Denise Lajimodiere Stringing Rosaries

Denise Lajimodiere Stringing Rosaries


– My choice for punishment
was either a razor strap or a fiberglass fishing pole. He gave me a choice so I took
the fiberglass fishing pole. What happened is these
kids would go and listen when they knew someone
was going in room 19. They’d all gather
around the corner and listen by this
grill to find out how long it would take for you to start
screaming your head off. So I wanted to see why you
went to boarding school. What you went through
at boarding school, and what your life was like now without my voice interrupting. Just whole stories. So these are all their
stories in their own words. The title of my academic
book is “Stringing Rosaries.” When I was doing my qualitative
study for my dissertation, I interviewed Native
American females who were the first ever females in their position of leadership. And in their stories, most of them had been
boarding schooled or talked about
boarding schools, or had parents that
were boarding schooled. I began interviewing survivors with an interview
protocol that came from The National Boarding
School Healing Coalition. So many of the survivors did not want me to
publish their names but they just said “Tell
the world our story. “Tell the world what
happened to us.” Many, many generations of our
kids were taken from homes, forcibly taken from homes
and sent to boarding schools. My father was sent
to boarding school when he was nine years old. He was taken from here,
Turtle Mountain Reservation pretty much stolen
when he was nine and sent three days and three
nights on a train to Chemawa. He had never learned
throughout his entire life about the government’s
assimilation policy, why he was stolen, why
his hair was shaved off, and why he was beaten
for speaking Cree, and Christianity forced on him. This was his soul wound. (light music) Richard Pratt who
started the first off-reservation boarding
school, Carlisle, in 1879. He liked Indians, but
he hated the culture, the ceremony, the
language, the traditions. So he wanted to “Kill the
Indian and save the man.” He was a military man. So they were run with
military precision, along with the corporal
punishment, severe beatings. My father, my mother, grandparents, they
weren’t allowed to speak their tribal language. If you got caught
speaking your tongue, the nuns or the
people in the dorm, or the teachers, I guess,
they would have lye soap and put that in your mouth. And then hold your mouth shut
until you either blew bubbles, or you got blisters
in your mouth. So that’s how he learned
how to speak English. Everything that was Indian
was beaten out of them, was shamed out of them to
make them as white citizens, as white as they could. So when these kids
went back to home, to the reservations, I
call them the returned, they didn’t fit in. They didn’t know their parents. Some of them were gone
for up to 12 years. Suggested stay was a
minimum of four years. It was a very hard
adjustment back. My research over the
past 10 years has come up with almost 400 boarding schools in the United
States, in 29 states. It’s very tedious work. I would find a boarding
school document, and then in there they would
list other boarding schools. So then I’d go off and search
for those boarding schools. So have I found all the boarding
schools? Absolutely not. There’s still people that
send me boarding schools. Reading on Facebook
even, and someone’ll say “Oh my grandfather went
to a boarding school, “and it’ll be in Alaska.” And I’ll check my list,
and I won’t have it. And then I’ll Google it, and
sure enough it’ll show up. The stories that
you’ll read in the book are extreme loneliness. Lonesome at night,
you could hear it. You could hear the little
boys kinda sniffing. And they would try
not to cry loud because you got
punished for that. Why am I here? Some of them were stolen,
some of them were sent. Some of them, because their
parents weren’t able to function and that’s a whole
other sad story there is what was going
on in reservations. Reservation life with
adjusting from being people free on the prairies to
being put on reservations. And then our way of living,
our hunting and fishing and so on, was taken away,
dependent on commodity foods and so on, the illnesses,
and the alcoholism and the suicide. That’s the legacy. It’s called intergenerational
trauma, or historical trauma that our people
are suffering now due to the boarding school era. – [Announcer] Funded
by The Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage
Fund with money from the people of Minnesota
on November 4th, 2008, and by the members
of Prairie Public.

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