Historical Trauma and Healing from the Boarding School Era by Eaonhawinon Patricia AllenTweet
On Monday October 12th, Seattle’s Indigenous Peoples’ Day, the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to pass a resolution acknowledging “acts of genocide” in the United States government’s American Indian boarding school policy. The resolution urges the US government to examine its human rights record, as well as, pressure the Seattle Public School’s to incorporate the teaching of Native languages and history of the boarding school era in the schools. The resolution was drafted and put forth by Seattle’s Native community. Eaonhawinon Patricia Allen is a Seattle community organizer who gave testimony at the Seattle city council meeting speaks on her motivation for addressing the the boarding school era. Editors note.
I had the honor on Monday of sharing my experience of historical trauma and inter-generational trauma in support of the City of Seattle to pass a Resolution of educating and holding the United States government accountable for the genocide and human rights violations of American Indian children. This was an attempt to eradicate the indigenous identity and culture and assimilate natives into western euro-American culture.
I was raised by my grandmother because my parents were both still on their own journeys of healing. The genocidal actions of boarding school trauma effected every native in my father and grandfather’s generation in Southeast Alaska. My father was in a boarding school from about 3 to 13. When he came out, he was an orphan. He struggled all of his life dealing with the abuse, violence, humiliation, trauma and lack of a childhood and still is. Although I had native family that shared their experience in boarding schools in Alaska and in the lower 48 states, my father didn’t open up his experience fully to me until I was 20.
Once I got into college, self education and eventually the American Indian Studies program at UW [University of Washington] helped me understand my own history in detail. I learned about the types of abuse and violence that my father didn’t have the emotional capacity to share. Being a victim and survivor of relationship violence, depression and asexual violence myself, I finally understood how these experiences are not healthy and have been normalized in my community because of the violence and trauma passed down from the experiences subjected to our communities from boarding and residential schools that we legalized and enforced by the government.
My point of my testimony: college should not be a place for me to BEGIN learning about my own history of boarding school trauma. Grade school and basic education should be where this knowledge and history should start. This is not native history, but United States history. This was one of the last actions made to complete colonization and for euro-American settlers to benefit from a western society and culture; to wash the native identity out of natives.
But I am here to tell you this, and so will my future children. We still survived and are starting the process of healing. I thank all those that taught me, counseled me, mentored me, healed me, loved me, supported me and listened to me long enough to tell you this. Because I wasn’t meant to make it far enough to complete college to tell you this. Especially the women who have been role models in my life. You might not know it but your presence reminded me I can survive through everything.
Eaonhawinon Patricia Allen is a Recent graduated from the University of Washington. She identifies as a mixed Indigenous woman. She’s a writer, poet, community organizer, & matriarchal scholar.
*Featured photo by Damien Conway