Zagaswe'iwe

Council to Address Holy Childhood Indian Boarding School

The Holy Childhood Indian Boarding School in Harbor Springs was the last Indian boarding school in operation in the United States, closing in 1986 (last boarders in 1983). Survivors and their families, in the Harbor Springs area and throughout Michigan and the Great Lakes Region, carry traumatic memories of intense assimilation, physical and sexual abuse, and cultural erasure. It is unknown how many children lost their lives to the school.

After laying semma and speaking to Elders in our community, we have decided to convene a council for all those who would like to make an action plan on awareness, advocacy, healing and rights, and representation during this time in our community. Through Zagaswe'iwe (pronounced zah-gah-sway-ee-way, s/he convenes a council in Anishinaabemowin), we will facilitate gatherings and discussions about what we would like our next steps to be on a local and national scale.

Our current goals include an action plan with different healing paths to address the needs of our community. 
 

  • Acknowledgement of healing for those who need it and provide as they need.

  • Acknowledgment from the church, state, and federal government that boarding schools existed and acknowledgement of the atrocities and historical traumas that followed.

  • Assisting in the sorting of pictures, files, and records, ensuring every child and family member is documented and remembered.

  • Educating the greater public and our own community about historical trauma and its long-term effects.

  • Seeking repatriations of our ancestors' remains.

  • Seeking reparations in the form of Land Back and treaties.

  • Providing community programming and parenting classes of generations affected.

  • Inserting curriculum into Michigan based education about the effects of Indian boarding schools and all other US Indian policy. 

Zagaswe'iwe Facebook Group

Open to all Indigenous peoples affected by the direct, historical, and generational trauma of Holy Childhood Indian Boarding School in Harbor Springs, Michigan. 

  • Facebook

News & Media Coverage of Our Work

Boarding school report spurs calls for truth and healing | Read article

May 15, 2022 | Sierra Clark, Record Eagle

500K proposed to study Indian residential boarding schools | Read article
February 27, 2022 | Sierra Clark, Record Eagle

UPDATE: Indian boarding school survivors hope new bill will heal, bring justice | Read article

February 17, 2022 | Shannon Konosk, Upper Michigan Source

New bill proposes lessons on Native American boarding schools in Michigan classrooms | Read article 

February 16, 2022 | Krystal Nurse, Lansing State Journal

Bill Introduced To Encourage Teachings of Native American Boarding Schools in 8th Through 12th Grades | Watch news clip

February 16, 2022 | Meredith St. Henry, Rhys Jordan, 9and10 News

Orange Shirt Day: National day for truth and reconciliation | Read article
September 30, 2021 | Sierra Clark, Record Eagle

Finding of unmarked graves in Canada resonates with local tribal community | Read article

July 23, 2021 | Sean Miller, Petoskey News-Review

Related Stories & Links

Indian children forced to assimilate at white boarding schools | Read article

April 2019 | Eric Hemenway, National Parks Service  

Holy Childhood Boarding School | Watch video

November 2018 | PBS Special Programs

The Legacy of Holy Childhood | Read article

August 3, 2008 | Survivor stories, The Northern Express

Holy Childhood of Jesus School | View photo compilation

Northern Mich~Mash Preserve, photos submitted by local families

Indian Boarding Schools 101: Fact Sheets & Shareable Infographics

The horrible truths of Indian Boarding Schools in the United States are still relatively unknown. Learn the basics of the genocide against Indigenous families with these fact sheets and share to raise awareness. 

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Awareness Events

Harbor Springs is usually known as a quaint little tourist town - a place of boutiques and resorts, wealth and whiteness. To promote awareness of the atrocities committed by Holy Childhood Church and other Indian Boarding Schools throughout the country (and world), we hold public vigils and ceremonies throughout the year.

 

Most recently, we gathered near the church on September 30 (otherwise known as Orange Shirt Day) and displayed dozens of pairs of shoes as an art installation, making it clear that that Every Child Matters. Each pair represented a former student of the Holy Childhood Boarding School and was labeled with a real child's name and age. 

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Healing Circles

Survivors of Holy Childhood are invited to attend monthly healing circles to share their stories, learn of others' experiences, connect with new and old friends, and show up in solidarity with each other. 

As a community, we are strong. As a community, we are resilient. As a community, we can have our truths heard.

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Advocacy & Policy

We continue to push for policies that acknowledge and seek to address the generational trauma and cultural erasure of Indigenous Peoples. Among other milestones, our recent advocacy efforts and the courage of survivors have led to the development of new legislation, including:​

  • Indian Boarding School Awareness (Senate Bill 876), fully supported by all federally recognized tribal chairpersons of Michigan by the United Tribes of Michigan.

  • A bill with support from both the Michigan State Senate and House that would officially recognize September 30 as Indian Boarding School Recognition Day. 

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Community Archive

It is unknown how many children lost their lives to Indian Boarding Schools in the United States. With the help of our Elders, we are developing a community archive of historical photos and documents so survivors and families can rediscover long-hidden truths, reconnect with the past, and hold space for our ancestors. 

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Parenting Classes: Ending the Cycle of Trauma

In partnership with Parenting is Essential (PIE) and the Native American Fatherhood and Families Association (NAFFA), we provide parenting and relationship healing courses that offer culturally rich models intended to inspire and motivate through Natural teachings:

  • Fatherhood is Sacred / Motherhood is Sacred

  • Linking Generations by Strengthening Relationships

  • Addressing Family Violence and Abuse. 

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