Pope Francis offers long-awaited apologies to Canada’s Indigenous people during his trip to North America.
The pontiff just visited the site of a former residential school to share the church’s regret over forcibly assimilating native people into Christian society.
The Pope called the six-day visit to Canada a pilgrimage of penance for atrocities that included physical and sexual abuse by catholic missionaries.
Critics say the treatment of the students leads to generations of trauma and abuse.
While the Pope’s apology tour focuses on Canadian schools, some Native Americans in Michigan are reacting strongly to his actions while calling on Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer to begin our own efforts at reconciliation here at home.
The Pope said he was sorry to victims of Indian Residential Schools and their descendants in Canada.
A large gathering of First Nations People of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community in Baraga, Michigan, took place this past weekend.
“When the eagles fast were being carried in, they kept an empty seat, an empty chair, sacred space for those children that were murdered in the schools, in the boarding schools,” said the granddaughter of school victim Lorraine “Punkin” Shananaquet.
These so-called residential schools were housed across North America. The borders were not recognized by the first people who were in America.
While the Pope is doing the apology tour in Canada for what he calls deplorable evil, Shananaquet of the Gun Lake Band of Potawatomi Indians and the band of Lake Superior Indians of Wisconsin said what happened to her grandmother cannot be erased with an apology.
“I’d say the Pope, upon arrival of the shore, needed to be arrested, taken to the world court on charges of mass murder and genocide,” Shananaquet said. “He should be arrested because he housed the minions of murderers and rapers.”
Shananaquet is calling on Whitmer to do more in recognizing and reconciling what happened in Michigan’s so-called residential schools.
“Because she (Whitmer) sits on those high places, she needs to come and be a part of a powwow,” Shananaquet said. “She needs to be a part of seeing an empty chair.”
Michele Robinson is a member of the Ojibwe tribe and is a Metro Detroit attorney and financial advisor.
Her mother and aunt were victims of those facilities condoned by federal, state, local governments, and Religious Institutions.
“They did not allow you to speak your language or anything that came from your heritage; you were not allowed to practice your rituals,” said Robinson. “My mother was one of those difficult spirits to break. She was very strong and very strong-willed, and so she did get sent to New York, and they did break her spirit.”
While Robinson said she is ok with the Pope’s apology in Canada, she says it fixes and changes nothing.
“I think it is a good step as a Christian,” Robinson said. “We are taught to forgive others, so I don’t want to be negative about it. It doesn’t bring back people who are no longer with us or take away the abuse and the emotional scars from people who were actually in those residential schools.”
- The bipartisan budget government work mirror side last week includes study for $500,000 in Indigenous boarding schools to help provide Native communities answers they need.
- These funds will help document and preserve records in conjunction with the federal efforts. The funds will be used to locate, analyze, and preserve records and work in concert, when appropriate with the federal Indian Boarding School Initiative.
- The study would finish no later than January 30, 2024, and a final report of the findings and recommendations will be shared with the public and state of Michigan.