For its first event of Native American Heritage month, Marshall University Native American Student Organization will host a movie night Thursday at the John Deaver Drinko Library.
The movie, “Unseen Tears,” which focuses on the experiences of Native American children in residential boarding schools, begins 4 p.m. in room 402.
Genenahgehneh Lee, president of Marshall’s Native American Student Organization, said she felt the movie does a good job of detailing the tragic experiences many Indian children were forced to endure while attending the boarding schools.
“These schools started in the late 1800s,” Lee said. “And, unfortunately, they didn’t end until around 1975 in the U.S. and not until 1996 in Canada. That’s really not long ago, at all.”
Lee, whose first name means “Autumn” in English, said many of the children who were forced to attend the schools were taken from their parents before the age of 5 and would not see them again until 18.
“In these schools, they were beaten, raped, just physically and mentally abused,” Lee said. “They were also not allowed to speak their own language or practice their culture. They weren’t even allowed to use the names that they were given at birth by the spiritual elders or leaders. They had to get Christian names. They had to basically adopt the Christian and European culture.”
Cassey Adkins, secretary of the organization, said she thinks it is important for people of all ethnicities to understand what Native Americans were put through and to learn about their culture.
Lee said she hopes those who attend the movie night, which is at no charge, will not only learn about Native American history but will engage in the post-movie discussion.
“I think it’s a great way for people to talk about these things in a nice and educational environment,” Lee said. “And honestly, these are conversations that a lot of college students have never had because you don’t learn too much about these things in high school or before that.”
While this is the organization’s first semester, Lee said she has tried to get a Native American program on Marshall’s campus since she arrived in 2012.
The organization has 15 members and five are of Native American ancestry, including Lee.
The Native American Student Organization will have another movie night 4 p.m. Wednesday, which will feature a documentary on Native American Dancing, at the same location.
Malcolm Walton can be contacted at [email protected]