Native American speaker highlights importance of education on U.S. boarding schools

Violet Cross was taken from her family in the early 1920s and was regularly subjected to physical and emotional abuse at the Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School.

On Tuesday, her daughter, Suzanne Cross, delivered a lecture discussing the historical context of the boarding school experience to a full auditorium at the Charles V. Park Library.

“One of the most important lessons I learned from my mother’s experience was perseverance,” Cross said. “Even though others will think you’re wrong or that you won’t make it, keep moving and keep fighting.”

Cross, a member of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan and an associate professor emeritus for the School of Social Work at Michigan State University, educated her audience on the physical, verbal and sexual abuse that students went through at the boarding schools in the United States.

During this time period, many Native American children were removed from their homes, sometimes in handcuffs, and placed in Native American boarding schools. Students were required to cut their hair, and received severe punishments, specifically for speaking their native language.

Sarah Surface-Evans, a member of the Michigan Industrial Indian Boarding School (MIIBS) Council, expressed how crucial it is to have more Native American centered events.

“Events like these are instrumental to correcting the ways of the higher education in public schools across the United States,” Surface-Evans said. “It’s important that students learn the truth about what happened in the boarding schools.

Cross stressed students should be more educated on the subject because of the effects the past has on Native American families today. She suggested students attend more lectures and demand textbooks that focus more on the Native American population.

Roscommon sophomore Katie Artz believes students should be more educated and involved with Native American history.

“It is important for students to learn about the real history of Native Americans and the tribes,” Artz said. “This is an important subject for all people in the world, but it is especially important for us Chippewa students to know what actually happened.”

At the end of her presentation, Cross shared some of the horrific moments her mother went through in the boarding schools and explained how these past events have such an enormous impact on Native American individuals, families and tribal nations.

“It’s important for students to learn that if a policy is enacted, somebody must be there to look over it and stop it immediately,” Cross said. “This went on for four generations, when it should have been stopped at the beginning.”

Cross dedicated her lecture to the many Native Americans who suffered as children at the Native American boarding schools.



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