Marchers honor boarding school students

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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) -- Rapid City marked Native American Day by honoring some of its own -- children who died at the Rapid City Indian Boarding School.

More than 200 people braved an early season snow on Monday to come out to remember the lost children.

In the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, Native children were forced to attend the School. Researchers have identified 45 students who died there -- some of whom were buried in anonymous graves -- without their families.

The message on Monday? The students will be remembered.

"The children of the Rapid City Indian Boarding School, they're our children," said rapid City Mayor Steve Allender. "They are our community's children. They are our family. Today we're here together to honor their memory and let them know they are not forgotten."

Marchers walked from Sioux Park in Rapid City to the site of the old school at Sioux San Hospital for a prayer service. Children carried placards for each of the deceased. Names of the children were read aloud.

For descendants of the students it was a bittersweet day.

Violet Catches' ancestor Mabel Holy died at the school in 1901. She was a wounded Knee survivor and was lost the her family until last year when researchers found her grave in Rapid City's Mt. View Cemetery.

"It was kind of a bit of a closure," said Catches. "It also opens up new things that we need to do to keep on looking for deceased relatives. To find them and bring them home. You know, do the right thing for them."

Organizers hope to make the Native American Day memorial walk for the boarding school students an annual Rapid City event.

"This is a historic, beautiful Native American Day where we gathered on behalf of the children who died here," said Kibbe McGaa who was one of the key researchers who identified the deceased students. "And on behalf of the spirits who are still here and to release those spirits and to help them and help ourselves heal."