They wanted our souls and to teach us to fear God. After several weeks, I was returned to the orphanage. At Christmas, we each received a shoebox full of nuts and candy and oranges and another box with trinkets and a doll. Most of us girls traded the dolls for food. We did that because the Mother Superior used to force us to simulate sex with a large doll before abusing us, so we were scared of dolls. We all continually tried to escape. We were completely disoriented.
We just took off and took our chances in the world, hitchhiking down the road. I think I was searching for family. I eventually had three children, who were taken from me or I gave up. They took away our sense of belonging to anyone, our opportunities to develop relationships. They kept us off-balance by sending us here and there without warning. But they could never take away the truth: that what they were doing was wrong.
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I want everyone to know what happened to us there. As Sherwyn Zephier, 54, drives to his job at Ihanktonwan Community College, in Marty, South Dakota, where he is the adult education director and teaches math, science, English, art history, and other subjects, he passes the derelict buildings of what was St. During the s and s, he was a student at the Catholic-run school, where children were required to board during the nine-month school year, even though many, like Zephier, were from the surrounding community, the Yankton Sioux Tribe.
One day, my older brother, Loren, created a commotion at midday so just that once we little ones escaped the whipping. Because we showered together in one large room, we could always see that many of us were bruised black, blue and purple. The beatings were so frequent, we adapted to the pain and got used to living that way. Once the nuns got me untangled, I got quite a beating.
We went in supervised groups from one secured place to another: to lunch, play, church, the dorm, and so on. The windows were covered with bars or chain-link grates, and the campus had barbed wire everywhere—along sidewalks and even around the church itself. At the time, they never explained my infraction. Just recently, the reality hit me hard: it was because I had so frequently spoken my language with my playmates. Every year, I looked forward to wearing clothing my mother spent most of the summer sewing to make me look proud and colorful for school.
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But once I got there, those items were removed, and instead I wore clothes that were drab and not even mine. We children stood by each other as best we could, but for a child, it was a disturbing, sickening place to be. I have often wondered, where did the nuns and priests learn those things? At our commencement, a medicine man, Pete Catches, was allowed for the first time to fill his sacred pipe on the altar and pray with us.
No one can tell you what is good or bad. It was a relief to sit with them—to share and to cry. We knew what we experienced was unfathomable to others.
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Below, former students recall their experiences. Sort: Oldest.
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Featured 2, Community 3, Editor Indian Country Today. Apr 5, New Comment.
Jun 4, Mar 23, Associate Editor Vincent Schilling. Feb 7. The Word Squaw: Offensive or Not? Editor Vincent Schilling. Sep 8, American Indian veterans honored annually at Arlington National Cemetery. Arriving well after the dynamic between Sascha and her oppressive partner has been established, it starts as a consensual encounter before transforming into something much more alarming, a vivid and terrible illustration of a domineering figure who treats everything within his grasp as an object he can abuse as he pleases.
The urge to evade that discomfort illustrates the ease with which one can block out the harsh truth of a society corrupted by powerful men. Eklof scrutinizes Sascha so well that emotion emerges by merely understanding the circumstances of her lush and expansive prison of a life.
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The movie eventually becomes a traumatic survival story in which victory comes not from escaping the boundaries of a corrupt world so much as learning to play by its rules. It is currently seeking distribution. Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.