The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (NABS) stands with our relatives today in hearing the apology of Pope Francis recognizing the role of the Catholic church in administering and enforcing Canada’s Indian Residential School system. The Pope’s visit comes seven years after the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission published their list of 94 calls to action, of which a papal apology is included.
For the first time in First Nations territory, Pope Francis acknowledged that the scars are still open wounds from residential boarding schools. The Pope clarified his apology is for all Native peoples impacted, further stating that an apology is not enough and that “an important part of this process will be to conduct a serious investigation into the facts of what took place in the past and to assist the survivors of the residential schools to experience healing from the traumas they suffered.”
We understand that the words of apology from Pope Francis will hold different meaning and weight across Indigenous communities throughout Indian Country. For some, this may be healing. We continue to call for actionable steps addressing the impacts of the genocidal policies and practices of Indian residential and boarding schools.
In attendance of the papal apology, NABS CEO Deborah Parker (Tulalip Tribes) stated, “An apology must include steps forward that are both justice seeking and that opens pathways for healing. The time is now to rescind the Doctrine of Discovery. Pope Francis was asked to do exactly this by the Indigenous delegation to the Vatican four months ago and has yet to respond.”
Accompanying Parker, NABS Board Member Joannie Romero (Cochiti Pueblo) stated, “Though an essential point of recognition by Pope Francis, there was no direct mention of genocide and sexual abuse, nor what was going to be done to address these crimes of humanity.”
NABS Board President Sandy White Hawk (Sicangu Lakota) added, “If the Pope is interested in walking with Indigenous people impacted by the violence of Indian residential and boarding schools, accountability needs to be front and center. Including releasing boarding school records from all Catholic repositories from Canada and the US, all the way to the Vatican.”
NABS joins our relatives in recognizing that while this is only a step toward addressing intergenerational trauma inflicted by residential and boarding schools, it must not be the last, and it must be accompanied by solidified action. There is much more work to be done and we will continue to call on the Catholic church, other Christian institutions, and governments responsible for boarding and residential institutions to answer calls for truth and accountability—starting with repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery and releasing all boarding school records in their archives.
For the full transcript of the apology of Pope Francis, visit: https://bit.ly/popevisitcanada.
National Residential School Crisis Line: call 1-866-925-4419
Strong Hearts Native Helpline: call or text 1-844-762-8483 (1-844-7NATIVE)
NCAI ANC-22-040 requesting Pope Francis denounce the Doctrine of Discovery - Full Resolution