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Opinion
Yellow Bird: Boarding schools forced assimilation


"My father intensely disliked his years at Chemewa Indian Mission School in Salem, Ore. They made the students wear uniforms that cut into their necks and carry wooden guns, he told us. He was sent to that school because when the federal agents would come around to pick up the kids for schools near the reservation, he would run away. When they did round him up and take him to school, he sometimes would be back home before the agent came looking for the next group. So they sent him far away.

He didn't have a first name, so at Chemawa Indian school, the mission agents gave him the name Grover - a name he always hated. We suspected it was after President Grover Cleveland, but my father didn't care about this white president and thought his name sounded like a dog - Rover.

It was federal policy that in order to assimilate them, children should be separated from their parents. They had to leave their culture and language behind. When these students returned, my father claimed, they were dark-skinned white people."

Get the Story:
DORREEN YELLOW BIRD COLUMN: To all those who would not fit in (The Grand Forks Herald 11/20)

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