SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Religion and Native Americans
By Tim Giago


September 18, 2008
Thursday PM

Like Don Hoff Jr., I was indoctrinated into Catholicism while held captive in an Indian mission boarding school for 11 years.

Hoff does a great job of talking to his own people about the things they have lost because of the foreign religion forced upon them. His reasoning is sound.

Most white people do not realize, even to this day, that the residual effects of the damage done to the Native population by missionaries and their errant methods of indoctrination did damage that is still impacting Indian people not only in Alaska, but in the lower 48.

One of my heroes is Elsie Boudreau of Alaska who brought a very painful lawsuit against a Catholic priest and prevailed. She stood up to ridicule from her own people and underhanded attacks by the Catholic Church to win her case.

Thirty years ago I wrote a small book of poetry called The Aboriginal Sin about my years at the Indian mission boarding school. I was viciously attacked by the Church and clergy and at one point when a reporter called the school to ask questions about my book she was told that I had never attended that school. Another priest told her I was only a student there for six months. The hate attacks against me by the church are still around. Former classmates of mine, classmates who have been totally brainwashed into their religious beliefs, have attacked me for daring to brng out the terrible things that happened to the children at that boardng school.

The hundreds of hours I spent in Catechism classes could have been best spent learning more about my own culture and about the traditional spirituality of my people. Although my school was located only 10 miles from the massacre site at Wounded Knee, not one lesson was ever taught to me about what happened there. Although the school was located on land donated to them by Lakota Chief Red Cloud the only time his name was mentioned is when it could be tied into his supposed conversion to Catholicism.

It was not unusual to see students beaten with leather straps for speaking their native language. "Kill the Indian, Save the Child" was the ongoing philosophy of the Indian educational system.

No institution can take innocent children and abuse them physically, emotionally and oftentimes, sexually, without expecting that some day, when those children are adults, they will turn out to become the abusers. I have seen it repeated over and over in Indian country.

When my book "Children Left Behind" was published last year, I did a book signing and talk at the Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, NM. There were approximately 250 members of Southwest Indian tribes in the room. As I began to talk about the Indian mission boarding schools and about how my baby sister was raped by a staff member of the school when she was only eight years old, I saw tears streaking down the faces of many of the elders in the room. An elderly man from the Jicarilla Apache Nation stood to ask me a question, but overcome with grief, he collapsed in his seat unable to continue the question.

I agree so much with Mr. Hoff and I would be honored to stand at his side and reafirm our united beliefs and together strongly encourage all indigenous people to reject the foreign religions forced upon them and return to the spirituality of their ancestors.

Tim Giago
Rapid City, SD

About: " Founder and former editor and publisher of Indian Country Today, The Lakota/Dakota Journal and the Lakota Times. Founder and first president of the Native American Journalists Association. Inducted into the South Dakota Newspaper Hall of Fame in September 2007. Nieman Fellow at Harvard with the Class of 1991."

Received September 17, 2008 - Published September 18, 2008


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letter Demise of Tlingit Natives is Religion By Don Hoff Jr.

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