Our Spirits Don’t Speak English: Indian Boarding School

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This compelling documentary provides in-depth interviews with survivors of the Indian Board School system.



On June 10, 2008, the government of Canada formally apologized to the World, in a solemn parliament session for its treatment of Indians in the last century. Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper apologized for previous governments' policies of taking Indian children from their parents and homes and forcing them into residential Roman Catholic schools.
This new documentary, explains why this formal apology had to be made.

When it began in 1879, the philosophy of the Indian boarding school system was “to kill the Indian and save the man,” the mission statement of Captain Richard Henry Pratt, founder and superintendent of Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania until 1904.


Jim Thorpe (Sauk and Fox), the iconic hero survived the boarding school system. Grace Thorpe (Sauk and Fox), his daughter, in her last interview before she passed away on April 4, 2008, discusses boarding school experiences in the documentary.
The battle against and the victory over the boarding school monster is told by educators, former and current students who were interviewed at Carlisle; Sherman Indian School, Riverside, Calif.; Sequoyah High School, Tahlequah, Okla.; Anchorage, Alaska; and other locations.

One of the most compelling elements is an interview with Andrew Windy Boy (Chippewa/Cree), from which the title is taken. Windy Boy, who attended boarding schools in the late 1960s and early 1970s, talks about the assault on his culture. “[They] took me to the boarding school where I wasn’t allowed to talk my native tongue or practice my native ways. I didn’t know any other language so whenever I’d talk, it would come out. Cree would come out. And whenever I’d talk, I’d get hit.”

“We met Andrew Windy Boy in 2002 while on the Summit Lake Paiute Reservation in northern Nevada. Andrew’s oral history of his boarding school experience was the inspiration for this film,” says Steven R. Heape, Cherokee Nation Citizen and executive producer of Rich-Heape Films. “Andrew’s story is not one you will find or hear in the public school system. He and other survivors of the boarding school system truly have my respect for what was endured just for being an Indian child. This is a story that must be told and not forgotten,” Heape said.

In addition to Grace Thorpe, participants include Henrietta Mann (Southern Cheyenne), Ph.D., endowed chair in Native American Studies at Montana State University – Bozeman, and Daniel R. Wildcat (Yuchi of the Muscogee Nation), Ph.D., co-director of the Haskell Environmental Research Studies Center and member of the faculty of American Indians Studies. Gayle Ross, renowned Cherokee storyteller and Great Granddaughter of Chief John Ross, is host and narrator of the film. August Schellenberg narrated the opening introduction statement.

Screenwriter of the film is Dan Agent (Cherokee/Choctaw), former editor of the Cherokee Phoenix from November 1999 through 2006, original story by Karl Tipre.

 

 

Director: Chip Richie

Format: DVD, color, 80 minutes (Director's Cut).

Published: 2008

Tribes/Ethnic Groups: Various U.S. and Canada tribes