Duluth Council to Discuss Indigenous People’s Abuse, Trauma from Christian Boarding Schools

The resolution allows the Duluth City Council to officially go on record calling on Congress to commission a study and report on the boarding school policy.

DULUTH, Minn.- As Duluth City Council prepares to meet on Monday, also Indigenous People’s Day, one of the biggest items on their agenda is a resolution calling for awareness and reconciliation for Christian boarding schools who abused and in some cases killed many indigenous children throughout history.

As the Northland prepares to recognize Indigenous People’s Day, the resolution put forth by indigenous Council President Renee Van Nett and co-sponsored by Councilor Terese Tomanek and Vice President Arik Forsman, maybe the council’s most timely Monday.

“I’m happy to be a very small part of this as a co-sponsor supporting the very good work of Councilor Van Nett,” Councilor-At-Large Forsman said Sunday.

The resolution acknowledges the harm and ongoing trauma experienced by indigenous communities after indigenous children nationwide were taken to and abused at boarding schools meant to assimilate and Christianize them in the 1800s and 1900s.

“Many folks who not only lived in the country but lived in Minnesota on all of our reservations were taken away from their families as children and stripped of their culture, their heritage, their religion, their spiritual practices,” said Forsman.

And in Canada, thousands of children were stripped of their lives. Unmarked graves were uncovered this year at some of those sites.

“I think there’s hope that there’s interest at the federal government level to really study what happened,” said the Council Vice President. “If you don’t study the sins of the past, you’re bound to repeat them at some point.”

The resolution allows the Duluth City Council to officially go on record calling on Congress to commission a study and report on the boarding school policy.

Duluth’s Indigenous Commission said with the last residential school closing in the mid-1990s, the intergenerational trauma of the system lives on today.

“I think it’s just part of this process of the city going through a reconciliation with our relationship with our indigenous neighbors and how we move forward together respecting their sovereignty and their culture and their heritage,” Forsman said.

Following a rally at noon Monday celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day outside City Hall, another will be held in the evening there before the council meeting, in support of the resolution.

The University of Wisconsin Superior will host an Indigenous People’s Day celebration at 4:30 p.m., and the College of St. Scholastica will recognize the day for the first time in its more than 100-year history with a proclamation in the morning, and traditional feast at 5 p.m.

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