Native American History ‘You Aren’t Always Told in School’


Photo by: Leticia Leal

Professional Lakota/ Kiowa Storyteller, Dovie Thomason, speaks at the Fresno City College Auditorium March 6 at 7:30 p.m

Story By: Leticia Leal, Reporter

The government rips you away from your family, you are forced to grow up in a school, fed hardly nothing. You eat what is left out for the dogs. Your beautiful Native American hair cut by men who have tied you to a chair while you howl and scream. Hair is cut to honor and respect those who have passed, your hair has meaning. You are punished if you dare speak your native language, you are just a kid.

“There must be accountability for the abuse of children, all of us are here today because somebody protected us,” was the closing statement of Lakota/ Kiowa Native American and award-winning storyteller Dovie Thomason, as she told her story on stage in the Fresno City College auditorium.

Thomason, grew up learning old Native American stories shared with her from her grandmother and her ex father-in-law also known as “Dad.” She also learned from the Kiowa Apache along with her Lakota relatives.

The story highlighted the lives of Native American children who were ripped away from their families back in the 1870s. They were mistreated at the schools they were forced to live in.

“Families signed documents they were unable to read in exchange for rations of food, unknowingly signing a document for the removal of their child,” Thomason said. This is how her grandmother lost her two sons, along with many others from the village.

Thomason explained the untold history of the schools which these kids were kept. She told the story of “Dad” growing up in the Mt. Elgin Indian Residential School. Explaining how children went to school two to four hours a day and eight hours a day they worked in the fields.

The boys would sneak off to the barn to speak their language together so they wouldn’t get caught and beaten.

Children were becoming ill due to living conditions in these schools.“When the children became ill, officials moved them off campus so the residential wouldn’t accommodate the body,” Thomason said.

“The children were eating crumbs of bread left out for birds, fighting the rats for scraps,” Dad said. “They ate chicken, we ate what they threw out the window for the dogs. Half of the kids went blind from malnutrition.”

Thomason stressed the issue of present day schools not teaching students about all the abuse her people have encountered.

“I’ve visited high schools all the time,” she said “I used to teach at more than one, we don’t teach this at our high schools or at many of our colleges.”