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Native American Heritage Month: Digital project keeps history of Indian Boarding School from fading

Posted at 6:50 AM, Nov 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-11 11:46:54-05

LINCOLN, Neb. (KMTV) — The stories of Indian Boarding Schools have been forgotten by many in less than a century.

Historians with the Genoa Indian School Digital Reconciliation Project want to keep this piece of Nebraska history from fading.

They’re collecting and digitizing records of the Genoa U.S. Indian Industrial School — a residential school that ran from the 1880s to 1930s in Genoa, Nebraska.

Margarot Jacobs, co-director of the project, says the government records only tell one side of the story.

“They often talk very disparagingly about the children, which is horrible to read," Jacobs said. "So one of our tasks that we would really like to engage in is doing these oral histories with descendants and finding oral histories that were done a long time ago with the actual survivors of the school.”

They’re working with local tribes and native researchers to tell a more complete history.

In an earlier interview, Susana Geliga-Grazales told KMTV, Genoa has a painful history many native people are still coming to terms with.

“My reconciliation with this type of history is making sure that it returns to the peoples that it belongs to," Geliga-Grazales said.

The project is currently working on locating the school’s cemetery. So far, they’ve found records of 59 children who died at Genoa, with their causes of death being recorded as sickness and accidents like drowning or being hit by a train.

“I hope people meditate on what that means," Jacobs said. "To go to a school where you’re seeing your classmates dying. You're seeing your classmates buried or sent home or getting extremely sick.”

The history is tragic.

But Jacobs says learning about Native people’s past opens doors to learning who they are now.

“It just fills me with awe, that they have had to overcome so many obstacles to practicing their religions, speaking their languages, living on their lands, performing their ceremonies," Jacobs said.

Thursday night, descendants of those who attended the Genoa Indian Boarding School will be speaking at the Great Plains Art Museum. The event starts at 5:30pm.

The discussion will also be live streamed.

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