“Awareness has the power to start the understanding, healing, and change processes that are needed to achieve social justice,” says Simone Poliandri, an Anthropology professor at Bridgewater State University (BSU). With this, many people do not know of the Indigenous peoples and how they were violently pulled from their homes. They were forced to go to residential schools where they were forbidden to embrace their culture and where they were sexually, physically, and emotionally abused by those who claimed to be their educators. Even if not directly placed in one of these schools, the families were negatively influenced by the result of them including the experience of heavy discrimination, which still occurs today. Indigenous peoples were horrifically harmed by the residential schools. If they were unable to comply with their kidnappers’ desires for them to assimilate, or if they were unable to live through the horrors they were subjected to on a daily basis, then they were disposed of in mass graves, never to be returned to their tribes, with their families forever left wondering what happened to their children. Poliandri states, “The purpose of these schools was to erase Indigenous cultures by taking away languages, customs, clothing, spiritual practices, and any trace of their Indigeneity. Survivors tell horrific stories of the abuse that occurred. While the government efforts took hold in the 1800s and first half of the 1900s (until the late 1960s early 1970s), the idea was not new.”
To raise awareness of this, there are many events this month in conjunction with BSU to raise awareness of the events that happened in these schools. During the third and fourth week of September, many faculty members will be participating in a teach-in, where they will be using some of their class time to bring attention to the history of the Indigenous residential schools. Bridgewater Communities for Civil Rights (BCCR) will be hosting a “Stand-Out” on September 30 at 3 p.m.
“Orange Shirt Day” is a day to raise awareness of what happened in the residential schools and how much it has affected Indigenous peoples and surrounding communities. It is asked “Orange Shirt Day” takes place on September 30 and will hold both a Zoom event and an in-person event in the Heritage Room of Maxwell Library from 12:30 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. Maka Black Elk, director of Red Cloud Indian School truth and Healing Committee, will be speaking. This event is co-organized by the Native American and Indigenous Studies, Anthropology, American Studies, and Canadian Studies programs.