Religion and Native Americans
By Tim Giago
September 18, 2008
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
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
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.
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
of Tlingit Natives is Religion By Don Hoff Jr.
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