Native Americans call on Governor Whitmer to address Michigan’s history of abusive institutions

Pope Francis makes a long-awaited apology to Canada Native during his trip to North America.

The pontiff has just visited the site of a former boarding school to share the church’s regret at forcibly assimilating the natives into Christian society.

The pope called the six-day visit to Canada a pilgrimage of penance for atrocities that included physical and sexual abuse by Catholic missionaries.

Critics say the treatment of students leads to generations of trauma and abuse.

As Pope’s apology tour focuses on Canadian schools, some Native Americans in Michigan react strongly to his actions while calling Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer begin our own reconciliation efforts here at home.

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The pope said he was sorry for residential school victims and their descendants in Canada.

A large gathering of First Nations people from the Keweenaw Bay Indian community in Baraga, Michigan was held this past weekend.

“When the eagles were transported on an empty stomach, they kept an empty seat, an empty chair, a sacred space for children who were murdered in schools, in boarding schools,” school victim Lorraine’s granddaughter said. Punkin” Shananaquet.

These so-called boarding schools were spread across North America. The borders were not recognized by the first peoples who were in America.

As the Pope makes the apology tour of Canada for what he calls a deplorable evil, Shananaquet of the Potawatomi Indian Band of Gun Lake and the Lake Superior Indian Band of Wisconsin said that what is happened to his grandmother cannot be erased by excuses.

“I would say that the pope, upon his arrival on the shore, had to be arrested, brought before the international tribunal for mass murder and genocide,” Shananaquet said. “He should be arrested because he harbored the minions of murderers and rapists.”

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Shananaquet asks Whitmer to do more to acknowledge and reconcile what happened at the so-called Michigan residential schools.

“Because she (Whitmer) is sitting on these high places, she has to come and be part of a powwow,” Shananaquet said. “She must be part of seeing an empty chair.”

Michele Robinson is a member of the Ojibwe tribe and is a lawyer and financial advisor to Metro Detroit.

His mother and aunt were victims of these facilities condoned by federal, state, local governments and religious institutions.

“They didn’t allow you to speak your language or anything that came from your heritage; you weren’t allowed to perform your rituals,” Robinson said. “My mother was one of those hard-to-break spirits. She was very strong and very willful, and so she was sent to New York, and they broke her spirit.

While Robinson said she agrees with the pope’s apology to Canada, she says it solves and changes nothing.

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“I think it’s a good step as a Christian,” Robinson said. “We are taught to forgive others, so I don’t want to be negative about that. It doesn’t bring back people who are no longer with us or take away the abuse and emotional scars of people who were actually in those residential schools.

More information:

  • Last week, the bipartisan government’s work on the budget includes a $500,000 study into Indigenous boarding schools to help provide Indigenous communities with the answers they need.

  • These funds will help document and preserve records in conjunction with federal efforts. Funds will be used to locate, analyze and preserve records and work in concert, where appropriate, with the Federal Indian Residential Schools Initiative.

  • The study would conclude no later than January 30, 2024, and a final report of findings and recommendations will be shared with the public and the State of Michigan.

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