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United Native America

Indian Children are forced to set in plywood cubicles about two feet wide and about two feet long for days at a time for punishment from teachers, some are not allowed to use the bathroom when needed!!

UNA has forwarded this information on to our contacts in the Senate Indian Affairs Committee Washington, DC. calling for hearing on Native American community issues.

From: (Iris Allrunner)

Dear Mike Cherokee,

I am attaching two letters for your information and help in getting the word out that Indian Children on the Ft. Peck Assiniboine/Sioux Reservation in northeastern Montana are being treated inhumanely by School Personnel at Wolf Point, Montana and other schools on the Reservation. Please add these concerns to your concerns about the crisis Indian Children all over the United States are being treated. Thank you. Grandmother Iris Allrunner.  

Iris Red Elk Allrunner
P.O. Box 13 Wolf Point, Mt. 59201 406-653-3397

November 12, 2002

Ft. Peck Tribes Child Protection Team ( C.P.T.)
Ft. Peck Tribal Court Wolf Point, Mt. 59201

Dear Members of C.P.T.

My name is Iris Red Elk Allrunner. I am an enrolled member of the Ft. Peck Assiniboine & Sioux Tribes. I am a grandmother and active community volunteer. I am and have always been concerned about the mistreatment of children by school teacher son the Ft. Peck Indian Reservation. As a journalist, I have written many articles calling attention to the flagrant physical, emotional, psychological and verbal abuse of school children by teachers. The concern I shared with my readers brought many parents to my door asking for help with the abusive experiences their children had with the school teachers.

Last school year I spent a great deal of time examining and testing the system currently in place which I felt was there to protect Indian children from abuse by teachers. To my frustration, I found out that the system does not work. As an example I refer to the following experiences I have had.

The current Tribal system requires all suspicions or accusations of child abuse to be reported to the Helena Hot Line. I called the Helena Hot Line and spoke with a supervisor and asked if there was a law in place that addressed abuse of school children by teachers in school. I was told there is no Montana law in place to charge a school teacher who is abusive to school children.

Then I discussed child abuse by teachers with Tribal Criminal Investigator, Terry Boyd. He told me that my concern did not rise to the level required for federal criminal prosecution.

I know that Indian parents and families are charged regularly, in Tribal Court and in Federal Court, for abusing their children but it is impossible to criminally charge a teacher in any Court (unless the abuse rises to a certain level). I believe he was saying that since there was no dead child or noticeable bruises left on a child, there is no case.

It is my personal belief that psychological, emotional and verbal abuse is just as harmful and destructive to a child.

There is an Administrative Process available through the School Boards where parents can meet with the Board, inform them about the teacher abuse and ask them to take action. This Process is very lengthy and discouraging and few parents access this Process.

Families who chose to follow the Administrative Process need support and encouragement throughout the entire Process. It has been my experience that parents do not feel comfortable or confident facing an all-white School Board so they stop pursuing a resolve of their issues. Many parents simply chose to remove their children from school and move them to another school. This is a financial hardship for many of them so alternatively; they let their children drop out of school.

As I stated, this was my experience last school year. Now the abuse by teachers has started again. Over the weekend, a concerned mother who reported to me that her grade school son was "shaken" by a teacher contacted me. She came to me because she wanted help.

Since I have, "been there, done that" I cannot direct her to an already failing process if I am going to help her, I must do something differently and that is why I am writing to you Members Of the Child Protection Team. Your name indicates, to me, that you are committed to protecting children on the Ft. Peck Indian Reservation.

First of all, I think you all need to agree with me that psychological, emotional and verbal abuse by school teachers is a crime that needs a law.

With your "Voice" you can create a new law that deals specifically with this kind of abuse and ask Montana House Representative Frank Smith to author and carry it through the Montana Legislature. Perhaps the Legislature does not know this kind of abuse is happening at Ft. Peck and it could be happening on other Indian Reservations as well.

You could also use your "Voice" to inform the Ft. Peck Tribal Council about your intention to support "Teacher Abuse Legislation" and gain their support. I am sure there are other legislators who would support passage of such a law if they knew what was happening to our children at Ft. Peck.

Another thing you could do is to develop a position for a person with a law back ground who is familiar and comfortable with the Administrative Process and can help parents through that process. A lot of documentation of the incident of teacher abuse is required and there are several steps that have to be followed. These steps include first of all documenting the incident, then meeting with the Principal, then meeting with the Superintendent and then meeting with the School Board. It can be very disheartening and discouraging to a layperson. Teachers Unions are strong and they carry a big voice when it comes to defending their members in front of School Boards.

On the other hand, it could be that your hands are tied by definition of your duties. If that is the case, I would ask you to expand your scope of work to include language that addresses my concerns about teacher abuse.

On the Ft. Peck Indian Reservation, it is a crime to physically, emotionally, psychologically or orally abuse anyone. There is a way, in place, to protect adults from abuse whether it is happening at home, in the work place or in the community. I know this because I have seen warning signs posted on the doors of Tribal facilities and Government work places, like the Indian Health Service Clinic.

We need to protect our children with the same kinds of laws. Please respond in writing so I will know if you will join me in making needed changes in our schools for our children. Thank you for your time in reading my letter. I hope I have given you something to think about and hopefully to take action on.


Iris Red Elk Allrunner,
Concern grandmother

Letter two:

Iris Red Elk Allrunner
P.O. Box 13
Wolf Point, Mt. 59201

My Dear Friends, I have been told I will receive a written response from the Child Protection Team in two weeks after they have had a chance to read my letter and prepare their response. Also, last Friday I was invited to speak in one of the fifth grade classrooms at North Side School, Wolf Point, Mt. As I was leaving the classroom, I looked into the Behavior Learning Center (BLC) and saw eight little Indian Boys sitting in the cubicles, all facing the wall. I went into the room and counted them and told the woman that this was child abuse and she said they all made the choice to be in there. My heart ached for the little warriors and I almost cried. But I didn't.

I went to speak with Andy Holmlund the Superintendent of Wolf Point Schools. I told him how badly I felt as seeing those right little Indian boys in the BLC. I reminded him that he told me last year that he was going to dismantle the BLC. He said he needed an alternative.

Out of my frustration, I told him I was going to picket the school and he wanted to know when. Last year, at the end of the school year, a little Indian Boy was placed in the BLC (he had diarrhea) and he asked to go to the bathroom and the woman who was in the BLC would not let him.

He ran across the hall to the Principal's office and told her he had to go to the bathroom, she let him go, but it was too late. He messed his pants. His dad contacted me and I reported it to the Ft. Peck Tribes Crisis Center, nothing was done.

The BLC is a room with eight little cubicles in it where the children have to sit for hours, (sometimes all day and sometimes for more than a day) The cubicles are small about two feet wide and about two feet deep, they are separated by plywood set just high enough so the kids cannot see each other while they sit facing the wall. To me, this treatment is an on going extension of the old Boarding School treatment of our ancestors.

In regard to the woman who said her child was shaken by a teacher she told me she met with the South side School Principal and the teacher apologized to her. The woman made the School Official promise that no one would ever put their hands on her child or point their finger in his face again. They promised. In her mind, it is all over.

I told her, that her child is safe but what about the other Indian Children. I will give her some time to think about this and then approach her again. Also, I have been contacted by a Journalist who is going to write a story about the child abuse by teachers in the Wolf Point Schools.

She asked me to gather up all the complaints and forward them to her so she can get started on the story. If any of you know of anyone who has complaints about school teacher abuse, please tell them to contact me and I will help them document their complaint and forward it to the Journalist. Thank you all, for your support and interest is this issue which must be addressed.

Iris Red Elk Allrunner.

Frank Smith, State Congressman:

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