April 11, 2023 | Podcast: Play in new window | Download | Embed
The Alaska Native Heritage Center says its study of church records that go back to the 1800s is not research for research’s sake, reports Rhonda McBride from our flagship station KNBA.
Researcher Benjamin Jacuk-Dolchok (Kenaitze) says he hopes to reconstruct the story of how early churches used schools to separate Alaska Native peoples from their land, their culture, and their spirituality.
He says the impacts are still felt today.
“You can’t understand what you need healing from, unless you pull back the band aid and understand the wound.”
Jacuk-Dolchok says most Alaskans don’t realize how closely churches coordinated their efforts.
“While these might be different denominations, the ideology was mostly the same. And that was forced assimilation.”
Jacuk-Dolchok says some of the research looks at the role of boarding schools — and how Americanization and Christianity intersected to break the close connections Alaska Natives had with their land.
He says the forced use of English took away the “heart language” of the people, which sped up the process.
“The major takeaway from what we’re doing is understanding the truth to bring healing, so that younger generations can thrive.”
Jacuk-Dolchok has studied Native boarding schools for more than a decade and credits his grandfather, who attended boarding school, for inspiring his work.
The Princeton Seminary graduate says his theology studies has helped him with his research and given him access to important documents.
Jacuk-Dolchok will share some of his research at the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage on Friday.
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