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KNBA News - Traditional Foods Served to Elders in KOTZ; Bethel School Seeks Cash Aid Over Supplies

Sept. 25, 2015

Kotzebue Nursing Home Serving Traditional Foods

Associated Press

Residents of a nursing home in Kotzebue now have musk ox and other traditional native foods on the menu. It's part of a program under a new federal law that allows donated food to be served at nursing homes, child nutrition programs and other public and nonprofit facilities, including those run by Indian tribes and tribal groups.


Cash is the Best Aid to Those Rebuilding a School

Bethel school officials say they would prefer cash donations, rather than school supplies as they work to rebuild following a fire. KYUK radio reports the district is having difficulty storing donated materials after the Nov. 3 fire, which damaged a Yup'ik immersion school and the Kuskokwim Learning Academy.


Stories of Painful Boarding School Experiences Start Healing Process

By Lisa Phu, KTOO-Juneau

By talking about boarding school experiences, Tlingit elders in Juneau are turning painful memories into sources of healing - healing for themselves and generations still living with the consequences.

The nonprofit arm of the local urban Native corporation is using those stories to create a K-12 curriculum that will focus on the impacts of colonization on the Tlingit people.

Before telling her story, Della Cheney from Kake sings a spirit song for all the families who were part of the boarding school era.

Cheney is on a panel of 13 Tlingit elders during the recent clan conference in Juneau. Since August they've been meeting once a month with other elders at Goldbelt Heritage Foundation.

“We're helping to write down the story of how boarding schools are affecting us and our families today, so that our children and grandchildren will know the history and realize the changes our families, our people faced,” said Cheney.

From the late 1800s to the mid-1900s, the federal government split families and forced Native children into boarding schools to assimilate. Cheney said many were also raised in orphanages.

“That time is still walking with us today,” said Cheney. The people who were raised with no love or affection in a very hostile environment also raised their children without much nurturing or affection, so today we see some of our families suffering from abuse.”

Cheney said both her parents attended Sheldon Jackson School in Sitka. Her mother was only 10 when she was brought there in 1923.

“It just breaks my heart to think that I was raised in such a loving family and to know that my mother and father weren't,” said Cheney.

But Cheney said those who went to boarding schools persevered. In Kake, they fought to make the village a first class city in 1951, allowing the community to operate its own school system.

Emma Shorty is from Teslin, Yukon. She was 4 when she was taken away from her home in 1937 to go to residential school in Carcross.

“We were never allowed to go anywhere,” said Shorty. “We had to stay in one yard. They put a fence around the school. They used to lock the fence and when we went to bed, they would lock our doors and there were no bathrooms to go to, so we got into trouble for wetting our beds.”

Shorty said she was molested at the school.

“I learned to forgive,” said Shorty. “I wasn't always kind. Residential school just about killed my spirit. Today I forgive them.”

Shorty fought hard to have her first daughter go to public school, even though she was turned away again and again for being Tlingit.

John Martin went to boarding school in Eklutna and then to the St. Pius X Mission in Skagway.

“But instead of Christianity,” said Martin, “there were some ugly things that went on and I'm not going to speak about that.

Martin said many of the elders are still hurt.

“By putting us in boarding schools, it was a form of prison,” said Martin. “They disrupted our learning process of the language. They actually took a way of life from us when our elders were teaching us how to gather food.”

Martin said telling the stories from that time and identifying the hurt is the beginning of healing.