Hau mitakuyepi! Greetings my Relatives!
Pilamayayapi, "I thank all", the members of the Natural Resources Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States for the work you've done thus far on this genocidally grievous matter of so called Indian Boarding Schools: and I thank you all, moreover, for this opportunity to speak on behalf of our innumerable relatives who took their unspeakable stories of childhood roundedness to their graves.
My Lakota name is Wanbli Mayasleca, My English name is Francis J. Yellow. I'm an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. Three generations of my extended family were subjected to this genocidal federal Indian policy that we've come to know as the American Indian Children's Boarding School Experience.
I myself attended four boarding schools from 1961 to 1969. The first boarding school I attended was Pierre Indian Boarding School. My Grandfather attended this same school as did my elder brother and sister before me. My grandfather told of running away from P.I.B.S. -during the 1918 flu epidemic- and was promptly returned by his father. My elder brother was a chronic runaway from this Bureau of Indian Affairs Boarding School.
After my first year at P.I.B.S. we were all sent to Stephan, Immaculate Conception Indian Boarding School, on the Crow Creek Sioux Reservation, where I endured six years of every kind of child abuse, torture and condemnation at the hands of the Benedictine nuns, priests, and lay people before I managed to run away for good.
I include a stint at the state reform school -Plankinton- where I was sent for running away from Stephan. I was released on parole only to be sent to Boys Town Nebraska (another infamous Catholic Boarding School) for "parole violation." I was criminalized, adjudged to be a juvenile delinquent, for escaping and freeing myself.
I finally escaped "Boarding School" for good in 1969, the spring before my 15th birthday. In order to take my life back into my own hands, I determined that I needed to "run away" from Boys Town and hitchhike to Southern California where an uncle lived. It took me five days and once I found him I remember being terrified that he'd turn me in. Instead he praised me and told me that he'd had to run away the he was my age.
I wish to express my full support for H.R. 5444 / S. 2907, titled the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the US Act. The recent news of unmarked graves at residential schools in Canada and here in the U.S. not only unearthed untold layers of psychic pain in we so called, "Survivors," but it revealed how willfully ignorant American citizens are about this horrific, genocidal chapter in American history.
The ineffable nature of such childhood abuse stories has prevented most of us from telling our stories. The shame that was brutally inculcated in us -as innocent children- is another impediment to our healing not only as individuals, but as Original Nations.
I was fortunate to find my Ancestors' Lifeway through my participation in the American Indian Movement in the mid 1970's. My elder brother, now deceased, introduced me to A.I.M. and most importantly to Lakol Wicohan, Lifeway of the Friendly People.
I've learned to relate my personal experience through my work as a public artist. I've been invited to speak to young people from middle school up to the university level. There's so, so, much to tell, too long hidden. It makes me cry even yet. That's something that our Lifeway taught me -how to cry, how not to internalize my childhood woundedness and suffering.