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Truth and Healing

This site supports the efforts to promote the reconciliation and healing of the Natives people in response to what has transpired in the latter histories of the church.  It is not only desired but this healing is necessary.  This page helps one to understand what efforts are being created to help with this truth and healing both in the United States and in Canada.  It also helps to understand the histories that have transpired and the work being done on the part of the Catholic Church to help to heal these wounds.  
Kamloops Honoring.jpg

Photo of the Kamloops Boarding School with flowers and stuffed animals arrayed to bring forward healing for the children that were found in 2021.  

In 1869, a year after Father Baraga's passing, the Federal Government instituted a policy called the "Peace Policy" which intended to have various Christian religions assigned to each reservation.  This sparked the beginning of the force of Christian beliefs on the Native populations.  Soon Catholicism and how it advocated for the Native people in Father Baraga's time shifted to a time where the catch phrase, "Kill the Indian, Save the man" became prevalent and justified many heinous actions.  Native children were forced away from their families to boarding schools, stripped entirely of their native identities, their language was forbidden and any and all of their traditions became illegal to participate in.  Contrary to all of Father Baraga's teachings, Christ's name then became assimilated with abuse and a lack of mercy, compassion and care.  

Understanding the Truth and Reconciliation Initiative

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was started in Canada as an effort to help the healing of Natives who were directly or indirectly affected by the boarding school systems.  As a result of this work Justin Trudeau is implemented what is called the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which "establishes a universal framework of the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world".  As a result of the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission there is a settlement agreement that was instituted as well which desires faith groups to participate in reconciliation with the indigenous populations.  There is also a Truth and Reconciliation Call to Action which speaks to the many different parties and their ability to help this reconciliation go forward.  

Understanding the Truth and Healing Initiative

The Truth and Healing Act is the initiative that is being taken in the United States to help with the healing of boarding schools in the Native populations.  It was started by Debra Haaland who is the United States Secretary of the Interior on September 29, 2020. On June 22, 2021 Secretary Haaland Announced the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative which is intended on shedding light on what happened at the Federal Boarding Schools where Native Americans attended.  On December 7, 2021 the National Native American Board School Healing Coalition (NABS) announced the signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the department of Interior to mutually share research to support the Department of the Interior's Federal Indian Boarding School.  

During the Boarding School Era there has been much trauma created for the Indigenous people.  This understanding was amplified when there was a mass grave of 215 children found in the burial ground of a British Columbia school during the time of assimilation which operated from 1890 until the late 1970's.  The Canadian National Truth and Reconciliation Commission was set up as an apology for what had happened in the past and to help with the settlement over the schools.


To help aid in understanding the Native American histories of the government and church the histories after Father Baraga are listed below to help aid others in understanding the histories of the Native American people.  If you wish to see the histories of the Native American people during his time, please see Father Baraga's Timeline as shown on this site.  

A Brief Summary of Native American Histories

The following information is the timeline of what took place for the Indigenous people of the United States one year after the passing of Father Baraga.  

1868: Father Baraga passed from this world.  

1869: The United States issued The Peace Policy in 1869 required that churches be present on Indian Reservations.  The Federal Government assigned different churches to different reservations and the Catholic Church, though received well from the Native peoples, was assigned to only a few reservations.  Father Baraga's region was primarily assigned to the American Missionary Association.  

1874: The Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions was created to offset the challenges that were made by the implementation of the Peace Policy and the lack of Catholic representation.  

1879: This marks the beginning of the boarding school era. During this time Native American were forced to attend boarding schools often long distances away from their families.  Some locations initially had boarding schools willingly built with Native support, but overtime these boarding schools escalated into some of the main challenges that Natives faced in relation to the deterioration of their cultures and heritages.

1883: The Religious Crimes Code banned Native dances, ceremonies and practices of medicine people.  If the Indigenous people were found performing their religions agents were permitted to use force, imprisonment and the withholding of rations.  Native police forces were put on the reservations and were supervised by the federal government.  In this same year Canada's First Prime Minister authorizes the creation of the residential school system with the intent to assimilate the indigenous populations.

1887: The Indian Affairs Commissioner banned instruction in native languages in schools.  Mission schools were required to provide instruction in English.  Any missionaries that failed to comply were not allowed on the reservations.  The order was also extended to government-run schools on reservations.  This happened not more than 40 years after Father Baraga created his famous Ojibway Dictionary which was the largest dictionary created.  His dictionary then would have been banned from use with the missionaries.  

1888: Red Cloud began the Holy Rosary mission with the Catholic Jesuits which permitted the use of the Dakota Language and cross-cultural connections between the Dakota traditions and the Catholic traditions.  

1902: The Commissioner of Indian Affairs told reservation agents that they would be directed to cut the hair of the Indigenous males which was a honored tradition to the Indigenous people.  Males who did not comply were to be denied rations or given further punishment.  

1978: The American Indian Religious Freedoms Act passed and the American Indians were again able to be able to practice their religious ceremonies again.   


1990: The Native American Languages Act was enacted by the United States Congress.  This allowed Native American's to speak their native tongue again.  Please note that this is a 100 year difference from the time that they were initially told they could not speak their language.  Father Baraga's Dictionary then would be allowed back again and has been used as a means to help the Ojibway people use their native tongue again.  


It has only been 30 years since the Native Americans have been able to have their ceremonies and their languages .  Now Native Americans are working against the clock to try and obtain and retain what information has been provided from their elders in the tribes so that the languages and customs have the ability to be transferred onto their children.  Many of the youngest generation have lost interest in practicing their traditions and have little desire to learn their languages.  

Remembering the 215

In May of 2021, 215 buried remains of Indigenous children were found in a mass grave on the grounds of Kamloops Indian Residential School (KIRS).  This moment unlocked the memories of many indigenous peoples and created a tidal wave of news that spread around the world regarding their experiences.  Other indigenous people began to speak out about these histories which resulted in air time from the television show 20/20 and the mass populations learning to begin about these tragic pasts.  It also resulted in massive searches around the United States and Canada to search for more missing children.

These moments then sparked the resolve of Pope Francis to participate in the understandings of what transpired.  Pope Francis first invited the Indigenous populations to Rome and was presented a small pair of children's moccasins.  After time of reflecting of the meaning of those moccasins he visited Canada to return the moccasins to the people there and started what was called his Pilgrimage of Penance where he spent a week visiting, connecting to, learning from and speaking with the Indigenous Populations regarding the church's role in boarding school system.  He used that time to offer his official apologies for what had transpired and to teach the members of the church as well about what it means to be Christian.

Please read more about the 215 in the posts listed below:

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