What they taught there had nothing to do with our tribes

Ms. Schommer talks about her experience at boarding school.

Audio Chapters

DL: You started kindergarten in Granite Falls. Did you go through sixth grade there?

CS: Yes. It was kindergarten all the way up to senior high. The school has always been like that.

DL: So you went through all 12 grades?

CS: No. From there, I went to the Flandreau Indian School when I was in the ninth and tenth grades. My father was the one that watched where we went and what we did because he could speak wasichu – English. He would kind of guide us through everything. He really didn’t want me to go to the Flandreau Indian School, but because there weren’t so many Dakota here, I wanted to see more people of our own culture, and I knew that other tribes came to school there. I wanted to learn more about them so he finally let me go. He told me, “You can try it. If you don’t like it, don’t try to run away or anything.” Because we had to stay there, “I’ll come and get you, or you can finish the school out and then come back to this school again.”

Well, when I got to Flandreau it was a government school and there were a lot of different tribes, so I did meet different tribes. But the only thing was, what they taught there had nothing to do with our tribes, the history or the language – none of that was shared there. The only time we had any kind of a cultural thing was when we’d have a drum group and a small powwow, as they call it now. We call it in Dakota, "wacipi." “Wacipi” means to dance. That was about it. Otherwise I didn’t learn any more about other tribes by going to the Flandreau Indian School. It was a government school – they wanted to keep that out, our cultures. It was something I had to find out for myself, and thank God my dad allowed me to go. After that I didn’t really get back into wanting to go there. My niece, Joanne, the woman I mentioned, lost her mother. There was another government school in Pipestone, Minnesota for kids in kindergarten on up, and it was like an orphanage. That’s where they sent her and she stayed there until she was about 12 or 13 years old, until one of her aunties came and got her and took her out of that school.

DL: Were you treated well at Flandreau?

CS: Oh yes. It was just like any other school. We didn’t have, as far as I can remember, any Native teachers; it was all white teachers. But I made a lot of good friends there. Some of them are still living. I see them every now and then. When I left Granite Falls I went to work in the Cities; I lived in the Cities for like 40 years; that’s where I raised my family. But I never let them [her children] forget who they were. I raised them in our own cultural way. We went to all the same functions. Being in the Cities like that, you would think that we didn’t have all those cultural things like we had out here, but because it was a big city there were a lot of other tribes there that celebrated their culture. It was good for my kids to be able to go to these different functions, their wacipis and their athletic gatherings and competitions where it would be all Native children. They made a lot of Native friends in that way.

DL: You went through the tenth grade then, at Flandreau.

CS: No, I went through 12 years of school, but I didn’t do it over in Flandreau. I did it here in Granite Falls.

DL: So you came back.

CS: Yes, I came back because I didn’t care for it [the government school]. I figured, “What I’m learning over there? They have it here, and I’d be close to home.” What I wanted to do was meet people and have all those cultural events; that’s what I thought they would be having over there; that we’d learn more about each others’ tribes. But it was through communication between each other that I learned a little bit of what I wanted to learn about other tribes. The government school didn’t teach anything on our cultures; I guess they wanted us to forget it. This was in the ‘40s.

Oral History- Interview | Narrator Carrie Schommer Interviewer Deborah Locke made in Granite Falls, Upper Sioux Community, MN | Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Citation: Minnesota Historical Society. U.S. - Dakota War of 1862. What they taught there had nothing to do with our tribes May 21, 2019. http://www.usdakotawar.org/node/1112

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