SJ 6 was recently heard in the House Energy, Technology and Federal Relations committee. SJ 6 is a joint resolution sponsored by Sen. Susan Webber (D-Browning) that would recognize the harm done by Indian boarding schools. Northern Plains board member and Northern Cheyenne tribal member Tom Mexicancheyenne was among several of the bill’s proponents who gave powerful testimony and spoke to his personal experience with these schools:
“The importance of this bill is to acknowledge that these things did happen to our Native people. Many of us are the product of the trauma that our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents experienced and survived. My dad was born in 1914. His mom died when he was a young teen and he was sent to live with a Mennonite family and… sent to the Christian schools. My mom was born in 1912. She was forced at the age of 6 to go to the Catholic and government boarding schools. The stories she told when I was in my forties were very hard to listen to. The trauma that she experienced and went though and witnessed… At that time I didn’t realize how the trauma had been passed onto me. So in my early years I was very angry at my parents for what they put us through. I didn’t understand what they went through until my mom started to tell the stories. And then I realized she didn’t have a choice in what happened and what she lived through.”
Tom goes on to say how passing this bill can allow our Native communities to heal from these experiences:
“You [the members of the committee] are not the perpetrators of this violence… By passing this bill you are recognizing the ones who died at these schools but also the ones who were sent home to die. And you also help recognize my mom and my dad’s experiences and the trauma they lived through.”
You can listen to his full testimony and the full hearing here. (Tom starts speaking at the 15:47:27 mark.) We want to thank Tom for his courage in sharing his story, and express our solidarity with our Native allies by supporting this bill. We hope its passage will honor their stories and start clearing the trail toward healing.