Bill Introduced To Encourage Teachings of Native American Boarding Schools in 8th Through 12th Grades

A northern Michigan Senator has introduced a bill to ensure that more Native American history is taught in Michigan schools.

“It’s not cast blame but make sure the history is acknowledged, a very dark part of our history to make sure it doesn’t happen again and allow those survivors to begin to heal,” said Senator Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City.

Senator Schmidt introduced a bill to encourage the history of Native American boarding schools to be taught to 8th through 12th graders.

“Children were forced to leave their homes, leave their families as young as the age of 3 to go to these boarding schools where they were often abused,” said Holly T. Bird, Co-Executive Director of Title Track. “The purpose of these boarding schools was to assimilate these children into American culture,”

Three boarding schools were in Michigan, including one in Mt. Pleasant and one in Harbor Springs.

“The last one only closed back in the 80s, and that wasn’t very long ago, so we still have people walking around in our community, your neighbors walking around with us who were abused in these boarding schools and have suffered a lot of trauma,” said Bird.

“My daughter who is with me today is the first one since these policies have been put in place to have education sovereignty which means she gets to choose where she goes to school; that’s huge,” stated Meredith Kennedy of  Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians.

Senator Schmidt and the indigenous community hope teaching about this dark time will bring awareness.

“I think that awareness creates a compassion and not only that, it’s accurate history,” said Bird.

They also hope it will bring some healing to the Native people.

“This is huge in our community because it helps with healing, and it helps with our nations coming together, both tribal nations and Michigan, to really make an impact in a positive way, so people understand their neighbor,” said Kennedy.

The next step is for the State Senate to vote on the bill.