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November 13 St. Regis Seminary, Florissant (1824-1831): Forced Assimilation


In 1824, Bishop of Louisiana William DuBourg established the second Roman Catholic boarding school for Native children in Florissant off what is Howdershell Road on the same land as St. Stanislaus Seminary. This boarding school operated by the Society of Jesus from 1824-1831, and was subsidized by an appropriation from the so-called “Civilization Fund Act” administered by the newly established Bureau of Indian Affairs within the US government. This subsidy was the first federal money for a Catholic “Indian school” west of the Mississippi River.


Its first five students were two Sauk boys and three Ioway boys ranging in age from approximately six to eleven. A sister school for Native girls was briefly operated from 1825-1831 by St. Rose Philippine Duchesne. Founded under the promise of educating these children, the experience there unfortunately was one of strict religious indoctrination, lack of food and other supplies, and beatings (including flaying with whips on bare backs) for misbehavior. Although originally benevolent in intent by the standards of the time, the purpose was to “civilize” the children and strip them of their culture, language, and traditions. Moreover, classroom instruction other than catechism was soon de-emphasized in order to have the boys do manual labor on the farm attached to the seminary, which was also supported by the labor of enslaved persons owned by the Jesuits. The Jesuits are now engaged in researching and acknowledging regret for their role in operating Indian boarding schools.


The Episcopal Church itself also supported at least eight day and boarding schools for Indigenous children in the United States. At the 80th General Convention held in Baltimore this summer, the Episcopal Church passed Resolution A127, committing resources to researching the history of the Episcopal Church in its support of boarding schools similar to St. Regis Seminary, and to acknowledge and “invest in (Indigenous) community-based spiritual healing centers that will work to address the effect of intergenerational trauma” caused by the subjection of native children to boarding schools, and to engage in education, truth-telling , and reconciliation over the Church’s complicity in supporting these institutions.

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