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ATONEMENT: RENEE SANS SOUCI

ATONEMENT: RENEE SANS SOUCI

By Contributing Author Mary Guthrie for Zaftyg Magazine.

Story of Survival

Renee Sans Souci is a member of the Omaha tribe in Nebraska. Learning about the 215 graves of native children at Canadian boarding schools has been difficult, but many Native Americans like Sans Souci have known about residential boarding schools all their lives. In fact, her mother attended two residential boarding schools as a child.

Sans Souci quoted the head of the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania, Richard Henry Pratt – “kill the Indian, save the man.” Sans Souci’s mother, Alice, was raised by her grandparents. But when her grandmother passed away, her grandfather (himself a survivor of the Carlisle Indian School) felt Alice had to be sent to a residential school to be taken care of. 

At around age 11, Alice was sent to Pipestone Indian School in Minnesota. Sans Souci remembers her mother saying how she arrived at the school by bus with children from many other tribes. The children were lined up and doused with powder — a treatment for head lice. “I don’t have bugs,” she said, but the school staff didn’t listen to her. 

“She said ‘I had really long thick braids, and they cut them both,’” Sans Souci reported. “She said, ‘I was just standing in shock as I was looking down on the ground, and my braids were laying there.’” Sans Souci said that Alice always wondered what happened to her long braids.

Sans Souci recalled that her mother told stories about her time at the schools over and over. “To me, by her sharing her stories then it was a story of survival,” Sans Souci said. “She did the best she could do in order to be able to survive and therefore help us, her children.”

 

Read the full in depth and personal story here!

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