Helping a community heal through “Remembering the Children” annual prayer walk

At least 50 of the victim’s names will be announced in the ceremony
Published: Oct. 4, 2023 at 11:14 AM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - In remembrance of the many young lives lost at the Rapid City Indian Boarding School, a group of organizers will walk to never forget the children who perished at the school. An annual prayer walk that coincides with a special week for Native Americans, it’s a celebration of their tradition, culture, language, and rich history, Amy Sazue and Cante Heart, community organizers with the Remember the Children Walk say this event is always a time for us to remember our past and reflect on our future. Sazue says the day will start with a walk and prayer, “We will start at 10 a.m. at Sioux Park, where a proclamation by the Mayor will be read along with the reading the 50 names collected of the victims of the boarding school and joined by the Rosewood Youth Council and will proceed walking towards the future site of the Remember the Children memorial site by Canyon Lake United Methodist Church where we will have a meal there, some speakers and hopefully give people enough time to transition over to the next event for Indigenous Peoples Day.”

Sazue says the annual walk is about never letting the community forget about what the victims endured every year, “this project started as a search for children’s graves and has been going on for 10 years, research has been done by our team over the last 10 years to identify graves on the site of the former Sioux San Hospital, there was a boarding school we found about 50 children died while attending the Rapid City Indian Boarding School and our team have made a commitment to those children and to that land to remember them every year and that’s the purpose of the Remember the Children memorial walk is to protect and honor those children who lived and died at the school while it was in operation.”

Heart says we will also get to enjoy several other events along with the walk for Native American week, “we can remember our ancestors with all the celebrations surrounding our Indigenous culture so it’s not just the pow wow for us, it means more to us to celebrate our Indigenous culture and in South Dakota, we get to celebrate Native American Day on Monday.”

In accordance with the “Remember the Children” website, here’s a historical breakdown of the events that led to this tragedy, “The federal government created a series of boarding schools throughout the nation in an attempt to assimilate Native American children from the 1800s-1960s. There were several in South Dakota, including the Rapid City Indian Boarding School (1898-1933). After serving as the Indian Boarding School, this facility became a segregated Indian tuberculosis clinic from the 1930s-1960s, the “Sioux Sanatorium.” Children were brought to Rapid City Indian Boarding School predominantly from the tribes of the Great Sioux Nation (particularly Pine Ridge, Cheyenne River, and Rosebud), but children came here from as far away as Gros Ventre, Northern Cheyenne, Flathead, and Chippewa. A significant percentage of the Rapid City Native American community are descendants of the children who survived after being brought to the Rapid City Indian Boarding School. As with most Indian boarding schools, the mortality rate was very high, and the government did not keep records of the deaths of the children or where they were buried. However, we know from oral histories and from years of independent research, including in the federal archived school records, that at least 50 children and infants passed away (the number is surely significantly higher).

Some children died at the Boarding School, some traveling to or from the Boarding School, and others died trying to escape from the Boarding School. Through oral histories from descendants and community elders, inspections by Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (THPOs), and guidance from spiritual leaders, we have located the likely locations of the unmarked graves of at least some of the children. It is here that the Remembering the Children memorial will be placed to honor each of them. This land with the unmarked graves was placed into the trust of the Oglala, Cheyenne River, and Rosebud Sioux Tribes to protect the graves of these children in perpetuity, and these tribes have approved this beautiful memorial to honor all our children. Input was gathered for many years for the memorial – from the families of the deceased, descendants of the survivors, THPOs, community members, tribal leaders, elders, and spiritual advisers for this simple and beautiful design. The memorial is intended to be a place of prayer, gathering, and remembrance. The primary design elements include a memorial walking path with history boards along the route, individual boulders with the names of each of the children who passed, and four sculptures of traditional burial scaffolds for children.

To watch the interview click on the video above.