ASSININS, Mich. (WJMN) – Keweenaw Bay Indian Community and the Native Justice Coalition held its third annual Children’s Remembrance Walk on Friday morning at the Old St. Joseph Orphanage and School in Baraga County. A ceremony and walk were held to remember and honor boarding school survivors.

“The ground we’re standing on is the St. Joseph’s Orphanage that used to be here for years,” said KBIC Tribal Council Member Rodney Loonsfoot. “Our generations, our families, our relations had come through here and because of the attention now that has been brought to boarding schools and orphanages. In those prayers and those thoughts and the things we were doing from that came a dream about this eagle staff that we’ve created to remember our children. And from that is we’ve got this gathering today and the opportunity here is not just to not forget the young ones and children that was here, but also a chance to be able to heal and be able to come together for this is the third year, now roll up our sleeves and get ready to do the work and address the issues and things that we need to do to heal.”

According to the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), the U.S. implemented policies establishing and supporting Indian boarding schools across the nation between 1819 through the 1970s. BIA states that the purpose of the federal Indian boarding schools “was to culturally assimilate American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian children by forcibly removing them from their families and Indian Tribes, Alaska Native Villages, and Native Hawaiian Community.” In Michigan, there were three Indian boarding schools: Holy Childhood Boarding School in Harbor Springs, Indian Industrial Boarding School in Mt. Pleasant, and Old St. Joseph Orphanage and School in Assinins.

“I’m really happy and proud to be here today to honor and remember our survivors from boarding school and our ancestors and all the children that didn’t make it home. I love to see all the support from the community,” said Linda Cobe, Holy Childhood Boarding School survivor.

Bob Hazen is also a Holy Childhood Boarding School survivor. He helps run a group in Watersmeet that focuses on teaching people how to reconnect with life and become better members of their communities.

“It’s important that we remember the tragedy that happened to our native culture and being taken away in these boarding schools,” said Hazen. “I was taken away in 1955 and I was away from home for 10 years. They broke the bonds of my family and that was their intention to assimilate us into white culture. It was very painful, and it was a tragedy. It drove a lot of us into alcoholism and a very destructive behavior pattern of our whole community, and it’s going to take a long time for us to heal from this.”