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.