UM Hosts Indigenous Boarding School Symposium | Local News

A pedestrian walks past the Payne Family Native American Center on the University of Montana campus last week. The building houses the Department of Native American Studies and Native American Student Services.

TOM BAUER, Missoulian

The University of Montana is hosting a symposium for Montana educators on Native boarding schools on September 30. The event aims to equip teachers with the skills to deal with the ongoing effects of historical trauma in Indigenous communities.

The symposium, “Boarding Schools: Remembering Our Resilience and Shared Knowledge for Trauma-Informed Learning,” will be a hybrid event, meaning speakers and attendees can participate virtually or in person. The event will run from 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and will feature keynote speakers Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart, director of Native American disparities research at the University of New Mexico, and her collaborator, Deidre Longhair. Educators who participate can earn continuing education credits.

Marsha Small

Marsha Small poses for a portrait at Montana State University in Bozeman.

RYAN BERRY, Billings Gazette

Other speakers will include Marsha Small, a Northern Cheyenne woman who uses ground-penetrating radar to uncover unmarked graves of Native children, Jason Begay, who co-teachers UM’s Native News Project, and Ramey Growing Thunder, who leads the language and culture of Fort Peck. department.

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The event will feature educational workshops on history, language arts, science, art, media and tribal languages. Attendees are encouraged to wear orange, which has become a symbol of the residential school healing movement.

From 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., there will be an Every Child Matters march at UM Oval, and University Hall will be lit up in orange to honor victims, survivors, and future generations.

Maegan Rides At The Door, director of UM’s National Native Children’s Trauma Center, said in a statement “a national conversation about the boarding school system is long overdue.”

“We want to…promote collective trauma healing and help prepare Indigenous youth for this important but potentially disturbing conversation about system-created death, abuse and intergenerational suffering,” she said. “Montana educators are in a position to lead this effort.”

To register for the conference, go to

Symposium partners include the Robert and Beverly Braid family, the UM Department of Native American Studies, the UM President’s Office, the UM Provost’s Office, and All Nations Health Center Missoula.

Indigenous Residential Schools and a Legacy of Trauma

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland discusses the boarding school initiative. (Video credit: The Associated Press).

From the 1800s to the 1970s, Indigenous children were taken from their homes and forced to attend government-funded Christian boarding schools, where they were emotionally, physically, and sexually abused. The explicit mission of these schools was cultural genocide. Some children died in these schools and were buried in unmarked graves.

The tribes suffered a loss of language and culture as a result, and the historical trauma lingers.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland established the Federal Indian Boarding Schools Initiative in June 2021 to investigate the boarding school system. The first installment of the survey was released in May and identified at least 16 boarding schools in Montana.

Photo by Deb Haaland

Deb Haaland

Evan Vucci, Associated Press

Adjust. The 30th was considered the National Day of Remembrance of Indian Residential Schools.

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