Native American victims of sex abuse at Catholic boarding schools fight for justice
MARTY—There is a feel to the old place that still haunts her. Even with construction crews working the earth and birds chirping noisily in the trees above, she can feel the silence. Behind the silence, sadness and horror.
Louise Charbonneau Aamot rested her fist on the church windowsill as her eyes welled with tears. Its gray steeple cutting into the sky, the church towered over the grounds of the old St. Paul's Indian Mission boarding school..
The school, tucked away in a woodsy expanse of the Yankton Reservation, is where her childhood was destroyed.
Aamot is not silent.
Even after her lawsuit was felled in 2010 when South Dakota lawmakers passed a last-minute bill to tweak the state’s statute of limitations, taking away the ability of abuse victims older than 40 to pursue legal action against institutions responsible for their trauma, Aamot continues to share her story.
She does wonder, though, if anyone is willing to listen.
“I’m going to fight until my dying day,” she said. “I’m going to fight so this doesn’t happen again.”
Aamot and other Native American abuse victims are still without answers after recent attempts at transparency by South Dakota’s Catholic authorities.
But there was no mention of Catholic educators accused by dozens of former students of perpetrating horrific acts of physical and sexual abuse during the course of decades at the Catholic Church’s network of reservation boarding schools.
There was no mention of the men who haunt Aamot’s memory.
Sioux Falls diocese officials declined to discuss any allegations of problems at the Catholic-run mission schools.
Chancellor Matt Althoff said he encourages victims to reach out to the diocese for help.
"I welcome them to come forward,” Althoff said. "They can be assured confi...