HELENA — In the late 19th and early 20th century, many Native American children in the United States, including Montana, were taken to boarding and residential schools. The impact of young Native American children being taken to those boarding and residential schools generations earlier is still influencing Native American communities.
Patrica Montana Fluery, who is half Blackfeet and Little Shell Chippewa, says, "[Our elders] would never talk around us, and I know that is from the trauma of boarding school era."
Six of the seven reservations in Montana at one time had at least one boarding school. Most of the 18 schools in Montana were located within reservations, with three being located outside but near reservations.
Dories Kicking Woman, a member of the Blackfeet Nation, says the boarding schools worked to erase centuries-old traditions.
"The worst impact on our tribe was our culture and also our language there was a total destruction of it," said Kicking Woman.
Hair, which has cultural and spiritual significance, would be shaved off the heads of the boys. Children at those boarding schools also faced neglect and abuse.
"Beatings, there was a lot of rape," Kicking Woman went on to say.
The schools removed the Native American children from their families and culture and taught English, western traditions, and trade skills. As a result, many of the children converted to the Catholic faith.
"There is still effects of a lot of people that people think they are not worthy enough to be involved in our ceremonial ways," Fleury said.
Linda Kinsey, a member of the Fort Belknap tribe, told MTN News that she felt the impact of the schools growing up after many had closed.
"I think, the experience of seeing my mother, you know, telling my own children ‘Shame on you.’ That taught me that I didn't experience that same kind of a shame," she said.