‘This is an opportunity for us to heal’: KBIC holds 3rd annual Children’s Remembrance Walk

The walk and usage of orange memorialize the children who stayed at St. Joesph's Orphanage and School in Assinins and other institutions like it country wide.
Published: Jul. 21, 2023 at 4:55 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BARAGA, Mich. (WLUC) - For the third year, dozens of tribe members and community advocates donned orange for the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) Children’s Remembrance Walk to memorialize indigenous children who suffered atrocities at boarding schools.

The walk and the color commemorate the children who stayed at St. Joesph’s Orphanage and School in Assinins and other institutions like it. Tribal Council Member Rodney Loonsfoot says these children suffered ‘atrocities’ at the orphanage.

“From that boarding school and orphanage era, of all the things that had went on there, what we’re doing here today is bringing that opportunity to share with our community that chance to remember our children,” said Loonsfoot.

Organizers say St. Joseph’s was among a number of schools across the United States, which were used to strip indigenous children of their language and culture. It’s a history the U.S. government has since recognized, forming the Federal Boarding School Initiative two years ago.

Before the walk, boarding school survivors shared testimonies of their experiences at boarding schools in other regions, with one likening it to a ‘paramilitary.’ Loonsfoot himself says he attended one in South Dakota.

Tribal Council Member Austin Ayres says this part of the country’s history must be faced to make healing possible.

“We haven’t forgotten, and we don’t want you to forget,” said Ayres. “But we don’t want you to be upset or angry about it, and we don’t want you to feel that pain we had to feel, so we’re doing it this way. The right way.”

The walk starts in Assinins and continues along US-41 to the Ojibwa Campground, where the 45th annual KBIC Powwow will kick off later in the evening.

“This is a community effort, you know, and this is an opportunity for us to heal,” added Loonsfoot. “To start the day in a good way with this walk for the entire weekend kick-off of our KBIC powwow, so I hope to see you there.”

The powwow will last throughout the weekend. There will be dancing and music, as well as numerous vendors.