The Great Hurt

It wasn’t that no one was willing to share the story.

After writing the script for the play in 1972, Gawboy could not find anyone interested in helping to produce it. “The Great Hurt” sat in his desk drawer until he was asked recently if he had any material on the historical trauma that American Indians suffered in boarding schools. Audiences are now ready for his play.

Tad Johnson, an enrolled member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, Bois Forte Band, is head of the American Indian Studies Department at UMD. He saw the performance. He said, “I thought it was very moving and very powerful. It used actual words of Capt. Pratt, who founded Carlisle School, and the children. It was very stirring.” He said the use of actual photos “had a big impact on me and a lot of the people in the audience.” Johnson’s maternal grandparents attended boarding schools. “People lost parenting skills and lost their language,” he said. “I knew all that, but hearing the actual words was moving.”

The play is scheduled to be shown at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul on March 9.

Someone needs to record this. It will always be more powerful in an auditorium filled with other people’s reactions, but it needs to be shared more widely. Whether we’re ready or not.

The Great Hurt
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3 thoughts on “The Great Hurt

  1. 3

    The trauma experienced by aboriginal people in boarding schools (here in Canada they’re called residential schools) was more than just historical. The trauma continues today because those ‘schools’ traumatized not just individuals but generations.

    In Canada “there are more Indian children in care right now than at the height of the residential school system.”

    A recent Red Cross emergency mission to a First Nations reservation exposed Canadian style apartheid to the world.

    Here is how one U.S. survivor describes his Big Hurt:

    “For over 50 years, those guys have messed up my head, the way that I think,” said Salois. “It’s like they stole my whole damn life.”

    see: Nuns among worst perpetrators of horrific violence and sex abuse in Jesuit-run schools and missions on Indian reservations

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