A Shoshone-Bannock Teen’s Passion Is To Make sure The Past Isn’t Forgotten – Idaho EdNews | NutSocia

FORT HALL — The late Agnes Lavatta rarely spoke about her time at Fort Hall Boarding School.

Her silence and worried hand-wringing when the subject came up said a lot.

Today, only a chimney and a few dilapidated buildings with boarded-up windows remain of this school campus that was home to hundreds of Native American children in the early 1900s after they were forcibly evicted from their homes.

Lavatta’s great-granddaughter, Teagan Larkin, recently stood on school grounds and spoke about her family history as pigeons flew in and out of an abandoned building.

One of the few remaining Fort Hall Boarding School buildings is within sight of Sho-Ban High School.

Larkin’s own Shoshone-Bannock Jr./Sr. The high school is within sight of the old boarding school, but some students and community members don’t know or talk about what happened there.

Larkin is on a mission to change that.

“It’s important to acknowledge the pain that came from (the past) but learn to heal from it — and not focus on the sadness, but on the success that can come from it,” she said.

The high school student is a rising leader in her community and this year’s Miss Sho-Ban High School Queen. She plans to use this platform and her seniors project to raise awareness of the history of boarding schools and to help members of the community heal from intergenerational trauma in a healthy way.

Teagan Larkin is this year’s Sho-Ban High School Queen.

The story she hopes to illuminate is a story of oppressed languages ​​and cultures and divided families – but also one of the resilience and strength of the Shoshone-Bannock tribes.

A school that led to “unimaginable losses”.

In 1904, the federal government opened what became known as “The Big School,” a campus that eventually housed 11 buildings, including dormitories, a school, staff living quarters, and a dining hall.

Many Shoshone-Bannock children were pulled from their homes on the reservation and forced to attend school. Others were orphans or came from poor families who sent their children to school to be fed.

An exhibition at the Shoshone-Bannock Tribal Museum offers a glimpse of life there:

“(Students) were punished for speaking their mother tongue and forced to attend church services. The elders said that if they were caught speaking their language, their mouths would be washed out with soap. Some ran away but, once caught, were brought back and locked in a dark room beneath the school. If the separation did not work, some were tied to a chair and flogged with a length of rubber hose; Some of the boys wore girls’ clothes and paraded in front of all the students. The punishment came before everyone… Children endured exclusion, flogging, humiliation and loneliness. They weren’t nurtured and loved like most children; some did not survive this treatment and died there. Parents suffered an unimaginable loss when their children were kidnapped and never seen again.”

The US government funded the campus in part by selling portions of the original Fort Hall Indian reservation near Pocatello for homesteads — one of several government acquisitions of reservation land. What began as a 1.8 million hectare reserve is now a third the size at 544,000 acres.

By 1935, more than 200 students from the Fort Hall and Rocky Boy reservations attended the school, which closed in June of that year. In later years, the school served the detention of German prisoners of war.

Eventually the buildings fell into disuse and in 1962 most were demolished by the US government. Today only the laundry, a pump house, a barn, a staff house, a water tower and an orchard remain.

“There are people alive today who attended what they like to call ‘Big School,'” wrote Ellen Dixey Ball in an exhibition she created for the Shoshone-Bannock Museum. “Many good and bad memories are brought back by them. We are grateful for their contribution to our knowledge of the school.”

And Larkin wants to keep that knowledge alive.

“Culture is who we are”

One way to raise awareness about boarding schools is to hold a community event on February 22—Ash Wednesday—as part of her Seniors Project, a date she chose to “recognize the colonization that came with Christianity.”

At the event, Larkin plans to speak about the Fort Hall Boarding School and acknowledge the trauma it has brought. A common goal of such schools was: “Kill the Indian, save the man.”

Larkin said the statement represented an impossibility — culture and identity are essential to livelihood.

Because of this, she plans to use the community event for cultural activities such as tying tobacco, making dresses and skirts from ribbons, and making willow boards.

“Culture is who we are, so it’s important to relearn,” she said.

Also, resuming traditions would help members of the community improve their sanity.

“When people think about reservations, they think of alcoholism and substance abuse and poverty and domestic violence,” Larkin said. “They don’t understand that this stems from mental health issues, unhealthy coping mechanisms and from colonization.”

Larkin’s sister, Akaila Martin, is a suicide prevention clinician for the Shoshone-Bannock tribe. Acknowledging the need for healthier outlets, she said Larkin’s project is a great way to introduce more options to the community.

Teagan Larkin and her sister, Akaila Martin, stand on the grounds of the Fort Hall Residential School.

“(The project) is going to help our people and that’s what we’re here for,” Martin said.

Laurel Tomin, an English teacher and senior project advisor at Sho-Ban High, said the project will include a research paper, a presentation to an adult audience, and a real-life project. Larkin was excited about the community involvement, Tomin said.

“Their goals and their future are focused on helping others,” Tomin said. “It’s just really who she is. She’s reaching for those extra challenges that go beyond expectations.”

Larkin says she learned that from the women in her life.

Larkin comes from a long line of dedicated women

Larkin draws inspiration from the women who came before her: her great-great-grandmother, Bessie Crow Lavatta, who was forced to travel hundreds of miles from the Shoshone tribal lands near present-day Salmon, Idaho, to the Fort Hall Reservation run when she was only 5 years old; by her great-grandmother Agnes, who was resilient enough to continue her education through the trauma of boarding school and was Fort Hall’s first rodeo queen; from her mother who has a passion for helping others. And from her sister.

“I am where I am because of the women who have helped me,” Larkin said.

Larkin is holding a pair of her great-grandmother’s moccasins.

In return, she said she wanted to be an “aunt” or second mother and a role model for the next generation of Shoshone-Bannock youth. But her desire to help others doesn’t stop there.

“I don’t just want to help students or adults, I want to help families,” Larkin said.

Larkin has long-term plans to give back to her community. She will attend Idaho State University next year, majoring in Marketing and minoring in Traditional Education, earning an associate’s degree in Shoshoni. After that, she plans to open a non-profit organization called “OURS,” which will continue the work her senior project started — helping the people of Shoshone-Bannock connect with their culture and establish healthy coping mechanisms .

And it reaches the public in other ways, too. Larkin is featured in a project called Native voices in Idaho – Curriculum designed to get Perspectives, history and culture of Native Americans in the classroom.

The Native Voices project focuses on Indigenous teenagers

Larkin is among a handful of tribal youth selected to speak about themselves and their culture in videos. The videos will be part of a second installation of the Native Voices curriculum, which will be available in December.

“University systems teach only superficially about Indigenous peoples, there are few resources out there, and this curriculum … was written by Indigenous teachers and educators,” said Antoinette Cavanaugh, board member of Native Voices in Idaho, of the need for the project.

Larkin was chosen in part for her knowledge of their history and the Shoshoni language.

“She understands the traditional ways of life of the Shoshone and the Bannock, and that’s an important part…not just as a young Indigenous woman, but as an aspiring leader,” Cavanaugh said.

Cavanaugh is a former superintendent of Nevada’s Elko County School District and recently completed a 500-mile walk across Europe to raise awareness of the impact of boarding schools on Native American children and their families. She and Larkin share a passion for making sure the past is not forgotten.

As Tomin said, “Teagans had her heart in the story.”

Carly Flandro

About Carly Flandro

Reporter Carly Flandro works at EdNews’ East Idaho office. A former high school English teacher, she writes about teaching, learning, diversity and equity. You can follow Flandro on Twitter @idahoedcarly and send her news tips to [email protected]

Read more stories from Carly Flaandro »

You might also be interested in

Leave a Comment