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The Boarding School Effect
~ Daniella James
Dagotee’. Warm greetings. My name is
Daniella James. I am an enrolled member
of San Carlos Apache Tribe. I am Apache,
Navajo, and Mexican. This essay is on
how boarding schools in Native American
communities have affected later generations.
This essay is important because this effect
is reflected upon many individuals within
and outside Native American populations.
I must acknowledge I am not a direct
descendant of a boarding school family member.
I am more assimilated than what. My father’s
father is full Navajo. My patrilineal grandfather went to a boarding school. I am in the process of healing by currently attending San Carlos Apache College. In the next academic year, I will attend Dine College. I am learning cultural information later in life, which is a large gift. I am sad that I did not learn such information in a traditional timeframe, such as in my youth. This has altered how I view life, but perhaps, I now have the power to absorb that knowledge with a better heart. In my youth, I would ask my Native family what our ancestors ate while on our traditional lands. They would say they did not know. With that energy, I am now in college for business towards being of assistance towards Indigenous Food Sovereignty. Food Sovereignty is only a small step towards true Sovereignty. I now have the joy and honor to share pan Native American foods with my family, friends, and anyone with a pang of hunger in life. I am personally and professionally developing. I love it. Yet, there are some obstacles. Occasionally, my family does not believe in academia. This might have a level of distrust from the boarding school experiences. I keep open to learning beyond books, conferences, family stories, new acquaintance stories, Zoom listening in webinars, and volunteer efforts to learn. I keep absorbing, reflecting, analyzing, and sharing with our community.
Trauma has led my family to forget stories. I see them grow sad, tense, and angry. I see my father grow in despair when he says that his Navajo father never told him such a lesson. I then tell my father that it is ok to not know right now. I try to cheer him up. I tell him that I am learning in college from a variety of credible sources, and we will learn together. He then laughs and shakes away his small hidden tears. I can feel we are healing by sharing these stories and lessons. I know it hurts in the short run, but I know it will be overall wonderful in the long run. This deep reflection has brought a bold and direct opportunity to listen more from my family towards the pains of boarding school during my Navajo grandfather’s time. It created hardship for my father. In turn, it created more barriers for me. With that fire in my heart, I will use it to externally shine in this world to assist others who would like to join in this empowerment through academia, business, and advocacy. I am getting the education my ancestors could not get.” When we all heal and grow, we all become more connected to each other. This is what life is all about. Please, let’s enjoy the future together and share the joys. Ayhiyi’e. Thank you.