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WARNING: This post has disturbing details about residential and boarding schools. If you are feeling triggered, here is a resource list for trauma responses from the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition in the US. The National Indian Residential School Crisis Hotline in Canada can be reached at 1-866-925-4419.

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This edition of The Wrap will focus on Indian boarding and residential schools, and its tragic impact in the United States and in Canada.

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One of the Vatican museums’ least-visited collections of Indigenous artifacts is fast becoming its most contested.

As the world’s attention is focused on Pope Francis’ visit to Canada to apologize for abuses Indigenous peoples suffered at the hands of Catholic missionaries in residential schools, Indigenous groups are calling for the Vatican to return tens of thousands of Indigenous artifacts and art held by the museums.

The Vatican’s Anima Mundi Ethnological Museum houses feathered headdresses, carved walrus tusks, masks and embroidered animal skins all described as gifts given by Indigenous peoples to Pope Pius XI, who served from 1922-1939. Museum curators claim that most of the items were sent to Rome by Catholic missionaries for a 1925 exhibition in the Vatican gardens.

Indigenous leaders were shown a few of the objects last spring when they traveled to the Vatican to meet with the Pontiff. Now they are questioning how the items were actually acquired, and some say they want them returned.

“These pieces that belong to us should come home,” said Cassidy Caron, president of the Métis National Council, who headed the Métis delegation that asked the Pope to return the items. READ MORE. Mary Annette Pember, ICT

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MASKWACIS, Alberta, Canada – Saying it is time to find a pathway forward for healing, Pope Francis issued a long-awaited apology to the Indigenous people of Canada for the Catholic Church’s role in the brutal residential school system that separated children from their families, culture and language.

"I am deeply sorry," the Pope said, from the grounds where the former Ermineskin Indian Residential School operated from 1916 to 1975 as one of the largest government-funded schools run by the Catholic Church.

"In the face of this deplorable evil, the church kneels before God and implores his forgiveness for the sins of her children."

When the apology finally came nearly 150 years after the first Indigenous children were snatched from their families to face abuse and neglect, it drew applause and a few whoops from the hundreds of people gathered to hear the Pope at Maskwacis in the heart of the Cree First Nations and other Indigenous communities. READ MORE.Miles Morrisseau, ICT

LAC STE. ANNE, Alberta, Canada — She is glowing as she stands near the shores of Lac Ste. Anne, wearing the same white buckskin dress and beaded headband that captivated the world.

But this time Si Pih Ko didn’t break into song in Cree as she did Monday in Maskwacis, with tears streaming down her face — a symbol of protest at Pope Francis’ first public appearance on what he calls a “penitence pilgrimage” across Canada.

Instead, on Tuesday, she stood beaming as the sun sparkled on her beadwork and her smiles at the sacred waters of Lac Ste. Anne. It was as though the weight of the world had been lifted from her shoulders.

“I'm on my healing journey,” she told ICT.

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Her emotional rendition of “Our Village,” in Cree, which was mistaken for the Canadian National Anthem, “O Canada,” drew an explosion of comments on Facebook and other social media.

“Indigenous rising, listen to this call!” one woman posted on Facebook.

“Give ‘em hell, lady,” another posted. READ MORE. — Miles Morrisseau, ICT

The U.S. Department of Interior released its investigative report Wednesday on the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative. It’s being called the first volume of the report and comes nearly a year after the department announced a “comprehensive” review.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Bryan Newland, assistant secretary for Indian Affairs, Deborah Parker who is the chief executive officer of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition and James LaBelle Sr., a boarding school survivor and the first vice president of the coalition's board, spoke at a news conference in Washington announcing the report’s findings.

“The consequences of federal Indian boarding school policies—including the intergenerational trauma caused by the family separation and cultural eradication inflicted upon generations of children as young as 4 years old — are heartbreaking and undeniable,” Haaland said in a statement. “We continue to see the evidence of this attempt to forcibly assimilate Indigenous people in the disparities that communities face. It is my priority to not only give voice to the survivors and descendants of federal Indian boarding school policies, but also to address the lasting legacies of these policies so Indigenous Peoples can continue to grow and heal.” READ MORE. — Kalle Benallie, ICT

PINE RIDGE, South Dakota — The search for truth began on a spring day under a brilliant blue sky at Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge reservation.

The air fairly buzzed with blossoming life, a buzz that belied the serious business at hand. Red Cloud, a Catholic Jesuit school once known as Holy Rosary School, is beginning its search for graves of children who may have been buried here long ago.

Basil Braveheart, a survivor of Holy Rosary boarding school, and his son Robert offered prayers and traditional Lakota song in preparation for a public demonstration Wednesday of the ground-penetrating radar that will be used to search for unmarked graves.

The search is part of Red Cloud’s Truth and Healing Initiative, which began in 2019 and includes providing access to school archives and research, community engagement and survivor outreach.

As work began, however, an unexpected visitor arrived. Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Bryan Newland, a citizen of the Bay Mills Indian Community, was in the area to announce Bipartisan Infrastructure Law investments in the Oglala Dam. READ MORE. — Mary Annette Pember, ICT

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