformative Opportunity for Truth and Healing Begins at Red Cloud Indian School

November 18, 2020

Red Cloud Indian School

Each year on September 30, Orange Shirt Day offers a chance to acknowledge Indian boarding school survivors as we remember the trauma that these schools inflicted on generations of Indigenous peoples across North America. This day opens the door to global conversation and is an opportunity to create meaningful discussion about the effects of residential schools and the legacy they have left behind. In that shared spirit, Red Cloud grieves these tragic injustices in our own past and commits to addressing that history with honesty and humility.

Over several decades, Red Cloud Indian School has taken significant steps to bring Lakȟóta culture, language, and spirituality to the center of its mission and daily work. From launching language revitalization efforts to elevating Lakȟóta leadership across the organization, this work has been critically important to upholding our identity as an organization that honors our Lakȟóta
and Catholic values. Despite these efforts, we know that there remains a great deal of tension in our community surrounding the historic injustice that is a part of Red Cloud’s past—not just because of its status as a former boarding school, but also because of its relationship to the Catholic Church.

To foster a process of truth and healing, Red Cloud has put together a team of our staff, now called the Truth and Healing Committee, to lead us through these efforts. This initiative is led by Red Cloud graduate Makȟá Black Elk '05—educator and leader at Red Cloud for the past seven years and Executive Director for Truth and Healing—and Fr. Brad Held. Over the next five years Red Cloud will go through this reconciliation process, knowing that this work will be ongoing for years to come. Makȟá says: “While boarding schools across the nation share many things in common, it is essential to address Red Cloud Indian School’s unique nature as a boarding school. I recognize there are no easy answers to the complexities of this history and this relationship—but it is time to engage in these challenging conversations.”

As part of this work, on September 29th Red Cloud was proud to endorse new legislation introduced by U.S. Representative Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) that would “establish the first formal commission in United States history to investigate, document, and acknowledge past injustices of the federal government’s cultural genocide and assimilation practices through its Indian Boarding School Policy.”

As Makȟá is quoted in the press release for this legislation, “The creation of the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policy in the United States represents a long-awaited admission of injustice. We know intimately the impact of this trauma as a former boarding school ourselves and have begun our own healing journey in collaboration with the Catholic church. But we call upon the federal government to work in solidarity with its indigenous communities by committing themselves to this work.”

Through our Truth and Healing initiative, Red Cloud believes this process is needed not just to address the injustices of the past, but to become the organization we seek to be today: a true partnership of Jesuit and Lakȟóta leaders committed to supporting the dignity of our students and families, parishioners, artists, and many others.

Titles for Article Images
First Image: Community of Sisters of St. Francis of Penance and Christian Charity, n.d., 1890-1920, St. Francis, SD

Article Image: Jesuits and boys, n.d., 1890-1900, Holy Rosary Mission, SD