Mary Pember: Survivor of Native boarding school shares story

Kim Oseira shares her story of her time at the Holy Cross Mission Orphanage, a boarding school for Alaska Natives:
The memories are coming back to her now in bits and pieces. Sometimes they emerge slowly and sometimes they engulf her bringing a terrible pain she describes as a tsunami wave of hurt.

When this happens she raises her arms up in the air. “I say, dear God in heaven, please help me, and I pray. Prayers keep you in a line of goodness,” said Kim Oseira, Alaskan Native and survivor of the Holy Cross Mission Orphanage in Holy Cross, Alaska.

The boarding school, located along the Yukon River, over 400 miles from Fairbanks, was officially called an orphanage in church records. Holy Cross Mission was founded in 1880 near the village of Holy Cross, a community of Athabascan and Yupik Eskimos, according to the Holy Cross tribal website. The early mission included a day school, boarding school and church. Today, only a church remains, the Holy Family Catholic Church served by Catholic diocese of Fairbanks.

Oseira, 73, has come forward to tell her story because, she says, “It is time.” Over several hours and multiple interviews she takes us through her childhood years at the Jesuit orphanage, sharing memories that she once thought were “completely blotted out.”

Her history, she says, is the same as so many other Native children who were taken from their families and raised in religious mission boarding schools in Canada and Alaska.

Get the Story:
Mary Annette Pember: The Last Orphans of Holy Cross (Indian Country Today 2/6)

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