About this Episode
This presentation is an Indigenous autoethnographic study of a family’s story of survival through the Native American boarding school system. Although this project was in a part an academic exercise, it was also an effort to reclaim pieces of a family’s experience that was purposefully silenced and erased from mainstream hegemonic nationalist narratives.
Host: Lucy Murphy, Professor | Department of History | The Ohio State University
Speaker: Melissa Beard Jacob, PhD | Intercultural Specialist, Native American and Indigenous Student Initiatives, Office of Student Life Multicultural Center | The Ohio State University
This video is presented in partnership with Ohio State Newark Earthworks Center, American Indian Studies, and the Department of History.
Cite this Site
Dr. Lucy Murphy
Welcome to Reclaiming My Family's Story: Cultural Trauma and Indigenous Ways of Knowing brought to you by the College of Arts and Sciences, the history department, the Ohio State Newark Earthworks Center and its Indigenous Arts and Humanities grant and American Indian Studies at The Ohio State University. My name is Lucy Murphy. I'm a professor of history at Ohio State Newark and I will be your host and moderator today. Thank you for joining us. Today, my friend Dr. Melissa Beard Jacob will present an Indigenous auto ethnographic study of her family's story of survival through the Native American boarding school system. Although this project was in part an academic exercise, it was also an effort to reclaim pieces of a family's experience, pieces that were purposefully silenced and erased from mainstream hegemonic nationalist narratives. It is based on her dissertation. So let's get to know Melissa Beard Jacob today. Her pronouns are she her hers. She is Ojibwe from Northern Michigan and an enrolled member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. Her traditional name in Anishinaabemowin (the Ojibwe Language), is Awunkoquay, which translates into Woman in the Fog. She is Eagle Clan and embraces a number of roles and responsibilities as an Anishinaabekwe (Ojibwe woman), mother, wife, daughter, granddaughter, sister, cousin, educator, writer and historian.
Melissa received her PhD in cultural studies from George Mason University, and her research interests include Native American boarding school histories, collective memory and cultural trauma, Indigenous methodologies and performance theory. Melissa also holds a BA in journalism from Michigan State University and an MA in Film and Media Studies from Wayne State University. So before I turn it over to Dr. Jacob, I would like to offer a land acknowledgement. I acknowledge that the land that The Ohio State University occupies is the ancestral and contemporary territory of the Shawnee, Potawatomi, Delaware, Miami, Peoria, Seneca, Wyandot, Ojibwe, and Cherokee peoples. Specifically, the university resides on land ceded in the 1795 Treaty of Greenville, and the forced removal of tribes through the Indian Removal Act of 1830. I want to honor the resiliency of these tribal nations, and recognize the historical contexts that have affected and continue to affect the indigenous peoples of this land. So with that introduction, let me mention the plan today. Dr. Jacob will speak for about 30 minutes, and then she will take your questions, and we will open things up for discussion. If you are interested in asking a question, please write it in the q&a function at the bottom of your screen on zoom. Now, without further ado, let me pass you over to Dr. Melissa Beard Jacob, who will take us on an exploration of "Reclaiming My Family's Story: Cultural Trauma and Indigenous Ways of Knowing."
Dr. Melissa Beard Jacob
Thank you so much, Lucy. So I'm going to just take a moment here to share my screen because I do have some slides today to share with you all. Alright, so thank you all for coming out today. As Lucy had said, I'm going to be talking about my dissertation research, which is entitled, "Reclaiming My Family's Story: Cultural Trauma and Indigenous Ways of Knowing." So for those of you who may or may not be familiar with the history of Native American boarding schools, many of you may have seen this image before. It's a very famous image. This is actually Carlisle Indian Industrial Boarding School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and it's probably one of the most well-known Native American boarding schools here in the United States. But the slogan that came out of this time period in our history was, "Kill the Indian Save the Man." Now, you may or may not have heard this slogan before. But this was said by Richard Henry Pratt, who was the founder of Carlisle Indian Industrial Boarding School. And this is a point in our history, about the mid 1800s, when the United States government decided that it would be financially cheaper to put Native American children into institutions rather than genocidal warfare. So to give you a little more background on Native American boarding schools or the boarding system, it was designed to essentially destroy Native American culture, languages and spirituality. So a very intentional choice that was made. Students had to accept Euro-American culture, the English language, and the Christian religion.
And as I said, the first and most well-known boarding school was Carlisle, Carlisle Indian Industrial Boarding School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. And that was established by army officer Richard Henry Pratt. Now, there were two types of boarding schools in the system. So there were federal boarding schools, which is what Carlisle would have been included in. So it was institutions that were funded and supported by the federal government. And then there were also religious missionary schools, and many of these schools started, you know, even before the federal boarding school system, so even as early as the 16, and 1700s, here in the United States. And those were run typically by religious missionary groups, usually most likely affiliated with Catholic missionaries. And while these schools provided children with the basic components of an academic education, you know, giving them the ability to read and write and speak the English language, it was definitely very much a rudimentary curriculum. You know, these children were not there really to learn. They were there to unlearn their native culture. So this photograph here, this is from the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition that I'm a part of. This is a map to give you an idea of how many schools there were in total here in, this is just in, the United States. So there were many schools like this, that were also in Canada, South and Central America, New Zealand, Australia, so all across the world.
But here in the United States, we had over 357 schools that were identified as either a missionary boarding school or a federal Native American boarding school. And as you can see here on the map, Ohio did actually have one. It was a Shawnee missionary school. But today, I'm going to be focusing my research on the state of Michigan, and particularly an industrial boarding school there in Mount Pleasant. But before I jump into my specific research, I wanted to also point out that you will see on this map here that 64 schools remain open today. And so I also often get questions from folks that say, "Well, wait, their schools are still open?" And yes, many of them actually did stay open until the 1970s, or 1980s. But there was a point when they were taken over by many tribal nations. So if we think about Haskell Indian School, you know, those have become tribal colleges. And so, we've seen a little bit of a flip in the fact that, you know, as the tribes resumed, you know, ownership of those places, they kind of made them into spaces where natives can come and reclaim their culture, rather than be stripped of it. So I wanted to just point that out in case folks are looking at this and saying, wait, they're still open. Yes, there are boarding schools open, but they're functioning very differently than they did historically.
So jumping into my research, as I said, I do embrace my project as an Indigenous autoethnographic study of my own family's story. I do see this as an academic exercise, but also a method of healing, ceremony and reclamation. It was through the collection and synthesization of the histories of the Holy Childhood School of Jesus, and the Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School in which I was able to create a narrative of the Michigan Indian boarding school experience that has not been told before. And my dissertation places the historical boarding school experiences in the context of contemporary familial narratives, experiences and ways of identifying. This provided insight into how the identity of my family was influenced by my own grandmother's boarding school experience.
So to begin, where, how did I come about this project? And what was the, you know, interest that drew me to this area? So I have to say when I first started my doctoral program, I did not anticipate doing this project. But it wasn't until a family member found the black and white photo on the left hand side, in a group of photos, and just posted it on Facebook, and tagged my mom and a bunch of my aunts and said, you know, here's your, your mom and your grandma Phyllis at Harbor Springs Boarding School. And we were all very confused, because we didn't know, I mean, honestly, many of us didn't know what a boarding school was. It was something that wasn't talked about in our family. And we had no idea that my grandmother, my mom's mother, had went. And so the little girl in the front row there in the suspenders is my grandma. And then my great aunt Jeannie is towards the left hand side. She's wearing kind of like a handkerchief with, it looks like she's eating something. And I've also been told actually, all the children in this photo are relatives of some, you know, cousins, of some sort. So that's kind of where my journey began is, this photograph was discovered, and there are lots of questions. You know, when did this, when did she go? Why didn't she talk about this? And so for me, I really took it upon myself to kind of--it was almost like I was trying to solve a mystery or put a puzzle back together of the pieces of answering some of these questions. And so as I started to do more research, another family member discovered another photograph. So the other black and white photo from Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School. So it came to be or we came to find that my great grandmother also went to boarding school. And as you can see, there are definitely clothing differences in the photograph. So this is kind of a good comparison of the missionary versus federal boarding school system. So my grandmother went to a missionary boarding school. It was a Catholic run institution. And as you can see, they did not wear uniforms. But at the Indian industrial boarding school, Mount Pleasant, they did. And it very much functioned like a Carlisle Indian Industrial Boarding School.
So to give you kind of a better idea of where my family was coming from in terms of how they ended up at these boarding schools, is my grandmother and great grandmother were from Mackinac Island. So some of you may actually know this place as, it's a big tourist, beautiful place. But lots of tourists come there every year. You have to take a ferry to get to the island. There are no cars there. But it is very much a very sacred place to my people, the Anishinaabekwe people. And so my Ojibwe family has lived there for, since the beginning of time. And this will give you kind of a visual example of seeing how far they were coming from home. So Harbor Springs Boarding School, I would say is probably closer in terms of maybe two hours away. But Mount Pleasant is significantly far away from Mackinac Island. It's in the state of Michigan or out of Central Michigan. And I think they definitely chose that place strategically in terms of attempts to separate Native children, from their families and to put distance between them.
So today, I'm going to focus most of what I'm going to talk about on the Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School experience. So I'm going to be talking about my great grandmother's experience, which of course feeds into my grandmother's experience, and then also my own experience. And so here you can see a photograph of, this is one of the buildings at Mount Pleasant. The children, of course, are lined up in a very military regiment style. And then the bottom photograph is myself, my sister and my aunt. And we actually went to the grounds of the school. This is a few years back. On June 6, every year, they have an honoring, healing and remembering event where tribal members can come, you know, folks that may have had family that went to the school. And it's a way to honor those who we may have lost at the school, you know, students that went and died. But also remember the survivors and the resiliency of our communities and the fact that many of us have family who went there and came out and we still have our close ties to our culture. And so it was a really awesome event. I think it was definitely a very somber event, as well, because going there and seeing these buildings and these spaces and trying to imagine, you know, my great grandmother there and all the experiences she may have had. But there was a moment to when my aunt, you know, leaned over to me and whispered, and said, this is pretty amazing that we're on this land. And we have, you know, they had jingle dancers, they're dancing, a healing dance, and folks were speaking Ojibwe. And so excuse me, she had said that it was just a very powerful moment to be experiencing, practicing our culture out in the wide open on a space that once it was not allowed. And so it was really, really cool to get to experience this with my family. And definitely something that I'd like to go back to, you know, now that I have my own child and to be able to let her experience that and kind of see how far and how resilient we are as native people coming out of this cultural trauma, and still remaining strong and true to our traditional ways.
So here're some more historical photographs of Mount Pleasant. As you can see, it was a very large campus, there were lots and lots of different buildings, and some of them currently are standing. Right now the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe has ownership of the buildings, and they are in the current process of deciding if they would like to turn them into, you know, a museum or a cultural spot. Or what they would like to do, you know, do they want to reclaim them? Are they too hard? Is it too hard for folks to see that reminder? So lots of conversation that's been going on in terms of what do we do with these spaces now that they still remain. So to give you a little more information about the Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School, it was established by Congress in 1891 in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. Native children from obviously Michigan attended, but also Minnesota, Wisconsin, and New York. Again, they provided basic academic instruction in addition to vocational and religious training. Potential courses that the children took were English language, woodworking, farming, sewing, laundry, housekeeping, Euro-American cultural courses. And as I had said, definitely a very similar structure to the Carlisle Indian Industrial Boarding School in Pennsylvania.
And, you know, you'll often hear this narrative with Native American boarding schools, this history of children being taken from their homes. Which there definitely was that narrative that children were taken by the government or by Indian agents and put into these schools. But I found in my research, it was actually also very common for parents to plead with the superintendent to allow the children to attend because they felt their kids would have a better life. And it was interesting in my own family's story, that this was actually my family's narrative. My great grandmother attended during the Great Depression. Her father had just passed away and so her mother was a single mom raising a large number of children on Mackinac Island, where, you know, the winters are very rough, very cold. They lived in a log cabin without heat or electricity. And so for her, she felt like this was the only way her children were going to have the life she wanted for them. And so here you can see, this was her application for admission to Mount Pleasant. And so, you know, that was part of the process. So there definitely was this narrative of children being taken, but also, you know, native parents were put in this place to feel as though there was no other option for them.
And so to give you a better idea of what their student daily schedule looked like, so this is from the 1917 Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School Annual Report. And it shows you that these children, you know, were up at 5:30 a.m. And like hour-by-hour, they had different activities to do. Breakfast, assembly call, you know, physical training. And so a lot of their day was spent doing a lot of vocational training. So they tended to do a lot of, you know, a lot of the free labor to keep the school running, so washing clothes, you know, making food. The boys would tend the garden and the farm animals. So they had a very long day. And as you can see, they went from 5:30 a.m. and then they had of course in a very regiment military style, taps and lights out at 9:15. And it's hard to imagine there's children going to the school as young as five years old and going through this type of a strict schedule. I just cannot imagine how hard that was for them. This photograph here is the girls dormitory. As you can see, there were lots of bed space together. The genders were separated. So boys and girls were separated into different dorms. It was very interesting because when I went to tour the grounds of Mount Pleasant a few years back, our tour guide, he was a Saganaw Chippewa Indian tribal member, said that when the tribe first came to look at these buildings to take ownership, they had said that this building in particular had a room that was padded. But the door had no door handle on it. So there was no way to, once you were inside the room, there was no way to exit. And so there were lots of really horrific stories of some of these buildings, particularly with the young girls, having spaces like this. So a padded and they're, the state of Michigan told them that this was a place where they practice their instruments. But I'm thinking that you would need a doorknob to leave the room. So I'm not, I think that was their way of trying to cover up what that space was really used for. And, you know, there were lots of stories when I did interviews, about, you know, the experiences of students that attended the school. You know, girls were under a lot of scrutiny. They were very afraid of girls sneaking out, getting pregnant, meeting up with boys. And so there was a lot of supervision that happened within a lot of these gendered spaces at Mount Pleasant. Also a photograph here from a sewing class.
So as I had said, lots of vocational training. So the girls were taught to sew. There actually was a domestic science cottage on campus that they would go to and learn how to cook, you know, make linens, keep house, essentially. You know, there was this idea of the Victorian womanhood, where native women were taught how to be housewives. Which interesting enough, once they return to, you know, their reservations or their traditional home life, they really weren't set up to be successful in a job. Because they were teaching them such gendered notions of work that many of these women went back and were kind of forced to either go into laundry or kind of mending. I know many of the women in my family, they gained a lot of sewing skills, crocheting skills, so they are able to get jobs in that field. But you know, unfortunately, they didn't learn a lot of things that they could take with them to put them in a place to be economically successful. Again, here's a picture from the domestic science class. So this is in the cottage. As you can see, they had a large kitchen where women went to learn how to cook. They all again wore uniforms. It was very much a military formality in the ways that they were taught. And again, here, the laundry room. And also I would like to point out, as you can see, in this photograph, all of the children's hair is cut very short. And this was common in many Native American boarding schools. Even in the photograph with my grandmother, her hair was cut short. And so this was not common, or this was not uncommon to see in many pictures from boarding schools all across the nation. And this was hard for many Native children. My great aunt actually told me that when she first went to boarding school, she was sat in a chair in a room full of all the other students and her head was shaved. And it's something that stayed with her her entire life because it was not only a public embarrassment in terms of traditionally Native folks do not cut their hair. And for her just to have it done so publicly in that way, was something that she carried with her all her life.
And also the boys again, as I had said, were not only were they doing woodwork, iron work, sorts of the, you know, the masculine types of areas of work, they also were taught how to sew and tailor. And so for many Native men that left Mount Pleasant, this also became a job option for them, especially many people from my community that came from Mackinac Island. Many of them, went back to the island and worked at resorts and they would tailor suits for rich folks that came to the island to vacation. Again, many of them worked in kitchens and cooked or cleaned at hotels and restaurants. So as you can see, the the vocational skills that these kids were learning really definitely set them in a place, set them in a very social economic place. There was not any movement for them after they came out of the schools.
So I want to move a little bit back into my story here. I'm going to check the time. Okay, I talk so much I'm like, oh boy. But I'll try to be concise here as we move along with the rest of the presentation, but so these next few slides are from Indian Agent Service notes. So the Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School closed in the mid-1930s. And this is after a report came out. The oh, my gosh, I'm blanking on the name of it right now, I cannot believe this. I will have to come back to the name of... the Meriam Report. There we go. The Meriam Report came out that basically showcased all the horrible conditions of these federally run boarding schools and so many of them closed in the mid-1930s. And for many of the children that were at boarding schools, like Mount Pleasant, many of them were sent home. But the state of Michigan, and in my family's case, sent social workers to many of these homes, particularly my families, because it was a single parent household. And they felt that single Native women were not able to successfully care for their children. And so we were moving from a place of government run boarding schools to almost a new foster care system for Native children. So for many years after my great grandmother left Mount Pleasant, social workers were sent to their home on Mackinac Island.
And they took these field notes. And it's very interesting how they describe, you know, the family saying that they are living on a low level. They talk about, you know, of course, they say liquor bottles are all over. You know, that stereotype of the drunk Indian. That there were dirty dishes, saying sanitary conditions were terrible. So in their way, they were trying to make an excuse for taking my great grandmother away from her family. And of course, they were utilizing these two Western standards. And, of course, our family lived together in a large household with aunties, uncles, cousins, which was not uncommon for many Native people. But as you can see here, they even commented on my great grandmother's mother saying that she had a bad reputation in the community. And they also inputted that it was rumored that she had a social disease. So implying that she was sleeping around, was not fit to be a mother. So it's very interesting to see that these were formal government records. And they were really, truly trying very hard to take my great grandmother away. And they actually went to the point of attempting to commit her to a mental institution. They gave her a mental test. And of course, her IQ was lower because before she went to boarding school, she had not attended public school at all. And so she was behind in terms of, you know, formal education, because she had not gone to school prior to that. And so at this point, after they had released this document, and I had talked to, you know, after doing interviews with my family, there were a good few years where my great grandmother was hidden in different family pockets. So for a few months, she would live with this aunt or she would go to live with this other aunt. So they were trying to hide her out because they really, truly wanted to take her away and put her into a mental institution. And so I think this is just an example of, you know, even after the boarding schools closed, the government really, truly wanted to separate Native children from their families.
It was a very purposeful separation, something we still see happening today, if you think about what has happening at our border right now currently between the US and Mexico. And so there were also incidents of runaway students. So my great grandmother and her brother, my great uncle, both went to school together. And right before the school closed, her brother Philip ran away. And it's very interesting that they sent this letter to their mother basically saying, by the way your son ran off. If he shows up at home, please let us know. And so really, there was no care for these children's well being. You know, to them, they were just another number. And I will also say the runaway students in my research, there was a large trend of them being male. And this is often because male students had a little more freedom on these campuses, particularly at Mount Pleasant. They were able to go out into the fields or the gardens, and the girls were very much, you know, kept into their small spaces like the laundry, the dormitory, because again, they wanted to protect them in this, you know, stereotype of the, you know, promiscuous native woman. And so you often see that young men were the ones who were running away more so than often. So additionally, when I went to Mount Pleasant for the day of honoring, healing and remembering, while we were touring the grounds, we came along this wall and this was known as the Wall of Tears. And as you can see, in the one photograph, on the right hand side, there are like three different knobs. And our tour guide told us that when they were there with representatives from the state of Michigan, they were told that those were places to tie up horses. And one of the tribal members said, but those are not very large hooks to tie up a full grown horse. So to them, this was a place where, after they found out through interviewing former students, this is where children were put for punishment. And we would, you know, have to think that those hooks were to tie up children. And there's also lots of carvings, you can see where they were forced to stand by the wall, many of them carved their initials. This is a very somber place, but an example of many of the punishments that these students experienced while they were at boarding school.
Additionally, not only were there a number of incidents of students being punished, there were a lot of student deaths as well. And Mount Pleasant, in particular, had over 250 deaths that were never accounted for. And they are actually currently working to find more information on some of these students and what may or may not have happened to them. It's very interesting because as I was doing my own research, I found that one of our relatives was actually included on that list. So she, Eva May was only 14-years-old, and she would have been a great aunt of mine who attended Mount Pleasant, and she unfortunately died of encephalitis lethargica. And she unfortunately was returned to the family and is buried in the family plot on Mackinac Island. But she is listed as a student, one of those students that they need more information on. So you know, we don't really know what happened if she was either just sick and passed away. You know, this actually was following the Spanish influenza, as well, epidemic. So there could have been some aftermath if she had gotten sick, different, you know, different medical worries. But in these many of these instances, some of these students died and their families did not know. They did not receive word. They weren't buried, they weren't able to bury them. So fortunately enough with our family, we were able to bury her on Mackinac Island with the rest of the family remains. But it's sad to think how many families did not get closure after their loved one passed.
So, to conclude here, I just have a couple statements of findings I'd like to share. So through my research, I found that Native American boarding schools were a part of the continuous settler colonial desire to acquire all Indigenous lands. Dismantling Anishinaabekwe identities and cultural traditions was done through the formal separation of families, and the interruption of parenting and child rearing. The assimilative and abusive influences of the boarding school experience dramatically impacted not only the self-esteem and cultural identity of an individual student, but the collective identities of their community and their future children and grandchildren. It is through this intergenerational experience, that many Native Americans have forgotten their language, their cultural practices, and their ancestral histories. They lost the ability to understand what it means to be Anishinaabekwe. It is through the sharing of boarding school histories and stories that is a way for Native Americans to reclaim and recover a sense of agency that their ancestors were once denied through the process of settler colonialism and assimilation. And part of this recovery process is simply knowing and acknowledging the collective history of one's family and tribal community. It is through collective memory that a group identity develops and provides space to heal from the loss of collective cultural practices and traditional language. And the boarding school survivor testimonies assist in providing intergenerational healing among families which is crucially important as the children and grandchildren of survivors are often more withdrawn and distant from the evolving collective narrative. And so I wanted to end here with sharing some photographs of my family and honoring our four generations, well now five that I have a daughter, five generations of Anishinaabekwe, right. So I have my grandmother and great grandmother, my great grandmother, my mom, my mom and my grandma, and then me and my grandma. And so, I always utilize this slide to point out that not only did my grandma and great grandmother physically experience the boarding school system, and the traumas that came along with that experience, but my mother and I also, you know, we're impacted by this. And it's an intergenerational impact that is going to continue for generations. And it's something that now that we understand their boarding school story and their histories and experiences, it gives us a better idea of some of those missing pieces. So as I said, I kind of thought of this project as a puzzle, putting together different pieces, understanding why, you know, my grandmother never wanted us to speak Anishinaabekwe in the house. She herself could understand it, but she never spoke it. You know, just all these different little things coming together. I think it's, we understand a lot more now and are thankful for the pieces of our culture that were still passed to us through the generations, despite this immense trauma that many generations of our family experienced. And so that is the end. Okay, I don't think I went over too much. But that's the end of the formal presentation. Here's my contact information if you're interested in reaching out at a later point. But I think we're going to open up to some questions. Here now anyways.
Dr. Lucy Murphy
Indeed. Thank you so much, Melissa. That was wonderful. We do have some questions. I wanted to start with one question from Mark Dawes. [He] was asking, was attendance voluntary at these schools? And did Natives have to pay tuition at the schools?
Dr. Melissa Beard Jacob
Oh, good question. So yes, attendance was voluntary. But I will say there were instances, you know, depending on the region, I will say in Michigan, there were not students being, you know, forcibly taken. But I have heard of stories in other states where different missionary schools, children were taken. And the Indian agent said, you know, if you don't give us your children, we're not going to give you your rations for the next few months. And so they were at this point of like, well, we need to survive. So I guess you can, you know, take our kids. And so but I would say in the terms of my own area of research in Michigan, I did find that a lot of it was voluntary. And as I had said, I think a lot of that came down to the fact that a lot of, you know, especially my community up in Mackinac Island during those cold winters, there wasn't a lot of opportunity to make money and support your family. So many mothers, you know, they felt that they would, you know, their children would get treated better if they were sent there because they would have a bed to sleep in and would be fed. But, yes, and then in terms of tuition, so no, and there was no tuition. This essentially, Mount Pleasant in particular, came out of a treaty that was signed in 1836. So it was a treaty that essentially gave Michigan statehood. And part of that treaty is they promised to establish, you know, education for Native children. And unfortunately, it was in the form of a boarding school. So no, there was no tuition. It was fully funded by the federal government and even in the missionary, so, you know, the opposite side with the missionary schools, those were funded by the churches, so there was no tuition for really any of the schools.
Dr. Lucy Murphy
Thank you. Here's another question from John Low. Was conversion to Christianity and Christian church worship important at Mount Pleasant? Was traditional spirituality suppressed?
Dr. Melissa Beard Jacob
Yes, yes. I will say that in my research, I found a lot of ethnographies of children that went to Mount Pleasant and they talked about having to do traditional ceremonies in secret. So many of them would find spaces, you know, in some of these dormitories or even the boys especially because they had more ability to, as I had said, free reign of, you know, they could go in the woods and things like that. So they would try ways to, they would, you know, to be able to, to do ceremony traditionally. And also one of the archaeologists said that when they were doing ground, you know, survey of the grounds of Mount Pleasant, they found lots of different, you know, like pipes and beads and different things that would be used during ceremony hidden in the grounds. And actually, the gazebo was a place where they would hide a lot of these things and sneak out at night, to be able to, perform close to traditional ceremony. And then also they did have, so on the weekends on Sundays, students were encouraged to go to churches so they could go to a Protestant or Catholic church. And I think in my personal opinion, I think students chose to go because for them, it was a way to leave the school because they got to actually go out into the town. It was kind of like their, their one trip into town. So to me, I think a lot of the children decided to do it just so they could get out of the campus, and kind of explore. But yeah, I definitely would say that Mount Pleasant, definitely suppressed, traditional spirituality and did encourage, you know, Christian worship just as much as the the missionary schools.
Dr. Lucy Murphy
Thank you. Here's another question. This is pretty specific. In the letter about your ancestor being feeble -minded in 1936, it said they couldn't initiate removal until after the election. Do you know why? Why not? Why did they have to wait for the election? Do you know?
Dr. Melissa Beard Jacob
No, I don't know actually. I think that's one of those questions that, you know, now that I'm done with my dissertation, I'd really like to go back in and kind of look at some of these specifics. But I don't know and I'm not sure if it was maybe like the governor election. So a new Michigan governor, perhaps, I'm thinking. But yeah, I can't say for sure. I'm not. I'm not really sure. And fortunately, they were able to hide her out enough that it didn't become a...
Dr. Lucy Murphy
Yeah, it's a moot point. Exactly. Good. Okay. So there are several more questions. All right, here's a quick one. So has your family reclaimed the Ojibwe language?
Dr. Melissa Beard Jacob
Yeah, so I would say that my aunties especially have been working on reclaiming, especially for my family that still lives in Michigan, they're able to take advantage of classes at our tribe. They offer lots of different cultural and language classes. So I think that that's definitely something all of us are working on. I know, for myself, I would love to learn more. Especially now that I have a daughter, I'd like to be able to pass that on to her. You know, unfortunately, for me, I only know, you know, some short phrases. I'm definitely not fluent by any means. I think in a dream world, I would love if our family could become fluent again. But yeah, I definitely think that's one of our big pieces we'd like to reclaim is the language for sure.
Dr. Lucy Murphy
We have several other questions about culture. And one is, Emma Lagen asks, in what ways was culture able to be carried on and reclaimed after the boarding school generation? We've just mentioned language, but is there anything you think was lost? Migwetch for your time and sharing your story.
Dr. Melissa Beard Jacob
Yeah, yeah. Obviously, yes, I definitely think language was a lost piece of that. You know, one of my cousins said that to her, you know, it was this weird like, it's kind of hard to explain. It's just like this weird experience of like, knowing you're Native, but not really having the space to publicly claim that or to publicly exercise that. So one of my cousins who, she did not go to boarding school, but many of her siblings did, she said that, you know, growing up on Mackinac Island, it was like, she described it as like when the sun goes down is when all of our, you know, elders get together and talk about the old ways or talk about and share stories. And so, I think that, for a lot of these people that attended boarding school, I think they were just truly trying to survive, especially in the place that my family was from. You know, they returned from this boarding school with skills that they really could not translate into where they lived. And so they were just trying to do what they could to make a living, survive. But I would say in terms of my immediate family, I definitely see... Well, I will say when my grandmother got older, I definitely saw her trying to incorporate and I think once she had grandchildren, it was really important for her to try to pass on some of these things. So taking us to powwow and ceremonies, you know, and sharing stories about growing up on Mackinac Island. But I definitely think that my, I will say my, experience was much more different than my mom's because, you know, as the generation closer to my grandma, you know, they very much didn't, I guess they weren't exposed to that information as much as I was as a grandchild, if that makes sense. So I think in my, as my grandmother got older, it was very important for her to share that information. But she also had more of that lifetime to kind of work through some of those, you know, identity issues and feelings of shame. And I think just understanding what it meant to go to a boarding school because, as I said, many of my family members didn't even know what that history was. So, you know, not only did we have to become familiar with it, but then come to terms with what that meant for our family's experience.
Dr. Lucy Murphy
Thank you. Alright, so we have a question that was submitted earlier. How can therapists incorporate more Indigenous and Native ways of knowing into counseling to better help this group of clients? Yeah, you've probably talked for an hour about this, I'll give you a few minutes.
Dr. Melissa Beard Jacob
You know, it's interesting, actually, my sister just graduated with her... She's a clinical counselor. So it's been very interesting to talk with her, you know, as she was going through her Master's program. And she really tried to utilize and bring in traditional culture into the program. Of course, she was the only Native student, too. So she was kind of managing that, but also wanting to come out and be able to practice as a counselor in traditional ways. And so I think, as you know, as an Indigenous woman, for me, I think the number one thing is just to have someone who understands some of the cultural nuances of what it means to be an indigenous person. You know, I hear especially from a lot of my students, here at Ohio State that go to the counseling services on campus, that's one of the hard parts is there is no Native counselor to really, truly understand some of those cultural specific needs. But I have seen just in, you know, across the country, there is this growing practice of incorporating traditional practices into some of the counseling, whether that be... and of course, I will say I think overall, just being able to bring in more Indigenous therapists and healers would probably be, you know, the best. I think that, you know, I think about my family back home, having the ability to go to our Indian health services, and have Western medicine options, but also traditional medicine options as well. So I think it's a good way to blend the Western and the traditional healing. And of course, we just need more Indigenous counselors. I think that's kind of like the first start is we really just need to encourage more Indigenous folks to go into that field.
Dr. Lucy Murphy
Thank you for that. We had a couple more questions about intergenerational trauma. And here, Angela Forest asks, can Dr. Jacobs talk about the specific ways that her grandmother's and great grandmother's experiences have contributed to her and her mother's intergenerational trauma?
Dr. Melissa Beard Jacob
Yes, yes, definitely. You know, it's been really interesting since we kind of discovered, I guess, this part of our family story. And my mom would always say, as a child, you know, growing up, when they would misbehave, my grandmother would always say, "Well, if you don't shape up, I'm going to send you to Harbor," and my mom never knew what that meant. She always thought it was an orphanage or, you know, something like that, and then come to find out it was the boarding school. So I think for my mom, there's just lots of parts of her childhood that there's like these missing pieces that at that moment, didn't make sense, but now are really starting to. I think in terms of my great grandmother, with her trauma, it really led to her all throughout her life being, I mean, my grandpa calls her a, what's the word he uses a galavanter and the fact that she could not stay in one place. Like she would, she would live on Mackinac Island for a little bit. Then she moved back to the UP and live with family and then move back to Mackinac Island. And so she, and I think that truly led to the fact that when she was a child, they were trying to hide her from the foster care people, you know, to take her away. And so I definitely see how that led into her, the way she lived her life and also my great aunt had a very similar story. Where she was in the same place, she could never stay in one place for long. Her children actually went to boarding school. So my mom actually is kind of the, I guess, what's the word? You know, she was kind of the exception. My grandmother didn't send my mom and her siblings to boarding school. But yet, her sister did, and was somewhat of an absent mom. And so I kind of see with everyone that went to boarding school, you know, it truly affected their ways of parenting, their kind of sense of belonging, and, you know, kind of skipping and not being able to stay in one place for long. You know, I think, with my mom, I think she thinks back to like, wow, that could have been me, I could have been sent to that place. And then in terms of my experience, you know, I think it is just hard. Growing up, and I always knew I was native, but again, you know, as someone... my dad is white, I have blue eyes. And there's often these identity questions of like, well, how native are you? And how are you, you know, and so, not only navigating those identity issues, but then having the boarding school experience on top of that, looking back, I can see a lot of the connections, and how that has greatly impacted, you know, how I identify. It took me a very long time, you know, to be comfortable in saying I was indigenous, because of all the comments that people, you know, based on their perception of what a native person was. So yeah, I think in a just a short and sweet explanation, there's definitely, the trauma has surfaced in many ways for many people in my family.
Dr. Lucy Murphy
Thank you. Someone is, thank you, mentioning her own grandmother, who would not use the language, her indigenous language. And is, is thanking you for your presentation. I'll send you the email. And she asks, did the education of the children stop if the family chose to keep them from going to boarding school? So was there any education if they didn't go to the boarding school?
Dr. Melissa Beard Jacob
You know, I think it really depended on the part of the state they lived in. So I know that in terms of Macinaw Island, they did end up opening a public school there. So some of my family was able, after the boarding school closed, they were able to continue going to school on the island. But I think just throughout Michigan, in terms of the other Native students, I think it really just depended on where they lived, and if they lived close enough to a school or a public school. So I think it was kind of a very situational experience. I know, with my grandmother, she only went to school until eighth grade. And then she just was like, nope, I'm done. And I think a lot of that, again, was contributed to her boarding school experience. Like I think education for her was just, it was tarnished. Like, she just didn't really want anything to do with it because of what she had experienced. And then actually, I don't think my great-grandmother, I think she had maybe a fourth grade education. So again, another experience of you know, I think a lot of them lost interest in school because of their experiences. And then again, I think it just depended on if they had the ability to get to a school or if it was close to their, to their home.
Dr. Lucy Murphy
Thank you. I think we've covered most of the questions here. And so I want to thank you so much, Melissa. Melissa, do you want to just mention briefly what you do as an intercultural specialist?
Dr. Melissa Beard Jacob
Sure, yeah. So as one of the intercultural specialists at the Student Life Multicultural Center, and I oversee our Native American and Indigenous student initiatives. So, all throughout the academic year, we offered lots of different programs. One of our largest is the alternative Thanksgiving event in November. And obviously, we usually have lots of Native American Heritage Month programming in November as well. But I also work with two student organizations on campus, the Native American Indigenous Peoples Cohort, and then the American Indian Science and Engineering Society. So definitely a very rewarding role in that I get to work very closely with a lot of our Native and Indigenous students on campus. And we have lots of different programs all throughout the year so definitely make sure to visit our website mcc.osu.edu. And we have a whole calendar of events. So feel free to Contact me any time with any questions. Yeah.
Dr. Lucy Murphy
Well, thank you very much. Before I close out this event, I want to mention an upcoming event. On April 14, Dr. Shannon Gonzales Miller will be giving a presentation called, "Restoring the Experiences of Indigenous College Students." And I hope that you will be able to tune in for that one. I'll be hosting that one, as well. So thank you to everyone for joining us today. I'm very grateful to my dear friend, Dr. Jacob, for sharing her expertise and remarkable family story. Please join me in giving her a virtual round of applause. And I would also like to thank the College of Arts and Sciences, especially Clara Davison, Maddie Kurma, Jade Lack and Nick Breyfogle for helping to put this together. And I hope that you will be able to be with us in the future. So thank you, everyone, and take care.