Boozhoo! Dinawe maaganinaadog! (Hello, greetings my relatives!)
I’m writing to you today from Boulder, Colorado, where it all started for the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (NABS). Many of you know the history. Our start as a non-profit happened in 2012 by the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) as a result of gathering of national and international leaders coming together at a symposium in 2011 who asserted that boarding school healing work needed an official organization to uplift the grassroots work being done around the U.S. At the time, the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) had just begun (in 2010), and symposium participants wanted the U.S. to have our own TRC for Indian Boarding Schools. So, NABS was born, out of the many prayers and calls for healing around intergenerational boarding school experiences and trauma.
Interestingly, I am staying at the Boulderado Hotel today—staff and I are preparing to lead the Better Way Foundation board of directors and staff through The Blanket Exercise. This hotel is the oldest in Boulder, Colorado. It has historical significance for Boulder, dating back to the time of the gold rush, which displaced many of the Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Ute who were living here. When NABS was ready to hire its first employee in 2015, and NARF issued a national search for an executive, this is the hotel I stayed in when I flew to Boulder to interview.
When I saw the original posting, that NABS and NARF were looking for someone to head up and grow this new organization, I felt like it was the answer to my prayers and like I couldn’t have written a job description that suited my skills and talents better if I had written it myself. You see, I had just finished the literature review on my thesis in 2011 when I wrote about the exact things they were meeting to discuss at the symposium. My thesis, titled “Spiritual Leadership in Modern-Day Native American Culture and Approaches to Native American Religion and Christianity,” covers the Canadian TRC and the boarding school healing work that was being developed into NABS as we know it today.
When I read about the abuse that our relatives experienced in boarding schools, I thought of my grandfather and his boarding school experience. I cried. And along with those tears, I made a wish—that I would be able to do this healing work. At the time, of course, I thought it only meant my own personal healing, especially since that’s what my thesis was all about—my examination of Christianity’s influence on our traditional spirituality through boarding schools and forced conversion. I was trying to reconcile my own experiences of being raised Catholic on the Turtle Mountain Reservation and later learning about the incredible harms the church had inflicted on Native peoples. I had no idea that those tears and my unspoken prayer would be answered with me leading this organization and doing this healing work the way I am today. It’s a profound gift to be on this healing journey for myself, my grandfather, my mother, my children, and so many more relatives across Turtle Island who have felt the loss of our languages and traditions through forced assimilation. I am humbled by this responsibility, to advocate for truth and healing for the thousands of children who were taken and for those who never came home or were lost forever.
Sending love to you and your families.
Christine Diindiisi McCleave (Turtle Mountain Ojibwe)
 McCleave, C. 2016. “Spiritual Leadership in Modern-Day Native American Culture and Approaches to Native American Religion and Christianity”. p. 53, Augsburg University.