A Sinister Priest Tries Concealing A Boarding School Massacre

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October 1, 2011 · Posted in Commentary 

Older Than America

By PHYL VAN AMMERS

Boryanabooks Film Critic

The Echo Park Film Center showed supernatural thriller Older than America, which should be seen for its portrayal of brutality purportedly suffered by Fond du Lac Indian children in Minnesota in the 1900s.

The plot rests on a plot by a sinister Catholic priest to conceal the deaths of children in a boarding school for Indians during in an earthquake in 1955.  There is no record on Internet of an earthquake in the Cloquet area of any significant magnitude.

A rebellious child – Irene — sees a secret burial in the forest and insists on telling what she saw when she is a young mother.   The evil priest wants to protect the Church from accusations of child abuse and rape, so he convinces the woman’s sister Apple to authorize electric shock therapy and heavy medication.   Irene remains institutionalized for most of the rest of her life.

Irene’s daughter has disturbing visions of what happened to her mother Her aunt also institutionalizes the younger woman but her ghost uncle helps her escape and she returns to the older ways, “older than America.”

American Indian Movement co-founder Dennis Banks acts in the film as a tribal leader.   He is the most convincing actor in the film, playing his role with simplicity, gentleness and humor.

Between 1880 and 1902, the United States government took from 20,000 to 30,000 Indian children from their homes to Christianize them forcibly.   There was a similar system in Canada, the Canadian Residential System.  The teachers in both systems did not allow the children to speak their native tongues.  The objective was assimilation:  “Kill the Indian and Save the Man.”   Many of the schools closed by the 1940s.   Some became colleges.

The film hints at what could happen if they returned to the old ways, and the Americans joined them.   If only the filmmaker Georgina Lightning could have shown us how we might do this.

 

 

 

 

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