Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)


Nine sisters who were abused by priests and nuns at an Indian boarding school in South Dakota have been trying since 2008 to sue the Catholic Church for their abuse. But the church petitioned the state legislature to change the law, and that has kept the nine Charbonneau sisters, members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, and other boarding-school survivors from ever getting their day in court. Will they ever see justice? Read the two-part series by Native News Online Senior Reporter Jenna Kunze.

Part One: 'They Could So They Did'

Almost every February for a decade, the nine Charbonneau sisters donned their traditional Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa regalia, took deep breaths, and piled into cars to travel to the South Dakota Legislature in Pierre. There, the sisters told lawmakers year after year about the abuse they endured as children at the hands of priests, nuns, and staff at St. Paul's Indian Mission boarding school in Marty, South Dakota.

The sisters' accounts of molestation, rape, and even a forced abortion aligned with a larger picture of abuse painted by more than 100 other boarding-school students in lawsuits against the Catholic dioceses of Sioux Falls and Rapid City that began in 2003.

But those lawsuits were dismissed by the courts in 2010 as a result of a change in the law. After the Charbonneau sisters' cases were dismissed, they rallied every year behind legislation that would give them their day in court. Now, Charbonneau family members say that lawmakers' racism, ignorance, and blind support of the church has had its intended effect: Boarding-school survivors are aging, and some have died before ever getting their day in court.


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