Truth and Healing

Truth and Healing

We are a religious congregation with a history of administering a Native American boarding school during the era of assimilating Indigenous children into Euro-American culture.

The Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration support the legislation to establish the Truth and Healing Commission on the Indian Boarding School Policy Act in the United States.

 As we study more deeply our own history and impact at St. Mary’s Boarding School in Odanah, Wisconsin, from 1883 to 1969, we recognize that the work cannot wait any longer. As members of The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, we’re proactively working with the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer in Odanah to learn how we can contribute our archival records to both the tribe and NABS’ online database resources center. Our hope is that as we listen to the painful and tragic experiences of Indigenous communities and take responsibility for the role we played, we can take action in dismantling systemic racism and white supremacy in ourselves and our areas of influence. Our intention is to address our complicity in unjust systems, both historically and now, and strive to enhance dignity and wholeness to those who have suffered for generations.

Our truth and healing work — which includes studying more deeply our own history and impact at St. Mary’s Boarding School in Odanah, Wisconsin, from 1883 to 1969 — intersects with our commitment to dismantling our own racism.

In a letter of support to Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin, FSPA asked for her continued support for this legislation. "As you stated on September 30, 2021, the National Day of Remembrance for U.S. Indian Boarding Schools, 'We cannot gloss over this dark and tragic period of our nation’s history.'" 

Studying FSPA History

FSPA has engaged with the community in study of our former ministry at St. Mary’s BoardingPast, Present & Future historical society article on FSPA and Indian School School with the La Crosse County Historical Society. “For the FSPAs and the people of La Crosse,” reads an article published by the society, “St. Mary’s School is one of those histories removed from our daily experience by time and distance, but nevertheless important to understand our relationship with Indigenous communities.” 

La Crosse County Historical Society, September 2020
"A troubled past: The Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration and St. Mary’s Indian School"
The article includes a link to Mary Annette Pember's article, "Death by Civilization"

Cultivating Relationships

The FSPA Truth and Healing team articulated a goal to cultivate our relationship with the people of Odanah. We are moving this work forward as we continue reaching out, listening and learning. 

We've welcomed Steve Bulley, a member of the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa and graduate of St. Mary’s, to our core team and is discerning with us how to best support the people of Odanah in the federal truth initiative. Our archivists are communicating with the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer in Odanah to explore how we can share materials and artifacts that are pertinent to both FSPA and the people of Odanah.  

Sister Rose Heil accepted an invitation to minister as the pastoral associate of St. Mary's Parish in Odanah; she started in October 2021. We all sense this is an opportunity to cultivate a healing presence and process. Let us keep all our endeavors for historical truth and healing in our prayers.

FSPA Truth and Healing Team
Sisters Marianna Ableidinger, Georgia Christensen, Celesta Day, Carolyn Heil, Roselyn Heil, Catherine Kaiser, Marla Lang, Eileen McKenzie, Kristin Peters, Donna Stevens, Marlene Weisenbeck; Affiliate Marge McCardle; Partners in Mission on staff Pat Ruda and Meg Paulino; and Gary Robbins, collaborator and consultant, and Steve Boulley, Associate Judge, Bad River Tribal Court

Book recommendations

...from the FSPA Truth and Healing Team: 

"Braiding Sweetgrass," Robine Wall Kimmerer
“Stringing Rosaries: The History, the Unforgivable, and the Healing of Northern Plains American Indian Boarding School Survivors,” Denise Lajimodiere
The trilogy by Kent Nerburn:
“Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder”
“The Wolf at Twilight: An Indian Elder’s Journey through a Land of Ghosts and Shadows”
“The Girl Who Sang to the Buffalo: A Child, an Elder, and the Light from an Ancient Sky”

For reflection: What do I need to do to be open to healing and reconciliation?

Building our resource library

As students engaged in learning our history, we've built an online resource library of articles, webinars and other events.

Event: Indigenous Storytelling Series
The Wisconsin Historical Society is celebrating by featuring Ojibwe storytellers in a four-part virtual series every Tuesday evening from Jan. 25-Feb. 15, 2022.

Jan. 25: Michael Laughing Fox Charette
Michael Laughing Fox Charette, a member of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (located in Northern Wisconsin), engages and delights diverse audiences with poetry, flute, drum, and storytelling performances that weave Indigenous teachings into a modern day context. His strong respect for all cultures resonates in his performances.

Feb. 1: Edith Leoso
Edith Leoso is a Bad River Tribal member working as the Tribal Historic Presevation Officer since 2005. She has been a discussant and presenter on tribal historic preservation for a variety of audiences on a local, regional, national, and international level.

Feb. 8: Biskakone Greg Johnson
Biskakone Greg Johnson is a proud member of the Lac du Flambeau band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians. He is a devoted partner and father to four beautiful children. Greg is a teacher, both in the school system and community. 

Feb. 15: Leon Valliere "Ozaawaagosh"
Leon C. Valliere, also known as Ozaawaagosh, is a recognized elder and ceremonial leader who currently serves the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians as director of the Ojibwe Language Program. Teaching in the Lac du Flambeau Public School, Lakeland Union High School, and Lac du Flambeau community, Mr. Valliere serves students of all ages.

Visit Indigenous Storytelling Series for more information and to register for each event.

Article: The School Days of an Indian Girl
"THERE were eight in our party of bronzed children who were going East with the missionaries. Among us were three young braves, two tall girls, and we three little ones, Judéwin, Thowin, and I. We had been very impatient to start on our journey to the Red Apple Country, which, we were told, lay a little beyond the great circular horizon of the Western prairie. Under a sky of rosy apples we dreamt of roaming as freely and happily as we had chased the cloud shadows on the Dakota plains. We had anticipated much pleasure from a ride on the iron horse, but the throngs of staring palefaces disturbed and troubled us. On the train, fair women, with tottering babies on each arm, stopped their haste and scrutinized the children of absent mothers. Large men, with heavy bundles in their hands, halted near by, and riveted their glassy blue eyes upon us.

I sank deep into the corner of my seat, for I resented being watched. Directly in front of me, children who were no larger than I hung themselves upon the backs of their seats, with their bold white faces toward me. Sometimes they took their forefingers out of their mouths and pointed at my moccasined feet. Their mothers, instead of reproving such rude curiosity, looked closely at me, and attracted their children's further notice to my blanket. This embarrassed me, and kept me constantly on the verge of tears." Read "The School Days of an Indian Girl."

Film: The Wellbriety Journey to Forgiveness
This is an extremely powerful film produced for truth-telling and healing by White Bison. It is difficult to watch and will bring up all kinds of emotion.

Article: Canadian Indigenous Chief: 'Nobody Can Deny Residential Schools Were The Genocide Of Our People'
"The schools aimed to assimilate First Nations children into Christian Canadian culture. Children were forbidden to speak their indigenous languages, isolated from their families and forced to cut their long hair, he says." Listen to or read "Canadian Indigenous Chief: 'Nobody Can Deny Residential Schools Were the Genocide Of Our People.'"

Land Acknowledgement

FSPA acknowledges that St. Rose Convent occupies the unceded ancestral and traditional land of the Sauk and Meskwaki, the Ochethi Sakowin, and the Ho-Chunk peoples. We understand that our organization and our city were founded upon the exclusions and erasures of many Indigenous peoples and we vow to work towards dismantling the ongoing legacies of settler colonialism. But we realize that saying this only has meaning when coupled with the development of authentic relationships and sustained action. We therefore pledge to move beyond mere words and to develop programs, policies and actions that fully embody our commitment to indigenous rights and cultural equity. We affirm Indigenous sovereignty and will work to hold ourselves accountable to the needs of our Indigenous brothers and sisters.

FSPA Anti-Racism Vision

Our truth and healing work intersects with our commitment to awareness, analysis and action; we are praying, learning and acting with those who grant us the insight and courage to know how we can begin dismantling FSPA racism.

LCWR Resolution to Action

LCWR's Truth and Healing resolution to action


Tour Chapels
Explore our Ministries